High Roads Project Part 3.1 and 3.2; Mustang Mountain and Mustang Pass, White Mountains

Climbing to the radio tower on Mustang Mtn, looking back to Candalaria Hills

July 29, 2019- After visiting Corey Peak I noticed Mustang Mountain (10,160′) and Mustang Pass (9,878′) were only a “little” further south, and slightly lower on the list of high roads. The two routes were so close together but not linkable on dirt. A plan was made; drive out, climb Mustang Mountain, then drive down to Queen Valley and climb Mustang Pass, finally drive home. Both routes were pretty short so a double header made the drive worth while. Perfect!

Searching for the actual summit on Mustang Mountain with views of Boundary Peak

The drive out got me to new places such as the Candallaria Hills and Inyo National Forest. It was about this point where I could see Boundary Peak, the highest point in Nevada. At first I was wondering if I was riding up there. It is a little intimidating. At Montgomery Pass I was at my turn-off for Mustang Mountain.

Looking north to Sugarloaf and TipTop Mine
Curious flowers caught my eye
Little purple gems of color

The road above the pass climbed moderately and was in good shape but bared the scars of rough winters. There were a few side roads that were marked “No Trespassing” that looked like driveways for small mining camps. The climb went through great forests of pinyon and valleys that dropped away in all directions.

Sagehen Flat at 9,500′

Below the summit there was and open area of scrub and rock, Sagehen Flat, where a large radio tower stood. This was a great spot to hangout for a snack but it wasn’t the summit. But the road ends here. So I went for a hike.

Marmot mandible from Sagehen Flat
I came across several aggregations of ladybug beetles poking around the rocks

The rock and scrub landscape looked like coral reef. What fun to explore in detail. There I picked up a marmot mandible, what a find! But I was looking for the summit, hmmm, it wasn’t obvious. I was in and out of head high scrub, past high altitude pines and I eventually found the summit. While poking around for the summit marker I came across an aggregation of ladybugs. A wonder of natural design to survive in a harsh climate.

Descending the upper road

This route was a pure out and back with little opportunity for side exploration. Sugarloaf Canyon was one spot I would like to revisit.

Once I was back at the car I loaded up to descend into the valley for round two, climbing Mustang Pass. Climbing along and into the Inyo National Forest reminded me that this was all new territory for me. What could a few days in the White Mountains offer?

Looking up at Boundary and Montgomery Peaks from Queen Valley

Climbing Queen Canyon was a treat for someone interested in historical mines. You ride past several mines, Queens Canyon, Albert and Morgan before arriving at the Queen Mine. Now the broad switch backs to the pass saddle begin. Looking up I can see points along the skyline to Mustang Mountain where I had been riding just hours before. But soon I was at the saddle looking down into Fish Lake Valley.

Queen Canyon Mine
Albert Mine

The pass connects to Trail Canyon which descends into Fish Lake Valley. To make a grand tour out of this there are many canyons and creeks to explore to the south. Fish Lake Valley stands at about 5,000′ and the canyon roads climb to about 10,000′ so finding a comfortable temperature gradient with ample opportunities for bike fishing is on my list of destinations for the summer of 2020.

From Mustang Pass looking over Queen Valley
From Mustang Pass looking over

By the numbers climbing Mustang Mountain from Montgomery Pass was 18 miles with 3,900′ of climbing. Climbing Mustang Pass from Queen Valley was 15 miles with 3,500′ of climbing. The Sugarloaf Canyon area and finding the summit on foot were highlights of Mustang Mountain. The historic mines of Queen Canyon and possibility of descending into Fish Lake Valley were the highlights of climbing Mustang Pass. Both rides pushed me to explore new to me areas in Nevada.

Goofy grin at Sagehen Flat

On my return I was sure to stop in Mina at the Burger Hut. Always worth the stop.

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