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Mt. Grafton lies in the east-central part of Nevada, not all that many miles from the Utah border. It would be the furthest east we ventured on this 9-day trip around Nevada to tag some county highpoints and DPS summits. The summit of Mt. Grafton lies in White Pine County, whose highpoint is the much higher Wheeler Peak across Spring Valley to the east. But the highpoint of Lincoln County is an insignificant "liner" on the South Ridge of Grafton which we would be sure to tag on our way to the summit. Because Adam's SUV was being repaired back in Austin, we were using my van to get around for a few days. This meant we couldn't make use of the 4x4 roads to get closer to our goals, but even starting from the pavement of US95 we were less than eight miles from the peak - a reasonable day without being strenuous or tedious.
We started off not long after 5a. So far east in the Pacific Time Zone meant it was already plenty light out in June at this time. Sunrise would come before 5:30a. The sun made only a brief appearance before it ducked behind layers of lingering clouds where it stayed for much of the day. We spent an hour and a half plying the roads, roughly following the directions in Sumner's book, though I think we may have missed a turn here or there. Where we ran out of road we spotted a duck to our right, seemingly leading us on a marked cross-country path. It was the only duck we saw and no use trail emerged to guide us through the sometimes thick forest cover that we spent the next 40 minutes to get through.
Exiting the forest before 7:30a, we found open country where the slopes began to steepen appreciably towards the South Ridge. Another hour was spent in reaching the South Ridge and the main crest of the Schell Creek Range. We encountered snow in reaching the ridge, though nothing to cause alarm. The angle was fairly low and temperatures in the night did not reach to freezing. The biggest problem it would present was trying to keep our boots dry.
We came across two cairns marking the county line, a few minutes apart from each other. Both contained registers. The lower of the two, dating to 2006, purports to be the more accurate, though I hardly see how forty meters matters at all. The higher one with the larger cairn dated to 2000, was placed by John Vitz, and shortly thereafter signed by MacLeod and Lilley. A couple of business cards from CoHPers predated the registers. We signed in to both before continuing on our way to the summit of Mt. Grafton. There are lots of registers on Mt. Grafton, we came to find out.
The summit was still an hour away up the easy class 2 ridgeline. Near Pt. 11,802ft we found a very large cairn that had been built with no small effort. Inside a Sucrets container was a single piece of paper with a lone signature, dating to 1983. We signed that one as well before tucking it back in the cairn where we found it. A few minutes later we came upon a fourth, smaller cairn at the top of Pt. 11,802ft. It too, held a register.
We descended snow slopes to the saddle with Mt. Grafton and then made our way to the highpoint, arriving just before 10a. As a P2K summit, Mt. Grafton offers some far-reaching views, though today those were muted by the haze and cloud cover. There was a benchmark and of course another register to be signed, this one dating to 1997.
Rather than return via the same route, I talked Adam into adventuring down the SE Slopes of Grafton more directly. This worked out in the end, but not without some misgivings. We started down easy snow slopes, but this soon ended in a tangle of aspens that did little to endear these hardy trees to ourselves. After some thrashing we emerged again on open snow slopes, taking these down to where the snow ended in a mess of fallen trees and other avalanche debris. We made several crossings of Sheep Creek, looking for easier cross-country terrain on first one side of the creek, then the other.
An hour and a half from the summit we suddenly found ourselves on an old road on the north side of the creek that wasn't shown on our map. This road led us down to a small, abandoned cabin amid a pleasant meadow setting. The insides were fairly trashed, but the structure seemed sound enough to keep the rain out. Another hour and a half were spent following various roads back to the start towards the east. When it was apparent the road we were on did not connect with our original track, we headed southeast cross-county until we found it. Along the way we paused to photograph various flowers of red, purple and yellow, as well as a random snake we came across basking in the road.
By 1:10p we were back at US95 and the van and called it a day. We still had hours of driving to get back to Austin and retrieve Adam's vehicle. Our bill was a bit more than we had expected, but Frank had been quite gracious in accomodating our plans that we didn't mind much. With both our vehicles now in running order, we found a place to camp on the western outskirts of Austin for the night. Tomorrow we would head south to try our luck at Arc Dome.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Grafton
This page last updated: Sun May 4 17:58:26 2014
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