Spirit Mountain gets local support as a Nevada national monument
Wedged in the pointy tip of far south Nevada, the mystical mountain is looked on by some as a place needing formal federal protection.
Spirit Mountain rises to the southeast, above Lake Mojave, when seen from the Wee Thump Wilderness near Searchlight, Nevada.
Have you been there? Me either. At least that’s what I recalled during my most recent visit to the area a year ago.
Members of the Fort Mojave Tribe have been there and want it protected. Spirit Mountain in the Newberry Range is in far south Nevada’s point wedged between California and Arizona. There’s building local support to have a presidential proclamation declare surrounding lands reaching far to the west as a national monument.
When I travel these days, I tend to let places go unvisited. When I was younger, I wanted to see it all. Nowadays, leaving blanks on the map is a reason to return, or just to wonder what is there and be content with never knowing for sure.
Actually, my notes say I climbed Spirit Mountain on Oct. 30, 1994, but I have no recollection of it. It was tacked onto a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas that included these peaks: Stirling, Hayford, Mummy, Charleston, Moapa, Virgin and Spirit in Nevada, with a foray into Utah for North Guardian Angel.
I remember needing to drive into Las Vegas to get a motel in the middle of the trip to have a phone interview with Reinhold Messner, the world’s greatest mountaineer at the time. His publicist gave me a call-in window, to reach him at home in his castle in the Alps. Since cell phones didn’t widely exist, I had to drive to town.
I also remember climbing Charleston on a brisk, chilly day and dropping down into the desert to camp where it was warmer. In the middle of the night someone pulled up not 100 feet from me, parked, turned on the radio and began singing along, not knowing I was there.
The song was “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors:
“There's a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin' like a toad”
I wanted to yell out, “How about some quiet, a—hole. I’m trying to sleep,” but held my tongue.
That spot is probably covered by Las Vegas suburbia these days.
Back to Spirit Mountain:
It’s supposed to be an easy climb, at least for these rugged desert regions, from Christmas Tree Pass (the trees are junipers). December is cool season, but it can also feel cold with a north wind at a 5,639-foot summit. June through September is the dangerous hot season.
The Spirit Mountain Wilderness, established in 2002, covers much of the east slope of the Newberry Mountains down toward Lake Mojave. The BLM manages much of the western slope and over to the California border, but not all is protected. Wind and solar farms are possible uses in this part of Nevada, thus the push for a national monument by conservationists.
It’s a Catch 22: we need the green power, but shouldn’t destroy pristine places to get it.
Read about Spirit Mountain driving access via Christmas Tree Pass on the excellent Las Vegas hiking website, Birdandhike.com.
It can be done: