Thursday, July 6, 2017

Lee Peak - 7/6/17

Lee Peak from Big Falls Overlook

Lee Peak Summit View

North Loop Trail view of Charleston Peak

Place where Horse & Girl Fell
 Please! No horses on the North Loop Trail above Cave Springs. Today, two horses with riders went up the North Loop from Trail Canyon. Just past Mummy Junction at the section of trail in the photo to the left, we watched as one of the horses with the rider slipped on the rock and tumbled down the steep scree slope. The rider's foot was caught in the stirrup for the first half of the 50 yard slide. The horse stopped then tumbled again. Thank God there was no cliff below them! The horse got up, in shock, and stumbled up to the trail and in no uncertain terms, decided to start his/her descent! When the horse was caught, the 2 riders began leading the horses back down the trail. The one horse had cuts on his/her legs and was skittish of the trail walking with a limp. We didn't see them again. We hope the horse gets the care it needs. The North Loop Trail is NOT suitable for horses above Cave Springs.

Trail Canyon in the Morning
 That was a very scary few minutes. It really shook us up, too. Fourteen hikers were on their way up to climb Lee Peak, a small rise that does not have enough prominence to be considered a true "peak." (Try telling that to any one of us!)

Trail Canyon Saddle
 Lee Peak is located on the North Loop ridge line on the way to Devil's Thumb and Charleston Peak in the Spring Mountains NRA. We made our approach by way of Trail Canyon very early in the morning. (We began around 6:40am.)

Water Trough at Cave Springs

Terrain similar to where the horse fell from trail.
As we climbed Trail Canyon in the morning light, the two horse and riders came up behind us. This isn't unusual. (What is unusual is that when later questioned about where they were headed, they said, "The top!") We gathered at the saddle and enjoyed a short rest. The group consisted of about half really good and fast hikers and about half of us moderately strenuous dudes and dudettes. This was not a problem since the fast hikers came knowing that the pace would be a steady moderate pace as listed on the schedule. We all got along great!

4.20 Mile Overlook
When the hike started again, we decided on a stop at Mummy Junction. That's when the horse incident happened. When the last two hikers arrived, the shocked look on everyone's faces required explanation. (which is relayed in the first paragraph)

Heading to 5 Mile Campsite
Soon, we headed up the trail and took a look at the place where the horse fell. We were correct in our guesses at what actually happened with the horse's footing.

Blaze for Winter Hiking

Climbing Small Switchbacks
Our next stop was Big Falls Overlook. When the last hikers arrived, the first hikers had taken a nice break and a group photo. The next stop was supposed to be the Lee Canyon Overlook at the top of the small switchbacks. The lead hikers didn't really know where this was so the last hikers enjoyed the overlook by themselves! We found the rest of the group waiting for us in the shade then the hike coordinator led the way past the mile marker 6 at the cliffs and on to the next small saddle/campsite where the Lee Peak Trail junction turns the route back by 180 degrees.

Familiar Peaks from Overlook
There isn't much of a trail up to the peak but, as you climb, every once in a while you can see where hikers have worn a small path. The coordinator's preferred route is up the ridge on the left side of the climb. Here, there are some really nice views.

Descent above Cliffs
Most of the group made their way up to the 11,300' level without too much ado. But, the back group of about five hikers, struggled. It was a bit hot even in this elevation and the altitude was challenging.

Cliff View from North Loop Trail

View from Ridge of Lee Peak Ascent
Regardless, all fourteen hikers finally summited and wrote their names in the log book. The views from the summit are definitely unique and outstanding. Mt. Charleston rises clearly up on one side. Kyle Canyon drops precipitously below on another side. Pahrump can be seen in another direction in the distance. And, finally, Lee Canyon and Wallace Canyon are on the last side along with all the peaks on and nearby the Spring Mountains Divide (aka Bonanza Trail). We enjoyed our stay and took a few photos. It had taken 4 of the 7 hours to get there.

Fun Tree from Lee Peak Ascent
Eventually, we had to come down off our perch! The descent off the peak is done quickly through the scree on a steeper side of the peak that leads right down to the North Loop Trail.

Happy Smiles after Hard Climb
We turned left on the trail and began our 3 hour descent. Our first stop was supposed to be the Lee Canyon Overlook again but it proved to be elusive to the front hikers!

Panorama View from Lee Peak Summit

Fourteen Tired Hikers!
The descent from Lee Peak is very hard on the feet and knees. Few hikers can zip down the rocky slopes without feeling it. We tried to keep a steady pace going down that would protect all body parts. The first time that the entire group gathered was at Big Falls Overlook. Not wanting to detain the front hikers any longer, the back hikers only took a short 30 second rest. We agreed to make our next stop at Cave Springs where there is plenty of shade. The punishing descent continued!

Descending Lee Peak in Scree
By the time we gathered at Cave Springs, everyone was ready for a slightly longer break. We sat on the rocks and the water trough to recover for the last leg. The heat was taking its toll.

Returning past the Cliffs
Our last leg would continue all the way down to the cars at the trailhead. Trail Canyon's 2 miles seemed to last forever! A few storm clouds began forming but floated away from us. We could have used a dousing of rain!

Beautiful Afternoon Light

1st Rock Climb (Improvised down & around)
The back hikers were very happy to see the Wilderness sign as we reached the water tank area. When we got to the cars, almost everyone was still there even though the sign in sheet was available. This is a great group of hikers who are considerate of others and go out of their way to make sure that everyone is doing okay. Isn't it great when people work well together!

13 miles; 3900 feet elevation gain; 7 hours

Cockscomb Ridge

Resting in the Shade at Cave Springs

Very Happy to see this Sign!

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