A trip to the Oregon / Nevada Border
Spring is a glorious time to be in the desert when the high ranges are snowcapped, and for a brief moment the foothills are emerald green. The last few years I have found late May is perfect to hike in the desert, by now most roads are dry enough to avoid mud-holes and snow-berms, migratory birds flock to creek bottoms, and temperatures are ideal at any elevation. The tradeoff is the frequent rainstorms that may inhibit your plans. Near monsoon conditions are frequent in the desert this time of year, as is lightning that may accompany it. This weekend I ran into neither, Saturday morning the storms blew off leaving me with a 24 hour window of gorgeous blue skies and another fantastic trip into the high desert.
1st stop: Sheepshead Highpoint
The Sheepshead Range is a series of broad foothills with a west facing escarpment. Dean posted a page for the highpoint
after I asked him about directions back in December. I tried reaching this summit in January and the road had a foot of snow on it, so I tried again in February and the road was a mudhole as far as the eye could see, and really this worked out perfectly as I was forced to wait until this May when the road was in good condition and the Sheepshead for that brief moment I mentioned above was radiant under a canopy of green bunchgrass. Wildlife is abundant here this time of year, once I reached higher elevations herds of wild horses and antelope could be seen everywhere, and the creek bottoms were teeming with migratory birds and ground squirrels.
Ryegrass Creek Canyon Horses on the Sheepshead
I drove a rough 4x4 road up Ryegrass Creek that brought me within a mile of the summit, bagged a couple highpoints under improving weather and then retreated from the Sheepshead en-route to Bloody Run Peak. The Sheepshead is not a highly desirable summit in SE Oregon, but its certainly pretty this time of year. Dean and Dennis summited this same peak 5 years ago almost to the day, and they posted a lot of stunningly lush pictures on the mountain page.
Western Tanager Loggerhead Shrike
2nd Stop: Bloody Run Peak - South end of the Santa RosaBloody Run Peak
was a mountain I had no familiarity with, but according to the map it had three thousand feet of prominence so I expected it to be a good looking mountain with some fun scrambling, and I wasn't disappointed. Rising high above the landscape Bloody Run gave me views of many mountain ranges I had never seen before including the Ruby Mountain Range about 150 miles to the east (that just dominated the landscape despite its distance). The neat thing about Nevada is the endless mountain ranges. In every direction just one snowcapped range rising behind another. I couldnt even begin to identify them all, too many and I just dont know this country that well. Bloody Run took about 4 hours to summit and return to the jeep. After an easy ascent I ran into Winnemucca and grabbed some lunch then headed out to camp at Indian Creek north of scenic Paradise Valley.
Bloody Run Peak
3rd Stop: Camp at Indian Creek
This is one of the most beautiful places I have had the pleasure of camping. I was treated to a gorgeous sunset and sunrise, that painted the mountains orange and lit up the meadows blanketed in flowers. Seen below is the Martin Creek Mountains, and Tom's Meadow.
Sunset on Santa Rosa Peak
Sunrise on Granite Peak
In addition I noticed these rocks across the road from where I was camped. These had bowls carved into them for milling grains. I have seen mortar and pestles at ranchers houses that they have carted out of the desert many times, but never anything on this scale.
I figured Granite would have some snow on it being 9700 feet in elevation and all, so I brought my new mountaineering boots (scarpas to replace my koflachs) and my ice axe. Both ended up being necessary to ascend the last several hundred feet of Granite. I parked at Hinkey Summit as the 4x4 road was under snow, so that meant a 2 mile hike up the ridgeline in varying amounts of snow.
I hiked to the base of the summit, and thought I would climb up the rocky ridge which I think is the standard scramble route. Buried in snow I only made it about a 3rd of the way up before it became obvious this was about the most dangerous route up the mountain in these conditions. Falling off either side would mean sliding down off either the north or south face as both were covered in what felt like steep angle snow. So I backed off and traversed across the southeast face, then went right up the side to the summit. This was my first time climbing what for me seemed like steep angle snow, and conditions couldnt have been any better. The snow varied in depths, but I would guess it was 3-6 feet deep, and was just soft enough to allow good solid footholds, but firm enough to hold the ice axe which I using to anchor myself with.
I only spent about 5 minutes on the summit before making a quick descent. Got a few little glissades in coming down the mountains lower slopes including one that led me through a patch of aspens! Again, views were just incredible in every direction, especially south across the Santa Rosa Range.
The Santa Rosa Range
Made it off the mountain just in time to beat the warm morning weather and the postholing that accompanies it.