Montezuma Peak P1K DS / DPG
Carroll Peak
Peak 7,790ft P300
Peak 8,380ft P1K DPG
Rhyolite Ridge P1K DS / DPG
Silver Peak P1K DS

Sun, May 28, 2017

With: Tom Becht
Karl Fieberling

Silver Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2 3 4


It was our third day of peakbagging in Nevada and the second doing short hikes between longish drives in Tom's Jeep. We were tackling a handful of peaks in the Montezuma and Silver Peak Ranges, most of them found in either Walt Wheelock's Desert Peaks Guide or Andy Zdon's Desert Summits. The longest hike was barely 3mi roundtrip but we still managed almost 4,000ft of gain - it seems the Jeep mostly gets all the easy hiking done, leaving just the steep stuff at the end.

Montezuma Peak / Carroll Peak

We were camped off Silver Peak Rd, just west of US95, between the towns of Tonopah and Goldfield. This freshly paved road is a treat in the Nevada outback, though it ends rather abruptly before reaching the town of Silver Peak many miles to the west. Long before this, we turned south on Montezuma Well Rd, a good dirt road suitable for all vehicles that leads to a microwave relay tower atop Peak 7,790ft. A poorer road forks off this at the base of the mountain's east side, continuing higher towards Montezuma. The Jeep managed this nicely, plus a little bit further on the deteriorating road to its end where we parked northeast of the range highpoint less than a mile away. The hike took less than half an hour, getting us to the top by 7:15a. There were the usual pinyons and junipers in the lower reaches, but the summit is more open with just low scrub for coverage. An older, tattered register from 1988 showed the peak was quite popular. Greg Vernon left a better one in 2010 on his visit. A lower summit to the south somehow got named Carroll Peak, giving us a reason to tag it. Traversing between the two took a leisurely ten minutes. Finding no register, we left one of our own before returning back to the Jeep. In order to avoid going back over the top of Montezuma, we sidehilled around its west side, though I'm not sure if that was much of a time-saver.

Peak 7,790ft

Before driving back out to Silver Peak Rd, we paid a visit to the microwave tower atop Peak 7,790ft. The road leading to the summit is signed for No Trespassing, owned by the ubiquitous American Tower Co, but there is no gate and we simply drove to the top. The highpoint is conveniently unfenced, making it easy to tag this one. On our drive back out we stopped at an interesting stone castle (of sorts) found just off the road at the Montezuma site. Someone has improved on the original structure with hours upon hours of labor moving rocks and carefully fitting them in place.

Mineral Ridge

We spent the next 30 minutes driving to the town of Silver Peak, about 12mi west on Silver Peak Rd, the last eight miles on an excellent dirt road. Silver Peak once had enough residents to field a school, playgrounds and lots of mining jobs dating back to 1864. There are now just over 100 residents, most involved in the extraction of lithium from the floor of Clayton Valley, a dry lake bed near which the town lies. This is the only active source of this mineral within the US though it pales in comparison to other operations in Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Australia. The road we traveled goes right through the middle of the active brine pools from which the lithium salts are extracted, not a simple operation, but not very high tech either. There are lots of old machinery, pipes, hoses and other gear left scattered about, discarded - not the prettiest of places to visit.

Of course we weren't here to visit the town but rather a handful of summits in the Silver Peak Range that rises above Clayton Valley to the west. We followed the good (but sometimes surprisingly steep) dirt Coyote Rd out of town heading west then northwest as it climbs 3,000ft to a saddle at Coyote Summit before continuing down the other side and into Fish Lake Valley. At the summit we turned right to follow the road heading to the Oro Monte Mine. We were less than a mile from the summit of Mineral Ridge when we encountered a gate at the active mine. Two vehicles were parked outside and no one could be seen, at first. I figured it was a Sunday and no one would be around and was in favor of simply going over the fence. Tom decided to try the phone at the gate. The phone rang without answering, but after about 30sec the gate opened as we saw someone in a hardhat and orange vest enter a mobile office. We looked quizzically at each other, shrugged our shoulders and drove in. What we should have done was simply driven to where we wanted to go and get our hike done with, but we figured we should stop at the office and ask permission. We were inside a minute or two before we got someone's attention, a strong-shouldered young lad in his 20s who gazed at us with a puzzled looked when we asked if it would be ok to climb the highpoint. "You're with who?" he asked, thinking we were some subcontractor or government agency. It didn't occur to me at the time that three guys old enough to be his father would have him assume we were there on legit business. When he finally understood we were just some morons from California who wanted to explore his work site, he politely refused our request. Rats. Mineral Ridge would need to be approached from a different direction, but that would have to wait for some future mission. Back to the Jeep we went and left the mine grounds.

