Overview - Palmetto Mountains & Blue Dick Benchmark
In a county with 971 permanent residents, more ghost towns than real towns, and not even a high school in their school district, you can be assured that mountains dominate the remote landscape of Esmeralda County, Nevada. The highest point in the state, Boundary Peak, abuts over from California, and the crest of the higher White Mountains are visible through much of the county; portions of the Sierra Nevadas are often in view as well. Piper Peak in the Silver Peak range is the highest prominence peak in its own right in the county, but to the south of the Silver Peak range lies a subrange near the town of Lida called the Palmetto Mountains, of which the unofficially named “Blue Dick Benchmark”, at 9,289 ft., is the highest point.
Blue Dick is flanked by Palmetto Mountain to the south, and Magruder Mountain further south across NV 266. It is located only a few miles from the highway and, with a road to the top, makes for a quick outing if you’re in the area but short on time, or have a narrow fair-weather window, or etc. The summit, if marred by an old shed, lies well above treeline and provides marvelous views of the area, including the White Mountains, the Sierras, and Piper Peak. Prominence chasers will note that, being a range (or subrange) highpoint, Blue Dick is a Nevada 2,000’+ prominence peak.
The mountain and a nearby mine seem to be named after a salty old timer named Blue Dick Hartman, who got his nickname from surviving some gunpowder explosion in a mining accident. One story goes that during his eventually funeral, well-wishers stopping by his casket were encouraged to contribute to the well being of the loved ones he left behind. One fellow, who didn’t much like ‘Ol Blue Dick, spoke ill of the dearly departed man, at which point the dead man leapt out of his coffin guns ablazing and chased the poor fellow straight out of town. Apparently Blue Dick had faked his own death; later that night he and his friends would have a great time laughing, carousing, and spending all the proceeds from their recent venture at the local saloon.
The fine gravel road leading to the top of Blue Dick lies between the mining site of Palmetto and Lida Summit Pass on NV 266. It is slightly less than 3 miles east of the Palmetto historical marker and about 4.5 miles west of Lida Summit. Follow the well graded gravel road for about 2 ½ miles to a fork. Take the left fork. About half a mile later the road curves around some old mining structures. The topo map here shows a road branching off left at this point, with the main road bearing right. The left branch is a minor road, almost unnoticeable, but never the less follow the road as it curves right (east). About .9 miles after the mining structures (1.6 from the 1st road fork) there is another fork. Bear left on the wider, more travelled road. You can park at any point here and start hiking up. You are about 4 miles and less than 2,000’ from the summit from here, so drive as far as you want and/or park anywhere where the road is wide enough, and hike up the rest of the way to the summit.
Passenger cars can definitely continue past the second intersection. From there the road ascends several switchbacks and gets narrower, steeper, and brushier, but a determined driver can still continue on, though higher clearance would be recommended. Wet conditions may make for tough driving along the muddy road, especially past the mining structures.
BLM Land. Proceed at your own risk. There's not a lot of towns in this area, so make sure you come with a full tank of gas.
Drive only along designated roads and adhere to all LNT ethics.
When to ClimbBlue Dick can be climbed all year. Winter and early spring will see snow on the mountain. I doubt the gravel roads are plowed, so if they are snowed in you might need to figure in some snowshoe mileage.
External LinksRarely do books cover Nevada desert summits. Here are a few:
Deserts Summits: A Climbing & Hiking Guide to California & Southern Nevada - by Andy Zdon
Hiking Nevada's County High Points - by Bob Sumner
Hiking the Great Basin: The High Desert Country of California, Nevada, and Utah - by John Hart