Bridge Mountain, Wilson Peak (Nevada)

13-Jun-98 (Private Trip)

By: Mark Adrian


After hearing and reading discouraging deep-snow reports in the Sierra, we quickly decided to regroup and form a contingent plan based on the much-talked-about Bridge Mountain about twenty miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada. Rumors of "the peak is very similar to South Guardian Angel" and "this peak should be on the list" provided more than enough inspiration for a visit, despite the lateness of the season. The peak is just barely 7,000' in elevation, but relatively cool temperatures in Las Vegas soothed our anxiety. So, late Friday a afternoon, myself, Terry Flood and Carol Snyder headed out east on 115 and camped near Zzyzx Road.

Saturday morning, we continued east on I-15 at a casual pace, recalling our ascents of the many DPS peaks to be seen as you speed along the Interstate.

Between Charleston and Potosi, Bridge Mountain is located in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area west of Las Vegas. The Red Rock area is unique in that it is a colorful protrusion of sandstone through the "hosting" limestone of the Spring Mountains (Charleston, Mummy and Potosi). This area of sandstone is known as the Keystone Thrust and does indeed resemble the domes and canyons seen in Zion and in particular, North and South Guardian Angel.

Our visit at Red Rock Canyon began with a stop at the visitor center where we purchased some 7.5' maps, looked at the many displays and inquired about road and trail conditions. However, the ranger there knew virtually nothing about the roads or trails we wanted to use. Nonetheless, we had a writeup on the peak and that was sufficient combined with the 7.5' map.

To access/use the visitor center and the approach road (from the east, we didn't explore the western approach but were told it's "no worse" than the eastern drive in) you'll need to pay a $5.00 per car entrance fee. The drive in (details below) demands high-clearance 4WD and some steady nerves at times since there are several bad spots along the five miles of otherwise good dirt road.

The hike begins (assuming you drive that far) at Red Rock Summit, in a sparse juniper forest along at first what must have been an old road that eventually transitions into a good use trail. We saw NO "Official" trail signs in the area. After about a mile or so of uphill hiking, you crest out on the Escarpment (use) Trail and the views east toward Bridge Mtn. are stunning. Furthermore, you can see most of the route up the western "face" and from this vantage it looks technical, to say the least. However, fear not, the route goes a modest class three with some exposure. Some climbers may want a rope and we took a short 7mm but never used it. Also, some may feel more comfortable on the summit's sandstone with rock climbing shoes as did Carol, since her lite boots lacked deep lugs.

From the Escarpment Trail, the route drops and crosses over the Thrust's boundary with its limestone "neighbor" in a very pronounced margin. We stopped to admire a very tame collared lizard at this juncture. The scenery in here is breathtaking as are the precipitous cliff drops into the canyons below. We were also treated to cool splashes by the many residual pools from recent rains. Fortunately, the sandstone we were hiking on was dry; if wet, traction would be a major concern. Continuing on, following charcoal colored markings that resemble "=" signs that have been "painted" on the sandstone, we dropped on to the "bridge" that connects the peak's massif with the abutting limestone. The bridge drops off radically to both sides but is plenty wide for a convenient lunch stop. Again, more stunning views of the water-streaked white, tan, purple and orange sandstone canyon walls had us in awe.

Once across the bridge, the real fun begins with a 100' class three "joint" (crack). From a distance, this pitch looks near vertical, but up close, it is tilted quite a bit and has many good foot and hand holds and goes class three. Terry led the way, me next, then Carol. Occasionally, we had to grope around to ascend as our daypacks would get stuck in the narrow crack. There are adequate holds but sometimes you need to be a contortionist to wiggle through/ up. Eventually, you top out on a ledge, round a corner and come face to face with a spectacular 30 foot arch, just beyond which is an enclosed pool surrounded by walls of sandstone. The architects of Vegas couldn't improve upon this one-of-a-kind setting. Walking through the arch, then along the northern edge of the pool, you'll come to a steep friction climb/slab that takes you up to a "hidden forest". Alternatively, it looked like you could walk/climb over the arch to get to the top of the friction slab. At this point, if you walk north perhaps 50 or 100 feet, you'll see another dramatic pool/basin below the platform you're standing on. From here, the final "pitch" of the climb is in clear, if not imposing, view. From the southern end of this small "hidden forest", you diagonal left/northeast about 250' up a steep and exposed sandstone dome which is the summit. Good friction is required here and some may feel uneasy about the "rolling" exposure to the north. We felt it looked worse than it really was. As always, stay focused and deliberate and you should be OK. In a couple of spots, we were on our hands and knees (like North Guardian's slime traverse) and there are few places, if any, to establish an anchor if one is needed. The summit has plenty of room and a spectacular view of the area including the sprawling Las Vegas valley to the east. To the immediate south is Rainbow Peak and Wilson Peak even further south is a regional highpoint which we climbed Sunday. The register on Bridge had a respectable number of entries and we only saw a couple of groups we recognized. A new can should replace the existing plastic jar.

