Desatoya Peak • Highpoint: Churchill County
• Range Highpoint: Desatoya Mountains

The Desatoyas from Cold Springs

The sagey summit of Desatoya Peak

Summit photo

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Date: June 23, 2002 • Elevation: 9,973 feet • Prominence: 3,545 feet • Distance: 7 miles • Time: 4 hours • Gain: 2,200 feet • Conditions: Clear and dry • Teammates: Adam Helman

Desatoya Peak consists of two summits of near-equal height (together called the Desatoya Twins) that top the Desatoya Range in central-western Nevada, a million miles from everywhere. The closest big city is Reno, about 150 miles west. Fallon is closer yet, but not as big. There's very little out this way except for endless (and gorgeous) Great Basin high desert and mountain ranges.

Adam Helman and I teamed for a few days to hike the quartet of northwestern county highpoints in Nevada: this, along with Star Peak (Pershing County), Granite Peak (Humboldt County) and Rose Peak (Washoe County). I had already been on the road for a few days, driving from Arizona via Southern California, and visiting White Mountain Peak and Freel Peak on my own, then Adam, Edward Earl and I hiking what we thought (at the time) to be the Placer (CA) County highpoint, Granite Chief. That we had hiked this morning. Adam and I were now in Nevada, aiming to get close to Desatoya Peak for a summit hike tomorrow.

We followed US-50 past Fallon and a wide spot in the road called Cold Springs. The Desatoya summits rise immediately east of Cold Springs. We went north to a dirt road north of the sign marked "Alpine 3", then south and east along this reasonably good road toward the Desatoya Range, aiming for a pass called Basque Summit, 11 miles from the highway. Past Basque Summit, we followed the road briefly to a very steep hill. I got the truck up this steep portion, putting us on a bare hilltop at 8,043 feet elevation. The hike from here would not be long. It was late in the day, so we camped here for the night.

We started hiking at 5:30 a.m. the next morning. From our hilltop campsite, we descended 100 feet toward a fence along the ridge, and then walked this ridge west, following a rough track most of the way. We moved to the other side of the fence to bypass a bunch of cattle. The road steepened, then passed through a gate to a saddle north of a rock knob, elevation 9,130 feet.

We left the road here and traversed southwest through sage and rock, following cowpaths until we reached the main saddle north of the smaller "twin" summit of Desatoya Peak. We followed a cowpath that was so well defined that I had to wonder if it hasn't been maintained by humans to some extent. Whatever the case, this path was better than some "maintained" trails and made it easy for us to walk this section.

The final portion was a moderately steep hike up to a ridge east of the north summit and a nearby peaklet at 9,562 feet. We diagonalled southwest until we gained the saddle between the twin summits. The final trudge to the top of Desatoya Peak went quick, avoiding our only snow patch of the hike. We were at the summit after 2.5 hours of hiking, including breaks, arriving at 8 a.m..

From the top we could make out the Toiyabe Range to the east, US-50 down below us to our west, the Clan Alpine Range across the way, and my truck, barely visible, back on Hill 8043. Adam and I spent about 45 minutes at the top, having an early lunch. The day was calm and dry, slightly chilly at this high elevation.

The hike down went fast, the paths and roads allowing us to jog-walk out. Adam stayed behind to scale a side peak, so I beat him back to the truck by 20 minutes. I decided to "shower", using my new camp shower apparatus. While waiting for Adam, I spotted another truck that came up another road. I don't think they saw me or my truck, and Adam told me that he hiked out of view himself, so we figured we were okay. Anyway, while we were getting our stuff packed up, we heard a gunshot. The truck was parked about a mile away. We heard another. It sounded like a mid-caliber gun, but we wondered what they were shooting at ... cows? While we had no reason to believe they were shooting at us (we didn't have a direct line of sight between us and them), I decided not to stick around to find out.

We piled into the truck and drove down the other side of our hill and out of possible harm's way. We went out the same way we came in, and stopped for a spell in Cold Springs for a snack and potty break. From here we made the long journey north toward Granite Peak in Humboldt County, which we scaled later this same day.

(c) 2002, 2016 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.