Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lee Peak (aka Mt. Barel) - 7/21/15

Bristlecone & Clouds as seen on Lee Peak Trail Ascent

View from Lee Peak toward Kyle Canyon

Morning on the North Loop

Trail Canyon Saddle
 Two teams totaling eight hikers summited Lee Peak today. Although not an official peak due to its low prominence on the North Loop Ridge, Lee Peak is a fantastic destination. It can be reached from the North Loop Trail by taking a faint trail up from a small saddle. Mike's team of five hikers started in Lee Canyon by ascending one of the ski slopes. From there, they gained a ridge that rose up toward the North Loop Ridge. This backdoor approach comes through a saddle portal and has about a mile left to go to get to the Lee Peak Trail.

Roger Hikes Ahead
 Kay's team of three, well, really two plus Roger Rabbit, took the longer route up from Trail Canyon to the North Loop. This route also has quite a bit more elevation gain.

Kay and Richard arrive at Cave Springs
 So, Kay, Richard and Roger Rabbit arrived at the Trail Canyon trailhead just after 7am and began their climb up Trail Canyon Trail. The strategy for Kay and Richard was to maintain a slow but steady pace.

Clouds begin Slithering among the High Elevations

Arriving above the Cliffs on the North Loop
 By eliminating the need for longer breathing breaks, we made pretty good time. Roger Rabbit went on ahead after staying with us until the Trail Canyon saddle. No problem. So, Kay's team of two now, climbed steadily up past Cave Springs and Mummy Junction with only a couple of stops to slow down our respiratory systems. We did not see anyone else until after this point; a hiker coming down from what appeared to be an overnighter.

Cliffs Above and Below
 The next landmark was the mile marker 4 overlook. Then, it was the Big Falls overlook and the mile marker 5 campsite. We were among the cliffs above and below.

Just past the Five Mile Mark
 Hurricane Dolores had been sending us rain for the last few days as she made her way up the west coast of Mexico. Although there were residual clouds playing in and out of the peaks around us, today's weather was a perfect temperature and we did not get wet.

Charleston Peak from the North Loop

Lee Canyon and the Sisters from North Loop Ridge
 After the 5 mile campsite, Charleston Peak became a prominent figure in the view when clouds allowed it to be seen. We climbed up the small switchbacks that lead to an overlook of Lee Canyon. We peered out over the ridge to see if we could see Mike's team of hikers coming up. Nope. So, we continued our hike to the mile marker 6. It was then that we began hearing voices off and on. We were beginning to think it was our imagination when around the corner came Mike and his team.

The Two Teams meet near the Descent Point
 They had just made their descent off of Lee Peak so we took a couple of photos all together and congratulated ourselves about the good timing.

Arriving at the Lee Peak Trail Saddle
 The question remained, "Where did Roger go?" Either he missed the turn or he was ascending Lee Peak on the trail while the others were descending Lee Peak on the scree.

Oh! There's Roger! Passing on the Lee Peak Trail

Charleston Peak from Lee Peak Summit
 We hiked on around to the next small saddle and made a sharp right turn onto the Lee Peak Trail. Clouds were beginning to float through the saddle from Lee Canyon. The Lee Peak trail is somewhat steep especially after having climbed six miles from the trailhead. We made our way up and ... Oh! There was Roger! ... Roger was on his way down and that was the last we saw of him. So Kay and Richard gained the peak and took their break watching the clouds play.

All 8 Hikers Signed into the Log Book
 There is a soft scree slope that leads back down to the North Loop Trail all the way from the top of Lee Peak. We carefully made our way down this steep slope and arrived at the main trail.

Lee Peak Scree Descent
 We passed several hikers as we came down out of the higher elevations. Most of them were heading to Charleston Peak. Folks, you really need to start a little earlier for that hike.

Sleepy Hollow Tree

Mike's team reached the ridge at this saddle from Lee Canyon.
 We made the descent at a medium but steady pace as we enjoyed watching the clouds do their thing. The higher elevations of the North Loop Trail contain some of the most beautiful scenery in the Spring Mountains. By the time we finally reached our car, our feet and knees were really really done. But, oh, what a beautiful day!

13 miles; 3900 feet elevation gain; 7 hours

Clouds down at the 10,500 foot Level

Starting the Big Long Descent

Clearly, Mike's team was having a bit more fun.

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