Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mack's Peak - 6/14/11

The first three words that come to mind to describe the Mack's Peak hike are "steep," "steep," and "steep." After being able to reflect on the hike the day after, I have three more words: "challenging," "real," and "amazing." Twelve hikers gathered to climb Mack's Peak on a beautiful day in the Spring Mountains NRA. We drove almost seven miles out Mack's Canyon Road off of Lee Canyon Hwy in three high clearance vehicles. We parked at the end of the road where there is a forest service sign for the Mack's Canyon Trailhead. Over the next four hours, we would hike only 2.9 miles with an elevation gain and descent of 1800 feet.

We hiked just a third of a mile up the canyon trail then turned right into a wash. The climb up to the peak is more of a route than a trail for the first mile so not long after we headed into the wash, we turned inexplicably up the steep hill to the right. It was presumed that someone up front knew the way so we followed. Up, up, up and up some more on a steep slope covered with small scree and a few scrubs and pine trees. "Would it ever end?", we thought, as Mack's Peak came into view. The group got spread out but every so often the front guys would stop and wait for the end guys to catch up ... sort of. Finally, we reached the ridge where a lone cairn sat quietly saying, "Good job, guys!"

We hiked along the ridge towards the peak, grateful for the small respite in slope. At a small saddle, we found the approach trail and once again began a pretty steep climb.

At the base of the rock peak, the trail led to a ramp up the side. The ramp began very narrow but was, at least twenty feet wide nearer to the top. It was covered in very loose rock, trees, and fallen logs. The angle of the slope and looseness of the rock make the climb up the ramp extremely difficult. Each of us chose a route and tried our best not to dislodge rock onto those hikers below us ... an impossible task but we kept it to a minimum.

At the top of the ramp, we ran out of mountain. Essentially, we had come to a switchback so we perched there until all hikers squeezed onto the small space. Then we made the final climb to the peak. This is, perhaps, the most exposed area of the climb. It was steep and slippery and, on tired legs at 10,000 feet in elevation, we were all very careful of our footing. As the description of the hike says, it was a very rewarding feeling to sit on top of the peak, take in the tremendous view and write in the log book.

Below, the photo shows the view of the Mummy Mountain / Mt. Charleston range from Mack's Peak. In the foreground, you can see the Sisters. South Sister is on the right and North Sister is on the left. The Sisters are upcoming hikes.

The hike down was a dreaded necessity. First, the ramp had to be negotiated. Basically, we gave each other a lot of room in between because of the rock movements and we sort of slid down on our feet. There was plenty of logs and rock face to catch our momentum and the process slowly came to a successful end. We took the approach trail almost all the way down to the saddle then took a turn to the right ... DOWN!

Down, down, down we went sliding or not sliding on the heavy large scree steep slope. Would this never end? Knees were strained and concentration was challenged. Although we took a diagonal path to the wash below, the steepness of the scree filled hillside never decreased. At last, we came to the wash which was the next wash up from the one we took on the ascent. The walk out of the wash to the road was decorated with the site of a mountain lion vs. deer kill. It looked pretty fresh and we kept hiking. Just keeping it real, folks!

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