Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Mt. Rainier Expedition - July 2018

Mt. Adams in Distance (Photo: Melanie Ahrens)

Patrick Connor (AtBF Club Member) - 2nd Time up Ranier
 So brother Patrick was on Rainier last week for the second year in a row. He said it was a much tougher route this year, as it was a two-day trek vs. three last year. Monster second day as you go from Muir Camp at 10k to the summit and then all the way down to the lodge, a 9000' descent. It was a 16-hour day. I just got off the phone with him. His quads are still sore some five days later. ~ Mike OC

... Getting to Know You ...  (Photo: Pat Connor)

Snow School  (Photo: Pat Connor)

Snow School  (Photo: Pat Connor)

Summit Day  (Photo: Pat Connor)

Ten Adventurers (Photo: Pat Connor)

Camp Muir 4pm Meeting - Bedtime 6pm  (Photo: Melanie Ahrens)

Above the Clouds Sunrise  (Photo: Tim Redzorro)

Serious Climbing  (Photo: Tim Redzorro)

Must have been AMAZING!  (Photo: Pat Connor)

Summit  (Photo: Tim Redzorro)

All Ten on Summit  (Photo: Hunter Reed)

More Summit  (Photo: Hunter Reed)

Late Afternoon?  (Photo: Pat Connor)

Crag  (Photo: Hunter Reed)

Descent in Darkness  (Photo: Hunter Reed)

Single File Descent  (Photo: Hunter Reed)

Seeing Tents Below  (Photo: Hunter Reed)

Previous Route (not this year's)

Previous Route (not this year's)

Previous Route (not this year's)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Lower South Loop - 7/14/18

Thunderstorms coming over Mummy Mountain

Charleston Peak from the High Point

Rain Washed Echo Trailhead

Cathedral Rock from Echo Trail
 After a week of waiting for the monsoon weather to settle down a little, the club had three hikes going on today. All well attended, I'm sure. The moderate hike had ten hikers who started out from the Echo Trailhead in Kyle Canyon. The chance of rain and thunderstorms was 40% all day. Our window of time for an enjoyable hike was small so I was a little over-enthusiastic with the pace to start up the Echo Trail! Please accept my apologies. We soon slowed down when we hit the second big hill on the Cathedral Rock Trail.

Pausing at top of First Hill
 The scenery appeared almost "lush" after a week of constant rain showers. The air was clean and fresh. Even more fresh than usual in the mountains.

Junction with Little Falls Trail

Sunny South Loop with Thunderstorms Coming
 The sky over the Spring Mountains had two large cumulus clouds as we drove up. There were spots of blue still in the skies as we started our hike. The first dark clouds appeared rather suddenly over Mummy Mountain across Kyle Canyon from where we hiked. We were just getting to the South Loop Trailhead area. Ahead of us, there was blue sky with light fluffy clouds. Which way was that dark stuff floating? Onward, we hiked up the South Loop enjoying the exertion that we had missed. There were a few other hikers on the trail that were enjoying the scenery as well.

Mummy Mountain covered in Clouds
 We made the first wash crossing and noted that repair work was still in tact. It did not appear that any heavy rains had destroyed any part of the lower South Loop.

South Loop Trail through small Aspens
 After the wash, we zigzagged a little up to the Rainbow Junction. Before the fire of 2013, this junction was used on a very popular hike called Rainbow Loop.

Climbing Abandoned Road to High Point

Abandoned Road, like an Old Friend
 Here, we turned left onto an old abandoned road. We crossed over and under a few fallen trees and climbed the hill. Down, over to the left side and through the branches and brush, we saw a large buck mule deer. At the top of the hill, I pointed out the place where the small wooded trail used to descend down to Rainbow. The low ridge to the left is where we have taken many a break. Looking forward to enjoying the old break spot and unique views, we started to find a seat. Suddenly, rumble rumble rumble! The thunder was pretty far away but ... it was THUNDER!

