First off, I would like to say it has been really great being apart of Summitpost.com. I discovered this site about 2 years ago when I was searching for additional information on some Central Wasatch peaks I was lookin’ to climb. Since then, it has been a vicious addiction for me! I am constantly searching SP-looking for the next great adventure. (My apologies to my wife for being such an outdoor freak.)
This is my first submission to SP. Truthfully, I’m a bit nervous to post it, but, heck, I thought I would just give it a shot!
With this trip report, I just wanted to be able to express some of my thoughts on my failed attempt of Pilot Peak in Elko County, Nevada in March 2008. I am one of those individuals who searches for mountains that are obscure. You know the ones that are out-of-the-way; peaks that do not appeal to the general masses. And in my mind Pilot Peak fits these qualifications. Also, I was drawn to the history of the peak. (I encourage you to check out the main page of Pilot Peak by Dennis Poulin. He has done an excellent job with the page and offers some interesting facts and history on Pilot.)
As I said, this report is about my “failed” attempt to climb Pilot Peak, but I do hope it offers some insight and suggestions for those of you who are looking for that unique experience. Enjoy!
To Pilot Peak
I managed to persuade my father and younger brother to join me on this trip. I think one of the great things about doing any outdoor adventure is the chance to catch-up with family and friends. To get to Pilot from Utah, we took I-80 West and got off exit 4 in Utah. The hour or so drive gave us the chance to do this. After getting off the exit we stopped at the Salt Flat Cafe to get additional supplies and to use the lavatories. (One interesting note: As I was passing along an aisle to get to the bathrooms, I caught a glimpse of some nudity magazines. The reason it caught my eye is because we were still in Utah and those types of magazines are never out in the open. Or, so that is what I have heard.) Anyway, getting carried away with endless blabber… After leaving the Cafe we headed north on the road that leads you eventually to the road which will take you over the south end of the Silver Island Mountains and then heads west to Pilot Peak. (By the way, the road is paved until you pass the first cattle guard crossing.)
First cattle crossing
You know, the dirt road was pretty easy going. It was neat to be able to see Pilot Peak for the first time as you came over the Silver Islands. It has such a dramatic presence. It seemed to be guarding over the smaller Silver Island Mountains. Seeing it for the first time, I knew the vertical gain in such a short time would make this a tough climb.
Clouds covering Pilot Peak. This was taken as we were saying good bye to a great trip.
The second cattle guard crossing.
As we got closer, the road begins heading north and follows the east side of Pilot. We got to the second cattle crossing and turned right. (Note: If you pass by the second cattle crossing you have gone too far.) It was pretty smooth as we headed northwest on the dirt road that leads to Miners Canyon.
The dirt road that leads into Miners Canyon.
The road that takes you up into Miners Canyon was a little rough in some spots. I believe if you have a high clearance 4x4 vehicle you shouldn't have any problems. I had to put my Rodeo into 4 high a couple of times because of some snowy spots. Also, your vehicle will get scratched up on the sides like my truck did from the over-growth of the trees and plants as you near the top of Miners Canyon. Other than that it was a good little climb into the canyon.
Eventually we came to the end of the dirt road and we were finally in Miners Canyon. I think it took us almost an hour to get to the end of the canyon from the exit off I-80. It was snowing slighty and a breeze was coming down from the top of the canyon. Climbing around the walls of the canyon I knew that the next day was going to be fun and tough. But I was excited to be able to do the climb.
Camp at Miners Canyon.
We did have trouble finding a decent flat camping spot. But soon we found a spot that we felt would work. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bad location. Each of us would have one of our worst sleeps because of the slope. My poor brother got the worst of it, because my dad and I kept sliding on top of him. The bottom of my Vaude sleeping bag kept touching the tent which kept my feet from staying warm. All in all we probably got about 2 hours of sleep.
The start of the climb
With the “wonderful” sleep that we got the night before we woke up late, but to the warm rays of the sun lighting up our tent. It’s always rough getting up from a bad night’s sleep. We put down a couple granola bars for breakfast and set out for the climb. From the main Pilot Peak page Dennis recommends two possible routes to follow. We chose to head north right out of Miners Canyon on a sub-ridge that eventually leads to the main ridge.
Looking back down at camp. The ridge.
The weather was good during our lower climb on the ridge. Though I started to notice clouds coming in from the west but they were slow moving, so I didn't think much of it. We should have been more mindful of the weather and picked up our pace. This mistake would cost us greatly and keep us from making it to the top.
Anyway, Pilot Peak has some serious elevation gain! We finally got to the main ridge. But with that…came the snow. It was, for the most part, very stable at this point in the climb, though at times we post-holed. It was frustrating and slow-going, but we kept plugging away.
Looking down (west) of the upper saddle. Climbing up from the upper saddle.
The turn back
My how the weather quickly changed on us! The weather took a turn for the worst when we were on the final push to get to the top. We were crossing a huge snowfield when vision was quickly becoming limited and the wind was becoming very fierce. One other factor… the steepness of the slope! It made it hard to get any type of traction. We were constantly sliding, especially my father. He was really having a hard time with it. (Note: I was the only one that brought crampons, but decided to leave them in the truck. I didn’t think I would need them. Oh, well. Live and learn.)
After much consideration, I decided to make the call to turn around. It was a tough call to make because we were so close to making it to the top, yet the weather was not on our side. And in the end, it was a good call. After making it back down to camp the weather was not letting up. It was a great to be able to attempt this climb of Pilot Peak. It is one peak I’ll definitely try again!