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The Petersen Mtns are a small Nevada range along the California border about 20 miles northwest of Reno. The unnamed highpoint is a prominence point, and it was for this reason that it had my attention. It looked to be of modest difficulty, but a good challenge for 12 yr-old Ryan who would join me for the effort. We were in Reno on the second day of a four-day road trip.
Perhaps the hardest part of the day was finding a suitable place to start from. I had guessed that the west side, facing US395, ought to be the best side. We drove to Hallelujeh Junction where we got off to investigate the first of several side roads that head east into the range. This first dirt road, decently graded, was called "Bent D Rd" on maps. We followed it for two miles until we came to a Private Property / No Trespassing sign above an open gate. We drove through but soon espied a set of buildings off to the left with attending vehicles. It didn't seem prudent to continue, so I turned around and drove back out to the highway.
We drove north a few miles until we spotted another likely candidate. This one I couldn't quite place on the map, but drove on in anyway. This unnamed dirt road led to a ranch residence with an open gate. Not seeing any forbidding signs, I continued in. A small pack of large dogs came out to greet us, barking and yapping and making a scene worthy of Cujo. I drove slowly through the residence hoping the road continued on out through the other side, but no such luck. Gates surrounded the property and I was forced to turn around and head back, all the while the dogs going off on either side of the van.
It was 7a, not too early I had hoped, but I still managed to wake up the 50-something mistress of the ranch. "You're on my property and woke me up," she complained. I instantly became profusely appologetic, explaining that I didn't see any No Trespassing signs and had hoped the road continued through to the hills. After she gathered we were out to explore the nearby hills and weren't horse or cattle rustlers, she warmed up and became helpful. She suggested a good parking spot where we could walk through a gate to reach BLM land and gave us some rough instructions. We left her and her dogs on friendly terms and drove back out to where she had indicated. There was even a nice shady spot to leave the van at.
After locking the van we headed out through the gate, closed with just a clasp. The road we followed headed northeast though I knew our peak was more to the southeast. The map had shown a road heading in a southeast direction from our location, but much of it has been overgrown and hard to find. We used it on the way back, but had to cross-country the last section back to the gate. After about a mile we came to a fork and took the branch heading southeast, finally going the direction we wanted. This took us to the foot of the range at the start of a small canyon.
Leaving the road, we headed cross-country up the slopes to the right of the canyon. The dry desert scrub made for fairly easy cross-country travel. One could choose to climb just about any slope in the range and find conditions much the same. All the better, since we found no more roads or trails helping us on our way to the highpoint. We climbed up the initial slope, somewhat steep, then traversed into a ravine and up the other side past some of the few trees we found on this side of the range.
Above the trees we followed a rocky ridge upwards, coming across a pair of antlers at one point. Ryan was highly impressed, and perked up at this find. We marvelled at the heaviness of the very dense bone they were fashioned from. We used these for mild amusement, and Ryan asked if we could bring them home. I told him a story of a desert sheep horn I had found and initially planned to bring home. But the thought of it collecting dust in a garage in suburbia didn't feel right and I eventually left in the desert. We left the deer antler on a rocky perch looking out over the valley below, a small treasure for another party of adventurers to find. Ryan still thought it would be neat to bring them home, but accepted that we leave them where we found them.
We continued up for another 40 minutes before finally reaching the highpoint just before 10:30a. It had taken about 3hr15m to reach the top, not much longer than the three hours I had estimated to Ryan. Ryan was happy to find a register tucked among the rocks, validating his hours of effort to reach the summit. Placed in 2002 by John Vitz, ours was only the seventh party to visit in seven years, not a frequently climbed summit. The summit area was broad and surprisingly green for a desert range. It looked more like chaparral than desert, except that the flora was fairly low to the ground. Perhaps a cross between Alpine Meadow and Coastal Chaparral would be a fitting description. Certainly far greener than the desert ranges I was used to in the Mojave and Death Valley area.
For the descent we made a slight variation, exiting the summit to the north before dropping down into the ravine we had traversed on the way up. Though not substantially easier, we found a helpful old road at the bottom of the ravine. This road corresponded to the one shown on the 7.5' topo map but had been unable to find earlier in the day. Not long after it passed under some power lines we crossed the CA/NV border, nicely marked here by a fiberglass marker. This was another impressive find to Ryan, and we stopped to take pictures of both sides of the marker, Ryan with Nevada, myself with California. Another half hour brought us back to the gate we had initially walked through. In all we spent five and a half hours hiking the hills of Petersen Mtn, a fairly enjoyable outing.
I still wanted to hit up Peavine Peak on the way back, but not knowing if I could drive to the top and knowing I had already pushed Ryan enough for one day, I gave him the option. He chose to return to the hotel, so after dropping him off I drove back out to Peavine. The summit is another prominence peak, antennae-crowned with roads leading from several directions to the summit, not all equally maintained. Geographically the surrounding hills that contain the summit is part of a sub-range of the Sierra Nevada, the furthest extent of the Sierra into the state of Nevada.
With a bit of trouble I finally found the unsigned Peavine Rd off Old US395, just east of a prominent water tank atop a hill (another road immediately east of the tank leads up to the tank - this is *not* Peavine Rd). I followed Peavine Rd for as far as I could, which turned out to be the very summit. The road had ruts and rocky obstacles, but I was able to negotiate them all by taking things slow. There are two closely spaced summits about a quarter mile apart, so it seemed necessary to visit them both. The NE summit is named on the topo map, the large flat summit area enclosed by an impressive fence. I walked around the perimeter to see if there were any survey benchmarks inside or outside, but I found none and had no reason to breach the fenceline. I found no register either. The SW summit has a larger complex of antennae in smaller enclosures, but again I found no benchmarks or registers. The summits have a fine view of Reno to the SE, the Tahoe region around Mt. Rose to the south, The Bald Mtns to the west, and the Petersen Mtns to the north. In all I spent maybe half an hour looking around the two summits before heading back down the same way.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Petersen Mountains HP - Peavine Peak
This page last updated: Thu Jul 30 21:01:55 2009
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