Thursday, June 30, 2016

Black & White Sisters - 6/30/16

From White to Black Sisters

White Sister to Mummy Mountain

Trailing Ridge to North and South Sisters

Using the Wash to Approach the Ascent
 After appropriate warnings of the bushwhacking and steepness of today's hike, thirteen hikers arrived at the Sisters Spur Road in the Spring Mountains NRA. This is a small rough road with primitive campsites and is best negotiated with an ATV. It is found on the left 2 miles in on Macks Canyon Road which turns to the right soon after the Sawmill Trailhead on Lee Canyon Road. We parked just off Macks Canyon Road and began our hike. Next time, we need to remember to begin the hike by starting up the small dirt road.

Our Route up the Wash (Road to Right)
 After getting into the small canyon, we veered over to the wash that runs alongside the left canyon wall. The road parallels the wash but we wanted to be in the wash when we got to the trail cairn marker.

Trail Junction (Ascent L, Descent R)
 The trail cairn marker sits next to a ponderosa on the right side of the wash. As we have in the past, we turned to the left here to begin the ascent wash.

Climbing the Ascent Wash

Reaching the Approach Ridge (Mummy's Nose in Background)
 This wash isn't bad to begin but it gets steeper and steeper as it nears the approach ridge. The best strategy is to continue up the wash all the way to the ridge instead of being tempted to climb up to the right. But, several hikers today, did just that and we met up again on the ridge all accounted for. The approach ridge is a beautiful place to be! Views are seen on both sides. Mummy Mountain rises to the left (going up) and Macks Peak rises on the right. The small peak that holds Black Sister is now straight in front.

Ridge, Next Canyon and Mummy Head Parts
 There is a very small trail that follows the approach ridge staying on the top the whole way.

Eyeing our Route Up
 The steep climb that was coming up stared us in the face! By the time we arrived at the approach ridge / steep terrain junction, we were mentally prepared for the effort.

View from Approach Ridge

Climbing the Approach Ridge
 And, up we went! The pace was comfortable today, very pleasant. All thirteen hikers climbed the hill using the route they felt most comfortable with. Familiar landmarks passed by slowly. There is an occasional trail as you ascend that might have been made by the wild horses that live in this area. Sure would be nice if the park service would create a nice switchbacked trail right here. At any rate, no matter how its done, it has to happen.

Approach Ridge / Steep Terrain Junction
We gathered again when we reach the lower end of the trailing ridge that disseminates from Black Sister.

Steep Terrain Example View
  We turned to the right to begin a short easy climb up the ridge. Black Sister stood stalwartly at the top.

Using a Partial Wild Horse Trail

Clare paints on a Smile while Climbing the Steep Hill
 Black Sister sits at the northern terminus of the Sisters Ridge. It is a very large dark gray rock outcropping that can be climbed ... carefully. Next along the ridge is a diminutive White Sister made of bright white rock. The ridge continues with a deep dip to form North Sister (the most difficult of the Sisters to climb) and another dip reveals South Sister (a popular climb up from the other end). Nine of the thirteen hikers scrambled up Black Sister while the remaining four hikers enjoyed watching their shenanigans from White Sister.

Junction with Trailing Ridge
 The best photos of these two small peaks are taken from White Sister although the views from Black Sister are outstanding.

Black Sister from Base
 A small trail takes hikers around from below Black to White. The morning's weather was beautiful and not too warm.

A Few Daring Hikers

White Sister to North Sister and Charleston Peak
 As we sat at the sisters taking our break, the clouds began forming over the higher elevations. A large percentage of rain was predicted for around 11am ... yep ... monsoons. So, we gathered ourselves again and started down the trailing ridge to the left turn down the steep hill. Down, down, down. Although still steep, the hill seemed shorter to many of us than in the past hikes. (It helps to be in good condition for this hike.) We arrived at the approach ridge junction and made sure we were all accounted for ... again.

White Sister to Black Sister
 It is good to make sure you know what this junction looks like as you pass it on the way up.

The Complete Black Sister Outcropping
 We followed the small trail along the top of this ridge then, thinking, we were at the wash we came up, we turned to the left and started to drop.

McFarland, Bonanza, and Macks Peaks from Sisters Ridge (North Sister casts Shadow)

All back at Ridge/Steep Junction and Accounted For
 Nope. This wasn't the wash but it actually turned out to be a very nice wash. We liked our mistake and plan to try it for the ascent next time. No worries. All washes lead down at this point so we passed the trail cairn marker, descended the wash until the road forked on an obvious downhill slope, heard a loud thunderclap, then finished the hike on the road. It wasn't until halfway down Lee Canyon Road that we saw the first raindrops. Fantastic morning!

4 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Cloud Cover begins Arriving

Descending the Approach Ridge

Descending the Descent Wash just prior to the Trail Cairn Marker

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