Tortoise Foot Hill P300 RS
Bad Hill P300 RS
Peak 4,292ft P750
Peak 3,934ft P300
Peak 4,027ft P300
Peak 4,060ft P500
Hole BM P300
Peak 4,380ft P500

Nov 9, 2021

With: Tom Grundy

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profiles: 1 2


Tom and I were camped on the Jean Dry Lake Bed, northeast of Jean, NV. The site is semi-popular with the OHV folks, though there were only a few others sharing it with us on a weekday in November. We were here to visit a collection of summits in the McCullough Range south of Las Vegas. Adam Walker had done these eight summits earlier in the year in a large loop that must have occupied him for all the available daylight and then some. We would use the Jeep to make an easier day, especially for the last two summits where the Jeep really helped. The weather today was overcast with strong winds, temperatures on the cool side, but we were still in t-shirts all day.

Tortoise Foot Hill - Bad Hill

These two summits are found in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles, which is why I chose this area. We parked off the 4WD road that goes up the gravel wash between the two peaks and hiked them in turn - 20min to the top of Tortoise Foot, 50min between summits, 20min for the return. Both summits are volcanic in nature with dark, desert varnished rock and boulders ubiquitous throughout the area. Both were named by Purcell - one for the remains of a tortoise carcass he found on the peak, the other for words scratched into a boulder near the top.

Peak 4,292ft - Peak 3,934ft - Peak 4,027ft - Peak 4,060ft

These four summits are found east of the first two. We drove a mile further up the wash before parking below a saddle, north of Peak 4,060ft. We would hike to the four peaks in a large square in a six mile loop. In the middle of our loop is an active quarry that we could see for much of the outing, a few trucks coming and going, but not a lot of activity. We started by hiking northeast along the road, leaving it to head east towards Peak 4,292ft, crossing the paved quarry road on the way. Peak 4,292ft has more than 800ft of prominence and lies roughly midway along the range's length. We ascended the West Face to reach the summit in an hour's time. We left a register here before continuing off the south side of the peak. The peak is ringed with cliffs on this side, as we found the first scrambling of the day with a few class 3 sections to downclimb. After descending the first of these, we found harder cliffs below, so moved onto a broad ledge on the west side hoping for an exit. More cliffs were found, but there was a neat, convenient exit through the band that saved us considerable backtracking. We then descended more typical class 2 terrain, around Pt. 3,881ft on its east side, then down to the wash north of Peak 3,934ft.

Upon crossing the wash, we immediately began the climb up to Peak 3,934ft from the north, noting a ring of cliffs about the very top. Formidible-looking from a distance, it proved to have several challenging class 3 options through the cliff. We went up the first one we encountered, after which it's 3-4 minutes to the highpoint. We hung around a bit, per usual, then went to descend, intending to take the same route. I was partway down a different way just to the east before I realized it wasn't our ascent route. It worked anyway, about the same difficulty as the ascent route. We then traversed around the base of the cliff to retrieve my poles I'd left there, then went off the west side. The rest of the outing was all class 2, about 40min to go up and over Peak 4,027ft, then another hour north to Peak 4,060ft. This last peak has a large summit plateau, the highpoint somewhere at the western end, not very satisfying as a peak. Our route back to the Jeep was fairly short, about 35min descending the North Ridge to where we had parked. Not yet 2p, we decided to add the last two peaks which I didn't expect we'd have time for today.

Hole BM

The last two peaks are found south of the previous group. They command an orthogonal ridge that separates two passes over the range, over which travel numerous transmission towers originating at Hoover Dam and delivering electric power to California. Service roads go over both passes, along the routes of the power lines. We had to drive back out to the edge of Jean Dry Lake and around Bad Hill to access the road going over the lower pass north of these peaks. From Peak 3,934ft, we had seen spur roads climbing high on both peaks and expected we could drive within a few hundred yards of Hole BM on the north side. We ended up only getting within about 0.4mi due to a pile of rock deliberately placed across the road to bar access further up. We parked near a transmission tower and hiked up to the higher tower we'd hoped to park at, then further to the summit, about 20min all told. We found the remains of the survey tower in a cairn, under which presumeably could be found the benchmark. We left a register before descending, using a slightly more direct route to return to the Jeep by 3:30p.

Peak 4,380ft

More driving took us up a rough spur road to a tower perched on Peak 4,380ft's North Ridge - we found no rock piles blocking the road, but it was much rougher than the previous one. From here, we had only a few hundred feet of elevation gain over the course of about half a mile along the North Ridge. There is a survey point found at the north end of the summit ridge (though oddly, no spot elevation reported here on the topo map), but the highpoint is found at the southern end, another 6-7min of easy walking. It was now 4:20p, only a few minutes before sunset. We were treated to some nice sky artistry as we headed back down, the overhead clouds taking on various hues of color with the setting sun. It would be quite dark before we managed to get back to our camp on Jean Dry Lake, leaving us one last puzzle - finding where we'd left Tom's truck. We hadn't saved any waypoints as to the location, thinking we'd be back in daylight when it would be easy to spot. We did, of course, eventually locate it, saving Tom the bother of sleeping rough outside in the cold...


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