OverviewAnother Nevada mountain that few people are aware of but a gem in its own right. In finding this mountain, you find solitude and can escape from the every day life of city living and the stress that is attached to that lifestyle. This is a mountain that you have to work to find as it is not obvious from either of the two main highways that parallel it on the east (US 93) and the west (Highway 318). Rarely visited, thanks to its isolation, Silver Benchmark peak is tucked away on the west side of the Muleshoe Valley and is sought after by the occasional prominence peak baggers since it has over 2000' of prominence, but just barely which allows it to be near the bottom of the Prominence list for Nevada, coming in at a lowly #168.
It is a great area to explore if you like back road driving and it isn't all that far from Las Vegas, which is about 3 hours away. The area is also contains wild horses as we saw several herds in our visit to the area. Roads in the area are surprisingly good and that came as a pleasant surprise. Thanks to some information provided to me by SP member gregiels (Greg), I knew that the best way to access this one was via Muddy Springs.
One of the great things about mountains in Nevada is that so many of them offer a "feel" of adventure and generally it is rare (with a few exceptions) to run into another visitor during your visit. Plan accordingly and be prepared to be totally self reliant. Thanks to resources like peakbagger.com and lists of John, and now this page on summitpost, information about this peak is now available. I'd ask those who visit this mountain to please sign the register log here and add information about your visit.
Getting ThereFrom Las Vegas: Head north on I-15 and turn north onto US 93 as it heads towards Alamo. Gas up in either Alamo or Ash Springs since it is the last gas you will find. Go north on Highway 318 till you reach a turn off at waypoint 38.2974 115.0785 and turn right onto a good gravel/dirt road. It may be signed for Silver King Pass, which you crest after about 9 miles and then continue about 3 miles to a signed (sign was in bad shape) road that was recently graded is in great shape. It may be less than 3 miles but I lost the information I had written down for the turn. I can tell you that the road is a nice one and takes you right up to Big Mud Spring. A jeep track continues past Big Mud Spring but if you value your vehicles paint job, you will find it smart to park near the Big Mud Spring area and walk from there. The jeep track continues up to Big Mud Pass and at the pass, the jeep track continues another fourth of a mile before it gets too steep to continue on. Ken Jones drove to this point in a 4Runner but doesn't recommend it.
If coming from Ely take 318 south from the junction with US 6. Last gas is in Lund but cheaper in Ely. It is about 75-80 miles to the turnoff mentioned above. It is also possible to get to Big Mud Spring from US 93 but you'll have to do the mapwork for that approach since we came in from highway 318. If you're interested in Dutch John Mountain or Grassy Mountain, you could include those in your research. A SP page exists for each of those.
From Big Mud Spring:
If you park near the water tank, you will have less than 3 miles from there to reach the summit. From the water tank to Big Mud Pass, it is about 1.3 miles or almost half of the distance to the summit and since you are walking a road, it goes fast. At the pass, an unmapped jeep track continues up toward point 7028 and you can get in another quarter mile of road walking until you leave the road and head cross country toward the south ridge which we took toward point 8082. There were some rocky outcroppings that were easily climbed and we eventually reached point 8082 from which we could now see the actual summit from. From point 8082 to the summit is about .25 mile but it is a rocky pinnacled spine along the ridge. Our route to the summit worked well by staying on the ridge or dropping a bit to the east side for most of the way. The last couple hundred yards we crossed over the rocky ridge and were then on the west side. This was a fun hike, nothing actually technical, but we had to scramble around a few rocky places until we found ourselves on the highest point, which had a small cairn with a glass register jar covered by one of Richard Carey's red cans. From the summit we had great views in most directions although trees did block the view in some directions. On the descent we dropped further to the south and east off the pinnacled ridge to avoid the rocky outcroppings and shortcut the route. This worked well but it was all a sidehill traverse so in retrospect we would have gone back the way we had come up and saved the sidehilling aspect of our descent. A GPS track is posted by Dennis HERE. Overall stat's for the hike from Big Mud Spring water tank was 2.75 miles one way and close to 1900' if elevation gain.
If you drive your vehicle up to the Big Mud Pass and then up the jeep track, you can knock off about half the distance as well as a good chunk of the elevation gain. However, do so at your own risk since the road is rough and there are plenty of branches that will be attracted to your vehicles paint job. Ken Jones was successful in his 4 Runner and had this to say: "I was able to drive to Big Mud Pass and a little beyond although I don't recommend doing so if you care about your paint job." Ken found out that once he started driving up the road, there was no place to turn around so he just continued on up to the pass. He has also posted a GPS track of his route on Peakbagger.com which was similar to ours.
Red TapeThere is no red tape that I am aware of. More information may be obtained from one of these resources if need be:
BLM Ely District Office
702 N. Industrial Way | HC 33 Box 33500 | Ely NV 89301
Phone: 775-289-1800 | Office Hours: 7:30 am - 4:30 pm M-F
Caliente Field Office
US Highway 93, Building #1 | P.O. Box 237 | Caliente NV 89008
Phone: 775-726-8100 | Office Hours: 7:30 am - 4:15 pm M-F
A nice map of the Ely district can be found HERE.
When to Climb / Summit registerIt is possible that you could climb this mountain in any season of the year but I would avoid the area if it had rained or was expected to rain due to the nature of the dirt roads that you will be driving on in some places and rain could render the roads impassable.
The existing register was placed by Gordon MacLeod and Barbara Lilley on June 4, 2003. They mentioned that they found no previous sign of a register so visitors prior to their visit are not known.
Two years later to the date, John Vitz and Andy Martin signed that register on June 4, 2005. It was not until April 29, 2012 that the next person signed the register, Greg Jagielski, almost 7 years since Vitz and Martin. Then 2013 was a banner year for visitors as on April 23, 2013, Bob Packard, Richard Carey and Adam Helman signed in. On Oct. 11th, Dennis Poulin and myself signed in and a month later on November 6th, Ken Jones signed in. So prior to 2013, there were 5 visitors in ten years and then six of us in 2013.
So in ten years, there were summit visits in 2003, 2005, 2012, and 2013. A lonely summit indeed.
CampingThere are no campgrounds in the immediate area although a nice state park with camping and showers can be found at Cathedral Gorge State Park near Pioche off of US 93.
Car camping is allowed on BLM land and as always, use the leave no trace ethics and be sure to leave the area as you found and take out your garbage.
Weather / WarningNearby Pioche and Lund
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Warning: Since this is a very isolated area and you most likely will not see anyone else, let others know where you are going and be sure your vehicle is in good running condition. Take plenty of water and supplies and make sure you have plenty of gas. The last places to get gas are Alamo/Ash Springs or Ely/Lund. Lund has a small mom and pop store with one pump for regular ($$$). However, if I was coming from Tonopah, I might want to top off at Lund. Cell service in the area is spotty at best and cannot be relied on. Road conditions might change and so inquire at one of the BLM office shown above in the red tape section.