Verdi Peak, Thomas Benchmark, Full House Peak, Snow Lake Peak, Mount Fitzgerald, Liberty Peak, Lee Benchmark, Ruby Dome, Ruby Pyramid, Mount Silliman, Mount Mazama, Mount Gilbert, King Peak, Mount Talbot, Smith Peak, Hole in the Mountain, Mount Grant
By: Ted Brasket
There are 14 peaks in the Ruby Range that are 11,000' or more in elevation. John Vitz made up a list of all the Nevada peaks over 11,000'. They must have a 500' or more drop between peaks to be on this great list of 58 peaks. Jeanette Vincent and myself met John in the Arizona desert last spring and when I told him how much we liked doing isolated Nevada peaks, he gave me a copy of his list. I was really impressed with it, especially since we had 23 of them climbed before I knew such a treasure existed. The list is just about the right size for people our age. We may have enough time left to get up most of these peaks, but I can't say we're going to do the entire list. I prom ised Lorry and Jeanette we weren't doing any more lists. Seems I've been reminded more than once I made the same promise when I acquired the DPS guides. Oh well, what can I say?
Jeanette and I did 16 peaks from five different starting points. Two were public access and three were private property. Both public access points were in scenic Lamoille Canyon. The road ends at 8800' and the Terrace Picnic area at 8400'. The picnic area is a fee area, but there's room to park just outside the gate. We met Neal Scott, our good friend and sometimes climbing buddy. He would do a 2-peak day and a 4-peak day with us.
On July 20 we climbed the steep route to Verdi Peak from the 8400' picnic area. Both ends of the rugged summit block are over 11,000', so we went to both ends. We also did a non-listed 11,035' peak 0.5 miles to the northwest. The drop wasn't enough to make John's list. The ridge coming from the south to the low end of Verdi then veering northeast from the small true summit is extremely rugged and scenic. It's a mile of knife-edge beauty. It forms the back wall of the Talbot Canyon and Verdi Lake Basin. The lake is 1,000' below the small Verdi summit. There's a brass plate bolted to the rock as a memorial to someone. They were probably playing on this ridge and fell off.
July 22. From the road's end at 8800' we were going to try for four peaks in this order: Thomas benchmark, Full House Peak, the exciting class 4 Snow Lake Peak and west to Mt. Fitzgerald, class 3. Thomas and Full House are class 2, but there are several class 3 portions on the ridge between these first three peaks. Full House isn't named on the Ruby Dome 7.5 topo, but it's the high point north of Snow Lake.
There didn't seem to be any routes up Snow Lake, so we traversed the steep north slopes above Thomas Canyon, believing we would get up on the west end. There was nothing on that end either. We went around on the south side and found a spot where a steep climb would get us higher. This got us to where were looking straight up walls that were above our ability. Neal found a narrow, 2' to 3' wide ledge that went up and around the comer. He came back and told us it was better, but not good. It was something I would try if we'd brought ropes. By dropping down a bit, we were able to go around the comer even father. Now we'd been 3/4 around the peak and were on the north side again, way up above Thomas Canyon. We worked our way up higher on this exposed side until there was nothing else above us but a 60' high vertical chimney. The rock was stable and we were able to climb it without ropes. It put us on the small summit. We all agreed it was as difficult as we'd care to do without ropes. We did the down-climb very carefully. I was on the bottom of the totem pole and doing my best at spotting my partners. If the top man came off, we were all going into Thomas Canyon. When we were down where we could laugh again, we all agreed it was our all-time favorite bit of foolishness. The east side of Mt. Fitzgerald was class 3 to the north end. The summit was on the south end after doing a narrow exposed ridge. A very rewarding day, 10 miles and 4200'gain. July 24. Neal went back to California and we climbed Liberty Peak from the same 8800'trail head. It was a holiday at only 7 miles and 2300'gain.