Peak 8,380ft

Not far from the mine we turned right on a poor dirt road and drove about half a mile north until we were about 3/4mi east of this P1K. We spent about 25min climbing 600ft over pinyon-studded terrain to reach the open summit with a clear view of the other peaks we planned to visit - Rhyolite Ridge, Red Mtn and Silver Peak. We found no register here and left none.

Rhyolite Ridge

This was the most interesting peak of the day because it was the only one with a bit of scrambling, only a very short section, but the ridgeline has an impressive cliff facing southeast, uncharacteristic of most of the peaks in the broad area. Once again, the Jeep allowed us to approach much closer than your standard 4WD vehicle, following a series of poor dirt roads until we were about a mile east of the summit. A little under 45min was needed to find our way to the top. We followed a subsidiary ridgeline northwest and west until at the base of the cliff, finding a 30-foot section of scrambling followed by a traverse across sandy slopes to reach a reasonable-looking break in the cliff that we used to gain the crest. From there it was an easy walk to the highpoint with a delightful overlook at the edge of the clifftop. Thomas Gossett of Trona had left a register here in 2008, replaced by a newer one left by John Vitz in 2010.

Silver Peak

It was around 1:30p by the time we had driven back to the better Coyote Rd, with two peaks remaining. The order didn't seem important until well after we had started the drive to Silver Peak. The road we drove around the north side of Silver Peak turned out to be the roughest one Tom had driven on yet. He was still having fun but he admitted small measures of nervousness and perhaps even terror at the large rocks we bounced our way over. The road was in as poor of shape as one might imagine while still being driveable. By the time we had crested a saddle at over 8,000ft, Tom was certain he was not interested in driving back down the same route, especially after learning there was probably a better road coming up from the south and west sides. We met this better road shortly after dropping down the west side of the saddle, then took a rougher spur road approaching Silver Peak from the northwest. This road has not been driven in some time and we had to get out to start prunning the trees and brush that have begun to encroach on the track. After much effort and only a few hundred yards we gave up the effort, parking the Jeep and starting from there, about a mile and a half from the summit. We followed the continuation of the road we were driving for less than a mile to a saddle where the road drops to a high basin west of the summit. We turned left to hike steeply uphill cross-country for the remaining distance, going over a false summit before finding the highpoint another 1/3mi behind it. We could see a bright orange tent set up high in the basin just below a telecom tower to the southwest of the highpoint. After we reached the summit we heard voices and noted two people walking down towards the tent from the telecom installation. It seems they probably drove to the tower before setting up camp a short distance away. Such a route to Silver Peak would make for a rather easy half mile walk - still, we couldn't really complain seeing as our route wasn't all that hard. Silver Peak features a MacLeod/Lilley register from 1987. The second visitor was in 2003 and since then only a handful of folks have added entries. It's not the highest peak in the range (that honor goes to Piper Peak, about 7mi to the southwest), but it still has more than 1,000ft of prominence. It's also not the most striking summit - that one goes to Red Mtn, so it's somewhat odd that the range was named for this peak.

After returning to the Jeep via much the same route, we recognized that it was already 4:30p and too late for Red Mtn. Like Mineral Ridge, it would have to wait for a future mission. We spent the next hour and a half driving back out of the range, across Clayton Valley and back to our other vehicles near US95. We hoped to find dinner in Goldfield to the south, but the only restaurant in town was closed for the day. Looks like we would have to settle for the canned and packaged foods we'd brought with us. We continued south on US95 and then west to Lido Summit on SR266 where we found a place off the road to make dinner and spend the night. It was a tight spot but we managed three relatively flat spots for our vehicles and made due. Blue Dick was on the agenda for the morning, not far from where we stayed. At over 7,000ft we would be able to sleep comfortably in the cooler temps the extra elevation provided...


Candace Skalet comments on 05/08/20:
I recently drove up to that repeater just below the summit of Silver Peak. I had to park a little below it, due to a lingering snow bank on the road. Indeed, it's a very easy outing to bag the summit from there. :) I got up there via the roads south and SW of Silver Peak, passing by Mohawk Mine. Those roads were no problem for my stock 4Runner. However, I drove out via Argentine Canyon, and found that road rather more difficult.
Candace comments on 06/04/21:
PSA: Regarding Mineral Ridge, I found a class 1-2 route that totally avoids the modern activities and doesn't appear to cross any private property (no gates, fences, or signs at any rate). GPX and report on LOJ and
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