The Mountains of Nevada •
Mount Grafton
& Peaks 10,562 and 10,802 & Lincoln CoHP
• Schell Creek Mountains
• Highpoint: Lincoln County
• Mount Grafton Wilderness
• Highpoint: Nevada BLM Lands

The Schell Creek Range

My pop, base-camp manager

Bill and Rick and
I start up the slopes

High on the ridge

Me at the Lincoln County HP

Bill, me and Rick after the hike

Date: June 25, 2005 • Elevation: 10,990 feet (Grafton Summit), 10,802 feet, 10,660 feet (Lincoln CoHP) and 10,562 feet • Prominence: 4,793 feet (Grafton Summit), 202 feet (Peak 10,802) and 262 feet (Peak 10,562) • Distance: 10 miles • Time: 9 hours • Gain: 4,300 feet • Conditions: Windy with some clouds, a very brief snow sprinkle • Teammates: Bill Jacobs & Rick Hartman

NevadaPB (Grafton Peak)

Mount Grafton is a principal summit of the Schell Creek Mountain in eastern Nevada. It is not the range highpoint, but is the highest point for one long segment of the range. Along its southern ridge is where White Pine and Lincoln Counties border one another. Wherever this border is, is the highest point of Lincoln County. I was down to just three county highpoints in Nevada, inculding this one, so I convinced Rick Hartman and Bill Jacobs, both from the Prescott area, to join me. I would fly into Las Vegas and drive up with my father, while Rick and Bill would drive directly from Prescott.

My father and I drove up the day before, following US-93 north from Las Vegas until we were near the White Pine county line. Here, we followed a track west toward the Schell Creek Mountains. The road was rough but not in too bad of shape. We were able to get nearly to the road's end, parking in a lovely flat spot along a ridge, about where the low sage desert scrub started to merge with the trees on the mountain's slopes. We spent the afternoon walking the area and checking out the scattered junk from the old mining operations that ran up here ages ago. Then Bill and Rick showed up, and the four of us sat around and told everyone stories before crashing for the evening.

We awoke early the next morning and started moving at dawn. My father would stay back at camp. 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-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 waypoint, shown on the map as a knob at 9,685 feet, was to the west. We crossed a grassy 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 picked up 2,100 feet of vertical gain.

Once into the open 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 grunted 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 low saddle in the ridge.

The snow patches were bigger up here, especially on these north-facing slopes. Rick stayed low while Bill and I trended higher, mainly to avoid the snow. I found myself just a few feet below Peak 10,562 and made a short detour to tag the top. Bill was below me working his way down the snow slopes, and I followed him. Going downhill was fast and easy, and we thrust-stepped down onto the saddle, where the snow lightened. We met up with Rick and took another breather.

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

We then climbed the remaining 120 feet to top out on Peak 10,802, then started a long traverse-descent on its west slopes to emerge 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 (it didn't stick). Nevertheless we hustled to Mount Grafton, arriving onto its top at 10:30 a.m. where we shook hands.

I didn't stay up top long and started the descent very quickly after summitting. We reconvened at the low-point of the saddle connecting Grafton with Peak 10,802, re-ascended Peak 10,802 and descended its south slope. Instead of retracing our route from this morning, we started directly down, descending to 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. We were 2,800 feet above it.

We descended the steep sage slopes of the upper canyon headwall before entering into thick pine and oak forest. We followed paths of least resistance, but often battled thick brush, downed limbs and sloppy footing. The snow banks disappeared as we descended. In time, we were low in the canyon, unable to see any distance due to the trees, and occasionally being able to glimpse two cliff bands to our south that we used for reckoning aids. 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 various obstacles.

We were now outside the mouth of the canyon and could again recognize landmarks. Through a bit of luck and a hunch we found our road and shortly made the trek 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 where we had steaks and prime rib. 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) 2008, 2019 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. WHA