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I didn't leave San Jose until almost 8p on a Wednesday night. While this had the advantage of avoiding all normal traffic across the state, it would still make for a late arrival in Nevada. My progress was held up for almost an hour by a truck that had ill-advisedly tried to drive over Ebbetts Pass on Hwy 4 and gotten stuck (there are signs to this effect right before where the accident took place). Two CHP officers were on the scene helping the driver back down off the section of road where he'd gotten stuck, meanwhile blocking traffic in both directions. Turns out my van was the only other vehicle trying to pass by in either direction during this time. Parked off the side of the road, I waited about 30 minutes for one officer on foot with a flashlight to pass me, followed closely by a large rig driving backwards down the hill. Once by, I got back on the road to continue but was stopped a quarter mile up the road by the CHP truck parked smack in the middle of the narrow road with no room to pass on either side. I got out to inspect the situation, finding no realistic way to drive around the truck but noted the engine was running with the keys in the ignition. It looked like a simple matter to get in and move the truck off to one side. Would that get me in trouble? I decided not to be so bold and went back to wait in my van. Another 20 minutes went by before both officers came driving up in a squad car. The first thing the one did after getting out to return to his truck was ask me, "Why didn't you move the truck?" Rats. It was well after 1a before I found my way to Red Canyon Rd and had driven it as far as I safely could. Where a turnout presented itself I moved over and slept in the back for the rest of the night.
I had planned to start at 4a in order to get a headstart on the day and do most of the hiking up Red Canyon at night, but the late arrival had me push back the start time and it wasn't until 4:45a that I was out of the van and ready to go. Dawn comes early to Nevada (at least compared to San Jose) and by 5:15a it was already glowing orange and red on the eastern horizon looking back down the mouth of Red Canyon. The road was somewhat rough with rocks which had stopped my drive on the approach, but hiking the road was not difficult, even by headlamp.
Sunrise came shortly before 6a. By then I had reached a fork near the head of the main canyon and turned right on the northern fork, starting a long rise out of the canyon. By 6:20a I had climbed to the ridge just north of Pt. 7,545ft and had fine views to the east to Smith Valley and south to Eagle Mtn on the south side of Red Canyon. By 7a I had reached the West Slope of Oreana Peak and was high enough to see the Sierra Nevada rising up behind Eagle Mtn to the south. All this time I had been hiking along 4WD roads that could probably have been navigated by Adam in his Ford Escape. The reports I had read describing this route as unnavigable looked to be wrong. Once at the base of Oreana's West Slope I left the road and climbed easy, open terrain to the summit about ten minutes later.
A huge rock wind screen had been erected around a bivy site at the very summit. Always finding these most disagreeable, I did my best to disassemble the thing by knocking the rocks off one side or the other. A rusted set of nested cans held some paper scraps and a DPS register left by Daryn Dodge less than a month earlier. The views from the summit were great in all directions, stretching out for many miles. The snow-topped crest of the Sierra was clearly visible to the south over Eagle Mtn, southwest over Bald Mtn, and to the west over Galena Summit (the name for the saddle south of Galena Peak). There were also far-reaching views into the Nevada interior, but with these ranges I was almost completely unfamiliar.
I dropped back down the west side of Oreana to the dirt road and headed north into the Buckeye Creek drainage on my way to Mt. Siegel. It was a surprisingly green area at 8,500ft of elevation, with fields of wild iris and other flowering plants. A shallow creek washed over the road, fed by some springs back upstream somewhere as indicated on the topo map. A steep Jeep track leads from Buckeye Creek to Galena Saddle about 800ft up and situated roughly between Galena Peak and Mt. Siegel. A memorial cross to an Oliver James Aceves is found just north of the saddle, though no additional information about who he might have been (a local rancher, perhaps?). It was only ten minutes up easy slopes to the summit of Mt. Siegel where I arrived around 8:20a.
