Toiyabe Dome (TD) is definitely an obscure summit. Ask people in the town of Carvers – 3.7 miles from the summit – if they know of Toiyabe Dome, and chances are, they will say “no”. TD is overshadowed in mountain rolls, if not in nature, by its western neighbor Arc Dome, and its eastern neighbor, Mount Jefferson. If TD were not on the Las Vegas Mountaineers'
Club “Classic 50” list, it might never be climbed.
Yet by any measure, TD is a much, much harder climb than are any of its famous neighbors. There is no way to climb the peak without at least 5500’ of trailless elevation gain. Even though the top of the mountain is gentle, the eastern flank is bounded by very steep slopes and impassable canyons choked with briars and willow. I know of two routes to the top – a long, class 2-3 slog via Jett Canyon, and a shorter, class 2-3 route up the ridge north of Cove Canyon.
From a perusal of the topo maps, one might be tempted to try a route through the eastern canyons. But apart from places where roads have been cut through the canyons (as in lower Jett Canyon), these potential accesses are totally impassable. At low altitudes the stream channels are choked with dense willow-briar growth; at higher altitudes, they are just choked with dense briars – members of genus Ribes, wild roses, stinging nettles, thistles, and myriad other spiny plants. The ridges are generally much cleaner. You can side-hill through the talus on the sides of the streams, but the experience won’t be pleasant.
Up high, you may see herds of bighorn sheep, clark’s nutcrackers, hawks, and ravens, plus multitudinous ground squirrels. Flowers are abundant in the summer – fireweed, paintbrush, lupines, penstemon, scarlet gilias, etc. The dominant tree from 9000’ to 10,500’ is bristlecone pine; above that, the flora are desert alpine.
From Las Vegas, take us 95 to Tonopah. At Tonopah, take US route 6 for 5.4 miles east to the intersection with state route 376. Take route sr 376 an additional 47.1 miles north to the signed turnoff (left) for Jett Canyon (blue route on accompanying map), or take 376 for 55.7 miles north to the left turn for Cove Canyon Ridge (orange-red route on accompanying map). The potential start of the Jett Canyon hike requires just 2WD, unless you want to continue an additional 2.4 miles of fiercely paint-scratching rough road. The potential start of the Cove route requires high clearance and careful driving (to get around a severe washout).
The town of Carvers, about 56 miles north of Tonopah, has a decent covenience store on the east side of the road. This store also sells sandwiches and reasonably-priced gasoline till Sunday night. There is also a decent restaurant north of the store, on the west side of the road.
None that I know of. Use common sense and obey the fire warnings and do not camp on private land.
The closest nice public campground is at Peavine Canyon. This is a dry camp with cleared tenting areas, picnic tables, fire grates, and clean no-flush pit toilets. As of Aug. 2006, there was a healthy stream running just north of the campsites. To reach Peavine Campground, start at the intersection of us 6 and sr 376, and drive ~34 miles north to the signed left turn for Peavine Campground. Then drive 9 miles west to the campground. The entrance to the campground is on the west side of a copse of trees, and the campground itself is on the south side of the stream.
At the start of the Cove hiking route (end of the road), there are some clear flat areas, and a stream that is almost inaccessible from thick brush. However, the ground is so rocky that you will have to search for suitable tent sites-- don't arrive here in the dark and expect a comfortable tenting experience. Jett Canyon is supposed to have some informal campsites, but I saw nothing when I was there. It would be possible to backpack to ~7900’ in Jett, but you would probably have to camp in the rough road, and would have to watch out for the ATVers. By the number of beer cans we saw in Jett Canyon, the ATVers are likely drunk and apt to run over your campsite.
When To Climb
Any time of the year is possible, commensurate with your fitness, gear and survival skills. I’ve been in this area in late spring, summer and early fall. In summer, one must watch for dehydration and be sure to bring plenty of water; the air is very dry, the sun can be merciless, and the streams are in places you don’t want to visit. I’ve been caught in an early October snowstorm on Arc Dome. The idea of gaining 6000’ in deep trackless snow, especially on the class 3 routes, seems like madness to me. Past October, the daylight hours would simply be too few for a one-day hike to the summit.
The conditions are typical for the high desert mountains of west-central Nevada. The weather can be discerned by using the NWS predictions for Tonapah, which is nearly at 6000’, and allowing 4 degrees F of cooling per 1000’ of additional elevation.
There are summer thunderstorms, but typically they are not as severe as the Sierra or Colorado storms. This area gets substantial snow come autumn.
Northern Nevada has had some shows of bubonic plague in rodents. Avoid handling ground squirrels if possible. I never thought I would have to be warned about this, but after taking a ground squirrel from a dog, and undergoing antibiotics...
Confusion over Names.
Nick Nelson pointed out that the benchmark on top of Arc Dome says "Toiyabe Dome", and wondered if he missed one of these peaks. Here are some comments:
The USGS official NV_DECI.txt file -- the summary of
official names-- lists Arc Dome as the familar peak that is 11773',
and Toiyabe Dome as the 11361' peak to the east. My guess is that most
locals don't care.
The benchmark on Arc Dome does say "Toiyabe Dome", but the names on
benchmarks are -- well-- the names OF the benchmarks, not the names
of the mountains. There is a PID file for every benchmark, and the
same name tends to be used as the benchmark gets remonumented,
because the benchmark name is supposed to be constant and unique and
is the index into the PID database.
Here's what the PID says for the "Toiyabe Dome" benchmark on Arc Dome
"1 National Geodetic Survey, Retrieval Date = APRIL 30, 2002
JQ0514 DESIGNATION - TOIYABE DOME RESET
JQ0514 PID - JQ0514
JQ0514 STATE/COUNTY- NV/NYE
JQ0514 USGS QUAD - ARC DOME (1980)
JQ0514 STATION RECOVERY (1934)
JQ0514'RECOVERY NOTE BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1934 (CP)
JQ0514'ON THE HIGHEST PEAK OF THE TOIYABE RANGE OF MOUNTAINS LOCALLY
JQ0514'KNOWN AS ARC DOME, TOWARDS THE SOUTHERN END OF RANGE. THE
JQ0514'MOUNTAIN IS VERY STEEP ON ALL SIDES AND EASTERN SLOPE IS
JQ0514'ALMOST VERTICAL. ..."
The file goes on repeatedly to emphasize the local name for the
mountain is "Arc Dome". The geodetic survey gaffe originated back in
the the 1800's when the mountain had several local names, none of
which was "Toiyabe Dome".
The 11361' peak called "Toiyabe Dome" on USGS maps actually has no
benchmark at all -- it was just a theodolite check point.
The dominant peak in this picture
Toiyabe from Jefferson
...in the right-center, is Toiyabe Dome. Arc Dome is peeking around the right side of Toiyabe Dome, and Mahogany Mt. is to the left.