Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cockscomb Peak - 9/16/14

Fletcher Canyon from Base of Cockscomb Peak

Leaving Trail Canyon Trail to Scramble Up Off Trail

 Twelve hikers of the male persuasion arrived for a short but challenging hike up to Cockscomb Peak this morning. Cockscomb Peak is the highest of two large rock peaks on the ridge that extends into Kyle Canyon from the Mummy Mountain/Trail Canyon/ North Loop area. The hike requires tackling an especially interesting 3rd class scramble up from very steep terrain just below the peak area. The hikers began at the Trail Canyon trailhead.

Arriving on Cockscomb Ridge

Dropping Down on the Other Side of the Ridge

 Steve Anderson wrote a few words:

Hi Kay, I do not have a GPS Track. We had 12 hikers today and we hiked about 1.5 miles up Trail Canyon and made a right hand turn heading straight for the peak. There were lots of loose rocks and one of them found George's leg. Mike got him bandaged up and we continued up. We made the peak after the usual scrambling on the East side of Cockscomb and had a break. On the way down 5 hikers took the trail down and 7 hikers went straight down the hill and met the main trail about a mile from the parking lot at the same time the trail group came along. A wonderful day in the Spring Mtns. ~ Steve

Queuing for the 3rd Class Section

3rd Class Section

Checking out the previously made track, 1.5 miles up Trail Canyon brings the hiker to the switchback that bring you the closest to the climb to the ridge on the right. It is assumed that the 7 hikers who came "straight down the hill" took the route indicated on the last map below. At any rate, Laszlo's photos show that a good time was had by all!

5 miles; 2077' total ascent; 9699' peak summit

Descent Straight Down to Trail Canyon - "This should be fun!"

Yep! It's fun!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Raintree via Trail Canyon - 9/11/14


Nine Hikers at the Saddle Junction

 We drove up Kyle Canyon early this morning and the construction workers were already hard at work. Waiting in two separate lines for one way road allowances, nine hikers arrived at the chilly Trail Canyon trailhead in the Spring Mountains NRA around 8am. The cold 52 degree air gave the group a good punch and off we went climbing up the beloved Trail Canyon trail. Right away, we began noticing that the trail had been washed out by Hurricane Norbert's rains. The flood evidence was clear in several steep sections and in the upper switchbacks. Thankfully, the section that the Spring Mountain Youth Campers worked so hard on in the beginning of the summer stood stalwart in its engineered construction.

Shadows Hiking on the North Loop

Today's group of hikers were well rested from the rain break and the pace of the hike showed it! Although slower members of the club would have been very welcome, all attendees were speedy! ... With the exception of yours truly!

Breaking at Raintree

 We gathered for regrouping three times during the hike. The first gathering was on the Trail Canyon / North Loop saddle junction on the ascent, the second was at Raintree, and the third was at the saddle junction on the return. We all knew the trail very well, or we hiked with someone who did, so walking and talking or walking and thinking was our entertainment. The sky was blue and the temperatures warmed up. When we reached Raintree, the birds on the tree tops seen in the photo to the left were making a lot of noise.

Mummy's Toe from Raintree Area

We took our break on the log seating underneath Raintree which is situated on the North Loop Trail near the base of Mummy's Toe. Although no one was really in a hurry, we got up to go after the usual 15 minutes or so.

Hiking Back down the North Loop

On the return back to the saddle junction, we noted that the two big rocky washes emanating from the towering Mummy Mountain above had been jumbled up and rearranged at the areas that it crossed the North Loop trail. After passing the saddle, it was also noted that the washed out sections of trail were more difficult to navigate on the way down. We were all invigorated when we signed out and got back into our cars!

7 miles; 2300 feet elevation gain; a little over 3 hours
One of Mummy's Washes with Cockscomb Peak in the Background

Yellowing Aspens from the Saddle Junction

Sunday, September 7, 2014

4 Mile Cliff Overlook - 9/7/14

4 Mile Cliff Overlook View Toward Charleston Peak

Cloud Covered Charleston Peak from Lower North Loop Trail

 As seven hikers drove up Kyle Canyon Road, they watched as two very odd looking windswept clouds joined as one over the peak of Mt. Charleston with its tail over the South Loop ridge. Totally prepared for rain, we set out on the Trail Canyon trail and crested the saddle at around one hour. Exhilarated, we jabbered for a few minutes while a group of teenage boys peered out from their tent. ... Probably wondering when we would leave! ...

Climbing in the Sunshine with Clouds Ahead
 Our climb was almost totally in the sun but, as we hiked, we got closer and closer to those black clouds which were growing slowly yet continuously. What was previously Hurricane Norbert had arrived in the Southwest from Baja California, Mexico.

Approaching Cave Springs

 The pace of the hike, today, was somewhere between moderately strenuous and strenuous until we reached the higher elevations of almost 10,000 feet. Since this was a suggested training hike for a climb to Charleston Peak in a couple of weeks, a period of elevation acclimation was to be expected. We blew past Cave Springs and immersed ourselves in the aspen forest. The aspen leaves are just beginning to change color from a bright green to yellow. Rabbitbrush and other LYFs joined in the fray.

Nearing the Black Clouds at 3.5 Miles
 We passed the Mummy's Tummy trail junction and rounded the bend. Dark clouds hung low over Charleston Peak. Our plan for today was to try and make it to the 4 mile mark then decide if the 5 mile mark was a good idea.

The 4 Mile Cliff Overlook Stopping Point

 Huffing and puffing as we climbed up to the cliff overlook area, and peering speculatively at the black clouds ahead, we sat on the log and ... all together ... said 4 miles was enough. Here, we enjoyed a decent break overlooking Kyle Canyon, the aspen forest below Mummy Mountain and the cliffs between us and the higher elevations. ... And, making a thorough wardrobe change for one hiker!

