Ellen D Mountain - 8633 Feet
Location: 41.78527°N, 114.84019°W
Distance: 7.1 miles
Elevation gain: 2400' for just Ellen D, additional 300' for Tabletop Mountain
Class (difficulty): 2
Time: 6 hours
In my annual search for winter peaks, I found a peak near Jackpot, Nevada that
was suitable for Christmas time when I was in Twin Falls. Not only was the peak near the highway, it had 2000+ feet of prominence. Unfortunately the
Christmas season saw bad weather, so climbing the peak never worked out. Some
guys from work were having a party in Jackpot, so I decide to meet them down
there and climb the peak on the same trip.
The stormy weather cleared and I convinced Zach to accompany me. From the
Highway 93, the peak would be 10 miles roundtrip. Google Earth showed some
buildings along our route, so I thought that would either stop our trip because
of private property or make it easier because of winter maintained roads.
When we arrived, the houses were occupied and the road was plowed. After
about 1/2 a mile we were beyond the houses and just on a maintained road with signs and equipment
hinting a mining going on in the area. We sooned spotted a guy driving a
bulldozer and he told us it was ok to be on the road and that the area was
We pulled off the plowed dirt road 2 miles from the highway. We could see our
objective, Ellen D Mountain from the starting point. We immediately put on our
snowshoes and started following a snowbound road. The winds were blowing a bit
at the trailhead, but the temps were near freezing and the sun was out. The snow
was not great for the first 1/2 mile or so. It
was at this point that we took a cross-country route that we hoped would get us on a road that
crossed the east ridge of Ellen D Mountain. We quickly found this road and
followed it to a saddle at 7200'. The wind was now becoming a factor. The snow
from here to the top was in bullet proof and fully supported our weight. As we
gained elevation, the wind speed increased as well.
We took our first short break at around 7800' and hid near a rock outcropping
to escape the wind. Here we hydrated and ate a bit, watching swirling snow
coming off the peak and even hearing noises from some windmills on the
We continued on the road from our break spot. The winds were strong, but my
equipment held up well and other than being annoying, the wind was not affecting
our progress. We summited after 3 hours of hiking and hid behind a building on
the summit to warm up. Photos from the top were difficult in the roaring wind
and cold. The views were spectacular, with views of the central mountains
hundreds of miles to our north, with the ability to even pick out individual
peaks, like Smoky Dome and Iron Mountain in the Sawtooths. In Nevada we could
see the Jarbidge Mountains, the Ruby Mountains, and several other impressive
On the way down we decided that it was about as easy to do a loop and tag the
top of Tabletop Mountain, which sat just above where we parked our vehicle. This
side trip was actually very neat, as the terrain was interesting with lots of
granite outcroppings and a bit of scrambling near the summit.
We descended to the truck to finish out a great day in the mountains.
Drive to Contact, NV which is 15 miles south of Jackpot on US 93. Turn left onto Elko Avenue and head west. We drove 2 miles up this route to 6300' in elevation.
Note that this road continued another mile or so beyond our parking spot and remained plowed. However, the mining operation appeared to be being moved down lower. In fact, about 200 yards from where we parked. They might not continue to plow the road beyond our parking spot. Be prepared to even have to hike this road from the end of the housing area, which is about 1/2 mile from the highway.