Sunday, May 31, 2015

Black & White Sisters - 5/31/15

Black & White Sisters

Black Sister from Bench Approach

View Back at Sisters Spur Road Canyon

Starting Up the Sisters Spur Road Canyon
 Thirteen club hikers decided, today, that the hike up to Black & White Sisters is a strenuous hike in May. In September, it may only be a moderately strenuous hike due to the fact that we would be in better condition and more acclimated to the higher elevations at that time. Nevertheless, all thirteen hikers made it up to that dark colored rock outcropping and over to the little white outcropping in due time. We began at the bottom of the Sisters Spur Road that turns off two miles in to Macks Canyon Road in the Springs Mountains NRA.

Cairn Junction at Wash to Ridge
 This was only our second assault on Black Sister using this route but we made it up and back without a hitch in navigation.

A few rotten trees cross the wash.

Clear View of the Mummy's Nose Trail Route
 Approximately, 0.65 miles up the Sisters Spur Road canyon, on the left side wash, we found the landmark we were looking for. It is a large flat rock leaning up against a ponderosa pine on the right side of the main wash as seen in a photo above. Here, is where we turned left to begin our climb up to the main ridge above. This wash is filled with pine cones and has a few rotten trees crossing the ditch. Besides that, it is an easy enough wash to climb if you have the strength. (Maybe the recent earthquake made this route steeper. Hmmm.)

Starting the Steep Climb
 Nearing the top of this wash, we veered off to the right to finish our climb. At the top, we found a very slight trail that balanced along the main ridge. We turned to our right and continued climbing.

Steepness of Climb to Bench
 We stayed on the ridge until we were faced with "THE STEEP CLIMB." The trail continues even though it is wise to zigzag your own way up this hill in any way you can!

Beginning to Level Off on Bench

Climbing the Bench
The group split with stronger hikers reaching the bench summit several minutes before the last ones crawled up. It was a great group today and everyone stuck together for the final assault up to the dark colored rock outcropping named Black Sister. At the rock, several hikers climbed to the top and a few stayed below.

We all made it up that hill!
 The accomplishment was measured by just reaching the area! Nevertheless, we all got our names written in the log book. There were not many other names in it!

Posing on Top of Black Sister
 Eventually, all the hikers took the small trail over to the tiny peak between Black Sister and North Sister called White Sister.

White Sister to Bench - Lee Canyon Beyond

Hiking Small Trail to White Sister
 This small peak provides contrasting color for the surrounding landscape with white rocks. The views from this peak are some of the best in the Spring Mountains. All Mummy parts except for the Toe, Mt. Charleston, Lee Peak, Mack's Peak, McFarland Peak, North Sister and South Sister are clearly in view. We enjoyed our break very much as several of us may never choose to climb that hill again!

White Sister to Charleston & Lee Peaks - North Sister to Right
 After our rest, we returned to Black Sister on the little trail and hiked out the bench to where we came up. (Always note where you come up!)

McFarland Peak from White Sister

Steep Down Climb
 Concentration on the steep down climb was palpable. Occasionally, we called out warnings to our fellow hikers. We do try to take care of each other. We followed the small trail along the main ridge together then found a reasonable way to drop down into the wash filled with pine cones. Gathering again at the ponderosa cairn, we started down the little Sisters Spur Road to the cars. A challenging yet enjoyed morning.

4 miles; 1650 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

View from Main Ridge

Starting Back Down to the Cars in the Sisters Spur Road Canyon


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Eagle's Nest Loop / Fletcher Canyon - 5/30/15

Fletcher Canyon Narrows (photo suggested by Jim)

Eagle's Nest Loop Overlook

Starting Out the Fletcher Canyon Trail

 Last year, the Spring Mountains NRA refurbished a 1.86 mile loop trail that circles above and to the right of Fletcher Canyon. They named it the Eagle's Nest Loop for the high and wide overlook afforded from the upper portion of this trail. It is well signed and twelve hikers added this to their foray into Fletcher Canyon today. We started out from the Fletcher Canyon trailhead on Kyle Canyon Road and turned right onto the Eagle's Nest Loop Trail about one third of a mile up.

Starting Up the Eagle's Nest Loop Trail
 The trail climbs up to a plateau then divides. The loop can be hiked to either the right or left. We took the left fork which allowed us to do the switchbacks that came later going down.

Chris' Cave (Once Upon a Time ...)
 From the top of the loop, we had a wide view of Kyle Canyon and the South Loop side. We had a good perspective of the 2013 burn area and avalanche routes from 2005.

Cliffrose Along the Eagle's Nest Loop

 Chris told us his story about a wicked hike up to one of the caves above us from years past. We passed several cliffrose bushes that were in bloom and hiked through groves of manzanitas. At one place, there were a lot of old water pipes that the trail cutters had used to keep the trail from washing away. We completed the loop, turned left onto the "balloon string" of the route and followed the trail back down to the Fletcher Canyon Trail.

