OverviewClose to Winnemucca Nevada, this one has a name that seems like it should be in California. The mining district near the mountain that was called the "Sonoma Mining district" may have influenced the naming of the peak. This peak is significant due to its 3900 feet of prominence and the fact that it is the 28th most prominent peak in Nevada.
Sonoma Peak is one of those mountains that you see often enough that you say to yourself, "someday I will climb that peak". Having driven I-80 many many times I've noticed this one to the southwest of Winnemucca Nevada and I knew I would pay it a visit some day. The opportunity to finally go after this one came when I agreed to hook up with my friend Ken Jones of Seattle for some late October peakbagging in Nevada. Sonoma was our number one objective and the first peak we went after. I picked up Ken at the Salt Lake City airport on thursday evening and together we drove halfway across the state of Nevada before pulling off of the road and getting some shut eye that we sorely needed. Then friday morning, we drove the remaining 75 miles to Golconda Nevada and left I-80 for the peak. Using driving directions provided by Dennis Poulin who had recently climbed the peak (August of 2011), we made our way to the base of this one.
I offer the above mini trip report as a demonstration of how much we wanted to find our way to the top of this one as Ken also had had his eye on this peak for quite a while as well. Chasing the prominence peaks of Nevada is one of those goals we both have and any peak with over 3000 feet of prominence were high on our list (there are 64 of these peaks in Nevada).
Nevada has just a few of us who are into chasing the prominence peaks. I
could pretty much count those individuals on two hands and rightly so since Nevada's peaks are very isolated and often hard to get to, requiring vehicles with high clearance and 4WD capability.
Sonoma Peak is actually one of those few peaks that are fairly close to a major highway and in reality is one of the easier peaks to get access to.
Getting thereFrom either Reno or Salt Lake City, drive to Golonda Nevada on I-80 (only 15 miles west of Winnemucca). While there are other ways to access this peak, we followed Dennis Poulin's directions for the Pole Canyon access. Here are the directions as provided by Dennis in his trip report posted on peakbagger.com:
"I chose the Pole Canyon option for climbing Sonoma Peak. I approached from the town of Golconda at exit 194 from I-80. Zero your odometer and proceed to the south side of I-80 where the road "T's". Go left on the nice gravel road for 1.7 miles and turn right on another gravel road. At 2.8 miles take the left fork off this road onto a less nice road. This route gets steadily worse has brush and don't even think of driving back here if the road is wet. At 3.1 miles go straight under the power lines, at 4.6 turn left, at 5.0 take the left fork, at 7.6 miles cross a shallow live creek, at 8.7 miles I stopped right before a grove of aspens at about 6,600 ft elevation and car camped for the night."
We found that his directions were very accurate although our odometers were a bit different. I have created a couple maps to help those who follow us.
Some warnings to those who might choose the Pole Canyon access roads: Avoid during wet weather as the roads become impassable and be prepared to be able to get your self and vehicle out of trouble. Carry plenty of water and remember that cell coverage, even this close to the interstate can be an iffy thing. However, you could walk out to Golconda for help since the trailhead is less than 9 miles from that town. Use this information at your own risk (disclaimer).
Red TapeNone that I am aware of. I believe this is all BLM land and there were no gates to open or close and no negative signs.
CampingYou could car camp in several places on the way in although the aspen grove where Dennis car camped is one of the better spots. A free BLM campground is found at Mill Creek, about 20 miles south of Battle Mountain. Motels can be found in nearby Winnemucca as well as markets and fast food. No gas is available in Golconda but is available in Battle Mountain and Winnemucca.
WeatherWinnemucca Nevada weather
RouteFrom the Aspen grove to the summit using the route that Dennis Poulin mentions in his peakbagger trip report (the route we used as well), it is about 5 miles round trip with 2700' of elevation gain. Here is some of the trip report by Dennis describing his route:
"I hiked from where I car camped, but could have driven another .6 miles up to 7,100 ft elevation where the 4WD road ends. From the end of the road follow the ridge straight up the ridge, first following the ATV track, then the cow trail through the short brush, then follow the rocky ridgeline up. The big rock outcropping ahead is at about 8,600 ft and I went directly over the top of it. Once on top of that rock outcropping you can see the summit ahead. I stayed to the climbers left of the remaining rock obstacles and climbed the steep slope up to the summit. Great views from the summit...."
I parked just beyond the aspen grove and we walked the remaining road to a point where we started up towards the rock outcropping Dennis mentioned in his report. On the way down from the summit, we elected to take another ridge almost to where I had left the truck. That ridge would've worked fine for the ascent as well although there is some brush to deal with that you have to work your way through.
SummitWe found a register (recently placed by Dennis Poulin) and a benchmark witness marker. The central benchmark might be located under the rock cairn that we found on the summit. A wooden triangulation structure was also found laying on its side near the summit.
Nearby prominence peaksHere is a list of peaks that are forty miles or so from Sonoma Peak. Most are off of highways and provide a bit easier access than generally is the case in Nevada:
Bloody Run Peak
Hot Springs Peak
Four Days in Nevada (10th trip to Nevada)This was my10th trip to Nevada this year and probably the last one for 2011. My first trip was in February with SP member redsplashman and together we climbed Muddy Mountain, the HP of the Muddy Mountain range that is located between Las Vegas and Mesquite. That netted just one peak but I had a nasty accident on the descent that affected my ability to hike for a couple months afterwards. A boulder I had stepped on rolled, throwing me off the thing and then added insult and injury by rolling over my leg, almost crushing it. That is a story in itself regarding how I was able to make it back to my truck. Maybe I'll share that sometime in the future.
The next trip was with Dennis Poulin in April and by that time my leg was recovered enough to where we hiked and summitted Chokecherry Mountain, Badger Mountain, Irish Peak, So. Pahroc Peak, Mormon Mountain, Virgin Mountain and one in Arizona plus two in Utah. A very successful and memorable trip.
Then I returned with Ken Jones in May and together we knocked off Bloody Run Peak near Winnemucca, Ferguson Mountain and Pilot Peak (the western one) before we were stopped by a snow storm near Tonopah and I had to get Ken back to the Salt Lake City airport. We joined Dennis Poulin for the Ferguson and Pilot peak efforts.
I connected again with Dennis in early June when we met in Battle Mountain and proceeded to pick up 6 Mile Hill and Cone BM peaks on successive days. Both are north of Battle Mountain but my trip came to a screeching halt when I suffered a nasty wrist injury on Cone BM. As it turned out, I had broken my right wrist and that forced me to make an early return home to get medical treatment (hairline fracture according to doc). That wiped out the rest of June for me but with a splint and determination, I was back hiking again, I just couldn't use my right hand for much of anything. As I type this in late October, the wrist still bothers me and I can't actually even do a push up using the right arm. That will change I can promise.
A quicky trip to Nevada with SP'ers Greg and Kadee netted us Wood BM near Wells but that trip was cut short when Kadee's vehicle developed transmission problems and we had to limp back to Salt Lake City.
Hooking up with Ken once again, he and I knocked off a peak in Utah as well as a repeat of Wood BM and a new one in nevada for me, Tabor Peak north of Wells.
In July I returned to Nevada once again with Ken Jones (I met him in Elko) and together we did Marys Mountain, North Mountain, Moses Peak, New Pass Mountain, Augusta Peak, Bilk Mtn HP and Orevada Peak, another very successful trip.
August saw me return to the state after hooking up with Dennis Poulin for some stuff in Idaho (where he finished the county highpoints) and I repeated the Matterhorn, Merritt Peak, Pine Peak and McAfee Peak before picking up new ones, Porter Peak and Nannies Peak.
I returned to Nevada a week later with my wife and picked off several more with the highlight being a flat tire near the summit of Lewis Peak at the 9000 foot mark and in 90 degree weather. That trip deserves its own trip report sometime but it netted some good peaks while spending nights camping out in the best motels.
The last trip to Nevada was the tenth visit to the state and once again with Ken Jones of Seattle. Together we picked off Sonoma, Adam, Cain and Callaghan peaks. 4 peaks in 4 days and by the time I stepped out of my truck at home I had done 40 peaks in Nevada in the 10 trips. That total includes several repeats with Dennis Poulin.
Average per trip - 4
Partners on these trips:
Dennis Poulin - 5
Ken Jones - 3
Redsplashman - 1
My wife - 1
Greg & Kadee -1
In summary, I have been blessed to have good partners and to have the ability to still get out and hike at the age of 71. Thanks to Ken and Dennis and my wife particularly for making this a successful year. Also, my apologies to redsplashman for scaring the heck out of him when that boulder decided to try and change my life. He was very supportive and together we had quite the adventure together. Not one we'd ever want to repeat.