Furthest of the DPS Peaks: Ruby Dome in Northern Nevada

  • Updated: October 14, 2012
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

What:  Ruby Dome (11,387')
When: October 12th & 13th, 2012
Where: Near Elko, NV
Who: Matthew Hengst, Anne Kircher
Pictures: Flickr

GPS Track: Track

Ruby Dome is the most distant peak on the Desert Peak Section list located about 780 miles from Los Angeles.  However it's only about 260 miles from Boise so it was pretty high on my list of things to get done before the eventual end of the Boise project.

This was actually my second attempt at Ruby Dome after climb last December left Jen Blackie and myself floundering in deep fluffy snow and running out of daylight several thousand feet below the summit.  This time we were back in October well before any significant snow had fallen.

Anne and I had originally planned to do this peak first then head of to Jarbidge Nevada to grab Matterhorn and maybe a few bonus bumps but after checking the weather and finding we had a 50% chance of precipitation on Friday we decided to switch things around.  So, after enjoying a hailstorm or two in the Jarbidge area, then a scenic drive through northern Nevada complete with food poisoning we were all set to finish up with Ruby Dome and drive back to Boise.

Leaving Elko (and a Mexican restaurant I hope never to visit again) we drove up Lamoille Canyon and picked out a spot at Thomas Canyon Campground to spend the night.  The canyon itself was spectacular though we were a bit too late in the day to catch the sunlight hitting the fall colors.  I really want to get back there and do some additional peaks one day.

Due to the number of RVs at Thomas and went looking for a second smaller campground called Terraces that was supposed to be located higher up but that seems to have been closed down.  Returning to Thomas we managed to occupy a spot far enough away from all the generators to have a fairly pleasant night complete with roaring campfire.
We woke up predawn the next morning and headed for Pleasant Valley Road and the Spring Creek Association.

The DPS guide just lists the access to the peak as through a private campground owned by the Spring Creek Association but they kind of leave out the bit about it also being a firing range.  Nothing like the sound of gunfire echoing behind you to add that little extra spring to your step...
While you can write ahead and pay to get through the locked gate and stay at the campground I'd been there  before and didn't particularly want to stay there.  So instead we parked outside the gate and had an extra 1.5 miles and 500' of gain to do before starting the trail proper.  Anne was somewhat less enthused about this than I was.

1.5 miles later we arrived at a rather optimistic sign promising Griswold Lake was only 3 miles away and the peak itself only 4.  Easy stuff!  (The DPS guide lists it as 12 miles and 5,400' of gain while my GPS came up with a total of 14 miles and 5,400')

The trail is quite pretty with lots of fall color aspen down lower.  Anne repeatedly remarked how pretty they were and didn't seem to appreciate it when I pointed out she hadn't seem to enjoy those aspen we bushwhacked through in Jarbidge two days ago to quite the same level.
Maybe slightly off trail...

There were also cows.  I couldn't tell if they were supposed to be there or not as a section of fence at one of the gates below had either been knocked down or purposefully taken down.  Normally cows wouldn't phase me but after the trip to Spanish Mountain where we'd nearly been charged by a strangely aggressive cow who didn't want us in his particular meadow we were a bit jumpy around bovines.

The trail was (not surprisingly)  much easier to follow without a foot or two of snow and the places where it strayed onto the rock were fun instead of being slightly terrifying.

Griswold Lake was as far as I'd gotten last December and it was much prettier this time.  It didn't seem to have any fish but there were several nice campsites scattered around the lake.

The trail seemed to disappear at this point but we found it again up the slope from the lake after passing through some slightly sketchy sections of loose rock and dirt.

Once up top it feels like you're in the Sierra with sparse boulder fields abound.  We found ducks here and there but there really wasn't any need at this point as you head straight for Ruby hopping over any rocks that look fun.

North face of Ruby Dome
Looking at the eastern saddle route
The DPS guide mentions you can gain the ridge to the east or west of the peak.  We were running into some rocks that were covered in a thin layer of ice (a bad thing if you happen to step or jump on them) and so I picked the eastern saddle since the route was more in the sun.

I was a bit over eager however and instead of going over to the saddle and walking the ridge we turned up a bit early and so did have to deal with a little steep icy rock.

We ran into someone on the way down who had gone up the western route and he claimed it was a lot easier than this side which he claimed was quite exposed.  I never found anything really exposed along the way so I'm going to attribute that to him not being a peakbagger.

The last bit flattens out and then it's an easy stroll to the summit where we found a rather large cairn with the summit register and a golf club.

Our sign-in
It was cold but had cell coverage allowing me to do such essential tasks as update my Facebook status and call my mother to share how Anne and I had woken up predawn and hiked to 11k ft while her and dad had been sitting around the house.  Good son bonus points?
Summit panorama
We still had a long way to descend not to mention the 300 mile drive back to Boise before the day was over so we soon shouldered out packs and headed down.

 Down proved to be much easier largely due to sticking to the ridge while descending the summit and taking a slightly different route right above Griswold Lake that avoided the really steep loose bits.

The canyon below Giswold Lake looses sun early
As we exited the trail and started down the dirt road through the campground we saw a vehicle pull up to the gate and start up the hill towards us.  It turned out to be the caretaker who had received reports by some local of lights in the canyon above and had come up to check on us.  He was a rather nice fellow and we chatted for a few minutes before he offered us a ride down the last mile to our car.  Much to Anne's resigned dismay I wouldn't accept wanting to finish the peak on my own two feet.

We strolled down the rest of the way, had a quick dinner in Elko (at a different, much better Mexican restaurant!) and started the long drive back to Boise via 225/51.

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