After researching and climbing several dozen peaks in the environs of Las Vegas, I had come to believe that every named peak in the area, even obscure peaks with unofficial names, had a least a cursory route description on the Internet. So I was surprised to find one peak that didn't: Bighorn Butte.
After driving down Lakeshore Road 2.2 miles east of the ranger station, Dinah and I parked at Long View Overlook. Bighorn Butte was nearly two miles away, but fortunately a good wash stretches almost to its base.
We set out across the desert flats, aiming for a notch in the low hills since that's where we would find the approach wash. Beyond the notch, the wash meanders before turning into a short canyon. After breaking out of the canyon, Bighorn Butte appeared on our right, at the head of a side wash. From the side wash, we could either gain the saddle left of the summit or go up a slope on the right, but the final stretch to the top, the backside, was hidden from our view. Whether we ascended left or right of the summit, we couldn't be sure if we wouldn't be stopped by cliffs.
We decided to attempt the route on the right. We hiked up a gentle slope and after wending left, a steep ramp came into view. I worried that the ramp might end in a drop-off, but it didn't. It took us to the backside of the mountain where we easily hiked to the top.
On the summit we found a cairn and surprisingly, a summit register. The register called the peak “Bighorn Butte.” Bighorn Butte is not a coveted desert peak. The register showed only about a half dozen entries in the last ten years; the last ascent was in 2010.
While I took a summit panorama, Dinah traipsed to an adjacent high point. Afterwards we headed down to the saddle using the “left” ascent route that we had considered earlier. It turned out to be easy. After dropping down the rubbly slope below the saddle, we worked our way left to get back into the side wash we had hiked up. Then we retraced our steps back to the parking lot.
With a good starting point, a fine approach up a wash, and an uncomplicated class 2 climb, there's no reason why Bighorn Butte shouldn't see more ascents. Perhaps a little exposure on the Internet can bring it out of its obscurity. Like this post.
Bighorn Butte seen soon after starting across the flats
We crossed River Mountain Trail
We headed to a notch where we'll find the wash
Following the wash into the notch
The remains of a bighorn sheep
After we turned a corner Bighorn Butte came into view
We passed the west slopes of Bighorn Butte
The pillar of rock on the right marks the entrance to a short canyon
Climbing over boulders
Bypassing a dry fall
Before reaching the boulder ahead (mouse over for another view) we exited the wash
We started up a side wash that leads to the base of Bighorn
There's a saddle left of the summit but we went up the gentle slope on our right
As we draw closer to the summit, we can see a ramp between an outcrop and the summit
The gentle terrain below suggests other approaches to the mountain
We make our way to the ramp
Looking back from the top of the ramp (click for a larger image)
After turning a corner we found an easy grade. We're only a couple minutes from the top.
On the summit of Bighorn Butte
First entry in the summit register
There's a precipitous drop on the east side of the summit (click for a larger image)
Heading down to the saddle
Loose rock covers the slope below the saddle
After descending a way we made our way back to the wash on the other side of the ridge ahead
Our approximate route (mouse over to zoom out)
1:24,000 Boulder Beach Topo (5.1 mi, 2569 ft, 1109 ft)
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