Arc Dome, Cirque Mountain, Ruby Dome, Wheeler Peak


By: Wynne Benti


Andy Zdon & Wynne Benti

ARC DOME (11, 773') AND CIRQUE MOUNTAIN (11,406'), Arc Dome Wilderness, Toiyabe National Forest We took the scenic route from Tonopah, north past Andyís old stomping grounds at Round Mountain, to the Ophir Road turnoff, a 4WD only route over the crest of the Toiyabe Range. Itís a more daring alternative route to Nevada HWY 376. We passed the old town site of Ophir, on the way up the steep, rugged road to the Toiyabe Crest, where once reached, we descended into the Tomba Band of Paiutes Reservation. Once out of the mountains, we proceeded a few miles to the Columbine Campground on Stewart Creek.

We started the hike to Arc Dome from Columbine Campground on a well-defined trail, through dense aspen groves out onto open sagebrush covered ridges. The climb seemed to wind on forever, and once on the final approach to the impressive summit, we passed the ruins of stone living quarters built and used by the U.S. Cavalry during the operation of a heliograph station on the summit of Arc during the last quarter of the 19th century. The ruins of the old station are quite impressive, with apartment-like quarters carved into the summit. Apparently, the heliographs were one of the quickest means of communication between Salt Lake City and Carson City, over the vast and empty Nevada desert. On the return route, we wandered over to Cirque Mountain and signed the register, placed in 1988 by a John Vitz.

As soon as we reached Columbine campground, around 4:30pm, we drove on to Monitor Valley, stopping at Spencer Hot Springs for a clean, warm soaking. From the hot springs, we drove USFS Road 001 across the Toquima Range to Monitor Valley and the old, abandoned 19th century Potts Ranch. Out in the middle of lonely, but beautiful Monitor Valley is a hot tub, which is filled with hot, clear spring water. This perhaps, one of the most wonderful springs around. We soaked again, then camped around the bluff overlooking the springs.

RUBY DOME (11,387'), Ruby Mountains, Humboldt National Forest The following morning we left Monitor Valley and drove the endless Nevada highways to Elko, where we checked in at the Shiloh Inn. Andy had contacted the Spring Creek Homeowners Association prior to our trip, and was told that the Association has hired a security guard is stationed at any given time at the Spring Creek Association Campground (and Association shooting range which shares the same gate and area), which is the start of the hike for Ruby. We were told that if he asked to leave, we would have to leave. In addition, we were told that we would have to park outside the campground gate on Pleasant Valley Road. Apparently, hikers of the past, had cut the lock on the gate, or had not closed the gate behind them, letting a rancherís cattle escape. The USFS, told us that it probably would be all right to walk across the Associationís property to the trail as long as we parked outside the gate.

On September 6, we drove to the locked gate on Pleasant Valley Road, parked outside the gate, climbed over it, putting us on the road to the campground at 5:35am. We walked the road to its end, at a picnic area with tables made of stream bed stone. Walking approximately 20 feet past the picnic tables, we came to a cattle gate, which we opened and closed behind us. This put us on the trail to Griswold Lake. Upon closing the gate, the trail veers left and crosses Butterfield Creek where it sidehills a gentle ridge, heading southeast, with aspens and the creek to the right. There was a second gate, which was springed to close automatically. Once past the second gate, the trail continued through the aspens and came to a barbed-wire fence which was most easily crossed in the middle of the creek.

The trail wound its way through the drainage and opened up onto a pretty big talus field. We climbed the field, but found on the descent, that what appears to be cliffs to the west, toward the drainage, is a narrow but passable bench, which works all the way up to the lake. From the lake, we followed the use trail on the east side of the lake, which climbed steeply to a saddle just above tree-line. We turned southwest, along the west side of the Thompson Creek drainage to a snow-filled ramp. We ascended the ramp using ice axes, and once at the top of the ramp, Ruby Dome came into view.

A friend of Andyís had climbed up one of two chutes (which we called ďRussí chuteĒ) just below and to the west of the summit. Both chutes were filled with snow, looked very steep and crumbly. We decided to turn immediately west, and climb the cirque wall on the west side of the Thompson Creek drainage. This route went very well, as we followed narrow benches along the northwest ridge, to the main summit ridge. From this point, the peak summit was only 250' away.

When we reached the campground on the return, a number of shooters were plugging away at the range on the other side of the campground. When we reached our car, we noticed that the shooters had left the unlocked gate open and the rancherís cattle had all escaped onto Pleasant Valley Road! So much for blaming it all on the climbers!

WHEELER PEAK (13,063'), The Snake Range, Great Basin National Park Thursday, we drove the Nevada endless highways to Great Basin National Park, where we camped at 10,000' Wheeler Campground. It was a beautiful evening, except for the drunken German tourists, in the only other inhabited site, singing songs of their homeland in falsetto, ítil the ranger wandered over. The next morning, we walked from the campground to the trail up Wheeler Peak. Itís a well-marked trail all the way to the summit. On the summit of Wheeler, we met Pete Yamagataís friends, Lilly and Anna Chaput from Auburn (near Sacramento), who were carrying a copy of the DPS write-up for Wheeler, while quickly burning up the trail (amazing what living in the Sierra Nevada foothills does for oneís conditioning!) We returned to the campground from Wheeler, cleaned up, took the Lehman Caves Tour, then drove to Ely for dinner at the Copper Queen. From Ely, we drove across Nevada to California, reaching Bishop around midnight, where we relaxed for a day before returing to Los Angeles. Another great trip to the Nevada desert.

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