Black Mountain DS / DPG
Pinto Hill DPG
Mineral Ridge P300 DPG
Red Mountain P500 DS / DPG

Mon, Apr 8, 2019
Black Mountain
Red Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profiles: 1 2 3 4


I had traveled to Nevada to finish up the list of peaks found in Andy Zdon's Desert Summits. Bob Sumner and I had been separately working on this list for several years now, though neither of us had put any real priority to it, despite knowing that not even Andy Zdon had climbed them all yet. Some months ago I had traveled to the Gold Butte National Monument near the UT/NV/AZ border to do a handful in that area, leaving me just three peaks in West Central NV and a lone summit in Death Valley. The weather in that part of Nevada stayed very cold for a number of months and I let the project simmer. Sumner had asked me in December if I was going to be finishing it anytime soon to which I indicated probably not until March. This would give him some months to have a crack at it, but he had other life distractions keeping him from the task. And so in April I noted the weather and timing had finally come together and I set out with a four-day window to finish it off. I had other peaks in mind as well, some from Walt Wheelock's Desert Peaks Guide as well as Courtney Purcell's Rambles and Scrambles, and some bonus peaks, too.

Black Mountain

At close to 10,000ft in elevation, Black Mtn was the main peak I had any real concerns about, not knowing just how much snow there was in the White Mtns and what the snow levels were. Would I be able to drive to the TH? Would I need snowshoes? I brought the snowshoes for just this contingency, but never needed them. Black Mtn lies on the eastern side of the White Mtns in Nevada, really just a local highpoint along a long ridge leading west up to Mt. Dubois. I had initially planned to approach the peak from the north via Middle Canyon, but during the drive in I was surprised to see there was less snow than I had expected. On the fly I decided to approach from the south via Chiatovich Canyon, hoping I could get away with not having to carry the snowshoes. There is a USFS gate near the Ghost Ranch entrance, unsigned and not all that obvious. Once past this gate, one can drive a considerable distance up the canyon but I had only a short distance to go to reach my starting point for Black Mtn. There is an initial short but steep drop to Chiatovich Creek, a bit brushy and a little tricky, but once past that obstacle I found the going pretty straightforward though no picnic.

It would take me well over two hours to make my way up 2,500ft over the course of two miles to reach the summit from the east. The snow started around 9,000ft, spotty at first but more uniformly by the time I reached 9,500ft. The warm weather had meant that the snowpack had not frozen for several days and it was now a wet, heavy mess. Though the snowshoes weren't needed or really wanting, it was impossible to keep my boots dry in this snow as they would sink in 6-8" with almost every step. I found the benchmark and a survey stick a short distance east of, and below the highpoint. I found no register there nor at the highpoint that I visited next. Hoping to find a drier way down, I decided to descend more directly off the summit, south and then southeast following a steeper but drier subsidiary ridgeline off that side. This worked nicely enough that, had I used it for the ascent, my boots would have stayed relatively dry by the time I got back. Luckily I had brought two pair of boots, so I wouldn't have to spend the rest of the day wallowing in the wet ones. It was well before noon when I finished up back at the jeep, leaving me with plenty of time to get ahead of the schedule I'd set out for the next few days.

Pinto Hill

This is a fairly minor summit 10mi northeast of Black Mtn, and it took me about 30min to drive from one TH to the other. Pinto Hill is the lowest of five summits in the area between Trail Canyon and Sand Spring Canyon, and a bit of head-scratcher how it made it into a guidebook as opposed to the higher, more prominent and better-looking Pinyon Hill nearby. I was able to drive within half a mile of the summit and make short work of it from the south, taking all of 30min for the roundtrip effort. There was a particularly fine view of snowy Montgomery and Boundary Peaks to the west from the summit.

Mineral Ridge

The last two summits are located in the Silver Peak Range, to the east across Fish Lake Valley from the White Mountains, and it would take another hour of driving to get from one range to the next. I had been to the area two years earlier with Tom and Karl. At that time, we had approached Mineral Ridge from the northwest where there is an active quarry adjacent to the peak. We were unable to convince the manager to give us access from that side, so we had to leave it unclimbed. This time, I had worked out an approach from the southwest that would skirt the quarry property, but it was not a simple effort. To start, there was a rough 4WD track I negotiated from the main road (which is good shape). This only garnered me an extra half mile or so and a few hundred feet, so not all that necessary to use the route. The bigger issue is that the route goes across the grain of the drainages, resulting in three significant drops along the way. The first of these, starting immediately from where I parked, was the steepest and required some care to avoid minor cliffs. It was tiring work, going in and out of the various drainages, but it was interesting too, with old mining relics from bygone days found outside the active mine boundary to the south. As expected, I skirted right up against the edge of the mine as I made my way northeast towards the summit. It took an hour and a half to reach the summit where one gets a close-up view of the quarry in action, really just a couple of guys pushing gravel around with bulldozers today. There is also a nice view looking southeast to Clayton Valley with more mining activity there, a lithium brine operation in continuous operation since 1966. My return route was more efficient, helped by extra knowledge gleaned during the ascent, cutting the return time to only an hour. I spotted a bighorn ewe high on a ridge during the return and she kept a careful eye on me until it was clear I was heading in another direction. It was just after 4:30p when I returned, giving me time for one last summit.

Red Mountain

Red Mtn is found about 3mi southwest of Mineral Ridge and a much more impressive summit. It was easily visible as a high, bulky summit during most of my way to and from Mineral Ridge. It took about 30min to drive between them, the starting point for Red Mtn found at Coyote Summit where the main road goes over the crest of the range. I was hoping this would be a quick, easy summit, but I hadn't realized it has 1,500ft of gain with the peak rising to almost 9,000ft. The approach from the north is fairly short, about 1.4mi each way, but it had enough snow (more of the soft, heavy, wet stuff) to be somewhat troublesome. I spent an hour dodging my way through trees and around snowdrifts to make it to the talus-strewn summit by 6p where a large cairn held the only register I found on the day. Placed by Barbara and Gordon back in 1987, it was quite busy with more than 30 pages of entries. I managed to get back to the jeep by 6:45p with just a short time remaining until sunset.

I drove down to a more protected spot in order to shower, then headed back out of the mountains to US6/US95. I was well ahead of schedule for the trip and knew I'd have extra time. So I drove north into the Monte Cristo Range to do a couple of summits there in the morning. There is a small network of long, dirt roads that wind their way into the range and it was not hard to find a quiet spot to spend the night...


Kirk D comments on 05/01/19:
This may be the '1st Time' kiss and tell I have seen in the hundreds of your register photos taken over the years (see photo frame #65).
The funny thing is the question mark re. the year - must have been memorable to have shared it with everyone ?
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