Excelsior Mountain P1K DS
Moho Mountain P1K DS
Emigrant Peak P500 DS / DPG
Mt. Butler P900 DPG

May 27, 2017

With: Tom Becht
Karl Fieberling

Excelsior Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2 3 4


Today's outings comprised a small handful of summits that can be found in either Walt Wheelock's Desert Peak Guide, Andy Zdon's Desert Summits, or both. They included a pair of P1Ks and a few others with over 700ft of prominence, but despite their stature, none were more than a modest hike. This was an exercise in driving, Tom's Jeep doing the brunt of the work with Tom behind the wheel enjoying (almost) every minute of it. None of the hikes were more than 3.5mi roundtrip but we enjoyed it all the same.

Excelsior Mountain

Located southeast of Hawthorne and Walker Lake, The Excelsior Mtns are a smallish NV range that has seen much mining activity. Oddly, Excelsior Mtn is not the highpoint, but it still sports significant prominence. Our approach was from the southeast off SR360 where an excellent dirt road runs almost 10mi to Marietta, an almost-ghost town that once supported extensive mining activity on Excelsior's southern flanks. The road and area are signed as a wild burro viewing area where horses, too, can be found roaming the hills. The area is also popular for OHV touring. From Marietta, poorer dirt roads, in some cases the Jeep-only variety, can take one more than 2,000ft higher in about 4mi to get within about 1.5mi of the summit. Be warned these roads can be pretty rough. Zdon describes an entirely different approach and route from the northeast, a much longer hike but possibly easier roads. With low clearance, one could hike from Marietta about 12mi roundtrip, about the same effort as described in Zdon's guide. From where we parked, we followed a shallow draw heading north to a saddle before starting the steeper climb up the Southeast Slopes, both pinyon-covered. Once at the main crest, it was an easy half mile walk over more open terrain to reach the highpoint, covered in low scrub, the climb taking just over an hour. Gordon and Barbara had left a register in 2003, relatively late for those intrepid desert wanderers. The summit sees only about one party ever two years or so. The views are quite nice, with the 11,000-foot Mt Grant rising to the northwest with Walker Lake visible to its right. To the southeast can be seen Moho Mtn, the range highpoint and our next destination. Before heading back down, we stopped off to visit an old wooden tripod just north of the highpoint, possibly a survey tower, but really a bit of an oddity. We returned to the Jeep via much the same route. On our drive back down to Marietta we stopped at the Endowment Mine ruins, just below where we'd starting hiking from. There are several buildings still standing, one of which seems to have had some renovation done before it was abandoned. One deep horizontal shaft is found beside the smaller building, other holes and tailings spread about the place, but nothing of much significance seems to have come of it.

Moho Mountain

Back at Marietta, we turned east and drove about 3mi before noticing some OHVs coming down a decent side road off Moho's southwest side. We stopped to consult our GPSr and maps, eventually deciding this might be a shortcut route to the one I had planned to use further east. It worked nicely to get us high up the slopes towards Moho, and proved better than the road I had planned to use. The upper section above the junction of these two roads becomes increasingly rougher until the Jeep becomes more a necessity than a luxury. And compared to the older Jeep Tom used to own, this one is a far more comfortable ride, particularly on the toughest roads - no more kidney failure from all the jarring and bouncing. The hike was similar to the first, only shorter, taking but 35min to reach the summit. We found a benchmark and a 1990 Gordon/Barbara register that was far more popular than the earlier one. The views were somewhat better with a nice one southwest to Teels Marsh (not sure how it gets termed "marsh" - it looks more like a dry lakebed). A trio of horses had been wandering over the summit when I arrived, slightly ahead of the others. They took off a short distance and then stopped about 50yds from us to watch what we were up to. They seemed disinclined to leave or go around us, waiting somewhat impatiently (judging by the occasional snorting from the leader) for us to leave before continuing their journey down the south side. Not wanting to disturb them too much, we stayed only a little while before heading back down and leaving the summit to our hooved friends.

Emigrant Peak

Back on SR360, we headed east to US95 and south to its junction with US6 at Coaldale, a defunct waystop that has become a canvas for some creative graffiti but no longer serving up gas and cold drinks. We left two vehicles here and took the Jeep into the hills south of the junction to reach Emigrant Peak. One could reach the summit directly from Coaldale on foot, less than 5mi each way, but we had the Jeep and did not want to do anything to keep it from reaching its full potential. In this case, it was to get us about 1/3mi from the summit. The last 3.5mi of driving were on some tough road sections, - narrow, rock-strewn ones, a few steep ones, some cliff-hangers, too. The last part may or may not have been on actual BLM roadways, hard to tell when they see so little usage and are devoid of signage. The hike was an easy stroll, taking about 10min up a short, rocky ridgeline from where we parked. Brian French had left a makeshift register in 2014 with just a few entries since then. Unlike the Excelsior range with pinyons at the higher elevations, the hills surrounding Emigrant Peak do not reach 7,000ft, with almost no trees to be found anywhere. This leaves the summit open for unobstructed views with a good one to the west of Fish Lake Valley framed by the White Mtns. We looked under the summit rocks for a benchmark but couldn't find it - despite the reference mark we found pointing us in the right direction. Finishing up in short order, we drove back via the same route and headed to Tonopah where we planned to get dinner.

Mt. Butler

I wasn't quite done yet, having one last easy one before calling it good. Mt. Butler doesn't need a jeep and doesn't even need high-clearance. It is the highest of the dozen or so modest peaks that comprise the hills surrounding Tonopah. A well-graded road climbs to the top of Butler's lower twin, Brock Mtn, site of a USAF telecom site. The road is gated about halfway up the hill, but there is a small place to park just outside the gate and the signs indicate no unauthorized vehicles but don't seem to prohibit the public on foot. Mt. Butler is directly above and south of where we parked and it can be reached most quickly with a steep cross-country climb in that direction. Not realizing this at first, we followed the road for a few minutes before short-cutting one long switchback and then walking the road until we were above our starting point. From there we continued cross-country up a steep slope to a saddle east of the summit, followed by a short scramble to the highpoint. The summit provides a nice view of Tonopah, but then so do half dozen other summits that surround it, I imagine. We found no register but there was a name & date inscribed into a large block from 1985. Normally I would just call this graffiti, but the carving was quite good, possibly done by a draftsman in the age before computers took over this lost craft.

Back down to the Jeep, we returned to our vehicles, showered at various locations around the base of Mt. Butler and then reconvened for dinner. We found some good beer and one of the best BBQ experiences of my life at the Tonopah Brewery. Good eats, there. There were probably a dozen police and sheriff vehicles in town, perhaps half the combined total of Nye and Esmeralda Counties, cruising about town, looking for any sign of trouble. The car races were being held at 7p nearby and it seems that this was the only happening place for 100mi in any direction. The speed limits drop to as low as 25mph in town so it doesn't take long to find a scofflaw in need of a lesson. After dinner we got out of town quietly, driving south on US95 towards Goldfield. We found a nice spot off SR265 (Silver Peak Rd) to spend the night, not far from where we planned to start the next day's adventure...


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