Fri, Feb 14, 2020
We returned to the south side of Devils Thumb to descend that way, aiming for our bonus Peak 3,515ft about 3/4mi to the southeast. We had to cross an intervening drainage, first descending a gully, then easy hiking as we started up to Peak 3,515ft. Most of this is straightforward class 2, leading to a ring of cliffs below the summit. This ring is not as difficult as found on Devils Thumb, however, and by using a ramp at the far left side, we found a short class 3 access to the upper reaches from the northeast side. From there it was a few minutes of additional scrambling to reach the highpoint, about 45min from Devils Thumb. Tracy Foutz had left a register here a year earlier, Harlan paying it a visit after his second trip to Devils Thumb. We had more summit cookies and candy, signing our name with hearts instead of dots since it was Valentine's Day. After a short stay, we found a way off the south side no more than steep class 2, dropping southwest into a drainage that would lead back to our vehicle. There was a rusting metal dust pan, a most odd find, and an empty tortoise shell found along the way. The last 3/4mi was a very easy hike across the open desert flats, Finishing up shortly before noon.
Castle Peak is located in the Highland Range west of US95 and northwest of Searchlight. It isn't the highpoint of the range but it has a class 4 summit block, making it one of the more challenging ones. It was brought to my attention in Purcell's guidebook, Rambles & Scrambles, and seemed a good complement to the morning's climb. There were other bonus peaks in the area that I thought we might get to as well, but Castle Peak turned out to be enough to fill our plate for the day. We left two vehicles along US95 and once again piled into the jeep for the drive. I followed directions provided by Purcell's book, getting us within a mile and a half of the summit on the southwest side. The route starts up a wash, easy going for the first 20min or so, before the wash becomes more of a gully where we climbed out to use the East Ridge route, class 2-3. Though steep and somewhat loose, it offered shade and was mostly a class 2 affair. Where cliffs are encountered, we moved left around a corner where a bypass to get around and above the cliffs is found. From there it's pretty easy class 2 to the base of the summit pinnacle, an effort that took us a little over an hour. I knew the class 3-4 route to be on the east side, but we first checked out the north side to see what things looked like there. Tom only briefly considered trying that side. Backtracking to the shady east side, we found a ledge that traverses left onto the East Face about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom. A second, wider ledge is encountered higher up, then some class 3 scrambling to the right side where a short class 4 step can be done with the aid of a handline for safety. I used the loop in the steep cable for just this purpose since it was there, but Tom and Iris both ascended using neither the cable nor the nylon webbing that was attached. It took all of six minutes to get three of us up the summit block - not as challenging as Devils Thumb, but still a fun little scramble. We found a plastic container but no register, a little to our dismay. Upon descending the block, we walked north a short distance to the benchmark where we found a John Vitz register dating to 1985. There were 18 pages to the fairly busy register, most recently by Harlan and Anji only a week earlier. Seems like we were following their recent footsteps today. We had considered climbing Possible Mesa on our way back, but it looked like it would take us an extra couple of hours that we didn't feel like expending. Instead we descended to the south as a way to get another route option in, which also allowed us a better view of Monkey Fist on the crest south of Castle Peak. It would be 4:30p by the time we got back to the jeep for some cold beverages and snacks, signalling the end of the day. We still had some driving to get north to Las Vegas. While they stuck to the outskirts, I headed to the Strip and the Mandalay Bay Hotel where my wife was staying while she reffed a girl's volleyball tournament. Tom and Iris would spend the next few days rock climbing since the weather was good, leaving me to play around in some of the surrounding hills on my own. Good fun...
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