Friday, June 29, 2018

Griffith Peak - 6/28/18

Griffith Peak from last switchback to Saddle

Charleston Peak from final Ascent

Starting up the South Loop

Wild Horses grazing at Cathedral Rock Picnic Area
Griffith Peak rises to an official elevation of 11,064 feet in the Spring Mountains NRA and can be seen from many points in Las Vegas, Nevada below. It is the 3rd highest peak in southern Nevada and the 43rd highest peak in Nevada with a prominence of 430 feet. It resides in the Mt. Charleston Wilderness inside the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Eleven hikers made the climb today on the South Loop Trail, the only trail that leads to the peak since the Carpenter One fire of 2013. We started early; around 7:40am.

The Steps
Starting up the South Loop Trail, we saw three wild horses grazing below us in the empty Cathedral Rock Picnic Area.

Seven of the Eleven climbing the First Switchbacks
At this time of the morning, we hiked in cool shadows almost until we reached the 1st Overlook. This is usually a sunny endeavor.

Wildflowers on Switchback

Switchback below 1st Overlook
Our first gathering was at the Rainbow Junction. It was a very strong group today for the most part and each time we started out for the next gathering place, we spread out right away. I was always at the back keeping a slow and steady pace with one other hiker. We all enjoyed the wildflowers growing on the first set of switchbacks. There were blue lupines, bushy phlox and large bouquets of red penstemons. The rough angelica were podding out on our way up and when we came back down, they had also bloomed brand new lace-like flowers.

Mummy Mountain from 1st Overlook
Angelica scabrida, or rough angelica, is also called Charleston Mountain angelica since it is one of several plant and animal species that only grow here in southern Nevada.

Leaving 1st Overlook
The Mt. Charleston Blue Butterfly and the Acastus Checkerspot Butterfly are two more of those species.

3rd Overlook
Last Mile to Griffith/South Loop Saddle
We left the 1st Overlook and it was the last time I saw the front hikers until the gathering at the 3rd Overlook. I took note of Tony's fossil rock at the 4th switchback and continued up. It was a beautiful day and the trail headed into the trees and shadows. At the 3rd Overlook, we stopped for a few minutes. It was already becoming difficult to maintain my steady pace and stops became more frequent. The rest of the hikers seemed to be having a great time as usual. The next leg of the hike would take us to the Griffith/South Loop Saddle.

Wildflowers next to Trail
This 1 mile section goes quickly over the 10,000 foot elevation range. The slope stays similar without relief.

Griffith Peak Corner Overlook
At around the 10,300 foot elevation, there is a corner overlook where a great view of Griffith Peak can be seen. (Above photo.)

Climbing the Grassy Meadow

Griffith Peak from the Last Switchback
Following this is a very taxing climb up through a sunny grassy meadow and two switchbacks. The front hikers were already relaxing at the saddle while I and another hiker struggled up that last leg. As I reached the very last ten feet of gain before the saddle, a ton of bricks hit me sideways! Yep! The altitude. Headache, nausea, dizziness. Been there before but never in the Spring Mountains. Regardless, it was clear that I was not ready for the higher elevations today. No worries. I reached the saddle and that was rewarding. Karl and I stayed at the saddle while the remaining hikers in the group climbed on up to Griffith Peak.

Karl climbs the Last Switchback to Griffith/South Loop Saddle
The peak photos on this blog are photos that were taken last year at about this time.

Griffith/South Loop Saddle
It was very gusty and chilly on the saddle and, we heard, on the peak as well. So, the two of us descended from the saddle to that corner overlook for a short break.

Wind and Snow "Fort" on Saddle

Trail toward Griffith Peak from Saddle
We saw two of the peak hikers on top of Griffith as we went down but only after zooming in with the telephoto lens. After our break, we started a slow and steady descent on those ~39 switchbacks of the South Loop. By taking our time, we knew that eventually the peak hikers would catch up to us. Just after we passed the 3rd Overlook, we heard voices coming down the mountain. Looking up, we saw Tim and Setsuko running down the switchbacks. Yep. Age is merely a number. They caught up to us and said everyone was meeting at the 1st Overlook.

Lovell Canyon from Griffith Peak Trail
Karl and I continued our steady pace down and found Tim and Setsuko lounging on tree roots.

Charleston Peak from Griffith Peak
Another 5 minutes then the remaining hikers came steadily down that last leg to the overlook.

Harris Peak from Griffith Peak

Burnt Trees on Saddle Slope
It was still a beautiful day but it was also getting warm. That chill up on the saddle was from harsh wind gusts coming in from the southwest ... the other side of the ridge. On this side of the ridge, the sun was shining without much shade offered. The occasional breeze was extremely welcome. We came down the switchbacks noting the bloomed rough angelica and the minimal work they have done on the higher wash crossing. (Appreciated.) We saw that at least one horse was still in the picnic area and came on down from there seeing several other recreational hikers around. Another great Thursday hike! Happy to be in the mountains!

To compare:
Peak: 9.5 miles; 3300' gain; 5.5 hours; (11,064' elev.)
Saddle: 8.6 miles; 2900' gain; (10,550' elev.)
3rd Overlook: 6 miles; 2100' gain; (9750' elev.)

Mummy's Toe from a Switchback

The Group returning to 1st Overlook

Fossil Rock on Switchback #7

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