Willow-Wilson Ridge Death March (Nowwhere, NV)

pics by Harlan W.S.
June 5, 2010


I’ve been up one of these obscure summits before – peak 2581—but that was a cooler day, and I came most of the way over a long, recently burned ridge, 6 years ago.  We wanted to go back and hit Willow Benchmark, and to make it sporting, we waited for a day when it was 106F in Vegas, and we started up a flowing, briar-choked stream.  Beautiful roses and thorny gooseberrys tore at our flesh, leaving bright, colorful rivulets of blood.  Shortly, manzanita thickets looked comparatively inviting.  We finally saw “The Narrows,” which was spectacularly unspectacular.  But the knife-edge ridge that ran ESE from The Narrows was the highlight of the day.  We went over peak 2581 and down to the saddle through thick brush, thence across relatively open terrain to the treeless summit of Willow.  We thought about dropping directly W off Willow, but were immediately stopped by thick brush.  I had mentioned that we might be best going back up to 2581, then cutting back down the largely open ridge to the SW, but this concept was so psychologically unpleasant, that we opted for a bizarre (but probably less tiring) traverse to the relatively-bare ridge.


There are no willows at Willow benchmark (actually the monument denotes a 3rd-order elevation check).  Probably this survey originated in Willow Springs; often survey teams will stamp the benchmarks with the point of origination.  There were however, mountain mahogany bushes.


Ah, mountain mahogany.  When I led, CP looked for a side route that was not directly behind me.  But when CP led, I dogged his heels on the uphills, and every time that he hit a mountain mahogany branch, a cloud of dark pollen would waft back and land on my clothes and body. At the end of the day, I looked like I were dressing for a minstrel show, or perhaps making a cheap Halloween costume of a bum, by rubbing charcoal over my face.


There were lots of beautiful flowers on the way, but we were too busy getting the Hell out of there to take pictures.


I have been reading “A Long Way Gone,” a graphic autobiography of a child soldier in the steaming jungles of Sierra Leone.  If I had an AK-47 and RPGs, I probably would have used them to clear brush.


These mountains are a must for peak-baggers who hate themselves, or at least have no feeling in their skins.  On the way down, we amused ourselves – and drove off thoughts of death – by thinking how this might be a good backpack trip for VegasHikers, especially if they took the stream, used old-fashioned frame packs with extenders, and took trekking poles.



The trip. Elevations in meters.


Water!  It looks so refreshing! Gee

usually streams this wet have very

thick brush! (Key music from “Jaws.”)


The Narrows are down there, yawn.





Now we head ESE


This knife edge was the highlight of the day.







On top of 2581, we seek shade rather

than views (not that there were many).


Griffith (L) and Charleston from 2581.





On the way to Willow, we see

El Bastardo at L, then (to the R)

 Damsel, Turtlehead, and Calico Hills.


On Willow. Wilson to SE.


CP on Willow.





From Willow, view to Griffith at L,

snow-covered Charleston, and Mummy at R.


Benchmark, so we can prove to Pete

that we were here.


We started heading directly down W,

and right after this rock, there were

unspeakable demons in the brush.





Finally we are back on the burned-over

ridge. We thought it would get easy at this

point, but there were still a few surprises.

I think that every exposed bit of skin

on my legs has a scratch.  DB can’t

imagine the fun she missed.

At the end of the day my R-side leg cramps –

caused by brain damage and a yet new prostate

medication – kicked in an left me limping the

last 200 yards, like Chester from Gunsmoke

(Mister Dillon!).  The fun never stops!