Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Fletcher Peak (Autumn View)

September View from Fletcher Peak

Ralyn & Mummy's Toe
Four of our Around the Bend Friends pod hikers climbed Fletcher Peak on a beautiful day. The view of the changing aspens from the peak was outstanding! The largest aspen grove is seen here on the North Loop Ridge. Other stands were seen at Cathedral Rock, South Loop, Rainbow Canyon, and at the base of Harris Peak. Later, we saw bright yellow around the Mummy Springs area. Fall is coming!

Starting Down

Aspens & Trees

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Mummy's Nose (Photo Essay) - 9/17/20

Mummy's Nose on Approach

The Sisters Range and the Spring Mountain Divide from the Nose

Sunrise on Mummy Mountain

The Line-Up
What a beautiful way to start winding up the summer in the mountains! Mummy Mountain is actually a large ridge that is otherwise known as Cockscomb Ridge. Hikers call the lower end of the ridge Cockscomb Ridge but have other names for the higher peaks that make up the vision of the Mummy which is best viewed from the lower end of Lee Canyon Road (4000' elevation). The view in the photo above is from the 6000'-7000' level making the Nose a very prominent looking peak. All six hikers in our AtBF pod were present and accounted for at the Chain-Up Pullout Trailhead on Lee Canyon Road. This is at MM 2 and around 8000' elevation. There was a bit of excitement in the air since this would be Ralyn's first ascent, Kay's second, Rita's third since her infamous fall down the said mountain, Mike's annual climb and Jerry & Cheryl's third climb this summer. We were promised a slow steady pace. And, it was happily and patiently delivered!

Heading up the Gulley starting the Cairned Trail Up

The Cairned Trail

Nearing the Ridge Trail above the Wash

The Ridge Trail above Wash
We walked up Lee Canyon Road a short distance and turned left into the first residential road with a gate. This is a commonly used route and hiking through this section of property is tolerated by the residents who live still some distance away. At the first large gulley that leaves the dirt road up to the left, we began our cairned trail. The trail climbs up the gulley onto a gentle slope, across another dirt road then upward along a wide gravel wash. It's good that the trail is cairned very well since the path is not always clear in the gravel. I was very interested in following the cairned route so we all followed Jerry except Mike. He took the route that was used for years before the new trail appeared. It wasn't long before the two routes met up not far before the ridge trail above the deepening wash. The path was very clear when we got to the ridge lying to the right of the deep wash that comes down from the Mummy's Nose Saddle. We stopped for a moment just before the trail dipped down into the wash. 

Climbing the Wash

Still climbing the Wash

Climbing the Trails

Steep Trails
We stashed one of our water bottles at this junction and dove into the wash. The scramble began innocently albeit steeply. Soon, though, the steepness turned into a more difficult scramble. Note of importance: take the left fork of the main wash when presented! There are a few washes that flow steeply down into a bowl from the Mummy's head area. On the way up, we took another left into a smaller wash then started a climb on all fours on dirt to the right. This was not pleasant but it put us up into the trees and deeper dirt of the bristlecones hanging off the side of the mountain. There are 2 or 3 paths that you can follow among the trees and cliff bands but one certain trail is cairned and more worn. This is your best bet to the left of the saddle wash.

View above the Wash

J&C showing the beginning of Forehead Climb

Almost to Saddle

Other side of Saddle
We followed Mike up among the fantastic old trees within sight of the rock wall that begins looming next to the wash to our right. There were some challenging scrambles but the most difficult places were the short steep slippery sections. We split up on chosen routes but always ended up at the same place. Nearing the saddle, Jerry and Cheryl climbed the wash and checked out the junction where they would someday soon begin their climb up to the Forehead and Chin. (See pic two photos up.) After a beautiful climb up through the trees and rocks, we crested at the saddle. Just as we did, the wind whipped up a few gusts! Maybe it was just a welcoming party because as soon as we finished our rest, the winded quietted again. We turned to our left to start the peak ascent.

