Moapa Peak, 6471'

May 4, 2003

This mountain is located north of route I-15, about 60 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada. Like many mountains in southern Nevada, it is composed of gray to tan siliceous limestone or dolostone, with layers of brown chert. What sets this hike apart is the fairly large elevation gain (3300'), and the "knife edge" on the last 200 yards to the summit plateau. The knife edge contains a disproportionate amount of tough chert, which may be the reason it exists. Apart from the exposure on the knife edge, this is not really a tricky climb; the class 3 sections are rather short compared to Red Rocks peaks such as Bridge or Monument Mountain. However, I have been told that the majority of people find the edge quite frightening. The rock is very frictional, but few people climb this peak, and the route has not been picked free of loose rocks. Thus handholds or footholds should be checked thoroughly before being trusted with human weight. There is a lot of loose talus on steep slopes.

The descriptions I found of this hike tended to omit or soft-pedal one very important point: near the top of the mountain, one must go ENE past the peak, then back-track WSW along the knife edge. Thus the photos below emphasize the last part of the hike.

Do not attempt this hike if the temperature in Vegas will exceed 85F on the day of your trip. If the sun is on you, even 75F can seem miserably hot, as there is absolutely no shade en route. Bring plenty of water, regardless of the season. Do not attempt this hike if you are nervous about heights or have compromised balance.

Please check out these maps, route photos, and GPS files, to help you find your way to and on this mountain. There is no trail. The trip in really requires a 4WD or high-clearance vehicle. Though the mountain is deceptively open, care is required to find one's way, particularly on descent over the class 3 ledges. There are cairns over some of the obscure spots, but the cairns get disturbed by the weather.

The Hike and the Mountain

View from point A, looking east from the saddle at 4450'.

View SW (left) to W (right) from point B. The trail is in the middle of the photo; essentially, we are looking "back" on our route up to this point.

Looking NE at Pierre and Nick as they work along the 1st (and scariest) part of the knife edge.

Standard cerebellum check for Harlan (one-footed balance). I was still dealing with several hamstring tears.

View SE from the top, as Pierre and Nick leave the knife edge.

Looking WSW from the west end of the summit plateau.

Summit plateau, view ENE.

Pierre (L) and Nick head back down on the knife edge (view ENE).

Nick doesn't find the edge scary enough, so he hangs over the north side.

We continued on to explore the ridge to the ENE of the true Moapa Peak. Here we look back at the knife edge and summit -- a view WSW from point C.

Also near point C, this photo gives a feeling for the steepness of the mountain's north slope.

This view was taken on the way down, looking ENE toward point B' from midway between points B and B'.



Flora and Fauna of Moapa Peak

Desert bighorns at ~5000'.

?? (fossils in upper left).

Mariposa lilies.

Desert paintbrush.

Yellow cactus (??) flowers.

Strawberry hedgehog cactus.

More strawberry hedgehog.

Desert trumpet; unusual habitat.