Elko County Highpoint Trip Report

Ruby Dome (11,387 feet) - Nevada state co-completion

Date: August 25, 2002
Author: Adam Helman


Note: Please skip this section is you are only interested in climbing Ruby Dome and have no interest in my personal experiences climbing in Nevada.

Jobe Wymore and myself co-completed the Silver State on Elko County's Ruby Dome. It was an appropriate venue given the sizable vertical gain of 4,900 ft (myself) and of 5,400 ft (Jobe) - see below for an explanation of the 500 ft difference.

In attendance was a friend from Jobe's workplace in Salt Lake City - Craig Schauerhammer. Not a county highpointer, Craig often accompanies Jobe on his appointed hiking rounds. For Craig this was to be the most demanding day hike that he had attempted to date. Since Craig also summitted his efforts are also recognized in this report.

Backing up slightly, I arranged this trip with Jobe only a week in advance. I required four counties to complete Nevada (White Pine, Lander, Eureka, Elko), while Jobe required three counties (Eureka, Churchill, Elko). Noting the overlap in required counties, it was reasonable to consider a combined trip wherein we climb together ... and hopefully completing simultaneously on a county both of us yet required.

The principal reason why I wanted Jobe was for his wheels! My Saturn 2-door sports coupe, although sitting pretty with an aqua paint job, is woefully inadequate for highpointing in central and northeastern Nevada. Jobe owns a capable 4WD truck with considerable clearance and a second spare tire.

Here is a description of the overall trip from my perspective.

Day 0 - Drive from San Diego via I-15 and route 93 to Great Basin Nat'l Park
            and camp at the trailhead for climbing the White Pine cohp (Wheeler Pk (13,063 ft)).
            This was a thoroughly unenjoyable day with 634 road miles in desert heat.
            In climbing Wheeler Peak first, the stage was set for a co-completion on Ruby Dome.

Day 1 - Climb Wheeler Peak (8 miles round trip, 3,000 ft gain). I visited the Lehman Caves
            near the park visitor center on a 60 minute tour. Then I drove west on Nevada route 50
            ("loneliest road in America") through Ely and took a room in Eureka. I left a note on my
            windshield notifying Jobe of my whereabouts ... while he drove west after work on I-80 to Elko
            and then south on Nevada 278 to meet me. I was introduced to Craig.

Day 2 - Climb the Eureka cohp (Diamond Pk (10,614 ft)). We made excellent time and were down
            by about 11 AM. On return to the vehicle I had trivially ascended Alpha Pk (9,000+ ft).
            I left my Saturn in Eureka and drove with Jobe and Craig to Churchill County.

            Since I had already climbed Churchill's Desatoya Pk with Scott Surgent exactly two months
            previously, I was able to provide considerable navigational advice to Jobe ... so allowing
            his vehicle to crest the 9,000 ft saddle some two miles west of Basque Summit ...
            and making for a ninety minute round trip hike with a 900 ft elevation gain!

            I took a nap near the auto as they climbed Desatoya - sipping some leftover plum wine
            that was wonderfully chilled thanks to Jobe's ice chest and the forethought of bringing it.

            We drove back east to Lander County, heading south from Austin on Big Creek Road,
            and made camp some 5-10 miles north of our "trailhead" for the following morning.

Day 3 - Climb the Lander cohp (Bunker Hill (11,474 ft)) with Jobe. Craig nursed an incipient
            blister in anticipation of Ruby Dome the following day ... and waited at Jobe's car.
            Jobe coaxed his vehicle up to point 9,335 and found there was plenty of room to
            turn it around in preparation for descent.

            The hike itself was a 2,100 ft net gain
            from that point (2,500 ft total gain), with 2 hours 15 minutes on ascent, a 30 minute
            summit break, and 1 hour 50 minutes on descent. This was, of course, Jobe's second
            ascent of Bunker Hill.

            Importantly, we contoured along the west slope prior to reaching the saddle at 10,060 ft -
            rather than climbing to the ridgeline and encountering difficult talus.

            We drove north to Austin and then east on Nevada route 50 to Eureka. I retrieved my auto
            and we caravaned north on Nevada 278 to I-80 and Elko. I found a cheap room for us
            while Jobe and Craig ate "Mexican food" at Taco Time. I celebrated our continuing success
            with a pint of Lady Godiva white chocolate and raspberry ice cream with various mix-ins.

Day 4 - We awoke at 4:15 AM to climb Ruby Dome (see below for detailed description). After a
            roughly nine hour hike we returned in Jobe's vehicle to the motel (where my Saturn was
            still parked), and parted ways. I took the very same room that night since I did not
            care to start driving west and southwest into the sun in late afternoon.

Day 5 - To commemorate my Nevada completion, I chose a driving route designed to maximize the
            number of counties visited on this trip. I drove west on I-80 past Winnemucca and Lovelock
            to the junction with US route 95. Thence south on 95 past Fallon to Hawthorne - passing
            by Mt Grant of Mineral County. Then I headed south on Nevada route 359 across the California
            border to route 395 near June Lake on the east flank of the Sierra Nevada. Took a room in
            Bishop for the night - having enjoyed the awesome splendor of White Mtn Peak and of the
            Sierra Nevada range. All told I had passed through 11 of Nevada's 17 counties.

Day 6 - Drove south on route 395 down the Owens Valley, noting the various peaks that collectively
            form the 10,000 foot eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada - including, of course, such
            luminaries as Mt Whitney and Mt Williamson.