Starting up the Peak Ascent

Tackling the 3rd Class Climb

Panorama of Mummy Mountain from Nose

Mike feeling Comfortable on the Nose
The crux of the hike was next! We followed a well-worn trail up to a crack in the side of the mountain peak. Cheryl dubbed this the Nose's Nostril! The crack presents a third class climb that is rather simple until right before the route climbs out of the crack and onto a shelf traverse. Over the years, the last step-up has been "softened" on the left side leaving very little in the way of toe holds. I was having some difficulty ... and getting plenty of advice from different directions ... until Jerry climbed up from behind and offered a step on his knee. Perfect! No problem! Up I went and everyone behind me came, too. Turning right onto the ledge shelf, we had plenty to hold onto to get around to the end of the ridge.

Amazing Views

Various Scenes on Nose Peak Climb

Passing a Gorgeous Old Tree

Rita and Ralyn sidling around a Corner
The flat area on the end of the ridge is where the views hit me! They blew me away! Already, there was a 300 degree view of surrounding mountains; the closest being the remaining parts of Mummy Mountain ... or, Cockscomb Ridge. The last 60 degrees of view required the final climb up the ridge to the peak. We turned around and began a trail and class 2.5 scrambles up the spine weaving right and left with steep cliffs appearing as we went. Cairns marked the way. The weather-worn bristlecone trees were really something to behold! They were gorgeous in their own right. I saw a few seabed fossils as well. All the peaks in the Spring Mountains provide a protected habitat for fossils from the Permian Era that ended 250MYA.

Following the Trail along the Peak Ridge

A Window with a View

Scrambling - Almost There!

By the way ...
As we climbed the ridge to the peak, we had extraordinary views of the Spring Mountain Divide (McFarland Peak, Bonanza Peak and Willow Peak) with the Sisters Range of peaks lying in front of it. The steep slope of the Nose accentuated the distance to these other peaks. At last, we surmounted the Mummy's Nose Peak (10,748')! Smiling faces all around! This was not just another day in the park for this group. As you can see in the photo below, the peak does not have a lot of real estate but we still struggled to maintain social distancing! Lol! We signed the log book and Jerry searched through it to read some of the logs from years ago. We found the page from 2012's hike that included Lettie and Kay ... and one of Tim Borem's first hikes!

All Six on Top!

Scenes from the Peak

Pics from Jerry & Cheryl's Perspective

Starting the long Descent
We must have impressed Tim, even though on that hike ... and that hike alone ... he was back in the back with Lettie and I! Lol! Look at him now!

We took in the views and breathed in the thin air! Then, we started down. It had taken almost 3.5 hours to go up. It would take 2.5 hours to go down. I admit, a lot of that time was me taking photos! But, hey, I couldn't help it! Carefully, we dropped down off the peak to the saddle. Next, I took the lead down the cairned trail that presented itself right away. Cairn to cairn to cairn. Then, we got into the wash at the first opportunity from the trail. The scramble down was fun; especially one section where the rock was super smooth. We slid down it ... carefully!

Rita revisits the infamous Rita's Ridge

At the Bottom of 3rd Class Drop

Following Cairns Down Steep Trails

Fun Wash Descent
Our route deviated from the wash only once before we climbed out onto the ridge trail. Next, we followed cairns all the way down to the first dirt road crossing. Just for fun, we turned left on the dirt road and descended it for most of the way back to the gate. After six hours, we rode up the road to the Old Mill Picnic Area where we had a small picnic and birthday celebration. Happy Birthday, Rita!! Just a reminder: those of us that hold Senior Passes for National Parks, can use this picnic area for free! Just fill out the envelope ... but, bring your own pen! What a great day!!

Stats: 4.3 miles; 2550' gain; 6 hours

Ridge Trail Descent

Cairned Trail Descent

Picnic honoring Rita's Birthday

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Ricks Saddle - 9/14/20

Rick's Peak (L) - Macks Peak (R) nearing Ricks Saddle

Formidable Ricks Peak overshadowed by Macks Peak

Ricks Saddle view up to Ricks Peak

Starting up South Sister Trail
Okay. I know what you are thinking! Who's Rick? I have no idea, but he named a peak adjacent to Macks Peak. And, ... the saddle below Ricks Peak could be called Macks Canyon Saddle ... but, it could also be called McFarland Canyon Saddle. And, ... Macks Canyon kind of has two saddles albeit one is higher than the other. So, .... I'm calling the destination of this hike, Ricks Saddle which is the saddle between Macks Canyon and McFarland Canyon yet is at the base of the diminutive Ricks Peak. There you have it!

