Ward Mountain • Range Highpoint: Egan Mountains
• Central White Pine County

Date Climbed
August 3, 2008

10,936 feet

10 miles

6 hours

3,500 feet

Clear, warm

3,676 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version

Ward Mountain: the summit is
toward the right

Ward Townsite sign

My dad at camp

We walked up to the buildings

Looking east at Wheeler Peak

The next morning, I started the hike.
This is within the first mile or so

At a bend at about 9,100 feet, Ward
Mountain comes into view

Ward Mountain at about 9,500 feet

Closing in on the top

North view from summit

Sign at the Charcoal Ovens.
(My camera was starting to fail
on me... as you can see)

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A few days after hiking Arc Dome, my father and I made a short three-day journey up the east side of Nevada to Ely, planning for one or two big hikes (me), exploring old ghost towns and ruins (both of us), and just enjoying the scenery while shooting at rabbits (my dad). On my agenda was Ward Mountain, the highpoint of the Egan Range which runs south of Ely for about 30 miles.

Both my dad and I enjoy Ely (pronounced Ee-lee), which is the biggest city in eastern Nevada, with about 6,000 people. It's about 250 miles from Las Vegas and almost 300 from Reno, situated in the high desert of the Great Basin, and Ely itself is over 6,000 feet elevation. It's high enough to be up in the junipers and cooler temperatures (usually low 90s at the hottest). It's also the gateway to Great Basin National Park, which is about 100 driving miles away to the east. Suffice to say, Ely is in the middle of nowhere. Even small towns are 80 miles away. The drive to Ely is always very scenic. It wasn't hard to talk my dad in coming along for the trip.

Heading north from Las Vegas, we followed US-93 where it broke from Interstate-15. About 60 miles up US-93 we passed through the Pahranagat Wildlife Area, an area of flowing springs and a natural lake in the middle of the desert. The small towns of Alamo and Ash Springs lie here, and we always make a gas and food stop at the Shell Station in Ash Springs. Here, we took a left onto state highway NV-318, signed for Hiko and Lund, and eventually, Ely. This is the short-cut to Ely, about 40 miles shorter than via US-93. Hiko is just a small collection of homes and ranch properties, with no real center of commerce. The town of Lund is another 100 miles from Hiko, a surprisingly big town (by interior Nevada standards), numbering about 500 people. It's a Mormon town, with a small grid of streets, neat orderly homes, a small "downtown" and the obligatory LDS building. Finally, 30 miles later via US-6 we were in Ely, where we got food, gas and basics. From Ely we went south on US-93 to Cave Springs Road, then south to the Ward Historic District sign, then west up the alluvial fan on good roads to the base of the range. It was about 4 p.m. when we arrived, sunny and warm.

Not surprisingly, there were some trucks parked up here with ATV trailers, and we could hear their occasional buzzing as they rode the roads up on the mountain. We had driven about three miles up the final road and parked in a broad clearing below the "Ward Townsite" sign, very near the turn-off to the road that leads up to the mountaintop. We decided to walk up the road to some buildings we could see farther up the canyon. The walk went quickly as we only had to cover a quarter-mile. The buildings were definitely not from the Ward town of the 1880s. They were big shed/storage buildings and in total disrepair and disarray. Thousands of cylindrical rock core samples had been stored here. The cardboard boxes holding them were still in decent shape, but the shelving was all knocked over, and everything strewn about. We entered into one of the buildings and I saw lost of paperwork strewn about in one room. Judging by the style of font and writing, it seemed to be possibly 50+ years old, but the "strewn-ness" was recent, probably with the help of locals assisted by liquor. The building windows were all shot out and the walls covered in bullet and shotgun holes. I took some photos, which are on the left sidebar.

In time the ATVers had come down off the mountain and left, leaving my dad and I alone up here, the mountain to ourselves. He camped in the bed of his truck while I slept on a cot. It was a new moon and the sky was crystal clear. We literally slept under the stars, and that night the stars shone like I have rarely seen: millions and billions of little specks of light covering the sky. I was able to find the usual constellations: the Big Dipper, Orion and Cassiopeia. With the abundance of stars I could pretty much form any shape I so desired. We both slept okay despite the glare from all the stars.