Cockscomb Ridge bathed in Sunlight
 Our plan from the beginning of the hike was, if we hear thunder, we would immediately turn around and go back to the cars. So, that's what we did!

Charleston Peak from High Point

Crossing the Wash on South Loop Trail
 On the way down, we heard another rumble from the same distance. Dark clouds had suddenly appeared over the South Loop's 1st Overlook. (That's how it happens ... "suddenly.") Then it started sprinkling heavy drops. For a while we heard nothing and we slowed our pace. Then, RUMBLE RUMBLE RUMBLE, again. And, twice more. Really loud! Luckily, we were almost back to the cars and it had not started raining on us more than sprinkles. We saw rain showers over the Raintree vicinity. (Apropos.) And, looking back, we saw rain showers over our break area that we had abandoned. It was a good call to start back. In the end, we were all exhilarated from the morning. (And, I got these great photos!)

4 miles; 1050 feet elevation gain; 2.25 hours

Yellow Flowers and Rainstorm at Raintree

Descending South Loop in Big Sprinkles

Raining over Harris Peak (Foreground ridge is where we were.)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Remaining Closures due to Carpenter One Fire 2013 - 7/8/18

Boundary Assimilated from Las Vegas Review Journal Today
The red boundary line was assimilated from an article in the Las Vegas Review Journal (7/8/18). As seen, the only hiking destinations that the club has done in the past that are still off limits are Harris Peak, Harris Slot Canyon, Harris Springs Road and anywhere in the Rainbow community. Please respect these boundaries and allow our mountains to heal. Thanks.

Mr. Brean has agreed to allow us to post his article on our website blog. Here it is below with the link to the original article that also contains the photos that are sometimes referred to in the article.

 5 years after Carpenter 1 fire, Mount Charleston begins to heal

By Henry Brean / Las Vegas Review-Journal
July 7, 2018 - 3:12 pm

Updated July 8, 2018 - 7:16 am
Five years later, the pale skeletons of dead trees still mark the path of one of the largest wildfires ever to strike Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.
But there are also signs of life in the shadow of the blaze known as Carpenter 1.
Green patches of bushes and shrubs now color much of the almost 19,000 acres of federal land that remain closed to the public as the landscape slowly heals.
Soil scientist Jim Hurja stopped his white U.S. Forest Service pickup along Harris Mountain Road on Friday to hop out and survey the new growth.
“We’re seeing recovery,” he said.
Then he started calling out the names of some of the native plants sprouting along the rugged dirt road, some of them in full bloom: Gambel oak, Palmer’s penstemon, ricegrass, rabbitbrush, snakeweed, silk tassel, snowberry, creeping Oregon grape.

“I even see sagebrush coming back, which is good to see,” Hurja said.
He also spotted several four-legged reasons for optimism: wild burros and young bucks with fur-covered antlers grazing through the once-blackened forest.
Flames then flooding
The Carpenter 1 Fire roared to life on July 1, 2013, and burned for more than a month, scorching almost 28,000 acres in the mountains west of Las Vegas.

By the time it was contained, it had churned through several different ecosystems, from high-elevation bristlecone pines to Joshua trees near the desert floor.
Some of the worst damage occurred in and around Harris Springs Canyon, from the eastern flank of Griffith Peak to state Route 157. Hurja said almost 95 percent of the watershed burned in the lightning-sparked blaze, which also claimed several structures on two parcels of private land in the canyon.
The flames were soon followed by unprecedented flooding, as storm water raced down mountainsides suddenly stripped bare of the plants that once held the rocks and dirt in place.
“All the good top soil ended up in the yards (of houses) in North Las Vegas,” said Donn Christiansen, who manages Spring Mountains National Recreation Area for the Forest Service.
The service and the Bureau of Land Management responded by closing almost 30 square miles of public land, including all of Harris Springs Canyon and the dirt roads leading into it.

The current, five-year closure order is set to expire at the end of January, but Christiansen expects it to be extended at least into 2020.

