Mt. Stocker P500 RS
Nelson BM P300 RS
Mt. Duncan RS
Nelson Peak RS
Eagle Peak P300 RS
Little Hands Peak P300 RS
Aztec Mountain P500 RS

Feb 23, 2022
Eagle Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2


This was an iffy weather day across the Mojave Desert. It was cold, windy, and threatening snow and rain across the region, but somehow I got lucky with only a few drops and flurries. I was back in the Eldorado Mountains of Clark County for some peaks around the small town of Nelson. The first four had been part of plans, but the last three were arranged on the fly while I was in Nelson. All of the peaks can be found in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles, and most of the names appear to be of his own invention. Some are named for nearby features, but others are unexplained and left to the imagination.

Mt. Stocker - Nelson BM

I had originally planned to do these two summits 12 days earlier in conjunction with three others just to the north, but I ran out of time. Today I started from the Eldorado Trailhead off SR165, west of Mt. Stocker. The trailhead is shown on Google Maps, but there is no signage on the highway, just a small turnout for a half dozen cars. A rough dirt road can driven a short distance further, but beyond that is just an unsigned trail in good condition. The Bridge Spring Trail takes one east across a volcanic landscape for about 2/3 of a mile to Bridge Spring where there is a natural arch bridging the start of a canyon just before it begins a steep descent to Techatticup Wash. I walked under the arch to get photos from both sides before climbing over the arch on my way out of the canyon and on to Mt. Stocker. A rough use trail (possible a game trail) takes one to the canyon's north edge before disappearing. From there, it's a short cross-country ramble to the base of Mt. Stocker with its imposing West Face. The ridgetop is highly castellated, so it seemed to make sense to find a route that goes as directly to the highpoint as possible. I found this just to the right of the highpoint (a GPSr is helpful here) up a class 2 gully. Some easy class 3 at the end gets one over the crest to the east side where travel is easier. The summit area is fine volcanic scrambling terrain, but limited. I was atop Mt. Stocker by 8:20, an hour after starting out. Like many of the summits in the range, there is a fine view of the Colorado River, though a bit washed out in the early morning sun to the east. A register was left by Kevin Humes in 2019.

After a short stay due to wind and cold, I headed back down, working my way to Neslon BM next. I returned via the same route to the arch at Bridge Spring, then spent another 35min to reach Nelson. Concerned about difficulties along the ridge, I traversed below it on the west side, across a crumbly ramp that wasn't much fun, but not difficult. On the return, I found the east side worked much better. At the highpoint I found no benchmark and no register. The topo map shows the benchmark to the northeast, I believe atop the large block visible in the foreground looking at Mt. Stocker. I left a register at the highpoint because Kevin had failed in his usual duties - hard to get good help these days. I returned to the trail and then the Jeep in about 30min, finishing up shortly after 10a.

Mt. Duncan

This summit is located just south of the Nelson Ghost Town. I parked just west of the ghost town and went up from there. The summit has little prominence and hardly deserving of the term "Mount", but it does have a short bit of rocky scrambling at the end and a few deep mine shafts from days of old, completely unprotected, making one pause. There's also a huge amount of cholla on some of the slopes to get there - pick your route wisely to avoid the brunt of it. The summit offers views of the ghost town, some other odd features, and a collection of remote homesteads. Kevin had left a register here a year earlier.

Nelson Peak

Nelson Peak is found just east of the ghost town. It stands alone on the north side of Techatticup Wash and the highway. You can start from the pavement or get a bit closer on a dirt road on the southwest side. The peak is basically a pile of rubble, one would have to look hard to find decent scrambling. I went up one route and down a slightly more diffcult one, both on the west side. Kevin and his LVMC team had left a register here in 2019.

