Northeast Frenchman Peak RS
Northwest Frenchman Peak P500 RS
Knife-Edge Peak P300 RS
Hanging Valley Peak P300 RS
Coyote Skull Peak P300 RS
The Triple P300 RS
The Double P300 RS
The Minefield P300 RS
Walts Ridge P500 RS

Feb 15, 2022
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2 3 4


I spent today in the northeast corner of Las Vegas, north of Frenchman Mtn, visiting a collection of summits found in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles. Three of the four hikes started from paved E Lake Mead Blvd (SR147), the last requiring some driving on BLM roads.

Northeast/Northwest Frenchman

As their unofficial names suggest, these peaks lie to the north of Frenchman Mtn. Northwest Frenchman is actually almost due north, about 1/2mi. They could easily be done in conjunction with the higher Frenchman Mtn, a near-P2K that I had done back in 2009. A service road leads to the higher summit, passing through a saddle with the two sub-peaks. The road is terribly rough in places and would give the Jeep a run for its money, but is unfortunately locked at the highway. Use trails from the saddle lead to Northeast and Northwest Frenchman. I spent about an hour and three quarters on the 3mi roundtrip effort that included about 1,600ft of gain. The only other person I saw on the hike had started about 10min after me, but he didn't appear terribly enthusiastic judging by his pace, and ended up turning around before finishing the initial steep climb. I can't really blame him - the route isn't pretty, there's trash and graffiti, and very little vegetation to soften the harsh landscape. I think Frenchman might be a better night climb with a dazzling display of the city lights.

Knife-Edge - Hanging Valley

This pair are located about a mile east of the first two. The topo map shows a road going to the saddle between them from the north, but this has been blocked and no longer drivable. There are other BLM roads shown approaching from the south and southwest, but I don't know the status of these roads and doubt they are closer than just starting from E Lake Mead Blvd. I parked about half a mile east of the Frenchman TH at a small turnout and started from there. The area is hardly pristine. It is clear that it has been used for decades for informal target practice, though the BLM has slowly set up fencing and gates to keep OHV traffic out. The shell casings and battered targets will likely be there for decades more. Fortunately, the trash diminishes the further one gets from the pavement. I used a combination of cross-country and the old road to approach Knife-Edge from the north, eventually forking on a spur road that leads to the base of the NE Ridge more directly. The lower slopes of the ridge are unpleasant loose talus, becoming more solid limestone rock above. Once on the NE Ridge, the going is pleasant for the last 20min, class 2-3. The summit offers a nice view of the Frenchman peaks in profile to the west. Kevin Humes left a register here in 2016.

After a brief pause, I returned back along the ridge and then down to the saddle with Hanging Valley Peak. At the saddle, an old mining trail descends to the south. Another such trail climbs above the saddle to the SW Ridge of Hanging Valley Peak. It might just be a sheep trail, but it makes the ascent of Hanging Valley much easier - from a distance it looks like steep, loose slopes, but the trail made it pleasant to reach the SW Ridge. Once on the ridge, it's only only a few minutes' work to get to the highpoint. Rather than return back to the saddle, I figured it would be a shorter route if I continued along the ridge to drop off the north side, then down a gully to the northwest. Not as easy as the SW Ridge/trail combo, but it worked well enough and probably saved a bit of time. It was just after 11:30a when I returned to the Jeep. The outing comes in at under 3mi, about 1,100ft of gain, taking a little over two hours.

Coyote Skull - Triple - Double - Minefield

This is a fun little romp on the north side of the highway, starting another mile east from the previous stop. There is a road starting from here, but is gated. Others have found ways around it, but it doesn't save much, buying about 1.5mi for the roundtrip effort. The outing is about 4.5mi with 1,800ft of gain, and took just over 3hrs. I headed to Coyote Skull first, the highest and westernmost of the group. I followed the road for 3/4mi to the northeast and north, before leaving it to follow the SE Slopes up to the East Ridge. The ascent up the SE Slope had a short bit of class 3 scrambling, the rest easier class 2. There is a very good view of Sunrise Mtn to the west from the summit. Kevin had left a register here in 2016, but the sun had bleached out his signature green ink entry and I unintentionally ended up writing over it.

I turned east and began heading to the remaining three in turn. The Triple has a cliff band at the top that is imposing from the west, but after descending Coyote Skull and following a wash around to the south side, I found a break in the cliff that would allow an ascent of The Triple from that side. Most of that side is steep, terribly loose talus, best avoided. I followed a shallow gully with questionably better footing that went up class 2-3. Once past the cliff band, it was short walk northwest to the highpoint. Most of the names in the register I found were the same as those from Coyote Skull - I wasn't the first to do this combo (Adam Walker and Stav comes to mind), and others have done much larger loops that include Sunrise Mtn and other summits to the west. I descended the east side of The Triple, much easier than the south side, and headed to The Double. I have no idea where the names for these two came from, btw. There is a broad gully on the west side of The Double that makes for a straightforward class 2 ascent. It looks like one could jump onto the West Ridge just right of the gully for some class 3 fun, but I stuck to the gully for more mundane thrills (I wasn't sure the ridge would actually go, but it probably does). I found the third of Kevin's registers at the summit. I noted the SE Ridge looks sharp and interesting, but not, unfortunately, leading in the right direction for the last summit. I descended the south side of The Double, dropping into a wash that I would follow west and southwest towards The Minefield. Purcell claims the reason for the name will be obvious upon visiting. I must be dense if that's true because I didn't see it. Perhaps for some mineshafts? If so, I didn't notice any on my route up to the peak from the north (though there was a bit of scrambling through two cliff bands), nor on my descent off the west side. And yes, there was another Kevin register from 2016 at the summit. I was back to the Jeep before 3p, giving me enough time for one last summit in the area.

Walts Ridge

After returning to the Jeep, I spent about 20min driving to the NW side of Walts Ridge, two miles SE of Frenchman Mtn. There are two main summits to the ridge, the higher point to the north. The TRs on PB all used routes from the south/east side, or along the ridgeline, SW to NE. Though shorter, the NW approach seems to be neglected, probably because of the volcanic cliffs lining the upper reaches. This effort would correct that oversight. I went up a decent gully that would lead to the ridgeline just south of the north summit. The upper stretch had some solid class 3, but on good rock to keep it fun. It took just over half an hour to climb to the summit with 600ft of prominence. The lower summit is about a quarter mile to the southwest, looking of similar height. I left a register at the north summit since it was lacking, then headed to the southwest summit. It took less than 15min to get between the summits, a nice effort that would normally provide good views, but strong afternoon winds were kicking up considerable dust. I found Kevin's register at the second summit, with several entries claiming through survey efforts that the north summit was, indeed, higher. I took a different gully down on the descent just to mix things up, finding it a bit easier than the ascent route. It would be after 4:30p before I got back to the Jeep. For fun, I decided to drive the BLM road across the range to the southwest to see how it went. Pretty much any vehicle could navigate this good road. It eventually spit me out on the east side of Las Vegas near the Las Vegas Wash. In the last vestiges of sunlight, I took a shower before the outside air temperature got too cold. I used Telephone Rd heading northwest to get me to the pavement on the eastern edge of developments and then drove cross-town to western Henderson where I was to meet Patrick for hiking the next morning...


Gimpilator comments on 03/12/22:
Fun to see you bagging these peaks in my back yard. :)
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