Potosi Mountain, or Mt. Potosi as it's generally referred to, is the last great giant of the southern Spring Mountains of southern Nevada. When seen from Las Vegas, its hulking presence to the southwest is striking. Its northeast face is a maze of complex ridges and rugged cliffs.
Though generally forgotten about by the climbing/hiking/exploring community, due to its close proximity to the beautiful and alluring peaks of Red Rock NCA and the high, majestic peaks of the northern Spring Mountains, such as Mt. Charleston and Mummy Mountain, Potosi Mountain is awesome in its own right.
Let me explain why:
Not only is the topography complex and extremely interesting, thereby allowing a multitude of potential routes of interest for all abilities, the mountain itself, which is surrounded by high limestone cliffs on three sides, hosts a number of really cool things...
Mines - Although I don't suggest exploring mines, a number of them exist on the slopes of the mountain. One such mine is the famous Potosi Mine.
Plane crash - In 1942, a plane carrying, among others, film star Carol Lombard crashed on the northeast side of the mountain. Lombard's fiance, Clark Gable, immediately responded and waited at the base of the mountain while rescue workers searched the wreckage for survivors - none of which were found. Some of the wreckage is still there.
Caves - There are a number of small shelter caves on the mountain. One cave in particular, though, Pinnacle Cave, is well known in the technical caving community. The cave, the frequent site of search and rescue operations, involves a 120 foot rappel (85 foot free rappel) from the surface to the bottom of a pit where a tiny squeeze hole leads into the remaining depths of the cave. The long rappel is not the only interesting part of the large cave - the labyrinths below frequently lose the uninitiated, and the technical squeezes and squirms through the belly of the cave more times than not leave the exhausted standing at the bottom of the 120 foot pit at the end of the day looking up at the setting sun and wondering how the hell to get out. In 2003, myself and a group of local cavers took a magazine reporter into the cave for an article on extreme sports she was working on - unfortunately, I can't find a link to that article on the net (oh well), but here's another one regarding a cave in the area that we took a reporter into.
Anyway, Potosi Mountain is a neat area. The mountain makes a fine winter or spring climb. Just enough snow to make it fun, but not enough to make it dangerous.
The easiest route follows a service road all the way to the summit. A page on this route has been contributed by Mike - thanks Mike! Also, I've detailed the 'From the West' route, a nice class 3 ridge route that I've used a couple of times.
*You might also check out a fledgling outdoor site (www.backcountry-explorer.com), which provides access to trip reports, beta, photos and other stuff covering hiking, scrambling, climbing and canyoneering around Las Vegas. A new hiking and scrambling guidebook, Rambles & Scrambles: The Definitive Guide to Peakbagging Around Las Vegas, is now available.
From downtown Las Vegas, take I-15 south toward California. Before long, and before leaving the city, you will come to the highway 160 (Blue Diamond Road) exit. Take the exit and head west. Potosi Mountain is the large mountain to the southwest.
Take highway 160 toward Pahrump, home of the world famous Chicken Ranch! When I went, I just got a t-shirt and a shot glass. No, really.
Anyway, follow highway 160 toward the mountains and Mountain Pass. As the road starts to ascend toward the Pass on the northern flanks of Potosi Mountain, look for a dirt road signed for the Boy Scout camp on the left (south) side of the road. It's just before the Pass. Turn onto the dirt road.
(* note - These directions are to access the 'From the West' route, the only route I've used to ascend the mountain. Other routes require different approaches.)
Follow the dirt road (passable by high clearance, or by those in passenger cars with gutsy driving skills) for a couple of miles, past the Boy Scout camp and a few houses here and there. Although there are a couple of dirt roads branching off, forget about em. Keep going until you see a small parking area (maybe 2 cars) on the right just before an A-frame cabin.
If you see the cabin, beat a hasty retreat! A friend of mine was shot at once by the owner, who felt that he was trespassing on his property. Although most of this area is BLM land, there are occasional patches of private property sprinkled throughout. Find this parking area - it's safe. It's about 1/4 mile before the cabin.
From the parking area, the rugged west cliffs of Potosi Mountain are to the east. An impressive unnamed peak is to the west. This is the start of the 'From the West' route.
None - but see above for safety info worth reading.
Year-round. This mountains is a pleasure in all seasons.
To my knowledge, backcountry camping is allowed on the mountain without a permit. There are no established campgrounds on Potosi Mountain.
Weather for the Las Vegas area.