Peak 3,034ft
Pahrump Valley Wilderness PP P750
Peak 4,353ft P300
Black Butte P500 RS
Peak 3,694ft P300

Mar 10, 2023
Black Butte
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPX Profile


I was camped on the western edge of Mesquite Valley, close to the CA/NV border, in the northeast corner of San Bernardino County. Today's summits were a collection of peaks around the valley, in both California and Nevada. Only the first summit had been on the planned agenda, but as I was ahead of schedule, I came up with some others to fill the rest of the day. Later in the afternoon I drove to Las Vegas to join my wife, who had just flown in for a girl's volleyball tournament this weekend.

Peak 3,034ft

This was the easiest of the day's peaks, a short 1/4mi from the BLM dirt road that runs along its north side. The peak lies at the edge of Mesquite Valley, on the California side, a very minor summit in both elevation and prominence. I was up and down in half an hour, starting at 6:30a under heavily overcast skies. Rain was pummeling the state's Central Coast and threatening to spill over into the Mojave Desert. Luckily, the rain would hold off for the day, though I could see downbursts in various directions around me throughout the day.

Pahrump Valley Wilderness PP - Peak 4,353ft

This was the only significant outing of the day, a 6.5mi loop with more than 2,000ft of gain, occupying me for 3.5hrs. The peaks lies in the SE corner of Inyo County, inside the Pahrump Valley Wilderness. As I had made no prior plans for this outing, I was pretty much winging it with minimal beta. I didn't realize until much later that the road I had driven in from the SE was about 1.5mi inside the Wilderness boundary. On my way out, I noted the completely faded sign meant to indicate the boundary. The road I followed had been driven on periodically, including since the most recent rains. My encroachment saved me an extra hour of hiking, though not without some post-hike guilt. I later found that Craig Barlow had hiked this very road on an ascent in 2022. Without knowledge of his ascent beforehand, our routes turned out to be very different.

From where I parked, I headed northwest, more or less directly towards the summit. The first mile and a half was a slow ascent across the desert flats, an enjoyable effort with only minor wash crossings. As I neared the base of the peak, I worked my way up towards a gully that ascends to the SE Ridge via a route mostly hidden from view on my approach. The gully turned out to have some fun scrambling on good limestone. Various small dryfalls added to the challenge, though nothing more than easy class 3. At the top of the gully is a short vertical section with chockstones that formed the crux - stiff class 3 and a bit airy, but the holds were all good. Past the crux, I moved out onto the class 2 South Slopes that I could follow all the way to the summit. The gully had gotten me only about 1/3 of the ascent elevation, and I was surprised just how much more I still had to go. A full hour and a half were consumed in getting me the 2.6mi to the summit. A high wind advisory for Inyo County was proving accurate, with 30mph winds blowing over the summit. I grabbed the register jar and ducked over on the leeside of the summit to get out of the brunt of it. I had expected the MacLeod/Lilley register, but did not know at the time that Craig had paid a recent visit - quite a gap before his arrival. The summit has some outstanding views of the vast Mesquite Valley to the north, east and southeast. Rain was falling on the Kingston Range to the west and I hoped it would not reach me before I got back.

After a short summit stay, I headed off SW Ridge to follow the connecting ridgeline to Peak 4,353ft, about 0.9mi away. Barbara Lilley had recorded an ascent on that one as well, so I figured I might find another register from 1984. The ridgeline was a pleasant hike, all class 2, and very enjoyable with sheep trails on many sections to make this a breeze. I spent about 40min getting between the two summits. Sadly, I found no register, so left one I carried with me. My return would be nearly 3mi, the longest leg of this loop. I descended the SE Ridge back down to the flats, then made a beeline for the Jeep. I could see the Jeep from a mile and a half away, which made the navigation pretty easy - no need to use the GPS for this one. A very nice loop, I thought.

Black Butte

This summit lies just inside Nevada, a standalone butte separating Mesquite and Pahrump Valleys. It is found in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles. My route to reach it took me through a zigzagging course on the only paved road on the NE side of the community of Sandy. The folks living here are scratching out a meager existence on the lower end of the economic scale. There is one small grocery, a post office, a school, and a tavern that is open 24hrs a day. I followed an approach used by Adam Walker, getting me to within 0.6mi of the summit on its northeast side with some moderately rough driving. There was some mining activity here back in the day with various roads cut up the slopes. I followed the defunct old roads up through the mining activity just below the summit, then a short cross-country stretch up through the limestone cliffs above. Adam Walker had left a register in 2020 that already had six other entries, including Candace Skalet and Mark Adrian. It took about 45min for the roundtrip effort.

Peak 3,694ft

I had told my wife to expect me around 4p in Las Vegas, giving me enough time for one last, easy summit. I found it on the drive over paved Sandy Valley Rd on my way to I-15. The peak lies just east of Bonanza Hill, a summit I had climbed with Little Devil back in 2015. At the time, I had to walk the gravel road from the pavement, but now that I've the Jeep, I was able to drive within half a mile of the peak on its NE side. Rain was falling now in Mesquite Valley to the west and the Spring Mountains to the north, so I made haste to get up down this one quickly. I took only 15min to work my way to the summit, slightly longer on my less direct descent. Kevin Humes had left a register in 2021, with a few other entries since then. It was 2:20p by the time had returned to the Jeep, leaving me enough time to get to our motel in Las Vegas as planned, along with a short pitstop at the grocery store for a few supplies...


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