Though the landscape has begun to recover, he said, it’s still in a fragile and dangerous state, with increased risks of flash flooding and hundreds of dead trees just waiting to topple over.
A plan to plant pinyons
Hurja said some of the dead trees could be cut down or left where they fall to stabilize hillsides and curb flooding.
Eventually, he said, the Forest Service plans to replant a portion of the burned area with pinyon trees now being grown at the agency’s nursery in Idaho from seeds gathered in the Spring Mountains.
As far as he knows, this will mark the first time anyone has tried planting pinyon trees after a fire in the range.
But most of the recovery will have to occur naturally, and it won’t happen quickly.
“Maybe in 10 or 20 years we’ll start to see trees resprouting,” Hurja said. “It’s going to take some time.”
“Mother Nature has a long-term restoration plan,” Christiansen added. “We just try to help the process along when we can.”
But not all new growth is welcome.
Hurja pointed out several patches of cheat grass and tumbleweed, two stubborn invasive plants that tend to spread after a wildfire, then serve as fuel for future fires.
That’s another reason for the closure, Christiansen said. Invasive weeds and grasses can hitch a ride into new territory on people’s cars, clothes, horses or dogs. Keeping people out gives the native plants a better chance of outpacing the invaders.
The top of the road
After nearly 6 miles of rocky switchbacks, Harris Mountain Road ends at a dirt parking lot for the Griffith Peak Trail, the only major hiking route still closed on Mount Charleston.
The hillside above the trailhead is studded with the burned husks of mountain mahogany, white fir and pinyon, many of them with green shrubs, even wildflowers, clustered beneath them.
The burned remnants of trail signs still rest in the brush, but just up the trail is a new wooden plaque that marks the boundary of the Mount Charleston Wilderness Area.
Christiansen said work to clear the Griffith Peak Trail of fallen trees and flood damage is ongoing. He hopes to see it finished in a year or two, just in time for the Forest Service to finally lift the closure order and reopen the roads into Harris Springs Canyon.
Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

How you can help
Donn Christiansen, who manages Spring Mountains National Recreation Area for the U.S. Forest Service, said anyone who wants to help with the ongoing recovery efforts from the 2013 Carpenter 1 Fire can join one of the volunteer projects organized throughout the year by groups such as Friends of Nevada Wilderness, the Southern Nevada Conservancy and the Great Basin Institute.
Mountain visitors can also help by not making things worse.
Christiansen said the burned area will recover faster if people observe closure signs, stick to designated roads and trails and wash their cars, clothes and shoes before venturing up the mountain to prevent the spread of invasive weeds and grasses.
It would also help if everyone followed the rules and guidelines designed to prevent the next wildfire, he said.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Hummingbird Gulch Loop - 7/5/18

A View down Hummingbird Gulch

Mummy's Toe from High Point Corner

Hummingbird Gulch (L), Robbers' Roost (R), High Point Corner (Top R)

Climbing the Gypsy Bike Trail
The area around the North Loop Trailhead of the Spring Mountains NRA is teeming with hiking and biking trails. Today, we put together a loop that started at the Robbers Roost Trailhead and ended with a descent in the ever fascinating Hummingbird Gulch. From the trailhead parking lot, ten hikers crossed the road and climbed the small hill. At the clearing, we turned to the right to begin hiking through a mountain mahogany tunnel. These trees are blooming right now with little wispy feather-like fluffs from every leaf. They produce a ghostly glow when the sunlight shines through them.

View down Telephone Canyon
After rounding a curve to the right, we came to an elusive spot. I had recently placed a cairn here but the cairn monster has been by and it was flattened. Anyway, there is a right turn here to take you up the old Deer Creek Road remnants.

Nearing top of Gypsy Bike Trail
At one time, this old road trail was dubbed the Cucamonga Trail after the bike park in California. Now, parts of the trail are named the Gypsy by the bikers that use these trails.

