Saturday, June 30, 2018

Mt. Whitney - 6/25/18

Cheryl & Jerry on Shoulder below Mt. Whitney Summit
Jerry and Cheryl hiked Mt. Whitney to the summit on Monday. After being discouraged in trying the Mountaineers' Route because of ice from just below the last difficult climb, they decided to take the regular trail and made it all the way up. Congratulations to you both!

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

Sunday, June 24, 2018

South Sister Saddle via Pine Cone Canyon - 6/23/18

Charleston Peak from Bonanza Trail

South Sister from Bonanza Trail

Flowers & Deadwood on South Sister Saddle Ridge

Starting up Lower Bristlecone Trail
There are a few different ways to get up to the Bonanza Trail in the Spring Mountains NRA. The route we climbed today is a short cut trail that takes hikers from the lower portion of the Lower Bristlecone Trail up to the main Spring Mountain Divide Trail called Bonanza. The small canyon trail is steep. We started using this trail a few years ago as a shorter way to accomplish the loop around to the South Sister Ridge. The route is filled with pine cones and we dubbed it Pine Cone Canyon. Eight hikers showed up for the workout climb.

Taking the Right Turn at the Hairpin
We parked at the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead and hiked up to the first forest road "switchback" or hairpin turn to the left. At the turn, there is a trail that turns off into the woods to the right.

Passing a Weather Anemometer
Just before the hairpin, we passed the junction of the Old Mill Trail. Don't confuse this trail with Pine Cone Canyon.

The Nitty Gritty of Pine Cone Canyon

Approximate Slope of Pine Cone Canyon
We followed the trail up veering to the right then the left passing the weather anemometer to our right. A single track trail takes over the small canyon wash and up we went. We spread out almost immediately as we climbed. Finally, nearing the junction with Bonanza, the route escapes the wash and climbs up the steep hillside. At the top, everyone took a rest on the rocks. That was the hardest part of the day and we were glad we did it. If Pine Cone Canyon is the hard part, the remaining 3 miles of the loop is the gorgeous and much easier part!

Bonanza Trail / Pine Cone Canyon Junction
Bonanza Trail is one of the most beautiful (... okay, there are a lot of most beautiful) trails in the Spring Mountains. The entire trail runs from the Upper Bristlecone Trail to Cold Creek, Nevada for ~13 miles.

Heading North on the Bonanza Trail
After our breathing returned to normal, we turned to the right and headed north on the Bonanza Trail.

South Sister from Bonanza Trail

The Back Country Horsemen of Nevada works on the Trail.
The trail follows the ridge passing small peaks on either the right or left. McFarland Peak rises prominently to the north. Behind us, to the southwest, we had several views of the backside of Charleston Peak. (There are still a few patches of snow back there.) To the southeast, the different outcrops of the whole of Mummy Mountain seem intimidatingly bold. And, to the east, South Sister stands like a beacon beckoning us to its saddle. All in due time as we happily strolled along the 1.25 miles between junctions.

McFarland Peak in View Ahead
There was evidence that the Back Country Horsemen of Nevada (BCHNV) were back at work on those little switchbacks up to one of the small peaks. Thanks guys! The horses and hikers appreciate your work.

Nearing the Ridge Junction
We replaced the rock on the left side stump that marks the South Sister Ridge junction and turned right. Just over the top of the ridge (small rise), a trail appears that zigzags down.

Starting down the Ridge toward the Saddle

Flowers & Roots
From here the sometimes trail stays atop the wide descending ridge. There are wildflowers and views out the wazoo. Wild horses visit this area at times. About half way down the ridge, there is a great snack place on three large logs in the shade. We stopped here for our break. No one was in much of a hurry and the ridge is such a pretty place to be! A slight breeze came around once in a while and we wished we could just stay there all day. But, alas, we had to continue on so we followed the semi-trail down the top of the wide ridge to the familiar saddle that we reach when climbing South Sister.

Descending the Ridge
Just before reaching the saddle, we passed another small group of hikers that were doing their ascent via the ridge we were just on for our descent.

Ridge leading to South Sister Saddle
A small gathering at the saddle sent us on our way again. Down the South Sister Trail to the right of the saddle.

Charleston Peak from the Ridge

Snack Spot on the Ridge
We descended this very familiar trail talking the whole way. After the first 50 feet of loose steepness, the trail is an extremely pleasant hike through the woods. At the bottom, it junctions with the rock-lined Old Mill Trail. We turned left and followed this trail down toward the Old Mill Picnic Area. Nearing the top of the picnic area, we looked to our right and spotted three burros (2 adults and a baby). There are several young burros and horses in Lee Canyon at this time. So so cute. But, be careful with them. Mothers are mothers. (We saw families taking selfies sitting beside the young'uns in the Meadow on our way down. Hmmm.) Anyway, we hiked through the top of the picnic area and climbed the hill to the Lower Bristlecone Trail to get back to our cars. Great day, nice people everywhere!

5.5 miles; 1750 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Hiking through the Bushy Phlox

Saddle Junction - Right Turn

Baby Burro above Picnic Area