About the ghost town: It covers a lot of acreage and includes a number of old buildings that once made up the town of Nelson (the current town residents now live a mile to the west). Over the years, many curiosities have been added to the site, including dozens of vehicles, airplane wreckage, old farm equipment and the like, making it look nothing like your typical ghost town. I found it rather kitschy, and worse, you have to pay to park and take pictures. I have no idea what the price is, but it seemed way overboard. I took a handful of pictures from the road as I drove by and called it good.

Eagle Peak - Little Hands Peak - Aztec Mtn

This was the best outing of the day and it hadn't even been planned. After finishing Nelson Peak, I noted there was a network of dirt roads on the south side of town that I could use to visit a few more summits from Purcell's book. While my route is probably the easiest way to Eagle Peak, the other two are more easily accessed by the much better dirt powerline road that goes over the range from the west, just north of the Ireteba Peaks Wilderness boundary. I combined the three in a 6mi loop with about 2,400ft of gain. Stav and Adam did even larger loops including some unnamed summits from the same direction, but again, probably not the most efficient. The roads I drove were very good to start, any vehicle could navigate them. The final spur I drove to a saddle northwest of Eagle Peak was narrow and more suited for ATVs. Lots of pinstriping on that section. Beyond the saddle, the route becomes a motorcycle track that connects with the powerline road further south.

Starting just after noon, I first descended a gully to a wash system (a branch of the Eagle Wash) that flows along the north side of Eagle Peak. Little Hands and Aztec are prominent to the south during the descent, but they would have to wait until later. I descended the wash until I was on the northwest side of the summit and could most easily access the North Ridge which I used for the ascent. Class 2 hiking and scrambling then leads to the summit. Kevin had left a register here in 2021, with a few other entries in the interim, all the names from the usual suspects. The summit offers a fine view of Little Hands and Aztec, along with the realization that there was no easy traverse from Eagle Peak - I would have to descend all the way down to Aztec Wash (undoubtedly what inspired Purcell to name Aztec Mtn, though Little Hands remains a mystery) first. There was a not-so-bad cholla forest on the slopes down from Eagle Peak to work through, then down one branch of Aztec Wash and up another before starting the climb out. The weather was beginning to threaten more closely now and after feeling a few raindrops I put on my rain jacket. The threat didn't last long, though I could see precipitation falling on either side of me in the distance. I put the jacket away not long after I'd put it on. I climbed onto the the powerline road and followed it a short distance before working my way up the North Ridge of Little Hands Peak. The peak gets blocky near the summit, with large, rounded granite blocks and boulders that made for some decent scrambling. There are two summits to the peak, and naturally I climbed the lower northern one first before discovering the higher southern summit behind it. Luckily, they were only a few minutes apart, and I reached the highpoint around 2:15p, about an hour and three quarters after leaving Eagle's summit. This time, Paul Raimoni had left the register a year earlier. The names coincided with those found on Eagle Peak. Kevin was a little late getting to this one - he didn't visit until about two weeks before me.

Aztec Mtn is a few hundred feet higher than Little Hands, similarly composed of rounded, granite blocks, but easier. Getting between the two is made easier by a high saddle with a drop of about 300ft to reach it from Little Hands. I spent about 45min on the traverse, favoring the north side of Aztec's East Ridge and reaching Aztec's summit by 3p. Kevin had left a register here a month earlier. With the weather continuing to threaten, I made haste down the NW Ridge and then down a gully to the northeast to reach the powerline road where it crosses Aztec Wash. Here I found all the way back to the Jeep, saving me some effort in avoiding the cholla and working out the route on my own. It would be after 4p before I got back to the Jeep, the most threatening weather now to the north over Mt. Stocker and Nelson BM.

I spent the next 30min driving the various roads back out to Nelson, then a similar time to reach US95. I found a place just off the highway to take a shower (brrr, in the cold wind) before continuing south to Searchlight where I had dinner and wifi at the McD's there. I fueled up before leaving town well after dark, the drove into California. I had planned to drive to Essex but was much too tired - I would do that last hour in the morning. Instead, I found a dirt road off US95 and drove about a mile west to get away from the highway noise. Off to sleep...


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