Muddy Mountain, Muddy Highpoint
By: Greg Raoch
This was a D.P.S. exploratory trip to climb Muddy Peak and Muddy High Point. The Muddy Mountains are located about 35 miles northeast of Las Vegas between Interstate 15 and Lake Mead. Valley of Fire State Park is on the northern end of the Muddy Mountains and Muddy Peak and Muddy Highpoint are on the southern end. The Bitter Springs Trail (also known as The American Borax or White Basin Road in John Hart's book Hiking the Great Basin another good reference on the Muddy Mountains) runs between State Route 169 and the North Shore Road west of Lake Mead. This dirt road is shown on the older edition of the Automobile Club San Bernardino County map which includes the Las Vegas area and on the newer Guide to the Colorado River map. It is by way of this road that the Muddy Mountains are reached. Some of you may have noticed Muddy Mountain before. It can easily be seen from Interstate 15 south of the signed Valley of Fire exit. It is the predominant peak on the western skyline.
The Muddy Mountains are a scenic area where rugged limestone peaks rise above twisted canyons of colorfulsandstone formations. The limestone which is on top is older than the younger sandstone underneath. The limestone was ripped up and moved east over the sandstone by what must have been unbelievable forces. For more on the geology of the area see Bob Michael's Article in Sage #255 May/June 1998. Driving and climbing directions are also given in the Sage # 232 July 1994 by Dave Jurasevich and by Ted Brasket in Sage #254 March/April 1998. I read all these articles in planning this trip and found them quite helpful. All authors praised the area and the quality of the peak climb. I will take the liberty of quoting from these articles in case the reader does not have access to them.
DRIVING INSTRUCTIONS: Leave Nevada I-15 at Exit 75, signed "Valley of Fire, Lake Mead", State Route 169. Drive 3.1 miles SE on Route 169 to where the road starts curving left (less than 0.1 miles past highway milepost 3). Leave Route 169 here, continue straight (SE) 0.1 miles to the end of pavement and start of a good dirt road. A BLM sign here welcomes you to the Bitter Springs Trail, a designated backcountry byway. Drive 4.0 miles SE to a second BLM sign indicating mileage and directions to Buffington Pockets, Bitter Springs, North Shore Road and Colorock Quarry. Continue straight (SE) towards Buffington Pockets, following the main dirt road (ignoring any left or right minor forks) for 6.2 miles to a faint dirt road. Turn right here. The faint dirt road goes South a short distance and then turns right following the wash heading generally W towards a low ridge or saddle. Continue up the wash driving about 1 mile to the road closure at a large, metal sign.
The road is good for about 3 miles past the second BLM sign as it winds through Buffington Pockets (an interesting area of sandstone formations). After a rock quarrying area the road gets rough and high clearance is most helpful the rest of the way.
CLIMB: Hike W, following the closed road over the low ridge and dropping into Hidden Valley. Continue following the road in Hidden Valley, first W then generally S to where it ends about 0.5 miles N of point 1455. Continue S then SE up the major canyon behind Point 1455 to a saddle at 1460+ meters, 0.1 miles SW of Point 1527. Turn right (SW), climbing up and contouring around the left (5) side of the ridge to a saddle at 1560+ meters elevation, 0.35 miles N of the peak. Walk S up the gentle ridgeline to the highpoint of the Muddy Mountains, BM "Muddy" at 5,431 feet above sea level. Retrace your steps back to the 1460+ meter saddle, where two options present themselves. Option 1 is to turn left and descend the canyon you came up, returning to the cars via the same closed roads used to access the peak. Option 2 is to turn right at the saddle, following the ridgeline and sometimes contouring below it on its S side past Point 1495 to the 1370+ meter saddle (UTM 065198) 0.5 miles NW of Muddy Peak. A climb of Muddy Peak (elev. 5387 feet) can be made from this saddle by continuing E up steep slopes to just below the ridgeline, then contouring SE to a notch at the base of the steep summit mass. The summit can be obtained by working right from here and climbing a chute system on the W side of the peak that leads to the NW ridge, which is followed a short distance to the summit. An alternate route from the notch is to head directly up the NW ridge and loose chute just to the right of it to the summit. Either way requires some Class 3 with mostly minimal exposure. Descend back to the 1370+ meter saddle, then N down the canyon to upper Hidden Valley, passing left (W) of an outcropping of spectacular reddish rock. Cross country N about 2 miles (following a faint where you can) from here, picking up the dirt road heading right (E) over the low ridge back to the cars. RT STATS: 11 miles, 3600 feet net gain, 8-9 hours. MAPS: 7.5 Muddy Peak, Nev. 1983
We met our group Saturday morning February 23, at the turn off to the faint dirt road 6.2 miles from the second BLM sign. Mirna and I wondered if anybody would show up because we didn't see anyone camped at the meeting place. But right at 6:30 a.m., the designated meeting time everyone showed up. They had all camped Friday night 3 miles back up the road at the rock quarry. They left 2 cars here before the road starts to get rough. We had missed seeing them in the dark as we drove by the night before. Our group consisted of Dean Acheson, Mitch Miller, Pete Yamagata, Delores Holladay, Rich Gnagy, and Carl Peterson. We started hiking at 7:00 a.m. following the proceeding climbing instructions by Dave Jurasevich. As we reached the top of the saddle and descended the road we were greeted with a grand view of Hidden Valley." One of the sacred and magical places of the desert" as Bob Michael described it. The northern end of the valley was a jumble of sandstone boulders, soft earth tones of brown, red, orange, and white glowing in the morning sun. The Muddy Mountains rise at the southern end of the valley looking similar to the limestone cliffs of Moapa. In the valley are islands of sandstone among the desert shrubs and grasses.
We wanted to make sure we climbed Muddy Peak so, we headed for Muddy Peak first. Following Jurasevich's climbing instructions in reverse we headed south across Hidden Valley to the saddle at 1370+ meters (UTM 065 198). Below this saddle at the base of the mountains on our left we saw an awesome sandstone formation striped with bright red-orange and white colors, very beautiful! We continued up the canyon and arrived at the saddle at 9:30 a.m. It was very windy here. We stopped for a break and put on some extra clothing, then continued east to gain the ridge. The NW ridge is broad at first then it narrows as it reached the summit mass. We headed directly up the ridge taking the loose chute just to the right of it and on up to the summit. We were on top at 11:30 a.m. There was a register here placed by Gordon McCloud. On the summit we enjoyed great views of Lake Mead and the surrounding area. Across Lovell Wash to the west we could clearly see Muddy High Point and what was to be our route over there along the ridge. After taking a few pictures we headed back down the ridge and found a flat area out of the wind. Here we enjoyed lunch. Then back down to the saddle at 1370+ meters by 1:30 pm.
Our group was determined to head over and climb Muddy High Point even though we were not setting any records for speed and would be lucky to make it back to the cars before dark. Following Dave's route in reverse we climbed up to the saddle at 1460+ meters and gazed down the major canyon Dave's route had ascended. There were interesting sandstone formations at the bottom of this canyon and also off to the west of Hidden Valley. Above this saddle on the way to the High point we saw some wind caves and arches in the limestone above us on the ridge. We made the summit of Muddy High Point at 3:00 p.m. Here we enjoyed more great views and took more pictures. After retracing our steps back to the saddle at 1460+ we decided it would be faster to return the way we came and leave the other route for another trip so we went back down to our first saddle at 1370+ meters. Arriving there at about 5:00 p.m.
After a short break we continued down to Hidden Valley. We didn't find the road we had walked in on because we were having more fun climbing on sandstone formations. We had been following sheep trails all-day and seen signs of sheep but no sheep. Then after climbing down off a sandstone formation that looked like a little volcano I spotted a skeleton of a bighorn sheep or what was left of it. The horns were still intact but besides the backbone and a few other bones not much else was left. It got dark as we were returning to the cars but there was a full moon out and it was rather pleasant walking by moonlight. We arrived back at the cars by 7:00 p.m. The hike took us a full 12 hours. If one was to just climb Muddy Peak by this route the climb could be done in 8 hours or less.
We returned to the rock quarry site about 3 miles back down the Bitter Springs Trail for dinner and set up camp. A good happy hour and dinner was enjoyed by all. Why we even talked Carl Peterson into staying around for some food and fun before leaving to Las Vegas that night to visit his sister. The next day Mirna., Rich and I went over to the Colorock Quarry. We followed Ted Brasket's driving instructions to a good campsite. Drive back to the second BLM sign that gives directions to Colorock Quarry, 4.0 miles from the paved road. Turn left here (SW). After a short distance on this road you cross a wash. Turn left just beyond the wash and head south toward the mountains. Good views of the two high points of the Muddy Mountains can be seen at this point. Continue on this road, crossing two washes and going over the hills for about 3 miles (staying on the main road over the hills and down the other side, you come to a junction). A sign for the Colorock Quarry goes straight. Turn right at the junction, crossing a wash and going uphill half a mile to camping. This is a beautiful area with many interesting sandstone rock formations similar to the Escalante area in Utah and a great campsite, thanks Ted. Mirna relaxed at the cars while Rich and I explored the area. Rich and I hiked to the north end of Hidden Valley where we had a good view of your route the day before.
Thanks to everyone who joined us on this trip. We all had a good time.
Everybody agreed that Muddy Peak should be added to the list but not Muddy High Point. Muddy Peak is the better climb of the two and only 44 feet lower than the high point. It is a fun 3rd class climb on weathered limestone similar to the climb of Eagle Mountain in Death Valley. The peak is located in a beautiful area and I encourage all DPSers to come out and see for yourself. I have submitted a proposal to the DPS Mountaineering Committee asking that Muddy Peak be added to the "List". Hopefully we will see the proposal on the 2003 ballot.
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