Fri, Nov 10, 2023
Day two in the Pahrump area had us tackling six summits in two separate loops. We were camped off paved Bell Vista Rd west of town, in one of a handful of informal shooting turnouts along a dirt road. These are regularly used by the townfolk to keep their sharpshooter skills honed for the coming apocalypse. What comes off as a dangerous and unnecessary cacophony to some is simply the Sound of Freedom to others. Luckily, they packed up at sunset leaving us to sleep undisturbed through the night.
Peak 3,404ft is the highest of the group, though still with minimal prominence. We found a cairn at the top, but no register, so we left a second one here. The last summit, Peak 3,372ft, is directly east of Peak 3,404ft but only about 1/3mi distance. We followed the connecting ridgeline down about 300ft before climbing up the class 2 slope on the west side of Peak 3,372ft. It would take only about 20min to get between the two. There are two closely spaced summits to Peak 3,372ft. In visiting both, I found the north one to be 5-6ft lower. No register was found here either, but we had no more with us to leave. The return went almost due south along the undulating summit ridgeline, going over spot elevation 3,259ft before dropping back down to the Jeep. About two and a quarter hours for the roundtrip effort.
Our main summit was Peak 4,150ft, a P1K. Our plan was to visit the bonus Peak 3,753ft first, then the P1K. If the ridgeline to Peak 3,977ft to the west looked reasonable, we'd extend the outing to take in the second bonus peak. After a short bit of flat walking, we started up the SW Slope, a rubbly mess, more tedious than fun. This went on for about 600ft until the gradient relented and the ground became firmer and easier to walk on. We reached the summit in about 40min, finding a small cairn per usual, but no register. The summit had good views of Peak 4,150ft to the north and the impressive-looking Pupfish Peak to the south - that would be on the next day's agenda. Peak 4,150ft looked to be challenging as well, and after leaving one of our registers, we headed off the north side to tackle it directly along the connecting ridgeline that drops to a low saddle between the two.
After descending to the saddle, we found the lower slopes of the next peak were talus, becoming more solid limestone after passing through a cliffband and onto the South Ridge. This was an enjoyable stretch leading up to a false summit near spot elevation 4,035ft. Peak 4,150ft was across a gap from this point, but I went up to the spot elevation just in case someone bothers to add this on PB as a separate summit in the future. Once down at the gap, the 200-foot climb up the ridgeline provided another enjoyable stretch of scrambling, nothing harder than class 3. It took a bit over an hour to get from Peak 3,753ft to Peak 4,150ft and proved the best part of the day. Ron Moe had left a register here in 2018, now with three pages of the usual suspects.
Sometime the previous day I had confessed to being a Swiftie, expecting to get ribbed for it by my companions. Iris, it turns out, is even more of a fan, and it became a running joke for us to quote random lyrics as we made our way across the desert landscape. Iris had been working on a peakbagging-themed parody of Taylor's popular Shake It Up between the last two summits, and gave us a rendition of it atop Peak 4,150ft, complete with dance moves while singing lyrics she'd recorded on her phone. We gave some feedback on phrases we liked or felt needed more work, and she would continue to work on it throughout the afternoon. I'm not sure why I asked her if she had the energy to continue on to the third summit, since she clearly did if she can compose lyrics while hiking.
This would be the longest stretch of the loop, getting between Peak 4,150ft and Peak 3,977ft, about 1.5mi to the west. They were connected by a long ridgeline (seen behind the dancing photo) but it had some significant intermediate points along the way and looked a bit rugged. The ridge starts by heading northwest where it goes over Rocky BM, a PB-only point with little prominence, though to be fair, it's nearly the same height as Peak 4,150ft. From there we turned southwest for the first of several descents to saddles along the ridgeline. David Carmody had done a similar loop to ours earlier in the year. At this first saddle he dropped down about 500ft on the SW side to traverse low and avoid much of the rugged part above. We decided to traverse high around the north side where we found easier slopes (though hardly trivial) and even some sheep trails to speed things along. These were thin and threaded and we found ourselves taking different ones - Tom would favor the lower lines, I would prefer the higher ones (figuring the track was shorter, but usually more rocky), and Iris would follow behind to see who was struggling more and then follow the other one. The lowest saddle is found at 3,500ft, about 1/4mi NE of Peak 3,977ft, and it was here that we rejoined David's route for the final ascent to the summit. Our route very closely followed his, staying high on the north side of the ridge all the way to the summit. There proved to be only a few places with easy class 3 between summits, most of our route your standard class 2 desert terrain.
It was now after 2p, having spent an hour and a half getting from Peak 4,150ft. Iris had continued working her lyrics (I'm hoping she sends me the finished product someday so I can post them here), but there was more to do. Luckily, we were still quite a ways from home and she had plenty of time. We returned to a high saddle immediately NE of the summit where it looked like we could find a way down the steep wall of the SE Face. The first several hundred feet were the more serious and we worked our way slowly down the chossy class 2 slopes, then down a narrow class 3 gully before things got easier. While Tom and I paused to allow Iris to catch up where the gradient eased, Tom called out to tell me they were going to head back to the truck and I could go ahead to the Jeep. The vehicles were about the same distance in different directions, but my route had a small rise of about 200ft and would take a bit longer. It was a pleasant late afternoon stroll with softer lighting and easy terrain. It gave me time to get lost in my thoughts, though I'll admit that didn't include composing alternate lyrics - clearly I'm not as dedicated a Tay Tay fan - I'll have to work on that. There were actually two closely-spaced saddles to go over, passing across a shallow drainage that rises up to Peak 4,150ft - a drainage used by several of the folks posting tracks on PB to reach the P1K.
I was back to the Jeep by 3:45p with an hour still before sunset. Twenty minutes later I had returned to the truck where the others were already taking showers. We would spend the night camped on this spot though would come to regret it the next day. The Ash Meadow National Wildlife Refuge lay to the west, home to the endangered pupfish that occupy a warm pool in the Devils Hole, a small, detached portion of Death Valley NP. The fish live in water around 92F from thermal pools that lie mostly underground. They are not the only creatures that live in the Wildlife Refuge, however. Due to the warm conditions, it seems that mosquitoes survive year-round. Though it had been 25F at a nearby camp the previous evening (which mostly would kill off the critters), the breeze from the west was bringing the very-much-alive mosquitoes to camp in droves where they would pester us just after sunset. Consider this a friendly warning not to camp in this area - like, ever. (I had to throw a Taylor reference in there at the end...)
This page last updated: Fri Nov 17 17:53:59 2023
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