Thursday, July 31, 2014

South Sister - 7/31/14

South Sister Twin Peaks (from south peak to north peak)

Mt. Charleston from north peak of South Sister

 South Sister consists of twin prominent rocky peaks that can be seen from many perspectives in the Lee Canyon vicinity. For hiking, South Sister is a nice concise peak with a direct route that circles up to a saddle and around the ridge leading up to the final steep climb. It is the southernmost of the family of sister peaks. The meanest of the sisters, North Sister, rises just behind South Sister as you arrive at South Sister's peaks. Usually, the south peak of South Sister is ignored due to the impressiveness of the north peak. But, today, eleven hikers reached the summit of both twin peaks.

Laszlo's Back!
 We started at the Lower Bristlecone trailhead since the Old Mill picnic area is still being reconstructed. They were working today and we were careful to stay well away from them. We dropped down at the manhole, as usual, and turned left at the orange fence.

Climbing Phase II Ridge Section

 Cutting through the woods below, we merged with the rock lined trail and turned left. The feint trail forking off to the right was our trail du jour, then we began to climb. Phase I was well underway. This is a beautiful small trail that passes an old home foundation and a spring. Eventually, the trail takes off to the right at a wash fork where there are many fallen trees. This is where the real hike begins. Up!

Following the Trail in Phase III
 After much sweating and puffing, we reached South Sister Saddle junction. We rested. We drank ... water. Then we turned to the right for Phase II of the climb. There is no trail in Phase II to speak of, but the object is to stay on top of the ridge until you reach a turn to the right and a view of your target, South Sister, looming across the canyon.

Phase IV - Need I say more?

 When you turn to the right, staying on the ridge, the trail appears again. Phase III takes the hiker around to the base of the scree climb of the twin peaks. After dropping a tad, we started up the steep scree filled with beautiful limestone and bristlecone decorations. There are a couple of trails leading to the top. Recent rain eroded the trails so that the soft dirt beneath the scree was exposed. This made the climb a little ... a little ... easier.

Phase IV Fun
 Gathering at the top of the climb, we ditched our sticks and scrambled our way up to the peak on the left, the north peak of South Sister.

Mt. Charleston from the Saddle Between the Twin Peaks of South Sister

 The scramble is short but it is hands on. There is still small rocks within the scramble that can be loosened and sent flying. Be careful. At the top of the first part of the scramble, North Sister appears ahead and the north peak of South Sister is on your left. At this point, the peak is a long narrow wall. Finish your climb up to the top of the wall and walk along the wall to the other end. We took our break here. Photos. Sign the log book. Enjoy the cool weather.

Photo Taken from Halfway up the Scramble
 In the past, we have dropped down on the other end of the wall to make our way back to the bottom of the scramble or to fight our way over to the North Sister peak. Both are difficult endeavors.

View from Top of Scramble Along the north peak of South Sister

 The smoke from California forest fires could be seen from our perch. It wasn't smog. That direction, as seen in the photo to the left, is the middle of the desert ... the middle of nowhere! Las Vegas was behind us. So, yes, smoke from fires. We passed around yummy chocolate candy then began our trip back across the wall and down the scramble. At the bottom, someone mentioned that he would like to visit the other of the twin peaks.

The Scramble Down
 Many of us had never been over to the south side of South Sister so off we went.

Hiking Over to the south peak of South Sister

 We climbed up the ridge passing a bristlecone shelter among the trees, then the ridge opened wide. There was another 360 degree view from this other peak and we continued along the ridge until we dropped down to the edge of a high cliff. New stuff! New photos! Fun, fun, fun! The first photo of this entry was taken from here of the first peak we were on, the north peak of South Sister. (Hey. Just trying to be perfectly clear.)

On the Cliff of the south peak of South Sister
 We could see all of Lee Canyon Road from this side of South Sister.  -  Too soon, it was time to start down.

North Sister from the south peak of South Sister

 First, the big drop of Phase IV. Then came the up and down traverse of Phase III. Next came the most difficult part of the hike to navigate, Phase II in reverse. Just stay on the ridge ... easier said than done ... but we did it just fine. Finally, the drop through Phase I back to the construction zone. Not wanting to raise any construction worker's eyebrows, we decided to take a little used trail that started earlier from the rock lined path. It worked perfectly! We would recommend this route over the manhole route. Finding it will be the tough part!

5.7 miles; 2100 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours.

