Virgin Peak, McCullough Mountain
By: Karen Leonard
"I WAS A PEAK GUIDE TESTER FOR THE DPS"
Karen Leonard, Judy Ware and Owen Maloy met early Saturday morning at the end of the paved New Gold Butte Road (off exit 112 from I-15 northeast of Las Vegas) and proceeded in Owen's 4WD Subaru to the mining ruins below Virgin. The scheduled co-leader Jim Farkas could not make it, so Judy and Owen were deputized; there was a no-show; and expected participants Marta Flores and Dave Jurasevich caught up with us on the peak. It was a beautiful day and the climb went well, but some of us thought the peak disappointingly ordinary. To drive that distance, and to hike the extra 6 miles of road necessary for those without 4WD, a peak should be worthy.
But on to the next, and by 5:30 pm Judy, Owen and I were back in California having a fine buffet dinner at Whiskey Pete's, all you could eat for $3.50. Dave and Marta were elsewhere, en route to another peak for their Sunday climb. We drove in towards McCullough and proved that DPSers can camp anywhere by stopping in an unattractive brushy spot when the dirt road began getting tricky for my 2WD (this was where a choice of three routes appeared, all proving to rejoin in a few hundred feet, just short of the final right turn onto the dirt road in to the corral by McCullough). The night was mild, the moon was full, and the coyotes were marking strange noises, so we built a campfire and listened to Owen's amusing tales of days gone by. Sample: when Owen got his DPS emblem, the wine he took to the peak wasn't the quality one would expect for a list finish. He apologized, but Duane McRuer said, "When you've been a member of this section as long as I have, sonny, all you need to do is be able to get the top off." And more....
Off at 7 am Sunday, we parked at the corral as suggested by the Peak Guide mileage, crossed a ridge to get into the canyon, and followed the canyon northwest. Although we found a heavily-ducked route here and followed it, the saddle we ascended turned out to be just west of hill. 6557' instead of just east of 6425.' We were still far from the peak, but it was in view and the route was obvious (and Owen, who had done the peak before, insisted that he had taken this route before), so we proceeded to side-hill over to the canyon/wash and followed it north, northwest, and then west up to the peak. We then (as we should have done at the beginning) took bearings on 6425' and correctly crossed back east of it and down the well-ducked canyon. We found a recently-dead cow sprawled across the gully about half way down; it had obviously fared even less well on its navigation noodle! Following ducks and the canyon down, we watched for the place where we went wrong. . . . but as the wash broadened and flattened we realized we had entered our canyon above where we now were and that we had left our car in ridges, not flatland. So we headed south/southwest across a low ridge, went down and hit the road and walked back up it to Owen's Subaru. As we drove out we thought of improvements to the Peak Guide. The corral is not located where it is shown on the topo - it is almost at the end of the road, just before the trough at its end (the mythical Pine Spring?). So if one parks at the corral, one needs to head north at least 1/2 mile to get into the correct canyon going northwest to 6425.' But one could park down at the entrance to the broad wash or try to drive up into it (as Owen remembers Dale doing). Watch for the revised edition and remember the pains of those who tested the first edition!
Starting out right is the trick on this peak. We liked the challenge of route-finding, and Mccullough's varied and beautiful scenery made it well worth the trip! And the real trick on both peaks was the presence of Owen Maloy, whose Subaru made it possible to do them comfortably. We especially appreciated his altruism on Sunday, because he had the peak already but came along. Many thanks, Owen - that final dinner at The Mad Greek in Baker didn't begin to express our appreciation!
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