Trip Report
Elephant Land Revisited
Friday June 8, 2018 11:21am
The Sorting Hat
The Sorting Hat
Credit: Ney Grant

First off, what is it with all the Sprinter vans? We are seeing more and more of these “adventure vans”.
And then this:

How cute...
How cute...
Credit: Ney Grant

A Sprinter pulling an ATV? What? Matching colors no less? How is this in any way compatible with a climbing and hiking lifestyle? Do these people know you can’t even ride a mountain bike off the bike trail in most parks, much less an ATV? Who are these people?

Well, um, they are us.

It started with an email from our neighbor Jerry, a who was selling his rarely used ATV. Betsy “got it” right away and said two things, One, Elephant Land and two, Shuteye Ridge – both places where we’ve gotten the Sprinter stuck. Jerry didn’t think it would be good for us since it was a one person ATV and it wouldn’t be safe or legal to try to get another person in there.

Who gets the one seat belt?
Who gets the one seat belt?
Credit: Ney Grant

The three day Memorial day weekend gave us enough time to get out and enjoy Elephant Land (aka The Lava Beds), an immense area of granite spires sticking up through sagebrush, wildflowers and rattlesnakes. Waaay out in the middle of nowhere, Nevada.
It's waaay out there.
It's waaay out there.
Credit: Ney Grant
Wild horses, burros and even a Pronghorn Antelop.
Wild horses, burros and even a Pronghorn Antelop.
Credit: Ney Grant

It is a fantastic place and on this weekend we saw a group of five trail bikers in the distant and a group of jeepers that turned around before they got to the granite spires. That’s it – on a holiday weekend.

Switching rides
Switching rides
Credit: Ney Grant

Sprinter made it a few hundred yards from here - and there she stayed.
Sprinter made it a few hundred yards from here - and there she stayed.
Credit: Ney Grant
Its adventure climbing for sure. You can find a good spire and hike to it, only to discover that its neighbor another mile away looks more compelling to climb. The granite is old, rough and holds can break, and on this trip we didn’t see any signs of climbing except for the anchors we’ve now put in. Seems like how Alabama Hills must have been before lots of climbers climbed on it.
Sandy road typical of approach road
Sandy road typical of approach road
Credit: Ney Grant

A few of many spires
A few of many spires
Credit: Ney Grant

It is a stunningly beautiful place with odd, sculpted granite formations, forever views to the Black Rock Desert to the north and the Kumiva Valley to the south. Right now in the spring there are numerous small springs that create lush little meadows with abundant wildflowers. I’m surprised there are not more non-climbers just out enjoying this amazing place.
Credit: Ney Grant
Credit: Ney Grant
Credit: Ney Grant
Credit: Ney Grant
Credit: Ney Grant

We spent Saturday exploring some spires and deciding which to climb on Sunday. There is a four-wheel drive loop road (though not a complete loop) that is perfect for the ATV or a full-on 4WD drive jeep or truck. Subarus or 4WD vans would not make it.
The Sorting Hat spire
The Sorting Hat spire
Credit: Ney Grant
The other spire we climbed, we referred to as, "Next to the Sorting Ha...
The other spire we climbed, we referred to as, "Next to the Sorting Hat".
Credit: Ney Grant

We spent Sunday at what we named the Sorting Hat (Google it if you didn’t see the first Harry Potter movie), a steep spire with great climbing on all sides. Last time we were at Elephant Land we put up some climbs from the ground up but this time we decided with the questionable rock it would be safer to top rope. We climbed a 5.5 arete to the top where we placed a two-bolt ring anchor in good rock. Because of the sensitive nature of the area I used a hand drill. What? Heck no, power drill all the way!

Betsy on one of the routes on The Sorting Hat
Betsy on one of the routes on The Sorting Hat
Credit: Ney Grant
A fun crack we climbed, but I can't remember what spire it is on.
A fun crack we climbed, but I can't remember what spire it is on.
Credit: Ney Grant

Betsy setting up natural anchors (not The Sorting Hat)
Betsy setting up natural anchors (not The Sorting Hat)
Credit: Ney Grant

It is a nice anchor in that you can use long slings to top rope off of any side of spire, then rap down the north side using a 70m rope. Note that the far east side would require an 80m or two ropes. The south side works with 70m but you end up on a ledge with a 4th class downclimb. We didn’t climb the west face.
Anyway, I think we climbed 6 or 7 routes, all very good. You can pretty much pick your grade. Lots of fun.
Fun 5.8 chimney on the right, and stuff on the left we didn't climb.
Fun 5.8 chimney on the right, and stuff on the left we didn't climb.
Credit: Ney Grant

On Monday morning we climbed on the spire just to the south of the Sorting Hat. Betsy wanted to climb a dramatic chimney and I was glad she did as it was more fun than I thought it would be. Then up to the top where we set up a top rope and finally left some webbing to get off – no anchors were set on this one.

Credit: Ney Grant


LOGISTICS:


There are two roads into what is formally called “The Lava Beds” (no lava anywhere) but which Nevada climbing pioneer Alvin Mclane called Elephant Land. Use Google satellite maps. The quickest way is up 447 from Reno, over the Selenites between Luxor and Kumiva peaks, then use satellite images to pick roads that take you across Kumiva valley (with many wild burros, horses and we even saw one Pronghorn Antelope) and up to Elephant Land. One road goes up the east side (the one we took last time) and you’ll end up higher near the spires we climbed on our last trip (look at our last trip report). Although it is a sandier, looser and steeper road, it gets you closer and is recommended if you have the vehicle for it. Again, look at the older trip report for that section of Elephant Land.