July 26. We had the key for Spring Creek private campground. This is the same start as the DPS guide Ruby Dome climb. Where you cross the creek just above the last camp spot to get on the Griswold Lake trail, we went right and got on the ridge that went directly up to Lee bench mark, one of three peaks we hoped to do today. At the base of Lee, the ridge turned to class 3 then dead-ended. We left the ridge and went around to the east face. With a series of five or six class 4 routes, hoping it didn't dead end and send us back, we came up just a bit north of the summit. Very few on the registers. John Vitz was in them from 9/92 and there was usually no one else between him and us in 7/98. The weather turned bad on our 1+ mile trip to Ruby Dome. Just below the summit, we got into hard wind and hail. We had no where to go so we turned our backs to it and in 15 minutes, it stopped. While we had the register out of the coffee can it was in, a sudden downpour soaked the register before we could get it and other articles back in. Hope it didn't ruin it completely. 0.5 miles east was Ruby Pyramid. It was class 2 down the ridge to the saddle, and was slow going with wet lichen on the rocks. The sun came out and it warmed up. I asked Jeanette to wait for me at the saddle while I did the peak. At this point she needed the rest more than the peak. We went back to the trail head on the DPS route. Loads of snow on the way back, as far down as Griswold Lake. 14 miles and 5900'gain.
July 30 to August 1. We had to cross TE-MOAK Indian land to backpack up to Echo Lake for our next three peaks. We were told by several people they weren't allowing access. I lucked out finding the right people. As pre-arranged, we were at the South Fork tribal office at the settlement of Lee at 10:00 am Wednesday. A friendly young woman escorted us several miles to a locked gate and let us in. She locked us in and was there Sunday at noon as planned to let us out. Echo Lake at 9,820' was an exceptionally beautiful basin and great access to the three peaks. First was Mt. Silliman, class 3 up the southeast face. Class I Mazama was next. Last, but definitely not least was class 3+ Mt. Gilbert. Silliman and Mazama are on an east-west ridge and Gilbert is on a wild-looking ridge running north, about 0.5 miles out to a peak that looks unclimbable from the south side. You couldn't see anything behind the peak and it looked like an island connected by this ridge. The ridge was class 3+. We traversed steep slopes below the cliffs to the north end of the peak. There was a broad class 3 chute that went all the way to the summit. It was a great one. 5 miles and 3,400'. The backpack was 15 miles round trip and 4,000' gain.
Next we had to cross the U-2 Ranch to get to Rattlesnake Creek for King Peak, the southern-most of the 11,000 peaks. The rancher gave us a key, had us sign his guest book and told us where to camp in the shade at road's end. It was a 16-mile, 5,500' day. King Peak was a straight up, 2,000' climb from the basin to the class 3 summit. The last 20' of the ridge is narrow with extreme exposure on both sides. Register by MacLeod and Lilly in 1986. They added names from a paper from 1978. There were only 10 entries with John Vitz being the one before us six years ago. Not many for 20 years.
When I checked King Peak off the list, it was supposed to be our last Ruby 11,000' peak. Right below it was Mt. Talbot-Ruby Range. I'd gone over that list a dozen times and don't know how it was overlooked. It was the northernmost peak, so we drove back up to Lamoille Canyon and went up the same route we did for Verdi. We could have done them together on July 20. So August 8, it was Mt. Talbot and Smith at 10,839'. 10 miles and 5,400' gain.
P.S. There are no guides, trails or cairns to follow on these ll+ peaks. They're great route-finding challenges. Take your map and compass and choose a route. I really enjoyed working without guides.
Other Ranges - Same Trip
July 17 - Hole in the Mountain Peak, 11,306. East Humbolt range. A MacLeod-Lilly register from 1986. 17 bighorn sheep on top.
August 11 - Mt. Grant, 11,239'. Wassuk range Hawthorne, Nevada. Get a key to the locked gate and camping permission from the Army security building. The base is one mile north of town on Highway 95. The gate is on the fair dirt road up Cottonwood Creek.
August 19 - Bridge Mountain, 7,004'. Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. This wasn't planned, but the weather cooled down on our way home. To save a trip, we had to take advantage of weather and do this interesting peak. The five-mile scenic 4x4 road up Red Rock summit is worth the trip. There is one very'narrow and exposed section.
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