Mon, Jul 25, 2011
We had had such an enjoyable day two days earlier that it was not hard to talk Adam into returning to the Rubies for another outing. Though he was currently focused more on the prominence peaks such as Moriah, Matterhorn, North Schell and others, he readily agreed to pay another visit to Lamoille Canyon if in return we could visit Matterhorn the following day. I didn't have in mind any listed peaks for our return visit, but really just wanted to spend another day in this high alpine region, one of the prettiest in all of Nevada.
We spent the night parked off the pavement just below Roads End, rising in the morning to drive up to the TH where we started off shortly before 6:30a. The sun had arisen some time earlier, though the start of the hike was bathed in shade from the main crest of the range to the east. Our trailhead was the northern terminus of the Ruby Crest Trail that meanders for 43 miles to Harrison Pass far to the south. Much of the trail follows through alpine zones on the west side of the crest, with grand views across much of the Ruby Mountains. Our goal was to follow a portion of this route as far as Wines Peak, tagging a few other summits along the way and on the return. It was hardly the more difficult affair we had done two days prior on Snow Lake Peak, but the outing was highly rewarding nonetheless.
It took about an hour and a half to reach Liberty Pass. Snow coverage was around 50% on both sides of the pass, even the sunny south-facing slopes that we expected to be free of the white stuff. Just after crossing the pass and Wilderness boundary, one gets a fine view of Liberty Lake in the foreground, Lake Peak in the background. Ice chunks still covered about a quarter of the lake, situated just above the 10,000-foot elevation mark. Wines Peak was just visible in the distance behind and to the right of Lake Peak. We followed, or attempted to follow the trail down past Liberty Lake, but there was too much snow coverage and we lost it for a short while as we descended some easy enough slopes to the west of where the trail was located. A few hundred feet below Liberty Lake we refound the trail but traversed east across it, heading for the long North Ridge of Lake Peak. We didn't have any beta on how best to climb the peak, but the North Ridge appeared to be an interesting class 3ish way to get there. Our traverse had us climbing back up several hundred feet (it might have been better to start traversing from Liberty Lake's outlet) before we reached the main crest of the range.
It was just before 9a when we reached the crest, pausing here for Adam to get some snow to replenish his supplies. Though formidable-looking from a distance, the North Ridge proved to be mostly class 2 with some short class 3 sections that we not particularly difficult. Still, it was enjoyable scramble, utilizing easier slopes found first on the east side of the ridge and later the west side, with a few intermeditate bumps to get over. We marveled at some large chunks of quartz crystal we found at one location. We also noted a class 2 ascent chute on the west side rising up from Castle Lake that would also make for a decent ascent route. On the final stretch we moved back to the east side of the ridge, making use of a fun class 3 ledge above a rock band that saved us from having to drop down some distance to get around it. In all we spent an hour along the North Ridge, reaching Lake Peak's summit at 9:50a.
A large cairn found at the wide top held a MacLeod/Lilley register dating to 1986. The views of the surrounding summits, the Ruby Range that contained them and the deserts that surrounded them were most impressive. We took some additional photos of Adam "planking" and "owling" at the summit for later amusement online. Wines Peak could be seen a little over a mile to the south, most of the intervening terrain looking like a class 1 stroll. The only modest difficulty we found was in getting off the south side of Lake Peak where we had some initial bouldering and steep slopes through forested terrain before emerging on the more gentle slopes continuing south.
We found fields of lupine in the broad meadows forming the sloping north side of Wines Peak. We came upon the trail zigzagging up the left side of the North Slopes and followed it to a shallow pass between the two summits of Wines. We stopped first at the lower east summit where the benchmark is indicated on the topo to be found. This was also the point my GPS had incorrectly identified as the summit. At the time we didn't know this was the lower summit, but it soon became obvious and we didn't stick around even long enough to find the benchmark. Not five minutes later, we were atop the western highpoint, just before 11a.
