Wed, Nov 25, 2009
When I awoke sometime before 6a, I looked outside the van to see Bill's Subaru parked only ten feet away. He had arrived during the wee hours of the night just as we had arranged via email over the past few days. Matthew had left me the night before to head to Zion, so it was quite convenient to have picked up another hiking partner for the next part of the week. I was in Nevada for the Thanksgiving holiday, getting in some climbing before my family was due to fly into Vegas later today. Bill and I planned to climb the two highpoints of the Muddy Mountains just north of Lake Mead. One was a DPS peak, the other the range highpoint and a P2K peak. It was near freezing in the early morning before sunrise, but it would warm up nicely and make for a delightful day with hardly a cloud in the sky.
We left my van at the start of the dirt road and, following the DPS guide directions, headed south for the Muddy Mtns. The windy section going up and over a low pass through Buffington Pockets was particularly rough, but Bill's Forester and fine driving skills made quick work of it. Perhaps too quick - he likes to drive the roads a good deal faster than either Matthew or I would drive them in the same vehicle and this would come to bite us on the following day. But today things went rather smoothly and we were at the TH described in the guide by 7a. Bill spent about ten minutes getting his gear together, then we were off.
Parked in the northwest corner of White Basin, we followed the road heading west, up and over a low saddle leading to the adjacent Hidden Valley found north of our peaks. We continued along the road, marveling at the fantastic rock formations, colorfully arrayed and beautifully layered sandstones that surrounded the valley and poked up from the desert floor. We spent so much time admiring the landscape that we traveled too far along the road and missed the turnoff by a quarter mile.
It was easy enough to correct as we simply turned off the road heading south towards the obvious saddle at that end of the valley. It took us about an hour and a half to climb to the saddle, conveniently located between our two peaks. We mistook a high peak south of the notch for Muddy Mtn, the range highpoint, and it looked like our day was going to be a long one indeed. Later we came to realize that this was a different peak, in fact the third highest summit in the range, and that Muddy Mtn was a good deal closer. Doing all three would have been a good adventure as well, but we settled for just the two named ones.
I dropped a couple bottles of Gatorade here as we turned left and started for the DPS's Muddy Peak. Though the lower of the two, it is said to have more interesting climbing, one of the few class 3 peaks on the week's agenda. We followd one of several threads of a use trail that makes its way up from the saddle over steep talus slopes to the ridgeline above. Once at the ridgeline the climbing became enjoyable as promised, though not without a number of ups and down along the way. The views we were treated to were wonderful, stretching off in all directions, and the weather couldn't have been better.
We did not find the route-finding at all difficult, basically following the ridge. We found the crux to be a somewhat loose, but not-so-difficult class 3 chute about five minutes shy of the summit. We reached the top at 9:50a after a bit over two and half hours' effort. We found a MacLeod/Lilley register dating to 1986 with the usual DPS folks and many others as well. The last entry was just two weeks prior by Daryn Dodge. He and I occasionally exchange emails when we find the other's signature just before our own on Sierra peaks. Now that Daryn has finished the SPS list he is working hard on the DPS one, and it seems he came out to these very same peaks in Southern Nevada earlier in the same month. Small world.
We had a fine view of Muddy Mtn to the west, Lake Mead to the south and southwest, White Basin to the northeast, and many desert ranges in all directions. After about 20 minutes we started down, taking the same route we had taken from the saddle. Once back at the saddle I picked up the cached Gatorade and we started up the ridgline heading west from the saddle. We climbed up and then a bit down to a second saddle, this one a possible return route by dropping down into the canyon to the north. A small arch on the ridgeline above us had caught our attention, so we made a special effort to pay it a visit. We'd have done better to traverse the rocky obstacles along the ridgeline to the south, but we managed to find a somewhat precarious line to climb through a small cliff band nearby. It was a short but terribly loose affair, and it was with a bit of apprehension that I watched Bill follow me through it.
Above this cliff band we popped out to a small plateau and easy hiking towards the summit about fifteen minutes further on. It was just noon when we reached the top. The register found here was older than the previous one, dating back to 1978. Only a few parties visited the summit on any given year and ours was the first visit in almost a year. In addition to nice view Muddy Peak to the east, the views south and west were better than those on Muddy Peak, offering better views of Lake Mead and its surroundings. A nearby benchmark labeled "MUDDY" dated to 1950. We didn't spend as much time as we had at the previous summit and after about ten minutes we headed back.
Rather than downclimb the dubious section of the ridge we had ascended, we did a long traverse around the plateau, made a bit difficult by more cliffs and rocky features that we had to skirt by climbing up or down to get around before continuing the traverse. We landed back at the second, higher saddle to the west of the main one and after a few minutes deliberation, decided to take it down for the descent. This turned out to be the best scrambling of the day, taking us by surprise. I had vaguely remembered seeing some routes on a map on SummitPost that were further west of the usual route to Muddy Peak. This seemed like one of the candidates, but I was unsure. The canyon was nothing special when we started down, steep talus that was fairly easy to negotiate without much brush. Lower down it began to narrow with the walls steepening on either side. We could not see more than about 50 yards ahead for most of the way to be sure the route would go. We found lots of class 3 downclimbs, small dry waterfalls, and chockstones to be bypassed. In all we spent about 30 minutes descending the canyon until it finally broadened at its opening into Hidden Valley to the north.
We traversed out of the wash to more stable ground on the right side. We consulted our map on where the old road should lie and headed off in that direction, roughly north by northeast. We again marveled at the colorful rock that poked up from the valley floor. We detoured a bit to investigate a larger arch that we spied in the rock near the middle of the valley. I was hoping we might be able to climb atop it, but it turned out to be a far more serious affair than we were prepared for (or capable of). We eventually found the road and followed it back out of Hidden Valley to the east, over the low saddle and back down to our car. It was not quite 2:30p when we finished up, several hours faster than I had expected. Unfortunately there were only a few hours of daylight remaining and we would spend one of those driving back out to the pavement. So we called it a day and drove back to Las Vegas where we met up with my family in Henderson for dinner at the hotel they had booked for the next several nights. A day well spent in beautiful Nevada!
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Muddy Peak - Muddy Mountain
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