Descending Phase I

Eleven Hikers Feelin' Good

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bristlecone / No Name Loop CCW - 7/27/14

Bristlecone on No Name Trail

Dropping Down from Upper Bristlecone Trailhead

 Eight hikers came out early for a Sunday hike around the Bristlecone Loop (counter-clockwise) at the top of Lee Canyon in the Spring Mountains. Our plan was to add the No Name Trail into the loop if the weather conditions were good when we reached the Bonanza Trail junction. We parked at the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead and wasted no time in dropping down the hill, crossing the road, and passing the Lower Bristlecone parking area. The group was ready to roll! Everyone hiked all out up the easy forest road section of the Bristlecone Loop.

Bonanza Trail Switchbacks
 At the Bonanza Trail junction, we regrouped and looked at the sky. Yep. "Let's do it!" And, up the Bonanza Trail switchbacks, we climbed. At the Bonanza Trail / No Name Trail junction, we took a short snack break.

Bristlecone on No Name Trail

 After a few minutes, we saw that the sky was suddenly turning a little dark so we took off down the No Name Trail. This part of the trail is a favorite in scenery and impressed a couple of newbies that were in our group. At the No Name saddle, we began our descent back to the upper Bristlecone Trail. At the lower elevation, we hiked through the aspen forest and returned to our cars. The hike went quickly and was probably nudged a little by the 40% chance of rain prediction in the forecast. But, as we climbed into our cars, there was a boatload of recreational hikers just starting up the trail.

(With the exception of the 2nd photo in this entry, the photos were taken on other hikes of these same trails. Battery died.)

6.6 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Finishing at the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead

Bristlecone on No Name Trail

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lake Tahoe Club Excursion - 7/20 thru 25/14

A Waterfall on the Way to Grass Lake
The Around the Bend Friends took an excursion up to Lake Tahoe for four days of hiking. Jerry Thomas sent in the photos, GPS tracks and the write up for the trip. Definitely a good one!

Crossing a Stream on Grass Lake Trail
 Five hikers drove up on Sunday, July 20th.  There was a low pressure system making its way through the Lake Tahoe area and almost exactly when we arrived a electric power substation was hit by lightening blacking out South Lake Tahoe and other areas.  We drove into town and were greeted by bedlam.  All of the traffic lights were out along with electricity to everything.  To add to the pandemonium there was to be an outdoor concert that evening and a golf tournament was also in progress.  Probably the worst timing possible for a blackout. 

Chris at Grass Lake

The author took a shower in pitch blackness and hopped into bed since there was nothing else that could be done without electricity.  Five minutes later the lights came on.

Hiking Mt. Tallac with Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe in the Background

On the Pier at Lower Echo Lake
 Monday everything seemed like it was back to normal and the five hikers that had drove up on Sunday hiked up to Grass Lake.  It was only a 5 mile hike with a little over 800 ft of elevation gain but it was very beautiful with waterfalls and several stream crossings.  Tuesday was the big day when the most strenuous hike was to the summit of Mount Tallac.  There were three groups of about 12 hikers each.  One group went to the summit, the other two groups stopped before the very steep section just halfway to the summit.  The weather was gorgeous although one could tell that the humidity was higher than the Las Vegas area.

Upper then Lower Echo Lakes from Trail

On Wednesday hikers were in for a treat as we took a small power boat ferry from the far downstream side of Lower Echo Lake, up through Lower Echo Lake and to the far upstream side of Upper Echo Lake.  From there the three groups of twelve hikers did their own things with the most strenuous group tackling Ralston Peak.  Views of Desolation Wilderness were tremendous and the hikers were pleased to have a slightly easier hike than Mount Tallac.

Descending Ralston Peak with Aloha Lake in Background

Emerald Bay
On Thursday things were winding down and everyone took the trail around the rim of Emerald Bay.  Since this was not a wilderness area we did not have to break into smaller groups.  We were greeted early on in the hike by a juvenile black bear who was maybe one or two years old.  His mother was not nearby but a ranger was watching him closely and warned us not to get too close.  He seemed indifferent at the sight of humans perhaps seeing too many of us already.  We hiked on up the trail never again seeing the young bear or his mother.  It was another terrific outing of Around the Bend Friends with great weather (except for Sunday) and beautiful scenery. ~ Jerry Thomas

Juvenile Black Bear on Emerald Bay Trail

Grass Lake
6 miles; 800 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Mt. Tallac
10 miles; 3400 feet elevation gain; 6 hours

Ralston Peak
11 miles; 2500 feet elevation gain; 5.75 hours

Emerald Bay
5.5 miles; 700 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours