Magruder Mountain, Palmetto Mountain
By: Steve Smith
Early June turned out to be a great time for this Great Basin Desert DPS exploratory trip. Located east of Big Pine and 25 miles into Nevada near Lida, these 2 desert peaks are in an area of high elevation desert that was still very cool even in June. The higher latitude and elevation of these 2 peaks coupled with their location in the Great Basin Desert setting of sagebrush, Junipers, and Pinyon Pines in an isolated/undeveloped land really made this an enjoyable desert outing.
Our group of 14 DPS'ers met at Oasis, NV and headed east towards Lida on Nevada highway 266. A stop was made along the way to visit the ruins of the historic mining district of Palmetto. Both mountains were highly visible from the highway with a lot of interesting views and things to see. Palmetto Mountain, 8,945', (also called Blue Dick Peak after a mine on its south side) is the high point of the Palmetto Range with a lot of evidence of historic mining activity and one current gold mining operation which we passed on the drive in.
The climb of Palmetto was not too difficult with only 1,750' of gain in 21/2 miles and primitive mine roads providing access almost to the summit. All 14 participants made the summit which has good views of the east-central area of Nevada and the more imposing summit of Magruder Mountain to the south. A surprise and added bit of interest came from seeing wild horses running the ridgelines as we approached the summit. This was the first DPS trip I've been on when wild horses were encountered. The group really enjoyed having a band of 5 horses come over the summit ridge on the run and get within about 50 feet before detecting us and galloping off in another direction.
Getting back down to the cars and driving out past the active gold mine, we camped in the Pinyon and Juniper trees and were joined by desert writer and La Siesta Press publisher Walt Wheelock. Walt was researching information on the area for a planned book and everyone enjoyed learning more about the extensive mining and ranching history that has occurred in this isolated area.
Magruder Mountain was climbed on Sunday from a decent dirt road off of Nevada highway 266. That road got us to within 3 miles of the 9,046' high summit on the southwest side. All participants also made this summit which involved about 2,100' of gain through a beautiful and thick high desert Pinyon-Juniper forest. Rough winter weather creates barren slopes on the upper 500' of the mountain which is a very prominent high point in this area of Nevada. It is especially visible when viewed from the south from peaks like Last Chance, Sandy, Dry, and Keynot. Snow is present during a good part of the year which also adds to its prominence when warm weather on lower desert peaks to the south makes Magruder and its snow cap impressive.
Returning to the cars, we took a more southerly route to see the Mammoth Springs - a series of springs on the southwest side of the mountain. The one spring area we reached was dry but we did find an old 4" riveted pipeline constructed in 1908 and long since abandoned. Replica copies of a 5/9/08 newspaper we later got in the old mining town of Gold Point indicated the pipeline was used to provide water for mining activities around Lida.
The prominence of Magruder Mountain combined with its Great Basin desert ecology, good climb, and excellent views made it a very worthwhile Desert Peak climb. All members of the exploratory climbing group felt it was worthy for DPS Peak List consideration and I would like to recommend that Magruder be evaluated as a List candidate. There appeared to be 2 other good climbing routes in addition to ours from the southwest. From the map, approaches from the north and south also look like good routes which would offer about the same degree of challenge as the one we took.
Driving back out, we made a stop to enjoy a fast running spring and then made a stop to tour the old mining town of Gold Point located 15 miles to the east of Magruder Mountain. Several reactivated mines were visited before heading on down to Beatty. At Beatty, most trip members stopped for a relaxing dip in the Bailey Hot Springs ( $2/person) and a nice dinner at Bailey's Restaurant.
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