Thursday, June 23, 2011

Willow Peak - 6/21/11

After Tuesday's very strenuous hike to Willow Peak, Chris had these words at the beginning of his weekly email:

Today marks a certain point of distinction for the Around the Bend Friends. A dozen club hikers made the summit of Willow Peak on the north end of the Spring Mountains, a really unusual feat. Willow Peak lies on the same ridge as and directly to the north of Bonanza Peak, accessible from the north trail head of the Bonanza Trail out of Cold Creek. The route to Willow Peak involves nearly two miles of some of the roughest terrain you are likely to see around Las Vegas. It took us nearly 5 hours to cover the 5 miles getting to the top because of this terrain. What is unusual is that this was four times the size of any other group to arrive at the summit since the current sign-in book was placed there a decade ago. In fact, during the three year period from 2004 to 2006 only thirteen individuals signed in at the top. While a few people have discovered this peak in recent years, the maximum I saw from any given year was ten. I think it speaks well for the club that it can offer such diverse hiking opportunities from easy/moderate to very strenuous and do so nearly six days a week.

Larry offered these words about the hike through another email in which he also sent the photo above and the map below:

It was a really tough one. Here’s a summit photo. A GPS track on topo is attached. Note that we came down directly from the summit across the face of Willow Peak instead of backtracking along the approach route. We were all so tired, at the top, that we opted for a “shortcut” down. As Brian notes, below, it was a shortcut, but…. We wound up at Cold Creek village. Ed, who was not feeling tip-top and who bailed early with radio in hand, drove my car back from the Camp Bonanza trailhead to the village to pick us up.

Further, Brian gives us the GPS information below:

Info from my GPS after computer analysis reveals:

. Length 7.9 miles

. Gross ascent = 2,894 ft, net ascent = 2,550 ft in 5.14 miles and 4h 40 min

. Gross descent = 3,935 ft, net descent = 3,483 ft in 2.75 miles and 2h 35 min

. Max elevation 9,974 ft

. Total start to finish time = 7h 46 min giving an overall average speed of 1 mph. Our moving average was 1.5 mph.

So interestingly, while our short cut down really was shorter in time and distance, we actually came down about 1000 ft more than we went up.

The writer has one thing to say to the twelve hikers who accomplished this feat, "YOU ROCK!!!"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mack's Peak - 6/14/11

The first three words that come to mind to describe the Mack's Peak hike are "steep," "steep," and "steep." After being able to reflect on the hike the day after, I have three more words: "challenging," "real," and "amazing." Twelve hikers gathered to climb Mack's Peak on a beautiful day in the Spring Mountains NRA. We drove almost seven miles out Mack's Canyon Road off of Lee Canyon Hwy in three high clearance vehicles. We parked at the end of the road where there is a forest service sign for the Mack's Canyon Trailhead. Over the next four hours, we would hike only 2.9 miles with an elevation gain and descent of 1800 feet.

We hiked just a third of a mile up the canyon trail then turned right into a wash. The climb up to the peak is more of a route than a trail for the first mile so not long after we headed into the wash, we turned inexplicably up the steep hill to the right. It was presumed that someone up front knew the way so we followed. Up, up, up and up some more on a steep slope covered with small scree and a few scrubs and pine trees. "Would it ever end?", we thought, as Mack's Peak came into view. The group got spread out but every so often the front guys would stop and wait for the end guys to catch up ... sort of. Finally, we reached the ridge where a lone cairn sat quietly saying, "Good job, guys!"

We hiked along the ridge towards the peak, grateful for the small respite in slope. At a small saddle, we found the approach trail and once again began a pretty steep climb.

At the base of the rock peak, the trail led to a ramp up the side. The ramp began very narrow but was, at least twenty feet wide nearer to the top. It was covered in very loose rock, trees, and fallen logs. The angle of the slope and looseness of the rock make the climb up the ramp extremely difficult. Each of us chose a route and tried our best not to dislodge rock onto those hikers below us ... an impossible task but we kept it to a minimum.

At the top of the ramp, we ran out of mountain. Essentially, we had come to a switchback so we perched there until all hikers squeezed onto the small space. Then we made the final climb to the peak. This is, perhaps, the most exposed area of the climb. It was steep and slippery and, on tired legs at 10,000 feet in elevation, we were all very careful of our footing. As the description of the hike says, it was a very rewarding feeling to sit on top of the peak, take in the tremendous view and write in the log book.

Below, the photo shows the view of the Mummy Mountain / Mt. Charleston range from Mack's Peak. In the foreground, you can see the Sisters. South Sister is on the right and North Sister is on the left. The Sisters are upcoming hikes.

The hike down was a dreaded necessity. First, the ramp had to be negotiated. Basically, we gave each other a lot of room in between because of the rock movements and we sort of slid down on our feet. There was plenty of logs and rock face to catch our momentum and the process slowly came to a successful end. We took the approach trail almost all the way down to the saddle then took a turn to the right ... DOWN!

