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Toiyabe Dome is not on the DPS list nor a county highpoint which were two of the criteria for this Nevada desert trip. But in addition to being a P2K summit, Matthew had given it glowing praise as the best of the peaks he'd climbed in the area. Later I learned that simply being better than the other peaks (Mt. Jefferson & Arc Dome) was not to be interpreted as "glowing", nor great, nor necessarily good.
We had arisen somewhat early to allow us a dawn start for Toiyabe which would be a rather full day with 5,000ft of gain and an all cross-country route. Our four vehicles caravaned from our camping spot near the junction of SRs 82 & 376 north on 376 through Big Smokey Valley to the junction with Cove Canyon Rd northeast of Toiyabe Dome. We left three of the cars near the highway and piled into Bill's Forester for the mile-long drive to the base of the range. We drove as far up as we could safely manage, pulling over and starting where the road faded into a jeep track that gave out a short distance further up.
The challenge for the ascent was all in the lower half of the route where it was steep and mildly circuitous to avoid brush and navigate our way through the forest. The route follows a broad arc around the north and west sides of Cove Canyon before approaching Toiyabe Dome from the northwest side along the long, but moderately sloped North Ridge. The first half of the route climbs 4,000ft in about two miles, no easy feat on any terrain, taking us about three hours. The terrain we encountered was a mix of rock, talus, sand, and forest degradables, not particularly difficult, but slow going, to be sure. With Adam in front and myself close on his heels, we kept Bill and Laura in sight behind us for the first hour and half. For the most part we stayed on the ridgeline, excepting a few places where we skirted right or left around it where it was impractical. Eventually we lost track of the other two, and after a short break where we saw or heard no sign of them, we continued on together up one steep slope after another until finally reaching the gentler slopes of the North Ridge.
Though we encountered some sections of snow and some annoying moments of classic postholing, the ridgeline was mostly free of snow and easy to traverse. Our pace doubled over the barren terrain and the views opened up in all directions now that we were over 10,000ft in elevation. Arc Dome looked most impressive off to the west with its snowy northeast face, the jewel of the Toiyable Range. Several miles to the south lay the summit of Toiyabe Dome, far less impressive from this perspective, but it got no complaints from either Adam or myself - we were happy with the easy walking after so much hard work.
It was just before 11a when we topped out at the summit. A register dated to 1989, and in the twenty years since it was placed only 8 pages had been used. To no great surprise, Matthew's was the most recent entry before ours, having climbed it barely 7 months prior to our arrival. We stayed at the summit about twenty minutes before the cold wind blowing over the summit got the best of us (ok, really me - Adam is much younger with much better circulation than myself). We could finally see the other two ascending the easier slopes, but they were still probably 20-30 minutes from the summit. I was eager to climb the lower southeast summit as well, and after some study thought we might be able to make a looping route by descending the ridge northeast off the other summit. Adam was game as well, so after leaving a short note in the register with our intentions we started off.
It took only 15 minutes for the short traverse to the other summit, a better looking one than Toiyabe Dome itself. We found no register on the southeast summit and wasted little time in starting down the NE Ridge. We were ten minutes along this descent when I looked back and spotted Bill atop Toiyabe Dome. He was too far away to determine if he saw us in turn, but the note we'd left for him would give him some idea where to look for us.
We had no beta whatsoever on our descent route which provided some apprehension as well as excitement to the effort. Because the route was shorter, it meant we had to descend some 5,000ft in about three miles, but it was definitely not shorter time-wise. Most of the route was steep and slow-going, with occasional class 3 sections of rock that slowed us further. The crux was a large cliff area, perhaps 300ft in elevation, that we encountered about halfway down the route. There was a bypass chute to our right (south) that would have allowed us to skip the cliff area entirely, but I was drawn in by the entertaining aspects of the cliff that had me saying a few times, "I dunno, let me go down a little further and see if it goes." Eventually this repetition got old for Adam, and as the route grew more vertical and fewer options were available, he decided to find another way down to our left. The bottom of the cliff was very stiff class 3, but by taking my time I managed to find a way down through ramps and ledges to the easier terrain below. Looking back at the cliff it seemed improbable that a route could be found through it. I waited some ten to fifteen minutes for Adam, but finding no sign of him I decided he must have taken a different route.
Adam had moved left as reported, then found a steep scree slope that he descended a great distance to get around the cliff. Finding no easy way back around the cliff, he descended all the way to Cove Creek and then up the other side to the ridgeline we had taken on the way up. Meanwhile, I continued down the unknown route.
Now by myself, I continued down through continuously challenging terrain. Rock and brush vied for the better part of my attention, all the while I was anxious about the portion of the route that lay ahead that I could not yet see through. I recalled in the morning having briefly surveyed the south side of Cove Canyon, noting a steep chute that led through a lower cliff section. If I could find my way to this chute from above I felt that my difficulties would be at an end, and it was to this goal that I concentrated my efforts. The ridgeline I followed eventually broke up into multiple lines, with the slopes between them funneling down to a gap in the rock I could see to the east. Hoping this was the chute I had eyed earlier, I made my way down talus and sandy slopes, littered with the usual forest duff built up over the years.
The chute narrowed considerably and there were at least three times that I had a sinking feeling when a cliff or chockstone seemed about to present itself, but each time I managed to find a class 2-3 way around the obstacle and continue into the chute. This eventually opened up to a broader chute and easier going, ensuring the route would "go." At the base of the lower cliffs I began traversing north along the rock faces in order to get me back in the vicinity of the car. Crossing the brush and aspen-choked stream emanating from Cove Canyon turned out to be a tricky chore, but once executed I was but a few hundred yards upstream from the car.
It was now almost 4p, and having taken almost as much time for the descent as the ascent, I expected I might already find Bill and Laura waiting back at the car. Adam I had no real idea where he was, but expected he must be somewhere behind me still. So it was with some surprise that I found Adam lying in the back of the car, having arrived some twenty minutes earlier. Laura showed up some 15 minutes after I got back, with Bill bringing up the rear some 20 minutes behind Laura. By that time it was 4:30p and we had all had a full day.
A refreshing shower with the water I'd left warming on my dash did wonders to revive my body and spirits, as did the beers we enjoyed at the Lucky Spur Saloon in Kingston some 40 miles to the north. This last was a random find on our way to the TH for Bunker Hill where we planned to spend the night. We enjoyed listening to the owner/bartender tell us the history of the saloon and the small town of Kingston. Since they were offering, we asked one of the patrons for beta on the road conditions in the area which provided us great amusement. They laughed at the sight of our vehicles, declaring portions of the road impassable. We found of course that they were easily negotiable even by my van. Our takeaway from this and our previous encounter in the Belmont Saloon was that bars in Nevada were no place to get beta. It seems you just can't trust a man with more than a few beers in him.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Toiyabe Dome
This page last updated: Thu Jul 8 12:47:48 2010
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