Lake Mead NRA, Nevada
January 18, 2013
Among the many tiny desert peaks I've climbed, none have been more engaging than Murphy's Peak. Hands down, it has the best scrambling and route-finding challenges and the best scenery for its size. It offers what must be an unrivaled view of the Bowl of Fire, a vast expanse of vivid red sandstone.
To get to Murphy's Peak, Dinah and I parked at a pullout south of the mountain on Northshore Road and set off across the desert flats. On reaching the base of the mountain, we hiked up the rubbly south slope to the jumble of steep rocks that guarded the ridgeline. Here Dinah hesitated. Understandable as the route angled sharply up a ledge which felt exposed on the left side. It was a class 3 scramble, and a couple of cairns assured me I was on track. But after climbing partway up I turned back. Knowing my partner, it would be beyond her comfort level.
We decided to circle the mountain to see if we could reach the ridge from the other side. Sure enough, after rounding a bend, the summit came into view as well as a rock-filled wash that stretched to the ridge crest. Unlike the other side, we could hike to the ridgeline.
After gaining the ridge, however, we realized we had to backtrack a bit and ascend steep rock slabs. Further on, we encountered more steep rock and plenty of scrambling. Now, though, Dinah declared she had had enough scrambling. While she waited on a ledge, I continued climbing, mostly following the ridgeline. A few dozen metres before the summit, the ridge leveled off and I walked to the summit cairn.
When it comes to mountains, size does matter. But for scramblers looking for a quickie, Murphy's Peak packs in a lot of adventure.
Murphy's Peak from the road
After ascending a break in the short cliffs ahead, we'll head up the slope on the right
We head to the three points in the centre of the skyline
Looking down at Calville Wash
The route goes left at the wall of steep rock
The route lies ahead on a diagonal ledge (steeper than it looks).
I scrambled partway before turning back.
Looking back: the route we abandoned appears behind Dinah
We start to work our way around the mountain
After circling the base of the mountain, we see the summit and a way to gain the ridge
We followed a wash to the ridge (mouse over for our route)
Looking back along the ridge
We're forced to go right because of steep slabs
Climbing a short, brief ledge
Dinah stopped while I pushed on (mouse over to look back)
I have more scrambling ahead of me
The ridge finally levels off and I can see the top of Murphy's Peak
Anniversary Narrows Peak on the right
Bowl of Fire from the summit (click for a larger image)
Heading back down
Heading back to the car (the barely visible white dot directly in front of Dinah)
View from the summit
Calville Bay 1:24,000 Topo (3.3 mi, 2680 ft, 797 ft)
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