Mt. Grafton, the final peak of a great week.
Well, here's a quick re-cap of the first five days in Nevada for Dennis Poulin and myself.
Day one - Desatoya Peak
Day two - Bunker Hll
Day three - Diamond Peak
Day four - Ruby Dome
Day five - rest day (hiked a bit near Wheeler Peak)
Day six - Mt. Grafton
After Dennis and I climbed Ruby Dome and returned the key to the gate of the campground, we headed for Elko and a place to stay and fuel up. The women at the Spring Creek Association recommended the Stockman Hotel, which would have decent but reasonably priced rooms. We took their advice and stayed there and for 33 bucks, so we didn't get hurt too bad. Its an older place and the air conditioner fan could wake the dead, but other than that, hey we got our money's worth. Oh yeah, it had a casino too but I've never been a fan of 2nd hand smoke. The cafe there didn't have what we wanted so we headed to the Red Lion and had their wonderful buffet for ten bucks apiece. We ate our fill I'll tell ya.
Early the next morning, Dennis got up and was gone at 4:30 a.m. as he wanted to get a decent start on Wheeler Peak, at least a 4 hour drive from Elko. Let's see, 50 miles to Wells, then 115 to Ely, then another 70 to Great Basin National Park. That totals somewhere in the range of 240 miles so 4 hours should do it just fine, allowing for a stop for breakfast somewhere along the way. Me? I had climbed Wheeler Peak the year before and so I opted to take it easy and give my right knee a chance to rest since it had been bothering me for the past several weeks and despite the fact that I hadnt' been stopped by it, I knew the potential was there. So I loafed around and had a decent breakfast at the cafe before I got up and left around 8 a.m. By noon, I was in Ely having lunch and getting some gas and from there it was just a mere 70 miles to get to the TH of Wheeler Peak, a drive I looked forward to.
I pulled into the the TH at just a bit past one and saw Denis's vehicle. It was a gorgeous day and the views of the peak were outstanding, especially since snow had fallen and had given the peak a nice alpine look. I booted up and was soon hiking up the trail, enjoying the feeling of being alive and feeling great. I hadn't gone quite a mile yet when I saw a happy looking guy heading down the trail. Dennis had had a great day, it was written all over him. He started in as soon as he saw me about how great it had been and how the snow was ok to go through even though it could've been icy and such. We snapped a few more pics of the peak and headed back to the small parking lot that marks the TH. He'd made good time, 8 miles round trip and 3100 feet by 1:30 (I think he started at 9ish.
We had originally thought about staying at the campground near the TH but since it was only a little after 2 pm in the afternoon, we decided that we might as well head for Grafton, about 70 miles away. It would give us time to scout the roads and see whether we wanted to go in by the North Creek road as shown on the map or the one from near the Geyser Ranch.
Since we had GPS'd where the North Creek road was, it was easy to find. There is no sign stating "North Creek Road" and of course, after you drive on it a bit, you can see why. This road is 1.3 miles north of the county line so if you miss it, you'll know it by the time you see the county line sign. No problem, you could just drive a bit further and take the road that is across from the Geyser Ranch. I'll discuss that a little later so for now, its back to the North Creek Road.
When we turned onto the North Creek road, we passed very quickly across a cattle guard and had figured by GPS that we had 4.6 miles to go to get to the end of the road. We left my car near the highway and Dennis drove his 2WD Buick Rendevous
van up the road, which got steadily worse the further we went in. At about a mile in, we passed through another gate which was open and noticed a camping area to the right just prior to the gate. The road continued straight ahead although there was a road branching off to the right. As we continued on, we passed several other camping spots, each with a hunters camp or a trailer parked in them. The road kept getting worse and Dennis was very careful not to bottom out or to put his tires in jeopardy. A few more camp spots were passed with no hunters in them as we passed the three mile mark. Soon we were in an area where the BLM had signs stating that the area we were in was for wildlife observation. Hmmmm, I guess that is what the hunters were doing, observing the wildlife.
At the four mile mark (or near it), the road dropped down to a stream crossing but much to our surprise, the roadbed was cemented in. No problem in getting across with such a nice feature as that. We also noted about 12 whitetail deer that we spooked from the stream they must have been drinking from.
The road continued up and to the left, then around a curve with a bunch of nasty rocks as we entered a canyon. Finally, we knew we couldn't go much further and so at the 4.3 mile mark, we parked the car and walked to the end of the road. A second stream crossing was made by us on a log and a jeep road extended a little further up the canyon on the other side but it soon petered out amidst thornlike bushes and fallen trees.
We stopped, turned around and walked back to the vehicle.
It took us almost 35 minutes to get back to my car, parked near the highway. I drove my car in about 200 yards from the highway to a flattish area and that was where we spent the
night. The weather wasn't too cold and the stars came out.
I could hear traffic on the highway from time to time but not much as US 93 is pretty lonely at just about any time of day.
A strange noise that I couldn't figure out at first was heard off and on during the night and before long I realized that I was hearing elk bugling each other. Coyotes, cows, and dogs also made their sounds during the night.
The next morning, we returned up the road to where we had found the spot to park and started roughly up the road - trail about 7:15 a.m. We crossed over the log that spanned the little creek and soon the jeep road became totally overgrown and just barely a trail. Since many trees have fallen, we had to either clamber over or go around them as we continued up what we perceived to be the trail. Coming to the first really wide area, we noticed that a use trail went over to the south side of the area and so we followed it and found that it provided a way upward, skirting a rocky buttress that was just to the west. I assume we could have continued on the "trail" instead of cutting up the mountainside where we did but as is true on many mountains, most efforts upward will lead to the promised land. This was true as we just worked our way up the hillside, following what seemed to be the most logical route. On two occasions we came upon older cairns that someone before us had left but for the most part we were blazing our own way.
