Piute Point RS
Piute Point HP RS
Sitting Monkey P300 RS
Jalapeno Tower
Boneyard Peak RS

Wed, Jan 23, 2019

With: Steve Sywyk
Eric Smith

Piute Point
Piute Point HP
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2


This was the first of three days in Valley of Fire State Park, NV. I was camped outside the park with two old pals I've known since 1985 when, out of school, we started at the same semiconductor company in Silicon Valley. Eric and Steve aren't as obsessed as I am about hiking and peakbagging, so in order to get in a bit of exercise before we headed to Valley of Fire, I was up early get in a hike to nearby Piute Point. Afterwards, we drove into the park where we spent the day exploring some new places I hadn't been to.

Piute Point / Piute Point HP

A bit to my surprise, Eric and Leroy were up early to join me on this one while Steve was still sleeping in his van nearby. We took the jeep just down the road a short distance and parked on the northwest side of these two easy summits. Our hike up these limestone features followed the NW Ridge for 1/3mi to the first point and another half mile to the higher point. Some bighorn sheep on the ridge spotted us shortly after we'd started out, quickly sizing us up before taking off for parts unknown - all before Leroy had even a chance to see them. We sauntered up the easy ridgeline with the new morning sun shining brightly from the east. We found nothing of much interest at the first summit, but the higher one had a neat little arch not far from the summit that we passed under (Leroy found his way over the arch). We spent about 50min to reach the second summit and our turnaround point. Leroy gulped down a healthy amount of water Eric had carried up for him while we rested a bit at the summit. The two points are the northernmost summits in the Muddy Mountains (not to be confused with the North Muddy Mtns on the north side of Valley of Fire Hwy), overlooking the western entrance to the park and the vast stretch of desert flatlands outside the park to the west. Our return route was slightly longer, taking a detour down a side wash as a way to add something different to the route. We finished up just after 8:30a, then drove back to get Steve and head to Valley of Fire.

Sitting Monkey / Jalapeno Tower / Boneyard Peak

It took some time before we were ready to head out, then more time in the park to unload trash and fill up on water at the RV dump station. After this we stopped at nearby Atalac Rock to check out the petrogyphs found there. The old stone steps that lead up to the petroglyph wall have been replaced by a more modern steel staircase. Sadly, there are a number of non-natives who have taken to scratching their names and other crap on the same wall. It probably would have been better if neither set of stairs had been built.

We next drove out towards White Domes where we parked at a junction with a dirt road no longer open to vehicle traffic. It was nearly 10:45a before had gotten started on the hike - thank goodness for the earlier hike or I might have been beside myself for such a late start. We headed north along the road, aiming for Sitting Monkey, an informally named summit that appears in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles (as did the two summits we did earlier). We followed the old road for about a mile (interestingly, though the road is washed out not far from the southern start, judging from semi-recent tracks, it looks like one can drive into the area from the north), then left it to head northwest towards Sitting Monkey. We found a south-facing, class 3 gully that led nicely up to the shoulder on the east side of the summit. With only minor trouble, Leroy was able to find his way up, sometimes finding better alternatives when the path the humans were following looked too hard. From the shoulder, the final pitch to the summit is a little daunting, class 4 on the left where Steve and I went up, class 3+ to the right where Eric and Leroy (with a little push) ascended. It was just before noon when we reached the wide, open summit with fine views in all directions. We spent about 15min there, leaving a new register when we found none. I was a bit concerned about Leroy getting back down to the east shoulder, but he managed it with a deft jump that required no help from the rest of us. Before returning back down the south-facing gully, we went down the north side a short distance to investigate a bighorn skeleton that we'd spotted earlier. The ram's horns were still connected to the skull, with the jaw and other bones scattered about nearby. How he came to his present location was a mystery, but a fall seems most likely. These rocks can be dangerous even to the native inhabitants.

After descending back down the ascent gully, we continued southwest towards Boneyard Peak, another Purcell summit, about a mile in that direction. An interesting 40-foot tower caught my attention and I walked over to check it out, wondering if it could be climbed from the north-facing arete that I was looking at. It could, I found, roughly class 3-4 with a crux-y move near the start where a rusty piton has been drilled/hammered into the sandstone. There were more pitons and some rap chains found higher up, and a register in a PVC tube found at the summit describing it as Jalapeno Tower. The large notebook had two pages of entries dating to 2007, though the last entry was already 7yrs old. Steve joined me on this one, Eric and Leroy choosing to sit out. After returning to the ground, we found Eric sitting with Leroy about 100yds away next to a sandstone wall. He had made a petroglyph "discovery", the first time he'd stumbled upon such a scene without knowing about it beforehand - neat little find, though surely the park personnel already know about it. He had also used the break as an opportunity to smoke a bit of spliff he'd brought with him, so when it was time to continue on to Boneyard, he decided to head back to the car in a more relaxed fashion with Leroy.

In hindsight it was an excellent choice because the route Steve and I ended up on would have been far too difficult for them. Our approach from the northeast took us up a narrow canyon that had some loose and scary class 4 scrambling at its head that had me more than a little nervous. Steve managed this section after watching me go up it, but it was not pretty nor reassuring. On easier ground above, we continued around to the southeast side of the summit where a natural courtyard is found. The only viable route up I could find was class 3-4 with exposure. The sandstone was covered in marble-sized nodules, many of which could break off with modest pressure. I gingerly went up this, Steve following, until he got to the crux. He was hampered by a bad leg that wouldn't allow him to bend it easily nor put much pressure on it, and I watched as he made a few flailing moves to overcome the crux. Concerned that he didn't have the sense to know when to back off, I finally spoke up - "Steve, you're scaring the shit out of me." He paused a moment before replying, "I'm stopping here," and I was happy he took the not-so-subtle hint without protest. While he took his time scrambling back down to the courtyard, I finished the route up to the summit of Boneyard, left another register and returned back to Steve in about 20min. His efforts had not gotten him to he summit, but they had done a number on his pants which had been shredded beyond saving during the less-than-graceful decent.

Rather than return northeast through the first class 4 crux section, we exited the courtyard to the south, a safer class 3 route that featured a few tunnels and some twisting, maze-like washes before reaching more open ground to the east - a far safer route. From there, we headed southeast though a wash system towards White Domes, eventually reaching the park trail that circles the domes. Once back in the parking lot, we found Eric and Leroy (Eric had moved the vehicle there and explored the trail while we were doing Boneyard) relaxing in the van. It was close to 4p by this time as we called it a day and headed back out of the park. After dinner that evening we enjoyed a campfire made possible with a small box of wood Eric had brought with him from New Mexico. It was nice to have something to warm our feet from the nighttime cold - better than huddling in the van like we'd done the previous night...


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