As on Lake Peak, the register we found had been left by MacLeod and Lilley on the same day in 1986. The views were similar to Lake as well, perhaps with a superior view to the south where Kings Peak rises as the highest point in that part of the range. Long Canyon stretches out to the desert looking west and the Range highpoint of Arc Dome can be seen clearly to the northwest with a host of other peaks we had climbed over the past few days. Eschewing the trail descent off the summit, we chose to follow the North Ridge down to North Furlong Creek, made easy by the gentle slope on the east side of this ridge. The day's wildlife highlight turned out to be a herd of mountain goats that had been grazing along the ridge a few hundred feet down from the summit. They were as surprised to see us as we were to see them, and they wasted no time in clambering over the ridge and down the more precipitous west side. The group consisted of perhaps two dozen ewes and lambs, and they graciously allowed me several photographs of their escape before disappearing from view.
Further down from the summit where trees began to encroach on the slopes we found some considerable snow patches. These were fairly well consolidated and were not difficult to cross, softened as they were by the morning sun. After a somewhat swampy creek crossing we found the main trail again at a trail junction marked by a nicely-crafted sign that described the North Furlong Trail as unmaintained. We would not have an opportunitly to explore that further as we were heading back on the Ruby Crest Trail. While we had been on Wines Peak I had spotted a backpacker going over the pass and down the trail on the north side of the peak. Our route had been somewhat of a shortcut as we found ourselves at the junction shortly before she passed us by for a second time.
Hiking up the trail to a pass about half a mile past the junction, we found a great deal more snow on the pass's north side. Using this to our advantage, we boot-skied our way down about 500ft through connecting runs of snow, avoiding the trail's switchbacks altogether. We picked up the trail again as the snow ran out and followed the track for a short distance towards Favre Lake. After crossing Kleckner Creek and coming under the broad South Slopes of Liberty Peak, we left the trail for a direct ascent of some 1,500ft to its 11,000-foot summit. The terrain was steep but brush-free cross-country, taking us about an hour to climb the slope. There is a fine view of Lake Peak to the southeast during this ascent, and another all-encompassing view of the range and surrounding desert from the top. The final 50-60ft is class 2-3, consisting of a collection of short rocky pinnacles of which the highest was obvious. We paused here to take a break and eat lunch, basking in the warm sunshine.
The plan at the beginning of the day had been to return after reaching Liberty Peak, but as it was only 1:30p and we still had plenty of daylight, it was an easy task to talk Adam into adding Favre BM (also called "Favre Peak") to the agenda. Lying east of Liberty Peak across Liberty Pass, it would take us about an hour and a half to cover the 1.5 miles between the two summits. Immediately east of the pass was the intermediate Tri-Lake Peak (only 14ft lower than Favre) that needed to be traversed. We followed the crest from the pass to Tri-Lake Peak for the most part, but dropped down onto the south side for the remaining distance to Favre as the crest itself was too difficult. We found the benchmark and a register, the latter surprisingly not of the MacLeod/Lilley variety. Clouds were building up to the southeast and it seemed prudent not to spend too much time at the summit.
We started down the class 2-3 North Ridge, dropping into a large chute on the NW side. There was once again much snow which helped hasten our descent, slipping and sliding our way down the white (and sometimes red) stuff, softened from the day's exposure in the sun. We regained the trail 1,200ft lower in Lamoille Canyon, left it for a more direct return, got hung up at a tougher-than-expected creek crossing, and wandered the wrong way briefly before reorienting ourselves and finding our way to the trail and back to the parking lot. By this time it was nearly 4:30p and we'd had enough for one day. There were still several peaks Near Lamoille Canyon that I would like to visit (including Verde and Smith peaks), but these would have to wait for another trip. We carpooled to Elko for dinner that evening but returned to sleep in the cool temperatures of Lamoille Canyon for the night. We went to bed early anticipating an early start for the long drive to Jarbidge in the morning...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Lake Peak - Liberty Peak
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