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