Bard Peak DS / RS
Ireteba Peaks South DS / RS
Ireteba Peaks HP P1K
Peak 4,089ft RS
Black Hill P300 RS
Peak 3,954ft RS
Railroad Peak P1K RS
Railroad Hill P300 RS

Feb 11, 2016
Black Hill
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


Ireteba Peaks

The Ireteba Peaks, a subset of Nevada's Eldorado Mountains, form a chain of its highest summits stretching some four miles. Ireteba Peaks South is the range highpoint with more than 1,500ft of prominence, and along with its neighbor Bard Peak, are featured in Zdon's Desert Summits. With several reasons to tackle these summits, I had driven the night before on a sandy, sometimes rocky OHV road off US95 to reach near the base of the mountains. I was up and ready to head out around 7a, not long after sunrise.

I hiked the remaing 1.6mi of rougher road to where it ends at the base of the mountains, only 2/3mi from Bard Peak. The climb up the moderate slopes is not difficult and in short order I had reached Bard. It held a small register, actually a geocache, dating only to 2014. With less than 200ft of prominence it was difficult to understand how it happened to get an unofficial name associated with it. Another 15min got me to the range highpoint atop Irebeta Peaks South marked by an unlabeled benchmark. No register atop this summit. It wasn't yet 8a and I had already reached the two peaks on the morning's agenda. To the north, the crest of the range looked to provide some nice hiking with a view, so I set off in that direction as a way to stretch the outing into something more interesting. This turned out to be helpful not just for enjoying the views more, but to enlighten me on the naming of Bard Peak. The next point to the north, about 25min further, held a Smatko register declaring "Darb Peak" as the highpoint of the range when it was left there in 1987. Darb immediately looked like "Bard" to my Scrabble-trained eyes and I realized it was another of Andy's self-named summits. His companions were Ray Nelson, Bill Schuler and Richard (Dick) Agnos, the name derived from the first letter of each's first name. I suspect there was another point along this crest that once had a "Drab Peak" register as well. Somehow the one on Bard Peak had survived long enough for someone to pass the information to Zdon who included it in his book. Another interesting register is found another 20min north along the ridge, this one left by Gordon & Barbara in 1986, also declaring it the range highpoint. John Fedak points out in his 2011 entry that it was the third register he'd encountered so far on the ridge making this declaration.

I decided to call it a morning after this last register find, noting that the next interesting summit was much further away to the north. With another 3hrs or so the outing could be extended all the way to Irebeta Peaks North, about 2mi further, but I wanted to hike in the McCullough Range this afternoon so I cut it short. I descended a decent-looking ridgeline to the west into a wash until I had cleared the range, then walked south over lightly undulating terrain to get back to the car. Right near where I had parked, I spotted a random geocache at the base of a joshua tree which I paused to examine. Geocaching seems to have found some fans in this lonely stretch of Nevada desert.

Railroad Peaks

I returned to US95 and continued north, aiming for the NE end of the McCullough Mountains between Railroad Pass and Dutchman Pass. Just south of the suburban sprawl of Henderson is a nice-looking limestone ridge described by Courtney in his book, Rambles & Scrambles, as the Railroad Peaks Traverse and it was to this my attention was drawn. Because Henderson is still expanding, access to the dirt roads on the north side of the peaks seems to be drying up as Courtney warns. Though less than two years old, the directions in the guidebook were already outdated. Making for a somewhat longer hike, I decided to simply park in the large lot accompanying the Nevada State College. There didn't appear to be any permits needed to park there and it seemed to work just fine.

Peak 4,089ft, the first of the 4 peaks described by Courtney, rises somewhat dramatically behind the college to the south. I climbed a flood control barrier at the edge of the college and made my way across the desert flats to the base of the peak's NNE Ridge. A rough road carves its way partway up the ridge, stopping at a small overlook on the ridge. From there, a use trail marked needlessly by ducks (and even more needlessly by red paint marks) can be found following the ridge all the way to the summit. About 15min before reaching the summit, views open up as one reaches the main crest. The Pro Gun Club lies to the east at the base of the range, a landmark of sorts as one drives over Railroad Pass on US93. I imagine it can be quite noisy on weekends but this Thursday afternoon all was quiet. A geocache can be found under a cairn at a shoulder along the ridge below the summit. It was 12:40p when I reached Peak 4,089ft. 12min further south one reaches the 3-foot higher summit of Black Hill. The terrain gets a little rougher after this, though never more than easy class 3. I spent about 45min traveling between Black Hill and Railroad, first going over Peak 3,954ft (which has a great view of Railroad Peak's impressive NE Face) along the way. From Railroad Peak, the ridge starts to drop to the south into the Eldorado Valley, detached from the main chain of the McCullough Mtns which line the valley on its west side. Railroad Peak held a glass jar register, but its contents were just loose pages that dated back only a few years - it seems to be too close to civilization to hold a register for any length of time.

I had one more small summit I wanted to visit before returning, Railroad Hill which lies below to the west of the ridge I had just traversed. I descended immediately west down a gully from Railroad Peak, dropping most of the way before starting a descending traverse to the north through a saddle with Peak 3,44Xft (the topo map seems to have dropped the last digit of the spot elevation above the saddle). I disturbed a small handful of bighorn ewes as I was passing through here, managing to barely capture one of them in the midst of escape manuevers before they were quickly out of sight. I dropped further from the saddle to a gravel wash (complete with private shooting range) before climbing easy slopes to Railroad Hill. There was little of note to be seen from the summit on the edge of civilization. I crossed various roads on my way back to the college following Railroad Hill, one of them being navigated by a gentleman on a beefy ATV who stopped to talk to me. Hoot, as he introduced himself, was the most interesting find all day. He was 81yrs old, legally blind, and riding out in the desert near his home as his rebellious way of showing he wasn't dead yet. He lived in a large home with a wife, daughter and son-in-law that his daughter talked him into buying. She has since convinced Hoot and mom to move into the smaller cottage in back "so they could have more privacy," but really so she and hubby could raise their family in the larger house. "I love her, but God she's a dominating b****." We must have talked for 15-20min about his family, his home, his life in the navy, the weather and other topics. I think I was the best thing he'd run into all day, too. My greatest amusement came when he pulled out an electronic pipe from inside his shirt - first time I'd seen a senior vaping and he kindly allowed me to photographing him and his "one vice." We parted on the best of terms as I continued back to the college and he continued riding back to his house.

It was nearly 4p when I returned to the van at the college parking lot. I drove to a more remote corner in order to shower (mostly) undisturbed before heading into Henderson for dinner. Later I drove east to the edge of town off Equestrian Dr and onto some rough powerline roads that took me partway into the River Mtns where I planned to hike the next day. It was a wonderful camp spot even if the drive to get there was a bit tough on the van. I could see the lights of Henderson and Las Vegas to the northwest through the canyon I had ascended to a height of about 500ft above the valley floor, but not a sound could be heard with a sky full of stars overhead...

It was determined in 2019 by Richard Hensley that the point Gordon identified as the highpoint of the ridgeline is indeed correct.


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