Friday, June 9, 2017

Fletcher Peak via North Loop - 6/9/17

Fletcher Peak

Charleston Peak from Fletcher Peak Trail

La Madre Range from North Loop Trail

Starting Up North Loop Trail
 At around 10,250', Fletcher Peak is one of the lowest trailed peaks in the Spring Mountains NRA. Although there are many ways to approach the rock scarred peak, the easiest way is via the North Loop Trail from its trailhead on Deer Creek Road. For many of the fourteen hikers in today's group, this was the first climb up to Fletcher Peak this season. Appropriately, we used this North Loop route. It was a Friday morning and the trailhead had plenty of parking spaces available when we arrived.

Separation of Paces
 Today's weather was ... again ... perfect! Yes, there was a bit of wind on the Fletcher Peak side of the mountain but we stayed glued to the trail and accepted the cool breeze happily.

Approaching the Meadow
 The North Loop Trail climbs up through a pine forest then arrives at a large meadow surrounded by old bristlecones.

Mummy's Nose from Meadow

David M. arrives at the Meadow
 Mummy's Nose points upward above the meadow saddle as if to say, "I'm watching you!" The coordinator instructed everyone to climb to the meadow at their own pace then stop. Some hikers waited several minutes before the last hikers arrived but everyone (well, almost everyone) was content to keep the group together. One hiker just couldn't stop and a few demerits were divvied up! After the last hikers strode in, we waited a minute then proceeded across the saddle and up the twelve North Loop switchbacks.

Gathering at the Meadow Saddle
 These switchbacks are challenging but are made a little easier with some conversation.

Climbing North Loop Switchbacks
 Our next gathering spot was to be the Fletcher Trail junction. So, we skipped around the High Point Corner and descended to where the obscure trail took off on a sharp turn to the left.

Mummy's Toe from High Point Corner

Starting Up Fletcher Peak Trail
The Fletcher Peak Trail begins by traversing around the back side of the ridge that we had just hiked. Views of Fletcher Peak, Charleston Peak and Mummy's Toe opened up to our right. Soon, the trail took a decided turn down the hill heading toward another bare saddle. This hill is steep and it has to be dealt with on the return as well. The wind hit us hard a few times but we were working so hard that the cool air felt great! At the saddle, we started up Fletcher Peak on a good trail.

David Morrow's Flower Close-Ups
 David hung back for most of the hike taking beautiful close-up photos of various flowers he found.

Another False Peak on Fletcher Peak Trail
 The trail up to Fletcher Peak leads up and over three false peaks before it hits the final climb. Sometimes this takes a while because of the many views that must be seen!

Steep Switchbacks near Fletcher Peak

South Loop Ridge off to Right
The final climb is the steepest. It holds several small switchbacks that are trenched into the dirt by hikers trudging up then digging their heels into the ground going down. The mountain's rock scar can be seen to the left as you near the peak. Most of our group, today, arrived at the peak and signed into the log book within 5 minutes of each other. There were, at least, two hikers who had not been on the peak before. Congratulations! Just 1700 more elevation feet and you will be on Charleston Peak!

Southwest View from Fletcher Peak
 The view toward the southwest from the summit holds the South Loop Ridge from Harris Peak to Lee Peak.

Gathering on Fletcher Peak
 The view toward the northeast from the summit holds Mummy's Nose and desert playas to Angel Peak below.

Northeast View from Fletcher Peak

Descending Fletcher Peak
 Fletcher Peak, itself, is long and narrow with steep climbable sides and cliffy ends. We expected a stiff wind for our break but we received a calm refreshing breeze. A nice long break led us into our steady descent. Our next gathering would be at the High Point Corner. This meant that we would descend the false peaks, cross the saddle, climb the steep hill up to the North Loop ridge, turn right onto the North Loop Trail and finish the climb up to the trail corner that lies only 225 feet lower than the peak we had just left.

Fletcher Peak Trail Saddle
 When we were all together again, we started our descent to the meadow.

Steep Climb back up from Saddle
 Again, conversation filled the twelve switchbacks.

Mummy's Toe in front of South Loop Ridge

Approaching the High Point Corner on Return
 The meadow was our last gathering before the trailhead and the cars. We relaxed our legs then started down. The North Loop Trail is not terribly steep in this section so the descent was very pleasant. Today was an unexpectedly beautiful day. What red flag warning?! Great group! Great workout!

6.5 miles; 2300 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Descending North Loop Switchbacks

Last Gathering at the Meadow Saddle

Beginning descent of North Loop Trail from Meadow

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