I had set my alarm for 4 a.m., which actually was too early, so I slept in until almost 5 a.m. Knowing it would be warm and that I'd be on the east-facing (i.e. sun-facing) side of the mountain, I wanted to be moving at sun-up. Apparently others had the same plan as by 5 a.m. two trucks had rolled up and driven up the road into the mountain. I was hiking at 5:30 a.m. I walked up the road and saw one of the guys was parked at the end in a clearing, getting his bow set and ATV ready. We had a 5-minute chat, mainly to be sure we wouldn't get in each other's way. He pointed where he'd be heading and I to my destination, and fortunately we'd both be well far apart from one another. The other guy I never saw him nor his truck the whole day.

The hike to Ward Mountain follows an ATV road all the way to the top, so route-finding would be very easy and I knew I would make good time even though I had 3,200 feet of elevation gain in about 5 miles to cover. I told my dad I'd be gone about 5-6 hours round trip. At first the road is wide and moderately rough, so that most stock 4-wheel drive vehicles would be okay for the first mile or so, but not littler trucks or passenger cars. Higher up the roads narrow so that ATVs are by far the better mode of travel. ATV roads criss-cross the whole mountainside, and I could see these roads on the mountain looking across various canyons.

The mountain itself is very broad, mostly bare with carpets of sage and grass interspersed by stands of aspen, birch and limber pine, with bristlecone higher up. Most of the hike is in the open. The first mile or so works up about 1,200 vertical feet to a saddle at 9,100 feet elevation. To here the road is still wide enough for most vehicles and the saddle itself is broad with room to park and possibly camp. I took a break here, having walked for about an hour to get here. Ward Mountain was visible to the northwest, plain as day, and even the roads were visible. It was nice to be able to see my destination, but I knew I had some work ahead of me.

From here the main road angles left up a prominent ridge, then switchbacks once, angling back right to the ridge spine. The gain to here was another 400 feet. Here, the road junctions and the better-looking road actually goes left, but I stayed straight, which put me back onto the north-face of this ridge, again with Ward Mountain in view. I was making good time, and all was going well. The road drops here, losing about 150 feet, before entering into a very pretty (and shaded) stand of birch and aspen, roughly 9,300 feet elevation. I saw a number of deer up here, but mainly does and adolescents: no big antlered fellers the hunters were after. Staying on the main road, I left the cover of shade, took a left at a Y-junction and went steeply up the track, which angled up and to the right, again coming into some limber and bristlecone pine, which offered some shade. Even this high (9,900 feet), and this early in the morning, the sun was pretty warm. The shade felt wonderful. There was no breeze, and conditions were spectacular.

I still had 1,100 feet of gain to the top, covering a mile, so I got moving again. After another long moderately-steep gainer I came onto a small flat stretch of road, and spooked more deer. The final 600 feet to the top was up very steep road, way too steep for most vehicles and probably fit only for an ATV. This uphill section was loose and it sucked, but it went fast. Then it was just a matter of hiking up the remainder to the top. Even the last 100 feet was steep: I was really huffing and puffing right to the very end. At 9:00 a.m., I was on top, a bare hump of grayish rock, topped by a tiny little box and solar-panel slightly off-set. I had a cell signal so I called my dad to tell him where I was. The views were tremendous in all directions. I stayed for about 10 minutes. Of interest to me was a noticeable plume of smoke in the Schells, an active fire, obviously. It looked close to North Schell Peak so that made that decision simple: North Schell would have to wait another day. I was pleased to be here atop Ward and I took a few moments to shoot some photos and relax amid the glorious scenery.

The hike down went very quickly. I was pretty sore, still aching from Arc Dome four days earlier, and it was getting hot the lower I got, so I was happy to finally egress back to the truck at 11:30 sharp, exactly 6 hours on the hill, just like I called it. I changed into drier clothes and we got moving. My dad had spent the morning walking some of the lower roads and as he put it, nearly getting himself stuck in a steep drainage when he couldn't manage the rubbly slopes to get out (he did, obviously). We drove down, then south to the Ward Charcoal Ovens, which date from the Ward townsite era. They were quite well-preserved after 120 years. The visit was interesting and short, and from here we drove into Ely to the Ramada Hotel where we've stayed in the past. I took a shower then crashed. We both rewarded ourselves with good burgers and prime rib that night at the hotel restaurant. The next day we scouted some peaks in the Pioche area for future visits, then drove back to Henderson that afternoon.

The hike up Ward was fun and easy, insofar as technical requirements go, but tiring as far as effort went. The area is classic high-desert Great Basin interior Nevada, and we both had great fun. I was not too bummed to miss out on North Schell this time. it just gives us an excuse to go back in the future. I had given myself a good case of hiker's toe also, so I really could use the extra days off to let my dogs heal. I am definitely getting older.

(c) 2008 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.