McCullough Mountain, Spirit Mountain
By: Igor and Suzanne Mamedalin
With 96 desert summits behind us, Suzanne and I were ready to celebrate the completion of the desert list by summiting on the magic 97th desert summit, McCullough Mtn. It has taken us longer to complete the list, but we have enjoyed it! Suzanne started climbing desert peaks with the DPS eleven years ago; I started fourteen years ago. Some desert summits we have climbed four or five times; others, like McCullough, have been attempted several times before they succumbed to our persistence. We have also climbed plenty of unlisted desert peaks; explored 'peakless' desert landscapes and lobbied to expand the desert peak list. The point being: we've enjoyed the desert, peak list aside. But, when it came to climb our 97th peak, we were also happy to celebrate the occasion with all of our desert loving friends!
We arrived at Stateline, NV before the scheduled 9 AM meeting with Dan Richter who had just completed a climb of snow covered Sterling by moonlight. We went to the newest attraction at Stateline for breakfast (Wild Bill's or was it Buffalo Bill's?). There we met half of our friends already busy plundering the breakfast buffet (the other half chose to feast at the Prima Donna). After adequately stuffing ourselves for the arduous climb, we gathered in the parking lot to consolidate into 4WD vehicles for the journey to the McCullough roadend. Stateline is rapidly growing; so, our first obstacle was to transition from a paved road onto a desert road by driving over a 45 degree berm erected by the construction crew. Following directions for Route B in the Road and Peak Guide, 3rd Edition we caravaned first on a power line road and then along a long sandy wash to Railroad Spring. The guide's directions were accurate to 1/10th of a mile!
Nevertheless, desert travel with a long string of cars took a long time. We did not start hiking for the summit until after 11:00. Forty-eight people started for McCullough. The fearless leader and soon to be list finisher, anxious not to miss this peak for the 3rd time, marched the group up the wrong ridge only to be persuaded into dropping back down into the right canyon. False start .. but, while waiting for the tail to catch up, many people took the opportunity, to brush up on their bouldering skills. Finally, heading up the correct canyon and onto the correct ridge forty seven jabbering climbers summited on McCullough after 2:00 PM. After toasting Suzanne's and mine list finishing accomplishment with champagne, everyone headed back to the cars with the objective of getting off the 4WD roads before dark. Almost! We did witness a beautiful full moon rise as we were completing the last stretch of the road on the way back to Stateline.
In the interest of getting to camp early, we decided to skip the promised Ferris wheel ride (although Bruce and Terry Turner managed to sneak in a ride on the fabulous Wild Bill's roller coaster). From Stateline we followed the railroad tracks for approximately 5 miles to a small 2 house town called 'Desert' and camped on its outskirts. Some people left for other destinations that night while others joined us to continue celebrating with a fabulous pot luck dinner and a roaring campfire. Around the campfire, everyone was asked to recount their 'first' desert peak experience; there were many wild and unusual stories, but the leadership of Ron Jones figured into majority of these 'first' experiences.
Sunday morning, after a Pepto-Bismal pancake, the group intent on climbing Spirit dwindled to nine participants. The remaining troupe headed through Nipton and Searchlight to Christmas Tree Pass. Parking short of the correct dirt track we contoured Spirit's flank until reaching a well ducked route to the summit. Suzanne and I first climbed this peak ten years ago and to us it was like a brand new peak .. we did not remember anything about the route from the first experience! The view from the top is respectable. After returning to the cars we celebrated some more with additional bottles of champagne before heading home. On the way home, before hitting pavement, Dr. J. Holshuh had the unfortunate experience of blowing a tire off the wheel rim of his truck. After switching in a spare everyone continued on home safely.
We had a good dog turn out for our list finisher, besides our Comet, Adrian showed up with Luke, the Achesons were accompanied by Gozer, and the McCully's had Chessie. Gozer proved to be a very quick and clever dog by snatching a sandwich out of John's hand.
We thank everyone who was there to help us celebrate this achievement. Preserve and enjoy the desert .. it's a vanishing resource.
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