McCullough Mountain, Spirit Mountain
By: John Cheslick, Charlie Knapke
I was a little worried about this trip once I read the guidebook and heard the stories about McCullough. Yes I was told route-finding may be a challenge but I wasn't worried. I had a guidebook, I am a fairly good navigator and Charlie had already climbed this peak.
Saturday morning the group meet off the side of Nipton Road. We consisted of a group of 7 hikers. (Randy Ragland, Pete Yamagata, Duke Blakesley and his wife who stayed behind at the trailhead, Brian Smith, Delores Holladay and Charlie and me.) We even got an earlier than planned start and left for the McCullough trailhead. Charlie and I had carpooled up together and Charlie had brought along the new provisional write-up published in the SAGE. We also had the second and third edition write-ups for the peak. We followed the provisional write-up and the last couple of sentences for the driving instructions says something like "turn left on a fair dirt road and go to a fork and turn RIGHT. The third edition says ... bearing LEFT at all forks. Well to make a long story short we tried all three write-ups and none of them seemed right. Charlie had been up here many years ago and couldn't remember which way he went. Charlie and I then decided to try the approach (Route B) from State Line, I mean Primm, NV. All the driving around we did wasn't in vain as some of us managed to see a herd of bighorn sheep on one of our many drives.
The group consolidated further into two 4WD vehicles and proceeded to Primm. We encountered more problems with the guides. It seems Primm has been built up some since the guide was written and some of the roads have been changed/built. Anyway we found the route up Beer Bottle Pass with no problem and the road was very well graded. We followed the Microwave road and then we started looking for the faint dirt road by the corrals. We found this road that we then needed to follow for over five miles. This road is a mess! It is sandy, wide and "speed bumps" about every 30 yards almost 4 feet high. The road was like this for almost the entire 5 miles. Charlie thought there had been some off-road races here and that is why the road was so bad. After driving on this road, the final sandy road didn't seem sandy or loose. We finally reached our trailhead at noon. This was over 4 hours after we meet and we still hadn't hiked any. I was ready to change this to a Backroads Explorer trip.
The hike up McCullough from this side is very easy. It took us 1-1/2 hours up and 1 hour down. Then it was off to Searchlight for dinner. By the way, the trick to finding the dirt road up Beer Bottle Pass is after you go down the exit ramp at Primm turn right, go .3 mile then turn left (behind Buffalo Bills) go .2 mi to a parking lot, go through the parking lot looking for a dirt road, take this road .6 mi where it merges with another dirt road, bear right and take this road .9 mi to the railroad tracks. From here follow the original write-up. In case the roads change again, I would look ,for the railroad track G, crossing and once you find it you are on route.
Saturday night we camped at one of the turn outs right before Christmas Tree Pass. Sunday it was cool and windy. We left at 7:45 and Charlie lead the group up the peak. Spirit is a nice little peak, not very far in and not much gain but a great view of Laughlin and the Colorado River. Also there is a nice rocky summit with a bit of scrambling along the way. We tried to find a sheltered spot near the summit, then swapped stories for a while and headed back to the cars.
It took us 2.25 hours to reach the summit and approx. l.5 hours to return. All in all a pleasant weekend looking for an elusive McCullough Trailhead.
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