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

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