Old Water Pipes Used to Stop Erosion
 Today's hike was done at a somewhat leisurely pace. We stopped several times. The weather was hot, around 80 degrees, which is quite warm for the Spring Mountains.

Hiking into Fletcher Canyon
 The Fletcher Canyon Trail leads up through an ever-narrowing limestone canyon.

Starting into the Fletcher Canyon Narrows

 The trail parallels the center wash until hikers forge into the narrows portion of the canyon. Then, the hike becomes a climb up through the wash that sometimes has water flowing down through it. The canyon was dry today. And, the sunlight and shadows played along the gray walls. The narrows squeeze the canyon together so much at around 2 miles up from the trailhead, that a huge boulder that rolled down from above got stuck here probably many many years ago. That boulder became known as Obstacle Rock.

Sunlight Plays on the Canyon Walls
 Obstacle Rock was our turnaround spot today so we sat for a snack break and shot the breeze for a few minutes. ... (past tense of "shoot the breeze")

Barb Relaxes below Obstacle Rock
 The canyon was very pretty today with the sunlight and new spring leaves growing on the trees. Canyon Wrens were very vocal and flew from here to there above us.

Brian's GQ Pose above the Water Chute

 After a nice long break, we started back down the canyon passing several pairs of hikers along with two large groups and a few dogs. The new Spring Mountains Gateway Visitor Center was having its Grand Opening today and crowds of people were in the mountains enjoying the relative cool from the desert below. We were glad that we had started early.

6 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Fletcher Canyon Narrows

Starting the Return Hike

Hiking Out the Fletcher Canyon Trail

Thursday, May 28, 2015

South Sister - 5/28/15

Just Below South Sister Peak with view of North Sister (photo 2014)

South Sister Peak from Approach Trail

Charleston Peak from South Sister Trail Phase III

 Seventeen hikers drove up Lee Canyon Road in the Spring Mountains NRA and parked at the Lower Bristlecone trailhead for a hike up to the peak of South Sister, the southernmost peak on a ridge filled with small craggy peaks. We chose to begin at the aforementioned trailhead even though the Old Mill Picnic Area construction has been completed and hiking through this area is allowed. We knew that we had too many cars to fit in the small parking area assigned for this purpose found just outside the picnic area fee booth.

Lower Portion of Phase I Climb
 Therefore, we started hiking up the forest road that is known as the Lower Bristlecone Trail. Not far up the road, there is a manhole on the right side followed by a well worn path leading down the hill. This was our exit.

Upper Portion of Phase I Climb
 We crossed through the picnic area and found the rock-lined trail on the other side that leads up through the small canyon area. Soon a vague trail forks off to the right. This is the South Sister Trail.

Resting at the Saddle

 Phase I of the South Sister hike is the longest of four phases. The route travels up a trail next to two different washes. The first wash is a main wash flowing down from the ridge. The second wash turns off to the right and is a small wash coming off of a saddle above. The higher we climbed, the steeper the trail became. Finally, we all reached the saddle where a convenient log offers a few seats.

Charleston Peak from Phase II Climb
 Phase II of the hike turns up the ridge to the right. There is not a real trail here. Just keep going up until you reach the next saddle ridge area.

Resting at the Top of Phase II Ridge
 We gathered again now ready for the Phase III relief. Until this point, the climb had been tough but not as tough as what was coming up in Phase IV!

Resting Hiking Sticks

 Phase III follows a small trail around the ridge to the right. Up, down, up, down on the craggy limestone trail. At the end of the ridge, two hikers bowed out of the final assault, also known as Phase IV. While those two hikers searched for a perch, the rest of the group began climbing the steep scree among the old weathered bristlecones. Their voices could be heard all the way up the hill and across the narrow peak.

Approaching the Bottom of the Phase IV Climb
 Although the climb is daunting, the scenery is the most beautiful and awesome of the entire hike.

Scree and Snags on the Phase IV Climb (photo 2014)
 Still, along with that climb comes a steep and slippery down climb on the descent.

Returning Down off the Peak

 And, down they came ... a bit quieter than on the ascent earlier! Meeting the two hikers at the bottom, the group continued out along the ridge of Phase III and gathered once more at the top of Phase II. This is the most difficult part of the navigation of the hike. Normally, hikers must balance the flattish ridge all the way down to the saddle. Erring should be done on the left side. Today, we followed our club president, Steve, down a different and more precipitous route by intentionally dropping to the left in a big way. It was very steep and the writer decided it was not her favorite way to descend South Sister! Nevertheless, this route did finally intercept with the Phase I trail near the bottom of the higher wash. The trail led us the rest of the way.

Back on the forest road, we hiked into the parking lot at the very same time that the optional hike (Bristlecone Loop) finished. At the bottom of this entry, there is a photo of the two groups of hikers at the end of their respective hikes. Fun day with friends.

6 miles; 2100 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Gathering at the Ridge Junction

Circumventing a Newly Fallen Tree

Two Groups of AtBF Hikers (25 hikers)