Five of us parked at the increasingly popular Pay Phone Trailhead and hiked up past the Old Mill Picnic Area. Soon, we were on the familiar South Sister Trail.

South Sister Trail

The South Sister Trail leads up through a beautiful shaded canyon before it takes a decidedly steeper feel up to the South Sister Saddle. The climb was around 2/3 of today's total elevation gain. Always a heart starter!

The Steep Part

At the saddle, there is a trail that neither leads up nor down and to the other side of the ridge. Until today, it was simply a curiosity. Today was the day we would find out what was on the other side of that door!

Starting down the Cairned Lubinski Trail to the Ridge of Views

First gulley Crossing
From the saddle, our small group was embarking on an exploration with information gathered by Jon Lubinski, Brian Dodd and Lettie Guttierez ... and, of course, Google Earth! Lettie's group had gone to the trouble of cairning the route that was first put on the map by Jon. By now, the trail is very easily followed until you reach the first overlook point. This is where Lettie's cairns help out a lot. The trail jogs uphill about 30 feet before it takes off again over the ridge and dips in and out of a second big gulley. This puts you onto a bare ridge. The views around the Lubinski Trail and the bare ridge are numerous and gives the hiker a new perspective of the mountains east of the Spring Mountains Divide or the Bonanza Trail. The ridge begins at a small rocky tor.

The Trail jogs up from the First Overlook Point

At this point, there are three different directions that can be taken. The first is to turn to the right and climb up to the neighboring ridge for more of a straight shot to Ricks Saddle.

After jogging up, the Lubinski Trail crosses the Second Gulley

The second is to use Brian's track and head straight down toward Ricks Saddle. Always a possibility.

From the Lubinski Trail & Ridge of Views

North (L) & South (R) Sisters from Ridge of Views
The third option was our natural selection. We followed the fun Ridge of Views down as it curved around to the left then dropped down on the left side finding a vague game trail that took us around to the right heading straight for the target saddle. This was also Lubinski's track of choice. We only saw one cairn on the game trail as it led us in and out a third gulley then over to a large flattish area and down to Ricks Saddle where a very large deposit of wild horse poo awaited us! This large flattish area lies between the lower and higher Macks Canyon Saddle. It is also the bottom of the ridge we would later take on our ascent back up to South Sister Saddle. The trail on this ridge can be otherwise referred to as Pauls Trail. (Story later.)

One more Gulley on Game Trail after Dipping down from Ridge

At the saddle, we had another choice to make. To the left, we could continue our descent to a creek area. Since it is the middle of September and we haven't had a lot of rain, we decided to put this off until next time.

Approaching Ricks Saddle & Peak

To the right, we could follow the canyon down about a quarter mile to a spring area. We took this option thinking that the spring might be flowing. When we got down where the map said the spring was, we did not find it. May have been dry.

Exploration down to the Spring

Back at Ricks Saddle, we took our break ... away from the horse poo ... and stared up at Ricks Peak with Macks Peak beyond. Our dreams of climbing Macks Peak from this perspective had long disappeared! Macks Peak never appeared so daunting as this!

Snack Break on Ricks Saddle

After our break, we turned to climb the ridge behind us. This cairned trail is known as Pauls Trail. (On one hike several years ago, Paul was leading some of the more advanced hikers and they abandoned him before he reached Ricks Saddle. The others climbed up through a difficult canyon to get to the South Sister Trail while Paul happily climbed Pauls Trail, a much easier option!) We followed the cairns until we found a game trail that led back over to the Lubinski Trail then returned to South Sister Saddle. The last part was not real graceful but we had fun! (To be improved.) Then, it was back down the South Sister Trail to the cars. Fun! Fun! Fun!

Stats: 6.6 miles; 1800' gain; 4.5 hours

Starting up Pauls Trail marked with Cairns

Back on the Lubinski Trail

Down the South Sister Trail