Sunday, August 12, 2018

United Kingdom Three Peaks Challenge - August 7,8,& 9, 2018

Highest Peaks in Scotland, England & Wales of the United Kingdom

 Nine Around the Bend Friends club members went far and wide to hike last week. All the way across the pond to our old friend, the United Kingdom. There's such a thing as the "Three Peaks Challenge" where hikers attempt to climb the highest peaks of Scotland, England and Wales all in one day. Our hikers made the somewhat more rational attempt to climb the three peaks in three days. Brian D. (L) coordinated the trip bringing along with him: (L-R) Jerry & Cheryl T., Maria V., Rosi & Laszlo H., Setsuko S., Rita C. and Mike OC. All hikers are very strong and had trained to meet the challenge.

Ben Nevis, Scotland, UK
The Team of Nine at Ben Nevis Trailhead

Poor Conditions on Ben Nevis
Nine Three Peaks hikers from the club assembled late afternoon on Monday Aug 6th at Glasgow. We were driven up to near Fort William, past Loch Lomond, to spend the night in a traditional ‘bunkhouse’. Breakfast was early so we would have time to ascend Ben Nevis and drive several hours to the next peak. The weather was overcast and blustery to start the hike, but then as we ascended into the clouds we were in heavy rain and wind. Unfortunately, about ¾ of the way up one of our number had a problem with balance and the cold, and the guide made the tough decision for us to turn around. He said the wind, cold, rain and cliff exposure would only get worse on the next section and he had safety concerns. Naturally we were all disappointed, but had committed to follow his instructions and were supportive of our colleague.

Ben Nevis Elevation (One Way)

Ben Nevis Track

Well Deserved Meal - Greens at Gretna
 Scafell Pike, England, UK
Starting up Scafell Pike

Scafell Pike Summit in Rain
 After a fairly long drive, we stayed the night in Gretna, of Gretna Green fame, in a nice hotel and had a welcome dinner together. Another early start had us being driven a couple of hours to Wasdale and the start of the Scafell Pike climb. We started around 0800, with rain forecast around 0900…and it did. The first part of the hike across grass was lovely, but once the rain started and we moved up into the wind and clouds again, it got pretty brutal. The hiking was not difficult, but the weather was appalling. However, we made the peak and started descending pretty quickly thereafter. Regardless of the quality of our water-proofs, most of us still got very wet. Needless to say, we did not eat our lunch until back at the minibus. However, we were all glad to make the summit this time. That night we stayed in Oswestry, after a few hours of driving, in a city-center, old, four-star hotel. The forecast for the next day was good…if only we could dry out our boots and the rest of our gear!

Scafell Pike Elevation (One Way)

Scafell Pike Track
Snowdon, Wales, UK
Climbing Snowdon in Better Weather

Snowdon Summit with All Smiles
A couple of hours driving in the sunshine the next morning brought us to the Snowdon Pyg trailhead. This hike was as we wished the whole trip could have been, with nice temperatures, gorgeous scenery we could actually see, and a lovely trail. After summitting, we ambled down the longer, but easier Walking Trail next to the railway that shuttles folks up and down. It was a great final day, but we had earned it.

Brian Dodd

Snowdon Elevation (Up Pyg & Down Easy Route)

Snowdon Track

Ice Cream for Everyone!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Upper Showgirl Loop - 8/11/18

Camp Trail Overlook

Nearing end of Hike a Bike Trail

Overcast Morning starting out from Juniper Trailhead

Descending on the Upper Showgirl Trail
The smoke from the California wildfires seemed worse in the valley today. However, the skies up in the Spring Mountains were blue, albeit with a tinge of gray. Seventeen hikers drove up to the Juniper Trailhead for a slow 5 mile hike among the trees on a few bike trails. To get to the Juniper TH, drive up Kyle Canyon Road, turn right on Deer Creek Road, turn right on Angel Peak Road, fork to the right and find the trailhead (complete with restroom) on the right about half a mile down. Don't go further than the trailhead because that area is off limits due to the presence of the Spring Mountain Youth Camp found before you reach Angel Peak. (To hike to Angel Peak is a whole different story!)

Mummy Mountain from Trail
We started down the Upper Showgirl Trail behind the restroom as it zigzagged down to the first wash. This wash seems to have been flooded out a bit recently.

Wooded Trail
From there, we followed the trail as it zigzagged in and out of the ravines and washes. There is minimal elevation gain, intermittent shade and lots of trees. What's not to love?

Mountain Mahogany Trees line the Trail

Mummy's Nose through Trees
As we hiked, we saw near and distant views toward Mummy's Nose and Angel Peak. At around 1.5 miles into the hike, we turned left onto another trail. In my book, this is a continuance of the Showgirl Trail. But, trail names get a little confusing in this area. This trail heads straight out the ridge that is above on the right side. We passed a confluence of trails making our way through to continue along the ridge and came to a dip where a log crosses a wash on the left side of the trail. Here is where we took our break. It was shady and fairly cool. If you continue to follow this trail, it will wind along the ridge then make a steep dive down to junction with the ... Showgirl Trail. Yep. It's confusing.

Well-Maintained Showgirl Trail
After the break, we turned around to go back the way we came until we reached that confluence of trails. Here, we went straight near the top of the ridge and junctioned with the Trough Trail to turn right.

Taking a Break
Shortly, the Trough Trail crosses the Hike a Bike Trail. Today, we turned to the right on the Hike a Bike and followed it almost to the junction of our first left turn. The Hike a Bike curves sharply to the left here and begins a long gradual climb up a ridge.

