Hike to Arc Dome, July 15, 2017.

A few weeks ago, Jorge mentioned that he and Diana were planning a hike in Nevada to climb Arc Dome. After checking out this peak and the trail to it on the internet, I got excited and told Jorge I wanted to join them on this hike.  The plan was to drive to the trail head on Friday, hike on Saturday, and return on Sunday. We would be camping two nights at the Columbine Campground where the trail to Arc Dome starts.

Early Friday morning I drove to Jorge and Diana’s home, and after loading up all the gear in their truck, we were on our way. We stopped at Coco’s on Hwy 14 to have breakfast. Diana and I decided to have the Florentine Scramble with fruit. However, the melon was impossible to cut with a regular knife, so after complaining to the waitress, she provided me with a big steak knife which made the task a lot easier! On we went through the desert, taking a quick stop at the Jawbone Canyon Visitor Center, where I finally saw Bob the turtle, and along the Eastern Sierra to Bishop, where I thought we were going to have lunch. To my surprise we just ordered sandwiches which we would be eating for dinner that evening at the campground! At least I had some cookies and chips to hold me over… We also stopped at K-Mart to get some garbage bags which we used to cover my duffel bag for the last part of the drive over dirt roads.

After Bishop we drove northeast into Nevada, passing by Boundary and Montgomery Peaks and ever smaller towns to Gabbs (Pop. 269), where we stopped to get some gas. The town looked pretty much deserted, and the gas pumps had padlocks on them. Jorge decided to walk over to the local store, and a few minutes later a nice lady came over to unlock the pump and top-off of the tank with about $5.00 of gas. Right next to the gas station is a motel which looked very inviting…. From Gabbs we drove east for about 30 miles to the old mining town of Berlin, which we would visit on Sunday. Now going north, we noticed two Antelopes beside the road. We tried to take some pictures of them, but were not very lucky.   A while later we drove through the ghost town of Ione (Pop. 41) to the Indian community of Yomba. Here we turned onto Hwy 119 which ends at the small Columbine campsite. We arrived there at about 5pm, and quickly found Sandy and Peter, who had reached the campsite only 15 minutes earlier. After we picked two nice spots for our tents, we first ate our sandwiches, and set up our sleeping quarters. Sandy invited us for a tour of their camper unit, which had a lot of very nifty features and designs. When we were all settled, we decided to attack the apple pie I had brought with some hot cocoa. We all turned in fairly early, being tired after a long day in the road.

The next morning we woke up at 5:00AM, had breakfast and got ready for the big hike. Shortly after 6:00AM the five of us gathered at the trail head for the traditional Sierra Club introduction speech. Sandy and Peter would be leading the hike, which made it easy for us, not having to worry about which way to go. After this “initiation” we hit the trail, quickly passed the Wilderness sign, and hiked through an open meadow and wonderful stands of Aspen. At a junction, the Stewart Creek Trail turns to the left, but we stayed to the right enjoying more of the spectacular Aspens, some of which were over 100 years old. On a number of trees people had their initials and dates carved into the bark of the trees, some going back as far as the 1920’s. Once out of the Aspens, the trail reaches a small ridge, with great views all around.

After taking a short break here, we passed by an old fence, and noticed about a dozen wild horses in the distance. We kept to the left of the fence, hiking closer to the wary horses who kept a close eye on us. After a short distance, we crossed a small stream, and followed the trail to the right up to a ridge. From there we followed an old jeep road through large fields of sage, and incredible views in every direction. We took a snack break at about 10,200 feet, having hiked for about 2 hours. Right after this, the trail became a lot steeper and rockier for a short section until we reached the upper plateau. Here we got ever greater views of our target: Arc Dome. This plateau was a lot more barren, more like a tundra, with very little vegetation. The trail actually went opposite Arc Dome in order to avoid the deep drop-off to the bottom of the mountain. Soon we reached the junction with the main crest trail at about 11,000 feet. Here we took another break, and stashed some of the extra water bottles. On we went to the high point of the plateau at 11,200 feet, passing by the North Summit.

