Siegel, Dogskin, Ellen D

Siegel summit cairn

Of the 1200 peaks with at least 2000 feet of prominence in the Lower 48 (P2Ks), 170 are in Nevada. This consequence of the state’s Basin and Range topography unfortunately means that, for someone irrationally obsessed with his P-index, this monotonous scrub-desert is the easiest place to make the number go up. I therefore try to tag a few of these summits each time I cross the state with a minimum of additional driving.


Glissade on Siegel

Mount Siegel, southeast of Lake Tahoe, was probably not named in honor of Bugsy, but should have been. It is a prominent mound sitting across from the higher peaks of the Tahoe-area Sierra near Minden, which I have passed many times and always meant to climb. This time I had a bike and some free time, and so finally took care of it. I filled up on my first non-California gas in awhile, then parked at the station and started biking toward the peak, following one of several tracks on Peakbagger along some jeep roads winding past private property toward a saddle north of the peak. The track’s author claimed to have driven nearly to the saddle, but I found the road in poor shape, badly eroded and possibly only drivable in an ATV or lifted Jeep. There was also an unpleasant stream crossing near the start of the bad road that required wading.

The road turned into a creek as it neared the saddle, and I decided to stash my bike and walk the rest of the way. Just before the ridge, I turned off the road in an open area and headed cross-country up the steep slope. This could have been miserable, but a recent fire had admirably improved the peak; some places are improved by burning. The ridge was long, with several talus sections and a few false summits, but fortunately mostly snow-free. I eventually reached the enormous cairn at the summit, where I ate my last food and perused the register. Apparently some people still drive to within less than a mile of the summit from the other side, but I did not see signs of a road, or of much recent traffic.

Cold snake

I started back down the ridge on the descent, then took off right to boot-ski a couple snowfields to save some effort. This side of the peak was insufficiently burnt, so the brush was a bit worse, but still not a serious impediment, and I rejoined the old road a bit higher than I had left it. Shortly afterward, I encountered a small gopher snake sunning itself on the road, moving slowly on a chilly Spring day. I was able to gently pet it for fifteen seconds or so without much reaction, but when I moved to grab it closer to the head, it curled up, hissed, and wiggled its tail, pretending to be a rattlesnake. However unlike a real rattlesnake, it slowly slithered away rather than standing its ground, and I respected its wish to be left alone. I got spattered a bit with mud and water on the ride back, but it was uneventful and faster than walking, and the creek crossing was more pleasant mid-day. One more P2K down.


Dogskin register

Dogskin Peak is out the desert northwest of Reno, a range over from Pyramid Lake. I chose it because it was near a quiet place to sleep and not too far out of my way. From my spot off a dirt road to its southwest, I rode in a straight line toward the peak, periodically stopping to warm my frozen hands. I tried following another track from Peakbagger, and again found the roads in bad shape. This time, though, they had turned to horrible mud, so I ended up spattering my long-suffering bike and having to push it quite a bit. I eventually gave up riding, propping the bike on a tree to hike the final steep section of road, then following a trail south to the final saddle before the summit, from which a short hike got me to the top.

Pyramid Lake from Dogskin

The views were unremarkable desert, and the register was largely filled by entries from ATVers or moto people taking a short side-trip. I returned to my bike, then tried a more direct route back. This worked better than the approach, with a rough double-track merging into a hard-packed sandy wash that I could take at considerable speed. This “road” merged with the one I had taken on the way up just before the main dirt roads, which I followed back to the car. The last few miles were infested with Mormon crickets, which are harmless but disgusting in every way. I squashed quite a few, though my bike did not get an extra coating of cricket guts, but as Wikipedia warns: “When a large band crosses a road, it can create a safety hazard by causing distracted revulsion on the part of the driver, and by causing the road surface to become slick with crushed crickets.” Yuck.

Ellen D

West from Ellen D

Mount Ellen D is an obscure P2K close to the Great Basin Highway north from I-80 into Idaho. Its main notable feature is a road to the radio towers on its summit. I slept off the highway some miles to the south, then parked at the pullout at the base of the road to ride the peak. The dirt road starts out well-graded as it passes through a small assemblage of shacks and mobile homes, then degrades as it climbs. I found it rideable up to a ranch gate, then had to hike-a-bike several sections that were too steep and/or loose for my bike’s relatively aggressive gearing and narrow tires. The summit views, of sagebrush and yellow balsamroot with lingering snowbanks, reminded me of Wyoming, where I was headed next. The upper portion of the descent was rideable on the way down with some caution, while the lower part was fast and actually fun. One more red dot was now green.

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