Pilot Peak

  • Pilot Peak
  • 3266 m
  • Primary factor 1745 m
  • Location: North N41:01.269, West 114:04.644 (GPS at the summit)
  • Nevada, USA
  • Difficulty: YDS class 2
  • Climbed: July 1, 2008


How to get there: Drive west on I-80, about 117 miles towards Wendover, located immediately before the Utah . Nevada state line. Take exit 4 north. Follow Leppy Pass Road (turns left after about 1.6 miles) to the Utah-Nevada state line, about 7.5 miles from the I-80 exit. You pass a cattle guard and the road changes to (good) dirt. You want to find the next cattle guard along this road as it curves around the flat, salty valley floor. Pilot Peak is in clear view.
Just at this second cattle guard, a 4WD road turns off to your left. You are about 17 miles from I-80 and back near the state line at this point.
This road does require a 4WD, do not even consider driving here with anything less robust. After about 1.2 miles there is a fork, take the left fork here. Higher up, you drive in a small trench, then the road forks again with one exit up right, the other to your left. Take the right fork here. These roads meet again higher up, but the left variant has a pretty tough gully crossing, this is avoided by going right. Continue up and into the canyon, the road ends approximately 5 miles from the turnoff. Park here, this is the trailhead, location N40:59.689, W114:04.961, elevation about 2010 meter.
Route description: From the end of the road, immediately climb the right hillside and gain a distinct ridge. Follow this ridge a short while then traverse into the small valley (or big gully?) on the right hand side of your ridge. There is a pretty large bowl above here. Climb this, you will see a rock point high above on the left side. This rock is on the main ridge. You are OK as long as you gain the ridge to the right of this rock point.
The entire climb is basically scree and talus. As you gain the main ridge head uphill, then contour around the first top on its right side. The next summit is the top, it is best to continue uphill while staying on the right side of the ridge. Ascend the final talus slope and gain a summit that sees few visits.
Comments: After a succesful climb of Flat Top Mountain in the morning, I drove to Wendover and treated myself to a Mexican dinner. Next, I drove to the trailhead called Miners Canyon. The last 5 miles was definitely a 4WD road and I negotiated a rather questionable gully crossing that made me worry slightly about the return drive. Fortunately, I discovered an alternate route that avoided this problem on my return drive.
This trailhead had swarms of small, annoying mosquitos and I quickly tried to sleep in the car. Woke up later in the evening by acute overheating. With the doors closed, this black SUV was just absorbing too much heat, even late in the day. I resumed resting/sleeping and woke up around 0400. The sky was brilliant with stars. A primitive breakfast and I was off by 0530, at this time it was light. The canyon proved difficult to hike and I quickly climbed out on my right side, then followed a nice ridge upwards. I had read that I should gain the main ridge, thus I did not want to continue too much right. Eventually, I gained the main ridge in fairly steep terrain. Climbing higher, I soon discovered that I stood on top of a significant bump from where I had to descend in order to continue. It was pretty clear that a route further right, ending up beyond this bump would be preferable.
I saw two summits ahead, the higher one behind. It was impossible to judge if there would be a drop between them and I decided to traverse a bit below this first summit on the left side. As it turned out, a bypass on the right side is likely somewhat better.
I reached the summit at 0845, 3:15 up, this route is scree and talus more or less all the way. Being very remote, I was particularly careful. A mishap in this area would not be any good. Nobody would worry about my whereabouts for several days, the extreme afternoon heat and a very limited supply of water says it all.
I rested 30 minutes and ate my muffin lunch and drank a well deserved fraction of my water. The view was nice, what an extremely desolate place in the middle of nowhere. Flat, salt areas, then other mountains scattered across the wide expanse, nothing, absolutely nothing. I signed the summit register. Few people visit this summit, only a (small) handful this year and a few pages back showed entries already from 2001. The summit was obviously popular among flies, they seemed to be everywhere up here.
Having learned about the route on my way up, I descended the huge bowl directly back down towards the trailhead. Seemingly endless talus and a little scree. Overall, this climb was pretty demanding, the bad footing, the heat and the need to be very careful with every step. The temperature was now getting hot and I was very happy (and thirsty) when reaching the car at 1130, yet another 6 hour effort.
To read about the other peaks climbed on this trip, see this summary.