Rhyolite is a mining ghost town found a few miles west of Beatty, NV in the
Bullfrog Hills. Formed by extensive volcanism overlying ancient sedimentary
rock, the area's unusual complexity makes for a very colorful collection of
rocks that attracted the prospectors' attention in the first decade of the 20th
century. Growing to a population of perhaps 5,000 in its heyday around 1907-08,
it once boasted electric lights, water mains, telephones, newspapers, a
hospital, school, opera house and a stock exchange. Built and financed on
over-hyped speculation, the town crashed almost as fast as it was built and by
1920 the population was reduced to near zero. The BLM maintains
as a tourist attraction where one can examine the remains of
the , a
few of which are still intact. There are three open pit mines in the area,
the last of which closed around 2000. These appear to be have left the most
horrendous scarring to the landscape, carving up whole hillsides and leaving
deep pits - such is the power of fully mechanized mining operations.
Many of the minor peaks in the area were given names by the
miners of old, making for a veritable peakbagging-fest for modest effort. Eight
of these are immediately surrounding Rhyolite, the others are not far away but
involve some driving for easiest access. None of these can be considered
classics, but two of them are found in Walt Wheelock's old
Desert Peaks Guide which is what brought me to the area on a cold January
Ladd is a standalone summit just southeast of Rhyolite, separating the townsite
to the east. The huge open pit gold mine has cut
precipitously into the east side of Ladd Mtn. A fence surrounds the mine to
both keep out trespassers and prevent accidental falls over the manmade cliffs.
A steep road leads up from the town to a shoulder on of
the mountain where some modest mining had taken place. Class 2 hiking then
leads up to . Barbara & Gordon had left a register at the
summit . Though
it has very easy access, it sees few visitors - only five pages in the register
have been used, the last visitor almost three years earlier by
summit offers a birdseye view of the huge mine operation, now silent, and
contrasts sharply with the surrounding hills. I dropped north
along the fence boundary, using a series of old roads to connect to the next
pair of summits to the northeast.
Paradise Mtn / Montgomery Mtn
These closely-spaced summits lie NE of Rhyolite, about 1.4mi from Ladd Mtn.
has two easy , the
higher. Looking northeast, Burton Mtn lies less than a mile from Paradise and
I almost started over to it before realizing an easier access can be made with
a little driving. I then turned my attention to Montgomery,
crossing the saddle
between it and Paradise, covering the 0.4mi distance in about 20min.
Montgomery gets mention in Wheelock's book, but I'm
not sure why - it really doesn't stand out from the other summits in the
area at all. It overlooks the to
the most productive gold mine in the area, producing 220,000 oz during
operations from 1989-2000. The mine efforts cut deeply into the north side
of Montgomery, nearly to the summit. I descended to the northeast around the
to reach the next summits to the north.
Black Peak / Rainbow Mtn
are separated by less than a quarter miles, both located
north of the . The hike between the two is
almost trivial with a high saddle between them.
Rainbow gets a mention in Wheelock's guidebook as well, again for reasons
unclear. Like Ladd, it sported a Gordon/Lilley register, this one also dating
. A much of paper dated to 1978 by a Jack
Gram of San Diego.
Another 1.4mi to lies Busch Peak, the highest summit
immediately around Rhyolite. A meandering ridge of
another 1,000ft to the highpoint of the Bullfrog Mtns, Sawtooth Mtn. I had
climbed this the previous year so didn't pay a return visit, but it would make
for an interesting traverse between the two, separated by about two miles of
ridge work. From Rainbow Mtn, I dropped nearly down to Rhyolite before hiking
back up past Mason Spring to climb Busch .
Sutherland is a minor highpoint off ,
separated by 3/4mi. The
rock along this ridgeline is some of the most colorful in the area with shades
of pink, purple, yellow and green, along with the more usual brown, white and
gray. Once a short distance off Busch's summit, grows
exceedingly easy - one could almost ride a bicycle along here.
The last summit I visited immediately around Rhyolite's periphery was Bonanza
Mtn, another 3/4mi SE of Sutherland along .
The of Bonanza was heavily cut into with the third large
mining site, the .
Like Ladd and Montgomery, protects one from
accidental falls, or sort of. Coming off Sutherland, I found myself on the
wrong side of the fence somehow, without ever crossing it. Luckily my skills
were sufficient to keep me out of the giant pit. Now due west of
I had come nearly full circle around Rhyolite with eight summits. I descended
Bonanza to the east and northeast to reach an old mining road that took me
shortly back to where I'd parked my car at Rhyolite. It had taken just under
5.5hrs for the nine mile circuit.
With 561ft of prominence, Burton was the most prominent of the day's twelve
summits (not saying much for the other eleven). I drove back out to SR374 and
towards Beatty before turning north on a good dirt road. I took this for 0.6mi
into the valley between Paradise and Burton, parking at a junction where the
road seemed to deteriorate some. On foot, I followed heading
Burton, then scrambled up the remaining 600ft, taking less than half an hour.
A handful of burros watched me on Burton's West Ridge,
running off, but not taking their eyes off me either. At the summit I found
another Lilley/MacLeod register
(a day later than the previous ones),
but with no additional entries in the past eight years - a lonely summit, to be
sure. I descended the off Burton which did not make the
burros any happier. They rejoined a few others grazing on the north side of the
saddle whereupon the whole watched me until I had
disappeared over the
south side of the saddle on my return. The roundtrip time was only 45min.
Velvet / Beatty-NOS / Elizabeth
These three minor peaks lie just southwest of Beatty and south of SR374.
Purcell, in his book Rambles and Scrambles
, claims Velvet Peak to be a
5min hike. He doesn't mention that's assuming you have a suitable vehicle. From
it took three times that long, but I wasn't really
complaining. The volcanic plug makes for an interesting scramble with a
class 2-3 much like Paradise. It is the highest of the
three summits, commanding a view overlooking the Beatty airport and Amargosa
Desert to the south and Beatty to . It took less than
20min to cover the 0.4mi distance between Velvet and
immediately to the east. The latter has the closest and best view of
available. Velvet Peak looks pretty good to
(and from the south), while to I took
in what I thought
was Elizabeth Peak. Pretty much ignoring what my GPSr was telling me to the
contrary, I assumed the next crag to the south was Elizabeth Peak and headed
over to its summit another 20min away. Only upon reaching it did I notice that
I'd only traveled about 1/3 the distance to Elizabeth which was a more modest
summit still . It's a low, rounded sort of hill that
grab one's attention, but somehow got into Purcell's guidebook. On my way
to Elizabeth I passed to the east of a small, on-going
. It seemed
a tidy operation with clean trucks parked neatly in rows, a minimum of noise and
activity taking place as I sauntered by. Elizabeth proved as uninspiring from
as it had appeared from a distance but I minded it little -
allowed me to round out the day with an even dozen summits. It was nearly 4p by
the time I had walked
near SR374. I repeated the previous days'
apre-hiking activities with a shower and then dinner at Denny's. Afterwards I
found an easier overnight spot off the highway just west of Beatty that worked
better than the one near Rhyolite I'd used the night before. The temperature
had already dropped below 40F as I left Beatty, another cold night on tap in
the Nevada desest...