Sylvania Mountain P1K DS / DPG
Peak 7,989ft
Sylvania Mountains Wilderness HP
Red Mountain P300 DS / DPG

Wed, May 24, 2017
Red Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


I spent the night camped at Westgard Summit on the dividing line between the Inyo and White Mountains. I had hoped that the 7,400-foot elevation would leave cool temps overnight, and indeed it was already 56F when I pulled over to sleep around 10:30p.But by morning it had warmed to 65F even before the sun came up - it would be a warm one today. I planned to hike in the Sylvania Mountains which straddle the CA/NV border at the far south end of Fish Lake Valley. I was after the range highpoint which fell in Nevada as well as the Wilderness HP which is located in California. Following that outing I drove north to tackle Red Mountain west of Dyer in the foothills of the White Mtns. The combination would easily fill up the day since I didn't get an early start as I had the previous day. It was plenty - I was knackered by the time I was done.

Sylvania Mountains

The hardest part of this outing was driving the van 10mi from NV SR266, heading up Sylvania Canyon to the ghost town and then higher to where the road tops out. For the most part, the road was in decent shape but I had to get out about a dozen times to move large rocks that had fallen onto the road. It was slow going as the road essentially goes right up the gravel wash for much of the distance. How they keep it maintained in the face of flash floods is impressive. Because of the long, slow drive, I didn't get started on the hike until 8:30a, a bit late as it was already getting warm, in the low 70s. The hike basically follows a series of high ridgelines connecting the road to the highpoints found off different ridges on either side of the impressive Cliff Canyon. The hiking totaled about 8mi, all cross-country. The brush is minimal, but the ground can be loose in places and the ridges seem to be a series of ups and downs, one after the other. It took just over an hour to traverse out to the range highpoint, covering about 2mi. An old register was found in a broken glass jar, exposed to the weather, half of it chewed up by rodents for nesting purposes. There wasn't a single entry on the remaining pages - seems the mouse took the more interesting pages back to the nest. Death Valley can be see far to the south, stretching out for more than 60mi. Portions of the Panamints, Grapevine and Last Chance Ranges can be seen on either side. To the west the Sierra Nevada forms a backdrop behind the Inyo Mtns. To the east are the higher Nevada peaks of Blue Dick, Palmetto, and Magruder.

I reversed course and followed my route back about half the distance before forking left to follow around the northwest side of Cliff Canyon. Much of the route I followed was right along the edge of this canyon with very steep dropoffs on that side, making for fine views. Before heading to the Wilderness HP, I paid a side visit to Peak 7,989ft, just inside the NV border. Higher than the Wilderness HP, it has sufficient prominence to qualify as a bonus peak. No register was found here. I then continued on the ridgeline, passing by State Boundary Monument #79 shortly before reaching the Wilderness HP half a mile from the bonus peak. Dan Baxter had left a register in 2016 and already there were five visitors over the next year - more popular than I would have guessed. On the return I bypassed the bonus peak, easily done in the high basin area to the north of it, finally getting myself back to the van shortly before 1p.

Red Mountain

I had originally planned to do Blue Dick Peak after the Sylvania Mtns, but I wasn't up for the 8mi approach, much of which would have to be done on the bike or walking. Instead, I headed north towards Dyer, figuring a 3mi outing to Red Mountain would be easier. My lunch before heading off consisted of vienna sausages, plantain chips and soda. Mmmmm. I spent almost an hour and a half driving though the mileage was only 30mi. I really need to get a high clearance vehicle. Near Dyer off SR264, I followed a dirt road heading west towards McAfee Creek, stopping about a mile short of the canyon's mouth where the only tree on the landscape can be found. The creek has been engineered for irrigation of the nearby farms. Where I parked is some sort of overflow pond, though it wasn't clear where the overflowing water was going - it was dry as a bone outside the pond, but one could clearly see water coming up from the irrigation pipe. It was almost 2:30p and 87F out when I started hiking - this did not bode well.

I hiked up the continuing road, too rough for low clearance driving, following it for about a mile past the mouth of the canyon to its end. A weak trail continues on, but it soon ends where the hillside has been washed away in a landslide from the creek below. I had hoped to continue on another quarter mile before starting up Red Mtn's NE Ridge, but I could not easily get there and besides, the lower part of the ridge looked very steep and difficult. As I started up from the washed out hillside, I very quickly learned that this is not a very fun mountain. The slopes are incredibly steep and loose and with the heat of the afternoon I was struggling. The route climbed 2,000ft in less than a mile before relenting some when I reached a false summit - the true summit was still more than half a mile behind this first one. With a 200ft+ drop between them, I had one last steep climb before reaching the summit ridgeline, the highpoint about a quarter mile of easy hiking after the steep grade. It had taken almost 2.5hrs to go about 3mi, most of that spent on those last two miles - ugh. With more than 400ft of prominence, the views are quite good. Looking west, one can see the far higher reaches of the range, white with an abundance of snow - and it's almost June. To the east spreads out Fish Lake Valley, more than 40mi in length, sandwiched between the White Mountains and the Silver Peak Range. I rested here a bit, emptying my shoes and drinking much of the remaining Gatorade I carried. Finding no register, I left one in a small cairn before starting down. The return would go much quicker, following a better descent ridgeline than the one I'd used for the ascent. It would be 6:45p before I returned - this one had more than 3,000ft of gain, far more than I had suspected when I had taken a cursory look while eating lunch.

After showering, I drove back out to the highway, then north to Dyer with the hopes of getting a cold drink from the market there. Seems they close at 7p on weekdays - I missed it by 15min. I drove a few miles further north on the highway before turning west onto the dirt road heading up Leidy Canyon. More than 4mi of sometimes rough road (lots of stopping to remove large rocks), got me a little frazzled to the end of the road where there is a large campsite atop a small dam here. I planned to hike Pinyon Mountain in the morning - at least I wouldn't have to do any more driving before starting my hike the next day...


Skip in Carson City comments on 06/02/17:
Bob... I'm kinda shocked after all this time, you haven't traded in that van for something with higher clearance....
Surprises me, too.
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