Mummy's Toe from Showgirl Trail

Angel Peak from Hike a Bike Trail
The long climb wasn't so bad and views of Mummy Mountain from here were beautiful since the skies that had begun overcast were now cleared of many of the clouds. The Hike a Bike Trail ends after curving around to the right and running into the Camp Trail circle. Here, some hikers chose to wait in the shade while others turned to the left and hiked down an abandoned road to the cliff that overlooks the new Deer Creek Road. It is a unique view as seen in the first photo. We were very careful not to get too close to the edge in the loose rock. This is probably not a good place to bring your kids!

Gradual Slope at end of Hike a Bike Trail
We all returned to those hikers waiting in the shade then continued up and around to join the Camp Trail that leads back down the ridge on the other side.

Circling around to Junction with Camp Trail
At the bottom of the ridge, the Camp Trail junctions with the Upper Showgirl Trail on which we had started. We turned left to go back toward the trailhead.

Hiking down to the Overlook

Up Deer Creek Road from Overlook
We still had a little over a mile left to go and the sun had taken away some of the shade. Still, a very nice cool breeze came up once in a while and we were pretty comfortable. We zigzagged in and out the washes then came to the final sun-filled climb back up to the cars. Blue skies all around on a day that was forecast as 40% rain and thunderstorms. We like thunderstorms like this! Great morning out of the valley smoke!

5 miles; 600 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Camp Trail

Nearing the Last Climb

Finishing the Last Climb back to Trailhead

Friday, August 10, 2018

South Sister Saddle Loop via Lower Bristlecone - 8/9/18

Charleston Peak from Sisters Ridge

McFarland Peak from Bonanza Trail

Lower Bristlecone Trail

Starting up Lower Bristlecone Trail
The smoke from the California fires have been invading the Las Vegas /Spring Mountains area for almost a week now. In the valley, the smoke obscures the surrounding mountains almost to invisibility. However, when we get into the upper elevations (around 7000-11,000 feet), the air is hazy but clear enough to reveal blue sky and mountaintops. I didn't even smell burning wood. ... Let's keep it that way! So, today, nine hikers set out to beat the forecasted thunderstorms on a 7.5 mile hike starting at the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead.

Bob rounds the Dogleg Right
We set a good pace going up the 3 miles of Lower Bristlecone Trail to the Bonanza Trail junction. The gradual slope allowed for a lot of conversation.

North Loop Ridge from Bristlecone/Bonanza Junction
By the time we reached the junction, a breather was in order. We stopped for some water then continued up the Bonanza switchbacks.

Turning onto Bonanza Trail

One Leg of Bonanza Switchbacks
After being spoiled with the easy gradual slope of Lower Bristlecone, the harsher slant of the switchbacks was a wake-up call! At the Bonanza / No Name Trails junction, we sat for our "official" break. (They laughed at me calling it "official!" I love these guys!) Anyway, after the break, I slowly led them up the steps of the Bonanza Trail. At the crest of the hill, we were able to pick up the pace again as we descended down to the Pine Cone Canyon junction. Our contingency plan (for the appearance of possible thunderstorms) was to return to the trailhead via Pine Cone Canyon. I looked up and saw only a blue sky ... with a smattering of smoke.

Climbing the Steps on Bonanza Trail
Without even stopping, we blew by the junction and continued through the beautiful bristlecone forest. We noted that all the horse equipment and construction materials were gone from the holding area.

First View of McFarland Peak from Bonanza Trail
Next, we came to the new steps that had recently been constructed by the Back Country Horsemen of Nevada and the Great Basin Institute. This devilish section of trail climbs via short switchbacks up and around a small peak on the ridge. With the new steps, horses will be able to negotiate this hill much easier.

New Steps at Small Switchbacks

Nearing the High Point of Today's Hike
We rounded the peak then climbed up to the high point of today's hike. The high point is simply that. The high point! Then the trail drops down a little to an open area with a beautiful display of old bristlecones and views. McFarland Peak had been visible since the crest of the Bonanza steps but now the peak is framed with the old trees and light gray limestone as seen in the second photo. Not much further, we came to the Sisters Ridge junction. At this time, it is unmarked since the cairn monster seems to go through here regularly. But there is a trail that goes up and over the low ridge to the right.

Bristlecone Pines
We followed the steep trail down the initial part of the ridge. The trail then takes you on a descent through a meadow sprinkled with old bristlecones and wildflowers. We took a short rest at the usual break point scattered with trees to sit on.

Descending Sisters Ridge just after Junction
South Sister Peak rose in front of us; Charleston Peak and Mummy Mountain were seen on the right side of the ridge; and Mack's Peak rises on the left side of the ridge. Then we followed the ridge trail up and over a final small rise and down to the South Sister Saddle junction.

Sisters Ridge begins to Level Off

Smokey Mummy Mountain from Sisters Ridge
A right turn put us on a steep descent down Phase I of the South Sister Trail. Whoa! Slippery! Someone has filled in the eroded trail with small rocks and pine cones making the already treacherous trail even worse ... I have a bruise to prove it! Once we got down the steep part, we enjoyed the wooded lower section. From there, we used the Old Mill Trail then crossed through the picnic area to climb the hill back up to the Lower Bristlecone Trail. A left turn directed us back to the cars. By the looks of the sky, the rain was still about an hour away. Success!

7.5 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

South Sister Trail Descent

Continuing down the Old Mill Trail

Down Lower Bristlecone to Cars