Wed, Dec 12, 2018
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Mormon Peak is the highpoint of the Mormon Mountains in Lincoln County, NV, with more than 4,000ft of prominence. I'd been wanting to climb this one for years, but the road into it is long and rough and it was only in the last year that I had a vehicle capable of reaching it. I might have talked others into joining (and driving) me for it, but there were always other objectives we were after. In some ways, the approach can be the crux of the whole operation. From SR168 at Moapa, The 24mi route goes north on Meadow Valley Rd, an excellent road, sometimes paved, for 10.5mi. Any vehicle can get this far. Where one finds a Union Pacific sign threatening road closure, the route forks off to the right immediately after this, crossing a creek, a bit unnerving since it can look like a deep swamp with the bottom not visible. It was less than 12" when I crossed it. Then the route heads northeast, four miles of sandy wash where the jeep was basically swimming in gravel despite 4WD, with the last 9.5mi of slow, rocky going. I parked where others have indicated, next to a guzzler for game birds, but it appears one may drive perhaps another mile further up one of two washes. The going was not appreciably worse than what I had already driven. I had driven most of the route during the prior evening, sleeping in the jeep parked in the road about 4mi from the end. I didn't expect anyone to be driving up or down the road on a Tuesday night. In the morning I drove the remaining distance in the faint light while eating my breakfast. It was just after 6:30a when I started out on foot.
Intrigued by the possibility of driving further, I followed the tracks of other vehicles up the wash, noting where I might expect trouble (none particularly noted). Following my nose in this manner, I neglected to watch the GPSr and happily followed the tracks up a more westerly wash, not the one with "ruins" shown on the topo map further east. By the time I had noticed this divergence from the standard route I was a good distance north up the wrong wash. It turns out I could join the standard route on the ridgeline that separates the two washes, a steep but relatively easy climb from my wash. This route turned out to be quite nice and actually shorter than the standard route as described.
Once at the ridge, I followed it north to meet Mormon's Southwest Ridge. Nice views open up north, south and west as one continues up the SW Ridge through sparse pine and juniper forest. There was some snow on the north-facing slopes of the ridge and more covering the uppermost portion of the mountain, but never more than about an inch deep and easy to walk on without slipping. I arrived at the summit just before 9a, having taken less than 2.5hrs for the ascent. Greg Vernon had left an ammo box and register in 2004 with some 26 pages of entries. There were older loose pages dating at least as far back as the 1980s, but they were quite faded, hard to read, and brittle. I left those unphotographed for fear of damaging them further.
The summit has a commanding view around the range and the valleys that surround it. There were a number of summits that I noted of interest as possible bonus peaks. Shartooth was immediately to the east but Purcell had described the traverse as dangerous and not recommended, so I wrote that one off. Peak 6,365ft to the south was the most impressive-looking, with steep, sheer faces and what looked like a challenging ascent. The problem was the more than four miles of ridgeline connecting them, a much longer affair than I wanted. Peak 5,070ft was SE of Peak 6,365ft, also impressive, but even further away. That left Peak 6,190ft, about 2mi to the southwest, connected by the same ridgeline that I had partially ascended. This seemed a good option for extending the outing and doing a little exploring without getting too much into it.
I spent almost an hour and a half traversing the two miles between the two summits. The saddle between them is almost 500ft below the lower summit. Most of the ridge is pleasant and easy to negotiate. As one get closer to the saddle, there are some serrated sections that aren't serious difficulties, but slow travel as one looks for ways around them on one side or the other. The last short, but steep climb up to the summit looks hard, but I found the direct route on the ridgeline went at easy class 3. There was no register atop Peak 6,190ft, not so much as a friendly cairn, sadly. Looking south, the "fun" route seemed to be to follow Peak 6,190ft's South Ridge. Most of this is pretty tame, a rounded ridge line, easy to follow, no real dips along the way. Getting off the summit proved the hardest part of the day. After some easy class 3 down-scrambling, the ridge becomes narrow with sharp drops off both sides. There appeared to be no easy bypasses without going back up to the summit and off the northeast side. Instead, I cautiously continued on the limestone ridge, the crux a narrow, crumbly staircase with big air on both sides and no room for error. I gingerly checked each footstep, only half weighting at each one, breathing a sigh of relief after that nervous minute of work. After this, things get much easier. There were a few short cliff sections along the ridge, but these all had easy downclimbs to get through. The South Ridge continued for almost a mile and half, dropping me off in the main wash conveniently right where I'd parked. The entire 7.5mi outing came in at almost exactly five hours - a most enjoyable day. Now for the long drive back out to civilization...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mormon Peak
This page last updated: Wed Dec 12 16:42:33 2018
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