Pahrump Peak P1K CS
Amargosa Peak P1K
Peak 4,675ft P300

Mon, Apr 20, 2015
Pahrump Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


Pahrump Peak

The Nopah Range is a 25mi-long ridgeline dividing Chicago and Pahrump Valleys near the CA/NV border. At the north end of the range is unofficially named Pahrump Point, a DPS summit I had climbed some years earlier. I was surprised to learn later that there is a second summit 1/2mi further NE that is higher - just barely. Why the lower one got the nod on the DPS list seemed odd, but possibly because it was the one that Hervey Voge or one of the other early members happened to climb that day. This higher unnamed point is also unnamed, but since it's a P1K and a pretty good one, I thought it deserved a name. Since "Peak" sounds higher than "Point" (consider Powell in the Sierra), it was the one I'm going with.

I had spent the night parked off SR178 at it's highpoint at the north end of the range, just outside the Nopah Range Wilderness. From there it was something under 3mi to the summit with about 2,800ft of gain. I was up early, starting out from my overnight spot at 6a. Shortly after starting out, sunrise came upon Mt. Stewart (another DPS summit) to the north, the highpoint of the Resting Springs Range. My route was relatively flat for about half a mile before beginning a slow rise up easy slopes. The footing was good and I enjoyed the early morning hike up towards the main crest of the range. The gradient increased until I reached the crest that forms the NW Ridge of Pahrump Peak. Easy scrambling led higher, with fine views of Chicago Valley to the west and Mt. Stewart to the north. By 7:30a I had reached a false summit less than 10min from the highpoint. Things get interesting here. Someone had carried up a 7-foot steel cross and left it lying here to rust, probably decades old. I'd guess that they planned to take it to the highpoint but found the going a little too spicy for their liking. A rocky knife-edge connects the two points and the scrambling here was top-notch. I enjoyed this very short stretch with surprisingly good rock, class 3 but with some exposure. The east side of the peak drops off precipitously into some dry canyon washes hundreds off feet below. I made it to the summit and found - nothing. Well, almost nothing. There was a small cairn, but no benchmark, register, survey tower and thankfully, no steel cross planted there. Looking south, it's hard to tell if Pahrump Point is lower, but I'll trust the USGS surveyors on this one. It appears to make for a very interesting traverse, but that exercise I would leave to another pioneer. I reversed the route back across the knife-edge, found a place to move the iron cross to so that it would be out of view, and then returned back down to the start by essentially the same route, making for a 3hr outing.

Amaragosa Peak

I next drove back down to Shoshone where I'd visited briefly the day prior, then 13mi north before pulling to the side of the highway next to the dry Amargosa River. I was after another unnamed P1K, the second highest summit in the Resting Springs Range after Stewart. It, too, seemed in need of a name so I named it after the broad wash it overlooks. Immediately across the road to the southwest rises Brown Mtn and to the northeast the lone figure of Eagle Mtn, both DPS summits. This land east of the highway sees few visitors and for good reason - it's almost six miles to reach the peak from the highway.

The first four miles of this hike were up a steady low gradient rising from the Amargosa River channel, an hour and a half of dodging and weaving around the various flavors of desert scrub that eke out an existence here. The route to the summit is not an obvious one as it hides behind a lower peak to the west. The direct approach up this lower peak works, but requires a drop of almost 400ft to a saddle (the route I used for the return). To save 800ft of extra climbing I steered to the right, following up a wash that leads to this saddle from the south. It was not a very pleasant wash, partly because it was getting warm in the late morning but mostly because the gravel/rock wash was tedious to walk in. I grew tired of this but didn't know if I could climb out to the right to reach the main crest - a band of cliffs here look formidable. It was only as I got closer (and grew even less enamoured with the gravel hike) that a way through the cliff band looked possible, so up I went. There was much loose crud on steep slopes to wade through, but nothing technically difficult and in about 30min I had found my way to the crest. I still had another half hour along the summit's South Ridge to reach the summit, but this part was more interesting, with limestone scrambling and fine views off either side.

It was 12:35p by the time I reached the summit. A register was found in a plastic container, left by a pair of local Pahrump adventurers in 2005. Bob Greer of the LVMC was the only other entry, visiting in 2014. The summit has nice views, east across Stewart and Pahrump Valleys to Mt. Charleston and the Spring Mtns, west across the Amargosa Valley into Death Valley NP, north to Shadow Mtn (another P1K) and south along the crest of the Resting Spring Range. I had a minor quandary to wrestle with as I sat there on the summit contemplating my next move. It wasn't long past noon and I had more than seven hours of daylight, but it was growing warm. A planned third hike to the Funeral Mtns Wilderness HP (also a P1K) wasn't sounding all that exciting at the moment. I knew I would be far less enthusiastic by the time I returned to the car. A better plan seemed to be to drag the current one out longer than needed and so I ended up taking the return route over Peak 4,675ft, passing across the saddle between them. This required me to first descend north to the lower summit 1/4mi in that direction (the one mentioned in the first register entry), then down the ridgeline to the saddle. The darker limestone gives way to lighter-colored rock as one crosses the saddle. The climb up to Peak 4,675ft was a little tiring, but thankfully not all that much elevation. Looking back at the higher Amargosa Peak behind me, the whole west side looks steep and treacherous though in practice it wasn't bad at all.

At the top of Peak 4,675ft I wasn't sure I was at the highpoint. Another point to the southwest looked like it could be of nearly equal height as did a few points to the northwest. I decided to head northwest and tag the two minor points as I followed the ridgeline down the west side of the range. Neither of the points proved higher (nor did the southwest point when I studied the maps more closely later) and I enjoyed the leisurely descent back to the Amargosa Valley. Aside from the occasional pretty or unusual flower that I stopped to inspect, the most unusual thing of note was a half-eaten golden eagle I found as I approached the highway. My best guess is that it got taken out by a passing vehicle, probably while it was lunching on roadkill itself, ironically. A coyote probably then dragged it off the road and made a meal of the eagle until the feathers became more trouble than it was worth.

It was close to 4p by this time and I felt less guilty about calling it quits for the day. It was probably 85F and the desert just isn't that much fun when it warms up. I headed north on SR127 through Death Valley Junction (I failed to find a large soda for sale there) and into Beatty, NV where I would spend the next few evenings. Having been to Beatty in the past, I knew there wasn't much to this town and I spent some time looking for a place to get shade and wifi. I eventually hit upon Dennys (whose entrance is annoyingly located to make you walk the entire length of a dingey, smokey casino). I spent about two and half hours there, stretching my meal out the entire length. The place doesn't appear to get a lot of business on a weekday afternoon so I didn't feel guilty about taking up the booth all that time. After the sun had set I left to find a place to sleep for the night, finding it at the ruins of Carrera near the TH for Bare Mountain, a P2K I planned to visit the next day. I was almost a mile from, and several hundred feet above US95, keeping the traffic noise to a minimum and allowing me to sleep well that night...


Harlan comments on 03/01/18:

From Pahrump Point, you can see over this peak to a point about 5000', so this is the lower peak.
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