Grafton Peak
& South Grafton Peak, Lincoln Co. High Peak
• Highpoint: Lincoln County
• Schell Creek Mountains


The Schell Creeks Mountains:
Peak 10,562 (L), Peak 10,802 (M),
and Mount Grafton (R)


My dad, the base-camp manager!


Rick and Bill start
up the flowery slopes


Peak 10,802 with Grafton
hiding behind it


Mount Grafton


Me at the Lincoln HP


Bill, me and Rick after the climb

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Date: June 25, 2005 • Elevation: 10,990 feet (Grafton Peak), 10,660 feet (Lincoln Co. highpoint), 10,802 feet ("South Grafton"), 10,562 feet (Lincoln Co. highpeak) • Prominence: 3,257 feet (Mount Grafton) • Distance: 10 miles • Time: 9 hours • Gain: 4,300 feet • Conditions: Sunny with mixed clouds, colder higher up with a very short snow flurry • Teammates: Rick Hartman, Bill Jacobs, Joe Surgent (base camp manager)

Grafton Peak is a big, lonely summit in eastern Nevada. It's one of the principal summits of the Schell Range, but its remoteness keeps visitation low. The summit actually lies in White Pine County, but a ridge-point about a half-mile south lies on the Lincoln County line, making it the highest point in Lincoln County. My teammates would be two Prescott-area hikers, Rick Hartman and Bill Jacobs. My dad came along to act as base-camp manager and as an excuse to sit in the beautiful Nevada outback and enjoy the solitude.

I had been working on completing the county highpoints of Nevada and by 2002, had 14 of the 17 done. For some reason, I didn't do any for a three-year spell. I wanted to complete the task, and made specific plans to visit Grafton Peak this summer. I felw into Las Vegas, and my dad and I drove up the couple-hundred miles up US-93 to a point along the White Pine-Lincoln County line near the Geyser Creek Ranch.

We rumbled up the access road opposite the ranch about eight miles, parking at the base of the range in a wide area where old mining equipment still stood, or was strewn about. A couple hours later, Rick and Bill appeared, and we had a pleasant evening talking and exploring the area. (Update: the area has since been designated a wilderness, and vehiclular traffic is barred from going up to where we did.)

We awoke early the next morning and started the hike at dawn. We followed the old road as it switchbacked up a slope, before straightening out below a bare slope of sage and grass. At this point, we left the road and walked up this sage-and-grass slope toward a thicket of mahogany. We entered into the trees and wound our way up to a small knob of rocks at 9,015 feet elevation, where we took our first break. In just about an hour we'd covered a mile of walking with 1,400 feet of gain.

The weather started to get breezy with a mix of clouds, and unfortunately, whiffs of smoke from distant fires. Our next objective, shown on the map as a knob at 9,685 feet, was just to our west. We crossed a grass saddle and started up the slopes, and again, in fairly short order, had gained 670 feet to arrive onto this next hump. The trees were a bit thicker here and we also encountered our first patches of remnant snow. It was about 7:30 a.m. and we'd already gained 2,100 feet of elevation.

At this second knob, we could spy the remaining 900 feet needed to get onto Peak 10,562, which sits astride the main range crest. Looking to the north we could also see Peak 10,802, on whose southern slope sits the Lincoln County highpoint. And peeking (peaking?) out from behind it was Mount Grafton, still a ways to the north.

The three of us started the grunt up this last stretch, with a plan to hike up about two-thirds the way up then veer right and traverse beneath the summit of Peak 10,562 and make a bee-line toward the saddle. The snow patches were bigger and thicker up here, especially on these north-facing slopes, and it slowed us. Rick stayed low while Bill and I trended higher. It was usually soft enough to walk across but I kept postholing and was afraid of posting into a rock cleft and busting my ankle.

I found myself just a few feet below Peak 10,562 and decided to make the short side trip to tag the top. I walked the summit's top, tapped the cairn and returned to the main action. This peak is the highest peak within Lincoln County. Bill was below me working his way down the snow slopes, and I followed him. We met up with Rick and took another break.

Next on the agenda was the easy hike up the southern shoulder of Peak 10,802. Somewhere here crosses the Lincoln County line and is the county's highpoint. We found a cairn amid talus blocks not far below the summit of Peak 10,802, and signed in. But previous visitors claimed the cairn might be located a little too high, so to be sure, we walked the spine of the ridge to ensure we crossed the magical boundary at some indeterminate point in time.

From here we climbed the remaining 120 feet to top out on Peak 10,802, the started a long traverse/descent on its west face over talus to come out onto the ridge connecting this peak and Mount Grafton. Weather concerns started to mount as the clouds seemed to be collecting and the wind stayed strong. We'd heard one thunder boom from a distance as well as having a very brief snow flurry (it didn't stick). We hustled to Mount Grafton, arriving onto its top at about 10:30 a.m. where we again rested and shook hands.

We'd covered about 6 miles and nearly 4,000 feet of gross gain, and I was beat. I didn't stay at the top long, and started the descent as soon as I had the energy. We reconvened at the low-point of the saddle connecting Grafton with Peak 10,802, re-ascended Peak 10,802 and descended its south shoulder. We decided against following our ascent route, although in less snowy conditions, I probably would have retraced my steps. Instead, we started directly down, descending onto the saddle between peaks 10,802 and 10,562. Looking east we could barely make out camp and our two vehicles in a small open clearing amid the trees. We were 2,800 feet above it.

We descended the steep slopes of the upper canyon headwall before entering into thick pine and oak forest. The snow banks were minimal and eventually disappeared as we descended. We wanted to stay to the south of Mill Creek itself so as to not have to cross it later on. We soon were low in the canyon, unable to see for any distances due to the thick forest, and only occasionally being able to glimpse two cliff bands to the south that we used for reckoning aids. We knew camp was east of these cliffs.

In the heavy forest, we came upon a gushing spring, water literally bursting forth from the earth in a torrent (something I'd never seen before), and for the last section of the hike out we followed Mill Creek. occasionally stepping over little creeks feeding into it, and often having to wiggle our way through, up and around the obstacles such as downed trees, brushy sections and rocks.

Soon, we were outside the mouth of the canyon and could again recognize landmarks. We found our old road and shortly trekked back to camp, arriving about 2:30 p.m. as my dad, the base camp manager, was walking up for some exercise. After changing into drier clothes and relaxing, we all shook hands and recounted our tales of bravery and heroism up on the mountain. Bill and Rick decided to return to Prescott directly while my pop and I drove 50 miles north to our favorite Eastern Nevada town, Ely. The next day we drove back to Vegas, where I visited with my folks and friends before flying back to Phoenix that evening.

Thanks, as always, to my teammates Bill and Rick for the company, route-finding and enthusiasm, and thanks to my dad for readily signing on to manage camp and have his own bit of fun in the woods.

(c) 2005, 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.