Clinton Peak P500 RS
Mt. Reagan P300 RS
Amargosa Overlook P300 RS
Horse BM P750 RS

Wed, Apr 25, 2018
Horse BM
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2 3


I was in the Spring Mtns east of Las Vegas for a third day, trying to avoid the heat by staying in the high country. Today's peaks would include three over 10,000ft, which would do nicely. I had camped at around 6,200ft, driving in the morning to the primitive camp at the end of Wallace Canyon on the north side of Clinton Peak. All of the day's peaks can be found in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles.

Clinton / Reagan

These two high peaks lie southwest of Mt. Charleston and are reputed to be among the most remote in the range. They aren't all that far from the TH (less than a mile to Clinton, 1.5mi to Reagan), but the drive to get there is very, very long. There's no warm-up on the climb to Clinton from the north - the route goes up 2,000ft in 9/10mi at a consistently steep grade. Purcell describes the North Face as an excellent climb and it was that that I had set my sights on. One must first gain 3/4 of the elevation up forested and talus-strewn terrain before reaching the better limestone rock above. It turned that there was considerable snow blocking access in the upper reaches of the North Face so I had to alter course to the Northwest Ridge. I wasn't sure if it would go because it looked quite difficult from below, but at least it was snow-free. This ridge turned out to have the hardest scrambling of the entire roadtrip so far, probably harder than anything I've done so far this year, solidly class 4 (which others might describe as class 5). In particular, there were two tough spots. The first was in the very beginning when the talus slopes ended and the scrambling begins. A stretch of about 40ft goes up sharply, with good holds initially, but a short section of questionable rock. Normally, limestone provides the best scrambling, but here the rock quality wasn't so good and some rocks would pull out or give way with modest pressure. I had to go very deliberately here, with deep breaths and checking each foot and hand placement, mentally noting the route in case I had to reverse it. Once up this first section, it became apparent that the ridge is committing - there's simply no obvious escape routes off either side. The second tough section is found at the end of a short walk atop that first obstacle. A knife-edge section begins with a first move up a 10-foot vertical pinnacle that doesn't look like it will hold much weight. This, too, would have been hard to reverse, but again I studied it as I went up, really, really hoping I wouldn't have to come back down. The knife-edge then becomes great fun, solid class 3 and a nice run. It ends at a second steep face but this one is not as severe as the first and with plentiful holds made for more good scrambling. I thought I was home free until I got atop it to see a third steep section ahead that had me worried once again. Upon getting closer, it wasn't as steep as it had seemed and an open book right up the middle of it proved no more than hard class 3. After 20ft the angle eased and the rest of the way to the summit was a cake walk by comparison. It was one of the best routes I had found in the Spring Mtns, but I don't think I'd recommend it as a scrambling route - too much nervousness to be really enjoyable.

The summit was large and open with wide views of the Pahrump Valley to the southwest and the looming West Face of Mt. Charleston to the northeast. Mt.Reagan, nearly the same height, is only half a mile to the SSE. In contrast, it appears to be a walk in the park compared to Clinton Peak. A register from 2001 dedicates the unofficially named summit to Bill Clinton, champion of the environment. The summit receives only periodic visits, most recently by Bob Sumner back in October. The hike to Mt. Reagan was easy enough, a talus slope down the Southeast Ridge about 660ft to a forested saddle, then a more gentle climb up Mt. Reagan on its NNW Ridge. There was some old snow on the slopes here, but all easily avoidable. It took about 40min between the two peaks. A single register page from 2015 has this as "Reagan Peak", but both PB and LoJ use Purcell's version of "Mt. Reagan". If this were the only outing I was going to do today or I hadn't been up there yet, I would have been tempted to continue up to Mt. Charleston from Reagan along the connecting ridgeline. It looks to be no more than easy class 3 and snow-free to boot. I will leave that as an exercise for future adventurers, however. Instead, I returned to the saddle with Clinton and dropped off it's steep talus face into the South Fork of Wallace Canyon. The slope narrows into a loose gully near the bottom, but the scrambling isn't harder than class 3 in the two narrowest places. Once down in the canyon, it appears that a great deal of downfall is going to make the downstream travel quite tedious, but this lasts only a minute before the going gets easier, eventually becoming a wide gravel streambed. A more leisurely stroll down the canyon got me back to the TH just after 9:30a, a total of about 3h20m.

Amargosa Overlook

My next outing was a scramble to the north, up the opposite side of the canyon to Amargosa Overlook. I probably should have just left the Jeep where it was, but I moved it half a mile down Wallace Canyon to position it in front of the ridge I planned to ascend. My problem was that I inadvertantly left my gloves back at the original TH. Rather than drive back up to get them, I decided I'd come back down that way on the descent to retrieve them. Unlike Clinton Peak, the ascent of Amargosa Overlook goes all class 2 with no hidden surprises. It took me almost an hour and a half to climb some 2,400ft over a mile and a quarter. There are cliffs along the south side of the crest, but with a number of gaps between them. I used one to the west of the summit on the ascent, and another to the east on the descent. The summit has fantastic views of Mt. Charleston to the east and Clinton Peak across Wallace Canyon to the south. I found no register, but noted another point further northeast that might also be the summit. It turned out to be about 10ft lower, but I didn't go back to the highpoint. Instead, I looked for a way down into the north fork of Wallace Canyon, finding a hugely fun scree-fest that went on for 1,500ft down various slopes before ending up in thicker forest. Back in the day these slopes were all harvested for timber and I found many old cuts and other signs of past activity, and surprisingly, a more recent remote instrument that had been left in a seemingly random part of the forest. I eventually found my way back to the TH, picked up my gloves, and walked the half mile down the road to the waiting Jeep just after noon.

Horse BM

Horse BM is found eight miles west of Amargosa Overlook, on the west side of Wheeler Wash. Getting there involved a good deal of driving, almost an hour and a half's worth. I passed by three wild ponies on the way (appropriate for Horse BM, no?), one black, one brown and a roan. I chose as my starting point the end of a rough dirt road, a 5.5mi effort that got me only 400ft higher than the much easier start along Wheeler Pass Rd. It hasn't taken me long to adjust my driving/hiking habits between the van and the Jeep. The hike was very much like the one to Wheeler BM the previous day. With similar mileage (5mi RT), elevation gain (2,300ft) and terrain, it followed a long ridgeline, and like Wheeler BM, it had steep sections in the beginning and end with a long-ish middle section of easier gradient through forest. Nothing difficult, all class 2, taking an hour and three quarters to reach the summit. I was getting fairly tired by this time with more than 6,000ft of gain for the day and was happy there was no difficulties and no bushwhacking. The register here dated back ten years with only a handful of entries on five pages. There were some scraps from an older register, but most of these were brittle and unreadable. Unlike the two earlier outings, I didn't make a loop of this one and took the same way back. It was getting close to 5p by the time I finished up. I showered where I'd parked to revive my spirits, then got a cold one from the cooler for the hour plus drive back out to Pahrump. Long day, this one...


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