The descent went easier than anticipated and we took several breaks on return to enjoy the views and chat with a guidebook author we met en route. Pancho (Doll) has a series of books: "Day Trips with a Splash" (www.running-water.com). Coincidentally, he is from San Diego, although his livelihood keeps him on the road most of the time. We returned to the truck to enjoy some cold beverages with the remainder of a cooling afternoon before retiring after dinner under a clear sky.

Sunday morning, again from Red Rock Summit, we retraced about a mile of the Escarpment Trail and continued south to bag Wilson Peak. The intermittent Escarpment Trail undulates along the limestone precipice all the way to highway 160. The views along the way are most impressive as you stroll by the tops of Pine Creek, Juniper and Oak Creek Canyons. We took a spur ridge out to Wilson Peak. The cliffs off the eastern edge of the summit were almost too steep to look at. Many register sign ins stated they'd climbed the peak via Resolution Arete, twenty pitches, 5.11 or 5.10 Al if one uses a few bolts for aid according to Eric Beck. We took perhaps an equally enduring but more horizontal route as the 11 hour round trip was estimated at 16 miles and 5000' gain along the rolling ridgeline. We left the area about 7 PM, dinned in beautiful Baker (99 degrees at 9 PM) and returned home about 1 AM Monday.

Thanks to Terry and Carol for an enjoyable "contingent" weekend in a beautiful area. Special thanks to Carol for driving and for her sturdy Toyota that got us to Red Rock Summit. We concluded this peak has definite list potential and recommend the climb to interested parties.

For more information about Red Rock Canyon and its various amenities, write to them at:

BLM
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
HCR 33, Box 5500
Las Vegas, Nevada 89124
(702) 363-1921

DRIVE:
From 115, just south of Las Vegas, NV, take highway 160 west (towards Blue Diamond/Pahrump as if though going to Potosi's trailhead) to its intersection with highway 159. Turn north/right on highway 159 and proceed to the (Red Rock Canyon) BLM Visitor Center, $5 entrance fee required. From the visitor center (water available here), proceed north then west on the one-way Scenic Drive road (open daily 7AM to dusk) for 7.5 miles to the White Rock Picnic Area turnoff. Turning right/northwest here, proceed to where the pavement soon ends and continue driving poor dirt approximately 5 (five) miles to Red Rock Summit (actually more of a saddle than a "summit") where there's a small parking/camping area on the road's south side at 6,430'. Note that this dirt road demands 4WD high-clearance in several spots, some may want to park and walk.

CLIMB:
From the parking spot at Red Rock Summit, hike the obvious trail/road east then northeast for about one mile, gaining 700', where you'll top off on the escarpment's crest. Spectacular views to the east reveal Bridge Mountain's west face and much of the route. Good eyes might be able to spot the archway on Bridge's western face from this vantage point. From here, hike south about one-half mile along the trail to where the good use trail begins a curving descent as it winds its way towards the east. Be sure to stay on the crest and resist side hilling. Passing over the dolomite/ sandstone (Thrust) transition, the route continues to descend a rocky gully to a cliff overlooking Pine Creek, 1,500 feet below. Continuing generally east from this point, follow a wide sandstone slab drainage a short distance until the route opens up and traverses across many sandstone "dome-lettes". In this vicinity, you will notice 6-8" charcoal-colored lines (=) sketched onto the sandstone marking much of the route towards the bridge, as well as several "traditional" ducks. Occasionally, you'll even see arrows marking the way. However, these markings are not as intrusive as they may sound and in fact, look like natural water stains. A final steep low-class-three descent leads one to the bridge, about 1,000' below the escarpment's crest. From this low point, the route continues east/ northeast across the bridge and onto/into a narrow 100' 3rd class "joint" (crack) that is climbed (negotiated) and exited to the left/north on an obvious ledge/platform. From this ledge, curve northeast/right and walk up to a 30' natural bridge/arch, just beyond which is a pool and two large fallen pine trees. Walk through the arch, along the north side of a pool and up a 50' friction slab (a large fallen tree may be used here for handholds). Alternatively, it appeared one could climb up and over the arch to reach the top of the aforementioned friction slab. Either way, at the top, there is an unexpected "hidden forest" of rather large trees. Walk to the south end of the "hidden forest", then turn left/northeast and walk/climb on exposed sandstone slabs up (northeast) to flatter ground, curving south to southwest near the top where it's an easy stroll to the summit at 7,003'.

The following are several route UTM waypoints (in NAD27) on the La Madre Springs 7.5' topo.

Trailhead - 11S,632895,4001459
Route I - 11S,633386,3999154
Route 2 - 11S,633732,3999146
Route 3 - 11S,633808,3999061
Bridge - 11S,634469,3999323
Summit - 11S,634918,3999394

RT STATS: 6 miles, 3,000' gain (gross), 6-7 hours, class 3.


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