Like Oreana, and indeed most of the summits in the Pine Nut Mtns, there are no trees and very little vegetation at the highest elevations. This makes for completely unobstructed views limited only by the atmospheric haze. There is a huge cairn crowning the summit that had been visible from Oreana's summit earlier. A register was found on one side of the cairn with a small booklet placed by Dingus Milktoast in 2009.
From Siegel I turned south and began a very enjoyable traverse across the crest of the Pine Nut Mtns in that direction. The weather was fine, the visibility very good, and the cross-country easy. On my way up to Galena Peak I startled a small herd of deer that had been lounging on the northwest flanks of the peak. They got up one by one as they became aware of my presence and took off in front of me, eventually circling back to near where they started when they perceived me to be less of a threat than they had initially supposed. They kept a wary eye on me as I walked away from them, lest my movements should turn out to be some sort of trick.
It was 9:15a when I reached the summit of Galena. A register dating to 1991 had been placed by Pete Yamagata. Though quite close to Mt. Siegel, the traffic on Galena is considerably less. With Oreana in fine profile to the east, I continued south from Galena. As I hiked along, a small private plane appeared from the north, flying up Buckeye Canyon. Over the next fifteen minutes it made half a dozen loops around Oreana Peak, flying low through the saddle between it and Galena. It did not appear to be looking for anything, merely out for some flying practice.
I was heading south towards two additional named peaks that appear in the USGS database, but not on the 7.5' topo map. They were registered in my GPS as well as Rattlesnake Hill and Granite Peak. The former was about two miles south of Galena Peak or less than half a mile southwest from Galena Summit. A Jeep track rises from the saddle to near the summit of Rattlesnake Hill which is pretty much a rounded knoll much like the name implies. There wasn't so much as a cairn at the near-barren summit, just an even spread of rocky ground peppered with low desert scrub. It seemed hardly worth having a name.
I continued my southward trek along an old road for another mile to unnamed Pt. 9,191ft, the highest point on the crest between Galena Peak and Bald Mtn, about three miles to the southwest. There were some old stakes that probably belonged to a survey tower at the rocky summit. Less than half a mile to the southeast could be seen Granite Peak, a small bump from this angle, overlooking Red Canyon below it. Taking only ten minutes to traverse between the two, it was 11a when I reached the summit of Granite Peak. As there was no register to be found, I decided this was a good place to leave an extra one I'd been carrying around.
Given more time, that is, not having the need to drive an additional 7hrs this afternoon to reach the Ruby Mtns, I would have liked to continue southwest to Bald Mtn and then east to Eagle Mtn. Those would have to be left for some future effort. I turned my attention to the business of getting back. The most straightforward way would have been to return to Galena Summit and take the Jeep track leading from there down to Red Canyon. Almost the entire route from Granite's summit would have been along dirt roads and easily managed. What I didn't like about the plan was that it was somewhat circuitous, taking me more than two miles back along the trodden track to the north only to turn south again in dropping to the canyon. I could see the road below in Red Canyon a little more than a mile and a half to the east. By dropping directly down from Granite I could save a lot of mileage at the possible expense of some ugly bushwhacking. I decided the risk was worth it, especially since I could see relatively easy going for the upper third of the route that was visible. Down I went.
Things went fairly well and it took me about an hour and twenty minutes to cover the 1.65mi stretch down to the road. As expected, the upper part went smoothly with some easy parts in a dry creekbed. Further down there were some rather brushy parts to negotiate, but thankfully they weren't that long. It was 12:30p before I found myself back on the road, then just another hour to hike back down Red Canyon to where I'd left the van.
For the most part is was a pleasant drive across the state of Nevada. I stopped at Wilson Canyon to take a quick rinse in the Walker River. From there I drove north to Interstate 80 and then several hundred miles east to Elko and the Ruby Mtns. It was near dark before I found my way up Lamoille Canyon in the heart of the range, spending the night at the TH located just outside the Lions Club's Camp Lamoille. It had been a good day's hiking and a fine way to break up the long drive.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Oreana Peak - Mt. Siegel
This page last updated: Fri Sep 9 10:45:45 2011
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