Both Dennis and I took GPS waypoints as we went up so that we could find the right way down later on, which turned out to be a good idea. One of the problems with the route was the amount of big chunky talus we had to work our way up and around. In places where there was a tree line, we tended to try and work our way up through them as the footing became more solid and easier in most cases. The final thousand feet to the summit was pretty much working our up and around the talus as just described and when we finally crested the the topmost part of the mountain, we found more of the same with the highest point on the southwest part of the top. Old boards littered the area and there was a cairn marking what appeared to be the high spot. A register was tucked away in a nesting can register and we opened and signed our names. The views in all directions were amazing, from Wheeler Peak to the northeast to range after range in the other directions. I noticed several roads down on the west side of this mountain and wondered if you could approach and climb up from one of those roads which is a likely probability.
We checked our time and it was 3 hours and 45 minutes from the vehicle to the top with a 3400 foot elevation gain (with no elevation loss to make up on the descent) and roughly three miles in distance although it could have been less. We made slow progress due to the large amount of talus that we had to
deal with. A traditional phone call from the summit to my wife and a quick snack and Dennis and I were ready to do the second part of this trip, going to the highpoint of Lincoln County.
Lincoln County Highpoint
From the summit of Mt. Grafton, we could look south and see the pt. 10802
summit that had the liner of Lincoln county on its south side. We would need to drop down and then ascend to the top of pt 10802 before we could drop down to find the liner spot which was the actual highpoint of Lincoln. In retrospect, before I go any further here, I would suggest that if you come in from the No. Creek route as we did, that you make the effort to go back up over the top of Mt. Grafton as it will be the easiest way to go in the long run. From the summit, you drop about 400 feet to a saddle and then bypass pt 10682 on the east side via a use trail through the rocks, continuing over to the saddle on the other side and then ascending to the top of pt 10802. The top of this ridge like area is mainly talus and you have to pick your way across it, passing a cairn and a register left by a 1999 visitor who felt this smaller summit deserved its own register. I was the second person to sign in since he left it five years prior. About a 150 feet further is a large cairn right at the southernmost edge of the ridge which has the bottom third held together with wire, a very unusual cairn, unlike anything I've ever seen in the mountains before.
The Lincoln county highpoint is on down the southern ridge and about 100 feet further on and about 40 verical feet down, you come to a cairn and a register that most visitors have felt is the highpoint of Lincoln county. The register is filled with names of people that were very familiar to me and the first name was that of John Vitz. Dennis had preceded me to this spot by about ten minutes and I could see him down the slope beyond the cairn and knew why he was down there. My GPS didn't not agree with the cairn's location as it looked too high for me by about 120 feet. Richard Carey had noted the same thing in his remarks in the register. Sure enough, when Dennis came back up, he mentioned what I was already thinking, that the cairn wasn't in the right spot. Of course, we have the advantage today over those who first pioneered the location of WAAS GPS technology, which is much more accurate than what was available just a few years back and most likely the original position was fixed by map and compass, which in and of itself is a good effort. Having the advantage of the GPS co-ordinates I had preloaded, I worked my way down the slope to the spot (s) that I felt was the true highpoint of Lincoln county. The interesting thing was that anyone coming from the Geyser Ranch route would have naturally crossed the HP on their effort to access the cairn, 120 feet higher up. I took new waypoints and then checked them on my computer when I got home and the waypoints confirmed to me that the highpoint is 120 feet lower down the slope (talus all the way), just above some trees. Dennis had come up with the same co-ordinates.
After doing the county liner sleuthing, it was time to head back. We once again went back up over the top of pk 10802 and then back the way we came. At first we tried to contour around the eastern side of Mt. Grafton but found the brush and talus more of a pain so we hoofed it back up to almost the top of Mt. Grafton and retraced our route back down to the vehicle. I had a mishap at the 10600 foot level when a rock moved under my right foot and caused my knee to become painful and swollen.
I knew I was going to have a fun time the rest of the way down since now every other step just killed my right knee when I put weight on it. Dennis ended up way ahead and finally figured out that something had happened and waited for me to reappear. I asked him if he'd mind driving his vehicle up but he declined since it didn't have rotors. Some painkiller he had helped but I knew that day 7 and day 8 in Nevada was not going to happen. Day 7 was going to be So. Jefferson in Nye county and Day 8 Star Peak in Pershing or even Mt. Grant if we could get permission. It didn't matter now, all I could think about was getting down in one piece and getting home to seek some medical advice and / or treatment.
Slowing down to a snails pace, I made it down and my hat is off to Dennis for his patience. We made it back to Ely and parted company after picking up a sub-way sandwich there and getting some gas at the Shell on the eastern side of town. Dennis drove on to Belmont and did So. Jefferson and I drove home via Jackpot, Twin Falls, Boise, etc. I slept for three hours in Jackpot, an hour near Mtn Home and an hour at a rest area named Weatherby Oregon. I limped in at 9 a.m. and had a medical appointment at noon.
Actual additional elevation gain by doing both the Lincoln County highpoint along with Mt. Grafton is another 860 feet.
It was a great week and Dennis is just an outstanding person to do these peaks with. Never a complaint and always ready to head up the trail. I'll hike and climb with him any day. Thanks Dennis, it was fun and we'll have to go back and get Arc Dome and Mt. Moriah on the next trip down to Nevada.
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