Down, down, down we went sliding or not sliding on the heavy large scree steep slope. Would this never end? Knees were strained and concentration was challenged. Although we took a diagonal path to the wash below, the steepness of the scree filled hillside never decreased. At last, we came to the wash which was the next wash up from the one we took on the ascent. The walk out of the wash to the road was decorated with the site of a mountain lion vs. deer kill. It looked pretty fresh and we kept hiking. Just keeping it real, folks!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Champion Canyon Loop - 6/11/11

Ann led a group of thirty- eight hikers on a new 3.3 miles hike with only around 300 feet in elevation gain. We parked at the Sawmill Picnic Area parking lot and started out by crossing Lee Canyon Hwy to a dirt road called Champion Road. This road connects Lee Canyon Hwy to Deer Creek Hwy and has a few primitive secluded campsites that lead off into the woods. The views are mostly of Mummy's Chin above and Champion Canyon below. At around two miles, we reached Deer Creek Hwy which was the high point of the hike.

We followed the guard rail to the right for about fifty feet then dropped down into a canyon wash on a small steep trail. It was here that we found an animal's jaw bone with teeth included! We sat on the wooded hillside for a break then began our return down the wash. There were several trees which had fallen across the wash but getting around them wasn't too difficult. Also, there was evidence of wild horses having been in the area. We didn't see any horses but Ann reported that she had seen some on her previous trip into the area. The canyon wash crossed the dirt road that we had used to start out our hike so we turned left onto the road and hiked back to the Sawmill parking area.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cockscomb Ridge - 6/9/11

Sixteen hikers converged at the Trail Canyon trailhead this morning for a hike up to and along Cockscomb Ridge led by the greatly capable Mike O'C. The trailhead is located at the end of Echo Drive off of Highway 157 in the Spring Mountain NRA just northwest of the beautiful city of Las Vegas, Nevada. We are so lucky to have hundreds of hiking venues so close to our city of lights.

We began hiking up Trail Canyon with fervor. It is 2 miles and 1500 feet in elevation gain before you reach the saddle trail junction and a good place to rest. Mike encouraged all of us to hike the 2 miles at our own speed and we did. Eventually, we gathered at the saddle over the course of around thirty minutes. At the saddle, three trails meet. To the north, the North Loop continues to Raintree. To the west, the North Loop continues to Mt. Charleston. To the south, Trail Canyon returns to the Mt. Charleston residential areas. To the east, Cockscomb Ridge lay waiting for us.

When all of us were accounted for at the saddle, we turned our attention to the ridge to the east. In the first photo, you can see the ridge in almost its entirety. It is around a half mile in length with a scary steep side on the north and a not so scary steep side on the south. At the end of the ridge lies Cockscomb Peak, a simple large rock outcropping which requires a hike around it to find the "up." We were not hiking the peak today, however, we will in a few weeks.

Above, there are a few photos of views seen from the end of the ridge which lies at the base of the rock peak. Mt. Charleston can be seen for most of the hike to the south. Mummy Mountain can be seen to the northwest. Fletcher Canyon can be seen to the northeast below us. We all perched on sharp limestone rocks or fallen trees for our break. Then, eventually, we stood for our climb down the beautiful ridge which is featured in photos 3, 4, 7, & 8.

After gathering one last time at the saddle, we made the descent through Trail Canyon. Again, we were encouraged to go at our own speed but we all made it to the cars within five minutes of each other. The weather was perfectly cool with very little wind. The hike was approximately 5 miles with around 1700 feet in net elevation gain.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Big Falls - 6/6/11

Eleven hikers gathered this morning to hike up to Big Falls then add a trip up to Mary Jane Falls afterwards. It was a double header. Both trails share the first mile leading up from the trailhead parking lot in upper Kyle Canyon. We turned to the left just after passing the beginning of the switchbacks for Mary Jane Falls. This led over to the adjacent wash and we began scrambling up the rocks next to a heavily flowing stream.

It wasn't long before the scrambling lost the rocks and the stream. Snow with a layer of branches, twigs and pine needles covered what we know to be a heavily rocked wash underneath. Usually, this hike requires constant scrambling over slippery rocks. Today, we simply hiked up the snow carpet all the way to the base of Big Falls which was flowing very heavily from the cliff above. It was a beautiful sight and we spent about ten minutes there in the strong freezing wind to take our photos and drink in the view.

Going back down the snow wasn't too difficult if you stayed on the carpet of greenery. At the bottom, we looked back up the wash and got the photo below. Note that Big Falls is located in the bottom center of the photo. At this point, the writer took her leave.

The remaining ten hikers continued up the old Mary Jane Falls trail which is a steep incline that goes straight up to the falls area. They didn't stay long due to the wind spraying the water from the falls all over the sitting area. The return was down the new Mary Jane Falls Trail with switchbacks then through the newly leafed aspens on the last mile of the trail.

Big Falls hike elevation chart.
Big Falls hike elevation chart with high point indicated.
Big Falls hike.

Combination of Big Falls and Mary Jane Falls hike with elevation chart with high point indicated.
Combination of Big Falls and Mary Jane Falls hike.