Descending the Switchback Through the Yellowing Aspens
 Our trip down through the aspens was just as beautiful as the trip on the ascent. It even seemed as if the leaves had changed a little more in the last couple of hours.

Dropping Down near Cave Springs

 As we passed Cave Springs, we noticed that the water was running quite well. There is about 3 or 4 inches of water in the bottom of the trough. When we returned to the Trail Canyon saddle, the tent and boys were gone and we had begun seeing several recreational hikers on their way up. As we reached the lower portion of Trail Canyon, we were anointed with a very few raindrops. All in all, we were well satisfied with the morning.

8 miles; 3000 feet elevation gain; just over 4 hours

Small Rest at the Saddle

Lower Trail Canyon View

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Black & White Sisters - 9/4/14

White Sister to Black Sister

White Sister to North Sister
 Driving out to the Sisters Spur Road by way of Mack's Canyon Road, we lost one of the four cars in our caravan. Mack's Canyon Road is not in real good shape right now and a simple passenger car has a difficult time. We believe that the one hiker in the last passenger car turned around and aborted the hike. He never arrived at the trailhead and, after waiting an appropriate amount of time, we started hiking.

Starting Out the Sisters Spur Road

 Mack's Canyon Road turns off to the right on Lee Canyon Road just after the Sawmill Trailhead Picnic Area. Two miles in, there is a very rough dirt road with several primitive campsites that turns to the left. It is a very high clearance 4WD road ... so we began our hike at the bottom of the road. The road shares the small canyon with a medium sized wash. We started our hike with a gentle ascent in this wash.

The Ascent Wash
 Around 0.6 miles up the wash, we arrived at the junction of a smaller wash that would lead us up to the ridge to the left. There is a large rock placed against a ponderosa pine tree on the right side of the main wash here.

Desert View
 Not too far up this easy wash, we decided to take our explorations up to the ridge on our right. Once we got to the top, we could see the target peak in front of us. We could not see the black rocks of Black Sister but we knew the lay of the land.

Connecting Ridges

 On the ridge, we also got a good view of Mack's Peak and Little White Sister Peak. We continued our climb up the ridge with some difficult terrain getting in our way. Finally, we connected with the ridge above and found a very light trail. Although the views from the ridge were nice, we realized that it would have been easier hiking to stay in the ascent wash all the way up to the main ridge.

Starting Up the Steep Ascent Trail
 The ridge trail led us along the top of the ridge heading straight for the target climb. But, at one point, it appeared that the main ridge we were on might take a drop so we turned down to our left losing precious elevation to try and connect with the next ridge.

Hanging in There!

 We didn't get very far when we realized that the main ridge was still the way to go and we returned to the original ridge finding ourselves at the base of a long very steep ascent. The trail continued but there were sections that disappeared. During the major climb, we kept an eye on each other but we had to do the deed on an individual basis. When we turned around, we could see a beautiful desert view.

Glorious First View of Black Sister
 One by one, we arrived on top of the bench that protrudes from the Black Sister peak of rock. We were very excited to be there finally. It was a hard climb.

Climbing the Bench to Black Sister

 We turned to our right and hiked along the bench up to the black rock. Black Sister is unusual for the Spring Mountains. Most of the rock is gray limestone. These peaks were once flat under ocean water. The black hue that these particular rocks give off could be due to the red fungus that seems to thrive here. The rock doesn't seem to be lava born but maybe it is still made up of some kind of igneous rock. Comments welcome below!

Taking a Break on Top of Black Sister
 The climb up to the top of Black Sister is a little precarious. Still, all but one hiker made it up to the top for a snack break.

View From Below

 There is very little in the way when looking out to the valley below the mountains in this area. You can see Lee Canyon Road, Deer Creek Road and the little canyon in which we hiked up. Mummy's Nose rises up across the highway from our perch.

Black Sister in Her Full Glory
 A small hike around the base of Black Sister took us along a ridge to another rock outcropping. These rocks are white, thus, we added White Sister to today's repertoire. The view of the surrounding peaks (Black Sister, North Sister, South Sister, Mack's Peak, McFarland Peak, Bonanza Peak, Mummy's Nose and Mt. Charleston) were optimal from the diminutive White Sister.

Are we really where we think we are?

 Laszlo pulled out the topo map that he lugged all the way up the hill and confirmed that we were standing exactly where we thought we were standing! Relaxed and fulfilled, we returned on the ridge to the Black Sister bench and found our steep descent trail waiting where we had left it. Slowly and carefully, we hiked down to the top of the main ridge. Just a few humorous spills plagued the ranks.

The Bench with Lee Canyon Road Beyond
 The writer thanks today's hikers for having patience for the photos. It was a new hike for the club and we will likely repeat it in the future. So, an informative blog entry for Black & White Sisters could be useful. (Thank you also to Laszlo, as usual, for filling in the photo gaps!)

All Stop for Photos!
 When we reached the main ridge, we followed the trail over the small knoll that we missed on the way up. As we neared the descent wash, we should have stayed on the ridge trail.

Following the Ridge Trail back to Wash

 We veered off to the left too soon and spent a little more time in the horrible terrain that we dealt with earlier. Finding the wash, we turned down to our left in the shallow drainage. The wash footing was pretty easy except for the need to be careful on a ton of pine cones lining the bottom. Near the bottom, the wash's slope eased up and we stepped down into the road wash to turn right. The nice little Sisters Spur Road dirt road was taken to return to the cars. Very nice little peak climb.

The Wash Cairn for Left Turn into Ascent Wash
 3.5 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Parallel Wash Leading to Sisters Spur Road

Sisters Spur Road Descent