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I was on my way back to California after an extended Colorado visit, and was looking for something not too hard between Ely and Tonopah, along US6 in Nevada. After considering a number of options, I settled on Kawich Peak in Nye County, a P3K and the highpoint of the Kawich Range. There are numerous trip reports on PB and LoJ from various directions, all of them reporting heavy brush and hours of work, despite a roundtrip distance of less than five miles. I drove to the large meadow described in the TRs the previous night. Not finding the route across the meadow at night, I slept comfortably at the meadow's edge, with a sky full of stars and cows lowing in the surrounding forest. Make no mistake, this is cow country, for good or bad.
In the morning I went looking for a way across the meadow to drive the last 3/4mi to the end of the road. I promptly drove myself into a boggy mess that stopped the Jeep cold. I had sunk myself about a foot into the black, gooey mess before I stopped to consider my predicament and have a small panic attack. I was 15mi from the nearest pavement, in a remote place without cell service and little chance of others finding me. This was an awful state of affairs and my heart rate was a little bonkers. Calming some after a few moments, I acknowledged that I wasn't yet out of options. I got back in the Jeep, engaged the front and back lockers (giving power to all four wheels), and then by switching between reverse and drive more than a dozen times, I was able to extract myself slowly, freeing a good 40lbs of mud in the process. Relieved, I stopped looking for a way to cross the meadow, parking near my debacle and starting out on foot around 6a.
I found the continuing trail across the cowpie-ladden meadow rather easily and could have gone back for the Jeep (noting a much drier crossing place), but decided against it. Like most of those before me, I followed this road to its conclusion, then picked up an excellent cow trail that I followed for about a mile up the brushy canyon. Towards the end of the canyon, I climbed northeast about 300ft up the slope to a saddle that allowed me to drop into the adjacent drainage to the north. Though the drop wasn't very far, it seemed annoying and I was a bit surprised to see a good cow trail in this drainage, too. A check of my map showed it flowed out to the same large meadow from where I'd started. Wouldn't it be easier to just follow this drainage up to start with? I would find out later.
The north canyon passes through a nice meadow and then a bit further to the base of Kawich Peak on its SW side. Here's where the real climbing begins, and the many mentions of a Wall of Brush. I started up earlier than the gpx track I had downloaded, preferring to trade some fun class 3 scrambling for brush when given the option. One has to be a bit careful among the many small cliffs in the area, but I found no real bushwhacking until I was about 1/10mi from the summit. Then it got interesting.
Or rather, brushy. Really brushy. Comprised mostly of mountain mahogany, the brush is dense and stiff. Long pants and shirt highly recommended, along with a pair of sturdy gloves. I found myself ducking and crawling more than I would have preferred. If the distance had been more than about half a mile I might have given up, but I've found with determination, one get get through almost anything with only 1/10th mile remaining. I eventually got through the worst of it and found myself on the open summit just after 8a, barely 2hrs for the ascent. This was not as bad as I had been led to believe. I found the batty register box in an ammo box and photographed the register's pages, a who's who of the peakbagging community. The views were quite nice, extending over a large swath of Central Nevada that I'm almost wholely unfamiliar with. I looked around at the adjacent connecting ridgelines to see if there were bonus peaks I might avail myself of, but there were very large sections of the same dense brush making the idea unappetizing. I noticed the NE side of the NW Ridge had only low scrub and decided to investigate descending that way. I followed it only as far as the low brush held out, about 1/10th of a mile. Oddly, there was a large duck found on the ridge here, but no further ones that I could see. It would make a good marker to head for on the ascent, knowing the remaining distance was a piece of cake. Continuing down the ridge looked to be nightmarish, so I turned back to the SW side of the peak. I headed into the heavy brushy for a second time, though this time it was easier (both shorter and with the downhill advantage). I avoided the class 3 sections, following a class 2 drainage all the way back down to canyon bottom where I picked up the cow trail.
I was determined to follow this cow trail back down the canyon, thinking it would make a marked improvement on the standard route. It did. The cows might be clueless about some things (like the steel bolt that would end up in their skulls in a few short years), but they are not dumb. They know where to find water and forage, and make good trails between them. Without having to bother going back up and over the saddle, I simply followed this trail for two miles back to the main meadow, all class 1. It was barely an hour and a half returning from the summit, just over 3.5hrs roundtrip. Avoiding the southern of the two drainages on both ascent and decent would probably have saved another 15min. I drove back out to US6 over the course of the next hour (that route is on the same gpx track as my hike) and headed to California (stopping in Tonapah for gas and a car wash)...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Kawich Peak
This page last updated: Fri Oct 8 16:45:50 2021
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