Hummingbird Gulch & Trailhead from Deer Creek Road

Climbing the North Loop Trail
So, we followed the Gypsy (Old Deer Creek Road) up paralleling the new Deer Creek Road enjoying the wide views of Telephone Canyon and seeing Hummingbird Gulch across the way. The climb is gradual and was easy on the morning lungs. We didn't see any bikers but we did see several bike jumps as we passed. Eventually, we came to where the trail meets the paved road and we walked up the side of the pavement to the North Loop Trailhead. After a short breather, we started up the North Loop Trail. Soon, we were spread out just a little and we all gathered at the "Meadow."

Resting at the North Loop Meadow
The Meadow is the wide open saddle that you reach after about 1.3 miles of climbing. It is a great place to rest and enjoy.

Mummy's Nose from Meadow
The prominent pointy peak that watches over the Meadow is Mummy's Nose. We rested up for the remaining part of the climb.

Starting up the North Loop Switchbacks

Break at High Point Corner
The next 0.8 miles consists of 12 switchbacks. At the top, the trail makes one more switchback as it rounds the ridge corner on a high point. We stopped here for our break at 3.7 miles into the hike. It had been a long time since I had been able to stop here and see what could be seen. The little rocky corner offers nice views of Fletcher Peak, Griffith Peak and Hummingbird Gulch below. There are also many convenient places to sit. It was a little cool up here at 10,020 feet so some hikers preferred to sit in the sun. We soaked up the coolness!

Griffith Peak from High Point Corner
Next on the agenda was a small drop down the North Loop Trail to the Fletcher Peak Trail junction. We turned left and left to switchback onto that trail to the peak.

Fletcher Peak Trail Saddle and Upper Hummingbird Gulch Below
It was nice to go down this trail to the saddle knowing that we would not have to come back up like we usually do! Reaching the Fletcher Peak Trail Saddle, we had a clear view of Charleston Peak on our right. Hummingbird Gulch dropped down to the left. There is a large beautiful uprooted tree root facing the trail here. This is a good landmark for where the trail down the gulch begins.

Fletcher Peak

Approaching Saddle and Gulch Junction
 Although I had both gone up and gone down the gulch only twice before, this was the first time I had led the charge either way. In retrospect, I think it was very good that I had done the trail before since I now knew what to look for in a couple of critical places. The trail starts down a pine cone filled ravine; sometimes in the wash and sometimes to its side. There are cairns that popped up often that reassured us. The first half of the 1.5 miles of gulch led us through the trees. It was very shady, cool and beautiful. After identifying the correct overlook rock above to the left, the trail dives into the narrows of the gulch.

Starting down Hummingbird Gulch Trail
When we reached the narrows section, the walls rose high on both sides but the wash continued between them with a small spring making the ground mossy, grassy and muddy. It was here that we started noticing the differences from the previous time we had been here (2 years ago).

Reaching the Narrows
 There have been a few downed trees that have blocked the path. But, in those 2 years, trails have been made to bypass the trees in some way and the trail survives. Another change is that some of the trail through the bushes has been overgrown by recent new growth. Again, the trail survives.

The Overlook from Trail

Down the Small Rock Wall
 One particularly tricky part comes when you emerge from the narrows. A steep drop mess confronts you. Take a look to the left. The trail climbs up and around to drop on scree back to the wash. This is a somewhat dangerous section. Please be careful. Not for beginners. As we dropped, the trail was clear to me ... again since I was somewhat familiar with it. In some places, I followed the most logical route and was rewarded with a cairn further down. The scree was treacherous and it seemed like we all fell at least once! Finally, we reached the Old Deer Creek Road and turned left hoping that the road would lead us back to the Robbers Roost Trail. The road petered out and we had to drop down to the pavement below to finish the hike. Fun new route for strenuous hikers. Fun group. Tired now.

6.5 miles; 2100 feet elevation gain; 4.25 hours

The Tricky Part

Tough Crowd on the Hummingbird Gulch Trail

Following the Trail through the Scree