Rubies Day 1

By Luca

3 September 2011

The first day is always the hardest, at least in terms of waking up in the morning. We were both sleep deprived when the alarm went off at 6am at the Ramada hotel in Reno.
The night before the guy at the check-in was the slowest person I’ve ever seen outside of DMV. There was a couple in front of us that took forever to check-in; he had to wait several minutes for the customer to go get some papers and he didn’t even acknowledge our existance during that time… At any rate, after a quick coffee and filling up Ephra’t car, we were off to Star Peak.
Most of the mountains we were to try these days required 4wd approaches, but we were willing to try more “creative” routes and drive Ephrat’s Corolla in order to save the money of the rental. This turns out to work perfectly.

It took about 2 hours of driving on highway 80 before we started seeing the ultra-prominence of Star Peak (over 5000 feet). This would be a pretty good warm up hike.
I printed the summitpost page of the peak and did very little research; it was 9 am when we were still deciding whether to approach the peak from west (i.e. from hwy 80) or east (i.e. from Star City). We eventually chose the east approach because we wanted to hike a loop including Star Peak, Van Zant Peak and Thunder Mountain.
The plan wasn’t too ambitious (and was previously done by Bob Burd and co. in winter conditions), but it was almost 10.30 when we arrived at Star City.
In perfect Nevada style, Star City was maybe once a city, but I saw nothing that proves it. No wells, no mines (!), no ruins. Maybe the city was slightly out of the way and not where the road ends today.

The road to Star City was no problem for the Corolla, but the last mile or so was pretty rough so we decided to park and hike the remaining 4wd section.
Shortly after starting, Ephrat froze and had a terrified look in her face; I was trying to understand why when I heard dogs barking and saw two giant white beasts that didn’t look friendly at all moving towards us.

We slowly started retreating to the car and we walked that half mile in just few minutes. Not many options at that point; I proposed to drive a bit further and maybe we could bypass the animals; I carefully ventured on the 4wd section, but it soon became impassable for the small utility car.
100 meters before we stopped the car there was an old RV and we spotted a person, so we went back and asked him whether the dogs belonged to him.

That person name is Mel; born in Peru, he’s a shepherd in the desolated Star Canyon, that we soon discovered being home of thousands of sheep. He told us the big dogs were no problem and that among all the dogs he owns (around 10) those are the most friendly. We were still uneasy about it and asked him to escort us to the end of the 4wd road. He agreed.

It was fun; we spoke Spanish to him (he had almost zero knowledge of English). He inquired several times whether we were going to the summit or just for a hike; when we told him we were attempting the summit, he said it was very late and it would take most of the day (it was 10.30am at this point). We smiled and said goodbye.

We followed a nearly empty creek all the way up to the towers of star peak. The route follows an easy gully to the north east of the peak. I believe the ridge north of the gully would also work, but we found nothing difficult at all.
From the radio towers, it’s just few minutes to the true summit. We were there at 12:50, making the ascent time 2:20 for about 4000 feet of elevation gain (we started at 5770 feet and the summit of Star is 9820 feet).

20 deserved minutes of break were followed by the failry long stroll to Van Zant Peak. From Star Peak, we followed the road for a little while and then headed north to the obvious ridge which didn’t look that easy in first place but turned out to be fine (class 2, I’d say). At 2:35 pm we were at the top of the second summit and on our way to Thunder mountain.

Thunder was maybe the most interesting peak of the day. It looked different from the others because it has different rock. The traverse is easy, but there are a couple of class 3 moves that can definitely be bypassed.

We rushed down the east slopes of Thunder and soon we hit the 4wd road at Sacred Point. That must be the steepest 4wd road I’ve ever seen, it was even difficult to walk on it!

Sitting in the car at 4:30pm was a good feeling. The amount of dust we eat for the day was definitely enough.

Stats for the day: 10.1 miles, 6h10, 5070 feet elevation gain.

We hopped in the car, backtracked the Star City road and got to Elko fairly late, after having dinner at a rest station on hwy 80 (we managed to always prepare our food and never dine out for 9 days, not bad!).

The goal for next day was Pearl Peak, a difficult-to-reach peak in the Southern Rubys. We drove over Harrison pass (beautiful paved road from west of the pass, nice dirt dirt road at the east) and reached a campground near Ruby Lake, on the eastern side of the range. It was good sleep.

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