Valley of Fire 2014 DPS Trip Day 2: White Dome, Gibraltar Rock, Silica Dome

  • Updated: December 21, 2014
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

December 21st, 2014
  White Dome (2,234')
  Gibraltar Rock (2,172')
  Silica Dome (2,349')
[Pics] [Map]

This was the second day of a two day Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section outing to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.  For the first day see here.

Today we were doing three easier peaks White Dome, Gibraltar Rock, and Silica Dome. All were picked because they had a name on the map and were unique in some way.

We took the luxury of not getting going until 8 am since we were all short on sleep after the previous day.

For White Dome there's a large parking lot with facilities.  Most people go there to hike a loop which includes the spot where they filmed the part of Star Trek Generations where Kirk gets crushed and dies because Picard can't be arsed to let the bloody Nexus just hit the planet so he can have another shot at the encounter.  Hey kids, lazy Star Trek plots didn't start with the JJ Abrams version...

Anyway!  The approach is easy and from what I've seen it's the only real option.

This is the only tricky bit for White Dome.  I haven't found any other way up or down.

It's mostly just awkward with a bit of slabbiness throw in for good measure.

The good news is you're not going to go anywhere wedged in like that.  We set up people at a few spots along the way and got everyone up fairly quickly.

Once past that it's straightforward to the top.

And the views aren't bad.  And you look awesome to the people down walking their kids along the trail below.

Gibraltar Rock from the summit of White Dome
We could also see our second peak of the day Gibraltar.

We even saw some sheep down below.

Looking back down at the parking lot.  I can see my car...
We were reluctantly to leave due to the nice views but we had a lot more to do.

This means reversing over the awkward slab belly bit.  If anything it's a little more akward going down.

Once back to the parking lot we piled back in the cars and headed for Gibraltar.  Last time I got a written warning left on my windshield for parking along the road so this time we used the nearby parking for Fire Wave.

We followed the trail a short way and then cut to the left along a wash that had seen a fair amount of foot traffic.

If it looks like we went around the long way that's because we did.  The more direct route that leads up from the center of Gibraltar is perfectly passable in both directions I just found the northern part of the rock a lot of fun when I was originally exploring.

(Also the left hand track heading north from the summit that dead ends was our attempt to find an alternate descent other than a tricky slab.  It didn't work.  If anyone does know anything else that works please let me know.)

So hiking around to the northern tip there's a ramp along the western side you can use to stroll up to the ridge.

From there you're on top and just heading south.

There's some fun bits along the way.

Eventually you drop down into the gully in the middle of the rock.  You need to find a spot to climb up the western side where the high (-ish) point is.

It's not quite as bad as it looks but it's also not super easy especially in the downward direction.  The angle is such that you can get plenty of friction with your feet but there's not much in the way of decent handholds.

There also wasn't any option I could see to set an anchor above which is the biggest downside to taking a mixed Sierra Club group up this rock.  Also if someone fell there's a chance they'd fall down another 10 or 20 feet to the right of this picture.  So falling is not recommended.

From there it's again relatively straightforward with a little back and forth.

Reversing the friction bit is worse than coming up it.

This is the view from the top.  We staged the group here and brought people out on the slab one at a time.

Again the angle is such that if you have sticky shoes it's quite doable just not overly comfortable.  Notice the drop on the left side of the picture.  (The first time I came here I did this in my usual Merrell hiking boots but I'd recommend approach shoes personally.)

Last view of the crux

From here we jumped into the big gully you can see on the topo leading down to the west and scrambled down.  It required you maneuver through some rather large boulders but there's no major route finding difficulty here.

We picked up the trail we'd taken around the rock and returned to the parking lot.

Before it was time to head home we had one last short bump to climb.  Last time I'd been out here the road to Silica Dome had been closed off and didn't seem worth the extra hike at the time.  It's an easily accessible tourist bump.

We tried to go this way at first.

Signs deserve appreciation

We thought the sign was just to stop the tourists Turns out it actually had a point it just wasn't good at conveying the situation.  The area behind the sign does not lead to Silica.  It's a dead end.  Instead you want to take the road behind the parking lot bathrooms.  It really could use some better signage since we could tell from a clear use trail a lot of other people made the same mistake.

You can see the route in the picture above.

Climbing the Dome itself was fun with sticky rock.

And the views were well worth the short stroll.

Matt doing the Neal and Neal doing the Matt

We didn't spend too long on top since we had a long drive back through Vegas to reach LA.  For the traditional post trip Mexican feast we drove into Vegas and took a slight detour to the north end to go to a rather good restaurant that I like to visit whenever we're out this way.

Leticia's Mexican Cocina
7585 Norman Rockwell Ln
Las Vegas, NV 89143
Coming into Vegas south on the 15 we just took 215 over to 95.  It wasn't too bad of a diversion and well worth it before starting the hellish drive back to LA.

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