            I returned to San Diego mid-day at roughly 3 PM and commenced a more boring and uneventful
            existence as just another lost soul in an overpopulated state too varied and beautiful
            for its own good.

            Trip road mileage for my Saturn was 1,713 - of which 990 had been in Nevada.

Hike Description

The route selected matches very closely that already provided by Mike Coltrin in this report - including the road approach from Elko.

We encountered an unlocked gate by dawn's light - and pressed on 1.1 miles to the trailhead (not the 1.5 miles that Mike claims for this road walk - he clearly did not have an automobile odometer with him since he walked that distance). Jobe was uncomfortable with leaving his vehicle at the trailhead since we could be locked in upon return to the gate 1.1 miles away. Thereby he dropped Craig and myself off, drove back to the gate, reparked his vehicle there, and walked back the 1.1 miles (with 500 ft of gain) to meet us again at the trailhead.

Hence Craig and myself climbed Ruby Dome with a 4,900 ft elevation gain while Jobe did it with the full 5,400 ft of gain.

The advice given by Mike Coltrin is commendable regarding the route on trail to Griswold Lake (9,220 ft) - always stay to the left if ever there is a choice of path. And always keep to the left (east) of the stream. Do not be dismayed upon encountering rocky benches in the mid eight thousand foot elevation range - simply locate the cairns and proceed.

The lake was so smooth and still that the land's reflection appeared to be real! Jobe said he had never EVER seen anything like it. I looked upside down through my legs and the reflection appeared to be normal terrain while the actual terrain appeared upsidedown.

Innumerable routes exist to get one up to the 10,140 ft saddle located southeast of the lake. This saddle is denoted by an "S" on the map provided. Take a break here and contemplate the navigation. Some of the following matchs the description provided by Mike Coltrin in his report ... while some of my suggested route differs from his. The fact that we independently summitted on separate occassions points out that several viable alternatives exist - including Mike's route and that selected by Jobe and myself.

To the southeast you will note a prominent triangular-shaped face. This is marked as "T" on the map and is a peak immediately east of Ruby Dome itself. Ruby Dome is the more sloping, gentler-appearing summit to its right (west) and was not visible from the lake 900 feet below.

To the south and in the foreground is a hill marked as 10,425 ft elevation. Try to locate an even smaller hill (of perhaps just 50 feet prominence) located to your southeast and very near if you are truly at the saddle. You want to go over or to the right of this hill and onto the bouldery area beyond it. Continue walking in the general direction of Ruby Dome, gaining perhaps 100 feet of elevation while skirting to the left (east) of hill 10,425. Now drop down perhaps 50 feet, still heading south or southeast, to an obvious flat area, remarkably bare of boulders, which when we were there was simply hard caked dirt. This area is marked by "D" on the map.

Note the sheer north face of Ruby Dome immediately south. Also note the skyline ridge leading west from Ruby's summit as it arcs northwest to your west-southwest (WSW). You have several climbing options at this point. You can climb WSW to the ridgeline via a series of step-like rock formations that are prominently evident just prior to gaining the ridge itself ("1" on the map). You can climb WSW and then trend southwest to access either of two rock chutes that lead to the west ridge of Ruby Dome with a shorter ensuing ridgewalk east to the summit than had you taken the first climbing option ("2" on the map). Or you may climb the east flank of Ruby Dome ("3" on the map) - something that appeared doable to me and which someday I'd like somebody to explore!

(Can you take a hint, Edward?)

I chose the more easterly of the two rock chutes and Craig followed with Jobe. It is high class 2 in my opinion, and lasts for perhaps 150 vertical feet. Upon reaching the ridge at the chute's high end, simply trend east up the ridge until the summit itself after perhaps 100 or 200 additional feet of gain along the ridge. Note the large square summit cairn. The very highest natural rock is any of three located to the cairn's northeast. Touch them all - you don't want to climb a vertical mile only to let somebody tell you the very tippy top was not attained!!

I touched the summit rocks before Jobe at his request - he does not care, and justifiably considers it irrelevant, whether somebody finishes Nevada twelfth or thirteenth. I did care in this particular case since I did not want to finish number 13 - a prime number. Besides, as the 14th California state completer from July 9 and as the 26th Arizona state completer from the previous November, it is noteworthy (at least in my mind) that 12 + 14 = 26.

My summit snack included some rather odoriferous cheese that had Jobe reeling back in discomfort - he actually had to move away to avoid being assaulted by noxious fumes. I must admit, and as the cliche goes, it is "an acquired taste".

I penned into the summit register an empty box with the note "sign in here, Edward" in anticipation of Edward Earl completing Nevada over the Labor Day weekend a few days hence. At that point, Robert Packard, Edward Earl and myself will again (as with completing Arizona and California) share the distinction of being the only people to have completed the tri-state region of Arizona-California-Nevada ... three states that "naturally" seem to "go together".

Despite the fact that there are over six billion humans alive, it is not "too much" of a coincidence that the very same three individuals traveled to Costa Rica last February to climb that nation's highest mountains.

The descent was thankfully uneventful. The gate was locked - so vindicating Jobe in his decision to park the vehicle outside the gate and walk the 1.1 miles back uphill.


Edward Earl indeed completed Nevada on Labor Day - and, having taken my suggestion, went up the east ridge and found it to be no problem. He then signed into the summit register at the place indicated.