Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Black & White Sisters - 6/27/17

Black & White Sisters

North & White Sisters from atop Black Sister

Desert View from Shoulder Ridge

You have been warned!
 The Las Vegas temperatures are coming back down to normal this week so, luckily our mid-elevation hike to Black & White Sisters was about 71 degrees from beginning to end. The Sisters of the Spring Mountains NRA are located on a ridge that basically runs parallel to Lee Canyon Road to the west. As you pass the ridge driving up the canyon, Black Sister is first. Next are White, North and South Sisters. Black and White Sisters are difficult to discern from the road since they are not very prominent along the ridge. The approach to this northern end of the ridge can be made from The Sisters Spur Road, a 4WD high clearance dirt road that turns off of Macks Canyon Road about 2 miles in.

Ascending the Wash next to The Sisters Spur Road
 Five hikers piled in Richard's large red truck and made the drive to the trailhead. Only two of the five hikers had climbed to Black Sister before.

Climbing Pine Cone Canyon Junior
 We started by walking up the dirt road into the hills. The best rule of thumb is to either hike the road that is near the left (east) wall of the canyon or stay in the wash that ascends adjacent to that wall.

Mummy's Nose View from Ridge

Ascending the Ridge
 Our normal route of following the wash up was hindered by a fresh load of fine gravel in the wash bed. This was probably deposited by recent winter weather and snow melt. The gravel was difficult on our legs so we scooted over to the dirt road for a short distance. Finally, about 0.65 miles up, we came upon the large cairn leaning at the base of a ponderosa on the right side of the wash. This indicates the correct ravine to climb leading up to the left of the wash. This ravine is filled with pine cones and rotting fallen trees. The five of us made it slowly up enjoying a couple of needed stops. A recent motorbike had plowed its way up the ravine making ugly tracks in the dirt. Luckily, the fallen trees put a stop to that further up.

The Tree Saddle
 We made it to the saddle, took a breath, then turned to our right to continue climbing on the ridge. There is a faint trail that runs along this ridge.

Up the Steep Climb
 The views on either side of this ridge are fantastic. Most prominent are Mummy's Nose to the east and Mack's Peak to the west.

Charleston & Lee Peaks from near Top

North & South Sisters beyond Shoulder
 The ridge climbs, dips then continues on a gradual climb up to a saddle we'll call the Tree Saddle. There is a tall interesting leafless tree that rises on the ridge here just before the route takes a decidedly upturn in direction. In the past, a very faint trail (maybe a game trail) has helped in the climb giving feet a place to snuggle into the scree! After about twenty feet, this trail did not help at all except for a couple of short bits on up the slope. It appeared that there has not been any traffic in this area since last season.

Climbing the Shoulder
 The climb was slow but we were all pretty close to the same pace. Three hikers reached the shoulder ridge first, then the last two hikers arrived.

Black Sister on Approach
 At the shoulder ridge, we could see Black Sister rising up to the right and North and South Sisters had made their appearance on the other side of the ridge.

Three ascend Black Sister to Sign Book

Lee Canyon Road from atop Black Sister
 We made our way up to the large black rock outcropping called Black Sister, and three hikers decided to scramble up to the top to sign into the log book. We all had a good time finding places to get new views then went around to White Sister to take our break. White Sister is definitely smaller than its black counterpart but it is no less impressive with its bright white rock. The first photo of this entry shows their near proximity and the contrast in rock colors. A cool wind was blowing over White Sister so we found a seat that was sheltered by the rock.

Three atop Black Sister
 McFarland Peak rose strongly to the west and, to the south, we clearly saw the Spring Mountain Divide on which lies the Bonanza Trail.

McFarland Peak from White Sister
 The hard work that it took to get up to the Sisters' Ridge was repaid by the unique and beautiful views that were offered.

White Sister

Charleston, Lee, & North Sister from White Sister
 The return trip down the mountain started by descending the shoulder ridge then turning to the left. A challenging plunge complete with escalator scree deposited us near the Tree Saddle. Then a descent on the ridge brought us to the Pine Cone Canyon Junior Saddle where we turned left. At the bottom (the ponderosa cairn), we turned right and descended the wash and dirt road back to the car. Hard work but somebody has to do it! Me, me, pick me!

4 miles; 1600 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Black Sister

The Shoulder Ridge

Almost down Pine Cone Canyon Junior

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