Pinto Mountain

My friends, Dinah Kruze and Bob Spirko, own a condominium in Las Vegas, Nevada and regularly fly down there to hike in the desert.  Despite having visited Las Vegas myself on several occasions, I had only previously climbed one desert peak with Dinah and had yet to join Bob on any trips in the area.  When I learned recently that they were heading to Las Vegas again, I decided to take some time off work to join them for some fun in the sun.

Our original plan on 13 October 2013 was to hike in California's Providence Mountains State Recreation Area (SRA), but after some discussion in our car during the long drive, we determined that the park was inaccessible (the SRA has actually been closed for several years).  Luckily, Bob had a backup plan to climb Pinto Mountain in Mojave National Preserve which completely surrounds the SRA.  Given the recent shutdown of the US government, we were not entirely certain that even the preserve was open, but seeing no signs or road closures on our way to the start of the hike, we assumed that the area was still open to the public.  Besides, with the government shutdown, who would be there to tell us otherwise?

The route up Pinto Mountain is not overly complicated--mostly an off-trail hike up a wash and along an undulating ridge.  The summit of Pinto Mountain is disappointingly flat--so flat that we were not even sure where the actual summit was.  We wandered around a bit on the spacious plateau until we were satisfied that we had at least walked over the true high point.  Just to be absolutely sure, we all climbed up a dead tree that was seemingly higher than anything else on the plateau.

For our return trip, we took a more direct route back by descending a moderately difficult cliff band and hiking cross-country over generally easy terrain.  When we reached our car, we were surprised to find a National Park Service note on the windshield informing us that the entire area was closed to recreational use and that driving along the roads was only permitted for through traffic.  Somewhat bemused by the irony of a non-functioning agency that was still dictating regulations, we had plenty to talk about on our drive back to Las Vegas.

More annoying than the note though were the countless insidious prickles that I picked up from hiking through the grasses and vegetation in the area.  The woody prickles were very difficult to shake loose, and there were so many of them poking my ankles through my socks that the collection of individual stings just felt like one big dull ache.  Dinah also complained about the prickles, but Bob seemingly had no issues.  Back at my hotel, I easily spent a couple of hours meticulously pulling each individual prickle out from my socks and shoes.  Days later, I would still find the odd one stuck in my socks.

Be sure to check out Bob's and Dinah's photos here.
Already picking up prickles! Dinah and Bob head for the wash in front of them.  The summit of Pinto Mountain is not visible here.
Rabbitbrush typically bloom in the Fall. Blooming rabbitbrush are abundant in the wash.
Contrary to appearances, the bushwhacking here is minimal. Bob and Dinah head for the open slopes at left.
We will bypass the high point in the photo on the right. Dinah surveys the open terrain.  The summit of Pinto Mountain is still not visible here.
Spot the bug? Globe mallows are very striking in the desert landscape.
Unexpectedly scenic! Bob and Dinah wander along the edge of an escarpment.

Wonder who lives down the middle of a preserve!

The Providence Mountains stand out in the distance to the south.

Where the heck is the true summit?! Bob and Dinah traverse below a rock band on their way to the false summit ahead.
Not sure if I'm interested in climbing it anymore... The true summit of Pinto Mountain finally comes into view.
Almost there...I think... Dinah and Bob climb up the final slope.

You could probably play a game of football on this summit!

Dinah and Bob try to ascertain the location of Pinto Mountain's summit.  In the distance are the New York Mountains with Drum Peak on the right.

Bob looks like he's been crucified or impaled! Desert vegetation will sometimes snag an entire human.
Close enough, let's eat! Bob, Dinah and Sonny stand on what they think is the summit of Pinto Mountain (1867 metres).
A whole lotta nothing out there! Hackberry Mountain (right) is visible in this view to the southeast.
Good place to land a spaceship! Table Top is the most distinctive peak visible from Pinto Mountain.
A little bit of route-finding required. Bob and Dinah descend a weakness in the cliff band.
Good place to take shelter in a storm. Dinah checks out some cave-like formations on an interesting outcrop of rock.  This is likely rhyolite, a type of igneous (volcanic) rock.
More fun than climbing to the summit of Pinto Mountain! The cave-like formations are the result of a type of weathering caused by wetting and drying of porous rock.
More difficult to climb than it looks--I was stymied in my attempts! Bob stands atop a conspicuous boulder on the way back to the car.
And the summit is not visible, of course! Here is a look back at the Pinto Mountain "massif" from the road.
Maybe not worth the long drive from Vegas, but a pleasant trip nonetheless. Total Distance:  ~7.3 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  4 hours 29 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  321 metres