From this point you get a spectacular view of Arc Dome and the trail going down for about 600 feet to the saddle just below the peak. The mile long hike down was pleasant, all the while enjoying the amazing views. A little before the saddle, Peter decided we have another break, giving us a short downhill head start before attacking the 1,000 foot climb to the summit. From here the hike up looks pretty intimidating, but with Peter’s great sense of pacing and several short stops we conquered the roughly 20 switchbacks of the excellent trail without any problems. Just before the summit, I stepped on a loose rock and lost my balance, falling hard on my right knee. Fortunately nothing was broken, and except for some lost skin here and there I was OK. A few minutes later we all reached the summit, which is a small flattish ridge with a circular wall on the far end.

We spent some time on the summit, enjoying the amazing views all around us, signing the register, and taking some group pictures. Hiking down the 1,000 feet to the saddle was easy enough, only stopping at a snow slope, where Diana built a snowman. At the bottom we had a good view of the trail going back up 600 feet to the plateau. Sandy took the lead here, and by using a steady pace and one short break, we made it to the turnoff point for Peak 11,406 (North Summit). Peter did not to climb to this peak, and followed the trail to the main crest trail junction, where he would wait for us. The 100 foot climb to the summit was quickly covered, from where you get a wonderful view along the main ridgeline. After taking some photos, we dropped down the plateau to meet up with Peter, and collect our water bottles.

We now took a right going slightly uphill, and then downhill to a large snow bank which blocked the trail. Peter took the lead by using his hiking poles as an ice axe, and sliding down the steep embankment to the bottom. I tried to follow his lead, but not being able to see the bottom due to the steep drop-off, I decided against it. In the meantime Sandy and Jorge had found a way around the snow bank, and shortly after we were all safely below it. Here, Peter again told us he would follow the main trail down, while we would climb up the slope about 300 feet to Cirque Mountain (11,290 ft.). From the summit, we again got some wonderful views of the ridgeline and surrounding mountains. We did not linger here for long, and dropped down the steep slope back to the main trail where we caught up with Peter. From there, the trail went downhill steeply through a rocky section until we had to climb back up a few hundred feet to a saddle, which provided a great view of Cirque Mountain now behind us.

After the saddle, the trail goes downhill all the way to the trail head. Along the way, we passed through large sections with wonderful wildflowers and great views of the stands of Aspen far below. We took one final rest break in a shady spot just before the Aspen forest. The trail through the forest was narrow, and we had to watch out for the many, many cow patties left there by the bovines. At one point a cow was staring at us on the trail, but when we started yelling at her, she warned the rest of the cows and they all fled into the forest. Right after this, Diana suddenly fell flat on her face, possibly trying to avoid one of those patties? After making sure nothing was broken, we carried on to the trail junction where we had turned to the right going uphill many hours ago. The last part to the trail head was easy, and when we reached it we took one last picture of the group, all happy with having completed the hike to Arc Dome under the great leadership of both Sandy and Peter. Thank you guys for a wonderful outing!!

Sandy and Peter surprised us with some Sierra Nevada Otra Vez beer, which combines prickly pear cactus with a hint of grapefruit. Quite different! They also gave us some banana covered ice cream. Yummy!! After cleaning ourselves up in the stream next to the camp, Diana and Sandy prepared a wonderful dinner of potato stew and Indian lentils. For dessert, we ate the leftover apple pie and muffins Diana had baked. Afterwards we relaxed at the campfire for a while before hitting our sleeping bags.

Sunday morning we had our breakfast, and started packing everything up for the return trip back to civilization. After saying goodbye to Peter (Sandy was still asleep), we drove back out to the community of Yomba, while enjoying the wonderful scenery. We stopped at the ghost town of Ione for some pictures, after which we drove to the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, which contains an old abandoned mining town and is also home to the most abundant concentration, and largest known remains, of Ichthyosaurs, an ancient marine reptile that swam in a warm ocean that covered central Nevada 225 million years ago. The fossils are protected and displayed at the park’s Fossil House. We took the 1 hour tour, led by a Park Ranger, who explained a lot about the history and discovery of the fossils.

From there we drove all the way to Big Pine, where we stopped for lunch at the Copper Top BBQ, which at one time was voted to have the best BBQ in the whole of the U.S. The meat is grilled outside on huge grills, and there is no space to eat inside except for an aluminum shed. With the temperature being over 100 degrees, it is not the greatest place to be in the summer. At least the pulled pork sandwich was fabulous!! After the lunch stop we drove back to Jorge and Diana’s house, where I collected my gear, got in my car and arrived home around 07:30PM.

All-in-all it was a fantastic trip!