Sat, Nov 7, 2015
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Having spent the night camped off Excelsior Mine Rd, I was up early to drive north on Interstate 15 into Nevada, aiming for the small town of Jean about 14mi from the border. Overshadowed by Primm and almost too close to Vegas to bother stopping for, Jean is a tiny town with a single casino, perhaps better known for its nearby state prison. Southwest, at the end of a frontage road that goes by the small airport, is an interstate undercrossing that provides access to the south end of the Spring Mtns via a handful of dirt roads. More suitable for high clearance vehicles, I found I could only drive my van about a mile along the road heading to Devil Peak about 5mi distant. Devil and nearby Peak 5,413ft are the two southernmost P1Ks in Nevada's Spring Range, my goals for the day. I had tried to reach Devil Peak earlier in the year, but recent rain had left the undercrossing with a pool of water I didn't dare try to drive through. Today the undercrossing was dry and though I only got a mile further, I had all day, unlike that first effort when I was more pressed for time.
The sun had been up for a short time when I started out, hiking west up the road for about 3.5mi. On the left rises Peak 5,413ft which I figured I should visit first in case I also wanted to visit a third peak to the north of Devil (which I didn't, in the end). Though the top is somewhat flat, its east side is fraught with cliffs that offered no obvious ways up. Luckily the road was positioned to give me plenty of time to study it as I approached. I settled on what turned out to be a convient ramp to the right that worked quite nicely. After climbing an easy slope lower down, I followed against the base of a cliff on the right, the ramp working nicely with a few modest dips. I found a shredded climbing rope that someone had abandoned along here. Evidently I wasn't the only one to think there were some rock climbing opportunities to be found among the granite cliffs. The ramp led to easier ground higher up, along with a nice view of Devil Peak across the separating drainage to the north. In all, I spent about 2.5hrs covering the 5mi distance to the summit of Peak 5,413ft. John Vitz had left a register in 2008 with only a single other entry by a couple of Las Vegas locals in 2011. The summit is only 3ft higher than another point 1/4mi to the south - I didn't bother visiting the second point.
Instead I turned my attention to Devil Peak, a little over a mile to the north. Since both summits are P1Ks, it meant I had to drop the same elevation to the saddle connecting the two. The elevation gain/loss wasn't so bad, but the climb up to Devil looked awful - a steep, gravel slope that appeared more tedious than anything I'd been up in years. Most of the route down to the saddle was class 2, with a short bit of class 3 downclimbing to get through a short cliff section before the final easy section to the saddle. An old mining road runs east-west over the saddle though it is no longer navigable from the east due to washouts in the narrow canyon (and it may not be viable from the west either). Once at the base of Devil Peak, the slope didn't look as awful as it had from a distance and the footing proved better than expected. Still, it was no picnic, taking almost an hour to go little more than half a mile, all class 2.
A summit cairn next to the benchmark appears to have been dismantled and there was no register to be found - the Wilderness Nazis had struck again. Not that I cared all that much - at least the mountain is still there and it makes for a fine little climb. Because it was looking like I was ahead of schedule and might have an extra free day, I began thinking about other peaks in California I might consider. With cell reception at the summit and on the way down the SE Ridge that I descended, I took up a text conversation with Bob that seemed comical considering I was scrambling down this somewhat obscure desert summit at the same time. Because his schedule is about as flexible as mine, he agreed to the Sunday plan and asked what I was doing on Saturday. I mentioned the obscurity in California, an almost-P1K, Peak 4,927ft. Bob had no interest in P1Ks (let alone P900s), but it also happens to be a Wilderness highpoint which did draw his interest, and so before I had descended the 1,500ft down to the wash we had agreed to meet the next morning in Primm - peakbagging in the 21st century.
It was down in the wash that I discovered the old road was no longer driveable, though a few brave souls have tried. The wash led back to the still useable portion of the road where a tarantula caught my eye at one point of an otherwise long walk back to the car. I had heard shots being fired from the summit and again while I was walking the road, though I never located the source. Empty beer cans on either side of the road told of another desert pasttime. I collected about two dozen of these on way back, my small part in recycling some of the desert flotsam.
It was almost 1:30p by the time I'd returned to the van. I drove back to Jean, stopping at the local casino boasting of an exhibit featuring movie cars. Most were from the Fast & Furious series, a few of which I texted to my son off at college. He could name the movie it appeared in, the actor who drove it and the particular stunts it was used for - I admit I'm a little worried. Another was of the Batmobile which I sent to my wife. She was understandably confused as to my wherebouts since she thought I'd headed off to the Mojave Desert. Sometimes you gotta keep them on their toes. My work here was done...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Devil Peak
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