An easier road is the Trail Canyon road that is pretty gentle until just before the Trail Springs itself and then it is 4WD to get up on a ridge. At that point it is about a mile to the nearest spire and maybe 2 miles to the big ones at the top. From our camp at the bottom of the Ridge, it was about 3.5 miles to the parking spot where we walked to the chosen spires. We put 22 miles on the ATV that weekend.

At the top of the loop is Mustang Springs (on the map) and you can reach this via 4WD from both access roads. About ½ mile east from Mustang Springs is where you can look to the south and see The Sorting Hat and other spires. Park the horse you rode in on and walk to your spire. The Sorting Hat is kind-of the second one in.

  Trip Report Views: 1,361
Ney Grant
About the Author
Ney is a trad climber from Pollock Pines.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
shylock

Social climber
mb
  Jun 8, 2018 - 12:33pm PT
awesome looking rock and place. I'd love to make it out there. is that first picture the sorting hat? really impressive from that angle
kingtut

climber
Jingus Newroutaineer
  Jun 8, 2018 - 12:47pm PT
sweet. looks like a beautiful spring playground.
clarkolator

climber
Flatlands of Yolo
  Jun 8, 2018 - 12:49pm PT
That black and white photo is a trippy feast for the eyes
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Jun 8, 2018 - 12:51pm PT
Yes, that is The Sorting Hat (I added a caption), and from that angle you can see the small cone of granite at the top where the bolt anchors are. They work for the shortest rap straight down, but also for TR on all sides with directionals.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Jun 8, 2018 - 01:00pm PT
Living large Ney and Betsy!
Glad ya got out for some more of that obscure rock and a new rig to shorten the approaches.
Bitchen report and pics,
Tad
Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Redwood City
  Jun 8, 2018 - 03:11pm PT
Really cool TR. Climbing and wheelin' combined, it doesn't get much better than that...
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jun 8, 2018 - 03:25pm PT
Looks like it was fun adventuring!
A fun crack we climbed, but I can't remember what spire it is on.
A fun crack we climbed, but I can't remember what spire it is on.
Credit: Ney Grant
Haha, good one - it's clearly on the Sorting Hat (compare the dikes and roofs to your other photo).

How tall are the "spires"?
I assume under 60m if you are toproping from the summit anchor.

Too bad the rock quality isn't a little better, but that could have made it more well known.

Previous trip report with more photos and GPS coordinates:
http://www.supertopo.com/tr/New-Old-Obscure-Nevada-Wonderland-Elephant-Land/t12851n.html

https://www.google.com/maps/place/40%C2%B034'22.9%22N+118%C2%B059'14.3%22W/@40.5730351,-118.989508,2090m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d40.573031!4d-118.987314?hl=en
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Jun 8, 2018 - 03:54pm PT
Yeah, The Sorting Hat (I really didn't remember that), and when TRing that crack a 70mm didn't do it, so about 30-40 meters high depending where you are.


There was a fairly big formation that we drove out to, but it was pretty broken up:

Glad we didn't hike all the way out to this.
Glad we didn't hike all the way out to this.
Credit: Ney Grant
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
  Jun 8, 2018 - 03:56pm PT
Been thinking about adding a four wheeler to the desert crag rat repertoire for a few years now. Well, with Ney and Betsy pioneering the way .....

Cool trip report.
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Jun 8, 2018 - 04:04pm PT
Some of the rock wasn't bad, like in this photo while scouting (we didn't end up climbing there), and then the next photo where the cave looked like it could just fall apart.
Credit: Ney Grant

Credit: Ney Grant
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Jun 8, 2018 - 04:12pm PT
Hi Rick,

Yeah, the ATV was pretty handy. Although it isn't too long a walk from the pass up to the parking area on Egyptian Ridge, it would be handy there as well for us. Or getting close to the Pyramid, we got stuck in mud there once...

Credit: Ney Grant
L

climber
Just livin' the dream
  Jun 8, 2018 - 05:01pm PT
Great photos and commentary.
Thanks!
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Jun 8, 2018 - 06:59pm PT
Ney! Thanks for taking the time to post your story & photos!

I always enjoy your trip reports, & I'm thinking about buying an ATV too.
Friend

climber
  Jun 8, 2018 - 07:29pm PT
Very cool. The stoke is real.
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Jun 8, 2018 - 07:50pm PT
Awesome Ney.....let's climb!!!
Contractor

Boulder climber
CA
  Jun 9, 2018 - 08:26am PT
Looks like a nice variety of climbing and bouldering!
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Jun 9, 2018 - 04:26pm PT
Yeah Charlie, we should get together some weekday for Slick Rock, the leap or some of the hwy 50/88 obscurities. There is a fun small area right off 88, I can't remember the name.
nah000

climber
now/here
  Jun 9, 2018 - 04:59pm PT
real nice... really enjoyed and fell for the sprinter van hate, bait and switch at the beginning... always good to see people’s stories about gettin’ amongst it, whatever the vehicle[s]!

thanks for the share!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jul 24, 2018 - 03:24pm PT
very cool! tfpu!
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