Peak 7,855ft P300
Peak 5,812ft P300
Peak 6,086ft P300
Peak 6,082ft P300
Peak 5,942ft P300
Wild Oat Mountain P500

Sun, Sep 3, 2023

With: Kristine Swigart

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2 3


Kristine and I had made plans to visit some summits in Alpine County over the Labor Day weekend. Today's agenda was to an orphaned summit in the north part of the county, Peak 7,855ft. I'd spent the night camped along the Carson River in Gardnerville in Nevada, a quiet little spot off a rough dirt road that I shared with a camper van, whose occupants I never heard nor saw - the perfect type of outdoor neighbors. I was up early to visit the Starbucks in town, conveniently less than a mile away, then drove back to California for our starting point for Peak 7,855ft. The weather report had the chance of showers and thunderstorms at 90% for the entire day, making us wonder just how much we would get done before a good soaking discouraged us further. Clouds hung heavy over the Sierra, the Pine Nuts, and all of Carson Valley pretty much all day, with rain visible somewhere almost the whole time. Still, we would get very little on ourselves and the cool temperatures were more than welcome for this collection of mid-elevation summits in summertime.

Peak 7,855ft

The peak lies in the Carson Range on its east side, overlooking Carson Valley. Kerry Breen's TR on PB described a very overgrown road he'd followed on the peak's south side that became an undesireable brushfest, one we wanted no part of. I had picked out several possibilities, but we went with one suggested by Kristine up the SE Ridge that takes advantage of a couple of old roads through the lower sagebrush flats. This proved to be a very enjoyable route, with very little real bushwhacking. The old road that we followed from the start at a wire gate led to an old junkyard dating back a century. Most of it was old iron, wood and other products, but there was some interesting farm equipment that will probably end up decorating someone's yard in the future. We connected this with a second road that took us to the creek crossing at the base of our peak, an easy enough effort to get us to the opposite side. From there, we began the first of several very steep sections going up the SE ridge, punctuated by easier gradients and a very cool, mature forest about 2/3 of the way up. We were quite happy to find the footing good on the whole slope, none of the sand that can be found in other parts of the Carson Range. In all, we gained some 2,700ft of elevation over the course of about 2mi, taking a little over an hour and a half to reach the summit. Finding no register on this or any of the day's peaks, we left the first of several registers before starting back down. The return was quite delightful, it felt good to be a little chilled, even. We were done after 9:30a, having completed the hike in under 3hrs (Kerry's route, by contrast, took him 5.5hrs).

Peak 5,812ft

We turned our attention to Douglas County in Nevada for the rest of the day. The first two of these are close to the CA border and most easily reached from Diamond Valley Rd in California. Peak 5,812ft is the easier of the two. A rough dirt road climbs up the northwest side of the peak off Mud Lake Rd, getting us within 1/3mi on the west side where we parked when the road seemed to give out on the western slope. This was a far shorter route than described by three others in their TRs on PB. We climbed easy slopes to the summit in less than 15min. There are nice views looking around Carson Valley and of the Sierra escarpment to the west. We left a second register here before returning the same way.

Peak 6,086ft

This was a 4.5mi roundtrip effort starting from a locked gate at the end of Long Valley Rd. It turned out our route was practically identical to one posted by William Inman on PB. From the gate, we crossed Dutch Valley and Indian Creek (a little trickier, this one) to reach a useable road on the southeast side that we could follow for most of two miles to the southwest side of Peak 6,086ft. The last half mile was up a moderately steep slope with little vegetation and good footing. Rain started while we were still on the road and continued all the way up to the summit. Windy, cold and wet at the summit, we spent only a few minutes there before heading back down. The rain let up soon after, and that was the only real rain we had on our hikes today, and even that didn't get us too wet - our rain gear did its job to keep us mostly dry. On the way back we took a shortcut off the summit to return to the road, a better alternative to the ascent route. A little less than 2hrs for the outing, with less than 1,000ft of gain.

Peak 6,082ft

These next two summits are located in the desert foothills on the west side of the Pine Nut Mtns, east of Gardnerville. A very good BLM road leads to a newish BLM TH on the south side of Peak 6,082ft. A trail network leads to the summit in about 2mi. It is more suited to mountain bikes with long, rounded switchbacks that are nice on a ride, but frustrating on foot. We choose to bypass the trails altogether and simply head straight to the summit in just over half a mile, taking 15min. We looked around for a register, but found none and left none - seems to easy to get to this one, and a register wouldn't likely last very long.

Peak 5,942ft

This one is only a mile north of the previous peak, and we briefly considered simply continuing our hike to tag it before returning (which is just what Kerry had done on his visit). But we noticed additional roads that looked to make things easier, so we returned to the Jeep and headed off to find the easier route. We did not find it. In hindsight, I think driving to the Monarch Mine (but not by our route) on the west side of the peak would offer the easiest ascent. We drove around the east side of Peak 6,082ft and found ourselves driving through a private inholding signed for City of Refuge. Neatly manicured buildings had the look of a cult about it and we were a bit nervous that someone was going to produce a firearm to procure our hasty departure. But no one came out of the 5-6 buildings we drove by, and we exited via a wire gate to the west that took us on a utility road that follows the creek between the two peaks. This poorly maintained road past the City of Refuge was badly overgrown and got progressively worse the more we drove along it. We were trying to drive through the gap to reach the Monarch Mine, but eventually stopped when it seemed the road had not been driven by anything as wide as a Jeep in a long time. We returned to a junction with a motorcycle trail between the two peaks and decided to climb the peak from there. The crux of the day was soon encountered, with a very nasty bushwhack and creek-crossing combo that had us cursing and laughing at the same time. We crawled over weak branches that threatened to give way to the unseen abyss below, and generally made a mess of things. If we had simply followed the motorcycle track to where it joined the BLM road on the other side, we'd have had an easy time, but it was a quarter mile out of our way and we didn't want to be bothered. Oh well, sometimes that's how it goes. Once across the creek and brush, it was an easy climb to the summit in less than half a mile, made easier by an old Jeep track running partway up the South Slope. The summit was much like the previous one, rather bland, weak views, and no register. This one was a bit more work than the last, so we left a register before heading back down. On our return, we did a better job of finding a less harrowing way across the brushy part, crossed the creek on some stones, and got back to the Jeep not long after 3p. Phew - time for beers. We had a bit more nervousness driving back through the City of Refuge, happy to once again escape unmolested. Later, I found online that the City of Refuge is a Christian-based ranch for pregnant women to quietly stay until term, away from judging neighbors, friends and family. Counseling on motherhood, adoption, bible study, prayer, housing and food are all provided at no charge, paid by generous donors. Not so scary anymore.

Wild Oat Mountain

Calling it a day, we intended to have dinner in Garnerville at a place Kristine recommended, but found it closed on Sunday. We ended up driving south on US395 to the Topaz Lodge overlooking Topaz Lake, near Kristine's home. Afterwards we did the drive-up to Wild Oat Mountain just north of the lake and lodge. Kristine had been up it once before, but joined me for a bit of stat-padding. There are two summits to this one, and it is easy to assume the western one with the telecom installation is the highest. Knowing this to be false, we bypassed the west summit and drove to the top of the east summit where the road ends amidst a rubbly field of rocks. There are several survey markers, interestingly all placed by the state of California. Views are pretty neat, particularly overlooking Topaz Lake (but sadly, the one I took was out of focus). After driving back down, Kristine returned to her car and then to her home while I drove south to Coleville, near where we planned to hike the next day. I found a nice place to spend the night in Little Antelope Valley, far from highway sounds and lights - very quiet...


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