Thu, Apr 11, 2019
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Today was both a travel day and a list finish day, and with a nine mile effort to get to Nevares and back, it would be the only peak on the day's schedule. This would mark the culmination of chasing peaks in Andy Zdon's Desert Summits, started more than a decade earlier when Matthew Holliman first introduced me to desert peakbagging. I went after the DPS list more determinedly, using Zdon's book as a reference, but not really thinking I'd get to all 300+ summits in the book. About a year ago it became clear that either Bob Sumner or I would become the first to do all these, but neither of us went after it with strong enthusiam. I paid a visit to the Gold Butte National Monument at the end of last year that gave me a chance to finish off half of the remaining ten peaks I had. After that, I waited more than three months for weather to improve in West Central Nevada where 4 of the 5 remaining peaks lay. It worked out nicely to do these in April, leaving me with just Nevares Peak today while on my way back to Southern California. Though not a particularly high or difficult peak, the approach is kinda long. There is a paved road running through the Park Service's residence area that can cut miles off the approach, but it is signed for No Trespassing and Authorized Vehicles only. Barring a bit of illegal driving, the next best thing is to hike it from the west, directly from the highway, which is what I did. Having camped in Titus Canyon, I was up early to drive down the remaining part of the canyon and then south through Death Valley to get started by 6:45a, just after sunrise.
There's no best starting point that I could discern, one sort of heads east up one of several small gully options or along one of the low ridges on either side. The terrain here has a badlands feel to it, with soft, crumbly, alkaline slopes, easy to walk up as long as the gradient doesn't get too steep. I headed off in the general direction heading east, following my starting canyon until it ended some fifteen minutes in, then climbed out where it narrowed to follow atop one of the edges. This was quite easy and flat at first with wide, open cruising. An interesting geologic feature I noted were medium-sized rocks embedded in the varnished, flat surface that had been split along multiple parallel lines that became slightly separated, almost like a skeleton display. There were numerous examples of this, so it wasn't a one-off freakish occurrence. but I couldn't figure out what geologic process might have created them. I ended up down in other washes and back up on other ridges, alternating several times until I had reached the base of Nevares around 8a.
Once at the base of the peak, I was less than a mile from the summit but still had almost 2,000ft of climbing. I picked out an ascent gully to follow up to the ridgeline above me, a class 2-3 affair. The peak is primarily limestone which makes for fun and fairly easy scrambling. Once atop the ridgeline, I could see the summit still 3/4 mile away. Following the ridge to the southeast, it eventually curves to the northeast allowing access to the SW Face of the peak and the last 400ft of climbing. I reached the top just before 9a, having taken two and a quarter hour - not a blazing pace by any stretch, but respectable. There's a very fine view overlooking Death Valley to the west and across to the Panamints. To the east rises the higher Winters Peak, almost twice the height of Nevares. Bob Sumner had left a register in 2005 with more than 50 pages of entries over the past 14 years. I only recognized a handful of the many names on what turned out to be a pretty popular peak. Interestingly, Doug Mantle was the last to sign in - it's pretty rare to see his name in a register that isn't on one of the Sierra Club lists.
During the second half of the ascent, I had been eyeing the NW Ridge on my left, wondering if I could descend back down that way. It wasn't clear, but it looked interesting, so without any pressing business elsewhere, I decided to give it a try. It worked out quite nicely, never more than class 3 with no cliffs to block my way down. At the bottom of the ridge it left me off at a cool little place called Nevares Spring. A seep provides enough water to leave plenty of green on an otherwise desolate landscape. It appears that the spring is piped to supply water for the village, probably why it was located there to begin with. There is a dirt road leading to the spring, up from the village, an extension of the paved road closed to the public. I followed the road down, past an old gun range, dating to a time before this was a national park. I took a fork off the main road to avoid going back through the village, finding my road gave out on a flat, varnished plateau. This funneled me down through a badlands cliff area above the trailer park area. There were some stands of palm trees growing in the soft cliff faces and it was a bit tricky finding my way down through the cliffs and into trickling creek bottom below. It took another 20min to find my way back out to the highway where I'd parked the jeep, finishing up after 11a. And just like that, after four and half hours, I was done with Zdon's book. I guess now I'll have to wait for the 3rd edition to come out...
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