Jumbo Peak P2K RS
Packard Peak P500 RS
Mica Peak P1K RS
Gold Butte P500 DS / RS

Sat, Dec 8, 2018

With: Matt Yaussi
Scott Barnes
Iris Ma

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX

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On my second day in Gold Butte NM, three friends from SoCal had driven out to join me for the weekend. The primary goal of the day was Jumbo Peak, a difficult P3K with no easy way to the summit. We had enough time left for a trio of other peaks, all of them found in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles.

Jumbo Peak/Packard Peak

There has been a lot written about Jumbo Peak, in Purcell's guidebook, on SummitPost, DPS archives and elsewhere. Route descriptions seemed complex and a bit intimidating. We thought the crux was really the long drive to get there - about 47mi from Interstate 15, south through the national monument, taking several hours. Having camped at Whitney Pocket, we'd already done 20mi of the drive when we started out in the morning just before 6:30a. We drove all three vehicles to the town site of Gold Butte 20mi further south, then piled into the Jeep for the last 7mi or so to the trailhead. The jeep was probably overkill as any modestly high-clearance vehicle could make it and probably most passenger cars, too, with dry conditions. We parked less than a mile from the summit to the northeast and headed up from there, aiming for the easiest route, the WNW Chimney. Most of the going was fairly tame, but brush and rather large boulders combined near the top to make for some route-finding challenges. Once we'd reached the base of the immense summit blocks, we found the 80-foot WNW Chimney with no trouble - it's really the only feature even close to the description on that side. The chimney is 3-5ft wide, angling upwards with a ramping floor that makes it mostly a steep scramble. Some chimney techniques are needed to surmount several moderate chockstones, but we found no seriously loose rocks or similar dangers. A good thing, since we'd neglected to bring helmets that we knew other parties had used. Scott went first, followed by Iris, myself, and then Matt. Iris and I elected to leave our packs at the base of the chimney while the others took theirs. They would have to remove them for some of the moves. At the top of the chimney, Scott turned left under the overhang and found his way to the summit fairly quickly. Iris elected to follow the 30-foot tunnel at the top of the chimney that bypasses the 5.3 face climbing. A headlamp is needed for this dark passage. Matt and myself followed Scott's lead. I was surprised that the remainder of the route was kinda easy and far shorter than the route descriptions seemed to suggest. From the start of the chimney to the summit was less than 15min. It took a little longer for Matt who was carrying his pack and a lot of camera gear.

The Colorado Mountain Club had left a register here in a PVC tube. I disdain their PVC tubes and one line ruled register pages that leave no room for comments, long or short. Iris signed in for the lot of us while we took in the views, a commanding position in the middle of the national monument. Most of Lake Mead was covered in low clouds, the first time I'd seen that condition in a week. Everywhere else had crisp blue skies. Upon descending, we all chose to take the 30-foot tunnel which I thought was the best part of the whole route. It takes some mild gymnastics to squeeze into the opening, then some shimmying along the narrow passage to reach the top of the chimney. Back down at the bottom of the chimney we collected our gear and headed off, but we all enjoyed the peak a great deal.

We went around the west side of the summit rocks (more large boulders to navigate here, brush too), then onto easier ground on the south side as we made our way towards Packard Peak, connected to Jumbo Peak with a 500ft+ drop to a saddle. Packard Peak is the highpoint of the Jumbo Springs Wilderness which made it almost imperative that we visit it while so close. Though it has more than 500ft of prominence, it makes for a fairly easy bonus peak after Jumbo. The ascent up from the saddle with Jumbo had good footing and made for a speedy ascent. There was a Richard Carey register from 2016 with a few pages of entries. The descent we took off the NE side went through a dense juniper forest and had a collection of large boulders to negotiate nearer the bottom that caught us by surprise. We eventually completed the loop with some easy walking at the end to reach the jeep.

Mica Peak

Mica is a P1K about 4.5mi north of Jumbo/Packard. We drove back north a few miles through Cedar Basin, then a spur road that got us closer to Mica, about a mile and quarter away on its SW side. The first part of the hike was a bit undulating until we reached the base of the peak, whereupon we began a steep climb of over 1,000ft to reach the SW Ridge. Nearer to the ridge and along it, we found some fun class 3 scrambling that we all seemed to enjoy, though there were several false summits that kept pushing the summit further from us. The summit has a benchmark labeled "GOLD BUTTE" though there is a nearby summit with that name closer to the townsite. John Vitz had left an older register here in 1979 with a newer one to supplement it left by MacLeod/Lilley in 1986. It made for a popular peak with 25 pages of entries. Our descent avoided the false summits by dropping down the south side sooner, then a meandering return back to the jeep, helped some by an old mining road.

Gold Butte

Purcell suggests hiking from the Gold Butte town site, the peak about a mile to the southeast. Consulting the roads on our GPSr, we decided to drive around to the south side and found a much easier starting point only 1/3mi from the summit. A steep, sometimes sandy/gravely climb with occasional class 3 moves leads to the summit rather quickly. There were several registers found on Gold Butte. The older Gordon/Barbara register from 1986 was weathered and brittle and I only photographed a few pages for fear of ending up with a pile of tiny paper scraps in my lap. A more recent register from 2015 had three pages, with John Ide the most register visitor a year earlier. Scott and I returned to the jeep by a similar route while Iris and Matt chose to head back the longer route to camp. Scott and I would beat them back to camp, but not by much.

Matt grilled up some wonderful BBQ treats for us that evening as we huddled around the grill in all our warm clothes. It was a brisk 43F or so outside, but it didn't stop us from having a nice time of it under a myriad of stars and the glow of Las Vegas visible many miles to the west.

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