Monday, June 29, 2020

Mahogany Fire Map Overlay - 6/29/20

Mahogany Fire Overlay as of 6/29/20
There are no AtBF trails that are directly affected by the fire at this time.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Mummy's Toe Loop (with Chateau Ridge) - 6/25/20

Mummy's Toe from Deer Creek Ridge

Southern View from atop Mummy's Toe

Scenes from Deer Creek Trail (Dennis, Bruce & Don were in the area)

Climbing Deer Creek Ridge
The social distancing fearsome foursome rounded out their second week of two strenuous hikes per week with the steep hike up to Mummy's Toe. This would be only the second summit of this peak for Cheryl and Kay but Mike and Jerry, no doubt, have summited the smallest Mummy Peak many times in the past. It was a fun hike enjoyed by everyone at a slow pace not pushed by anyone. That's the way we like it! 

We parked at the Deer Creek Picnic Area parking lot for a 7:30am start. There were 3 hikers there from the Lone Mountain Hiking Club who were preparing for their first attempt at Mummy Springs up the Deer Creek route. We showed them the way as far as we could before our paces un-synced but not before we got a photo of the trio.

Mummy's Toe from Switchbacks above the Ridge

Our route would sneak up the Deer Creek Picnic Area paved trail before the picnickers flooded the area and connect to the Cougar Ridge Trail. Deer Creek is still running but not quite as much as it was a couple of weeks ago.

Mummy Springs in Gulley Below

This is the third time we have used the Deer Creek Trail and Ridge this short season. It is usually quiet and is a quick way to the elevations. So, up we went on legs that were still somewhat tired from the previous Big Falls Overlook hike!

The Steepness has Only Begun

Water break at Fork - We turned left!
By the time we climbed the trail and ridge up to the Mummy Springs Trail, we were finding our stride. A short breather and we turned right onto the older trail to begin the seven switchbacks up to Mummy's Toe. Mike and I both decided to stash one of our two water bottles in this section. We knew that steepness was coming and a small jettison of extra weight was welcome.

After the switchbacks, the trail crosses through a large gulley that culminates in the Mummy Springs area below. The trail is easy to follow but there is a fork that you have to watch out for. The trail seems to continue straight toward the base of Mummy Mountain way above but a double cairn should point out a turn to the left here. We turned left and continued climbing as the terrain got steeper and steeper. 

Lettie's Route (Very Picturesque)

Just before we reached the first of the cliffbands, I asked Mike to show me Lettie's Route that turns to the left here. The trail hikes along the base of this band of cliffs passing a couple of interesting alcoves and optional chutes up.

Mummy's Nose peeks up over the Ridge

The Lettie's Trail continues almost all the way to the end of the cliffband before we came to a well-worn chute up to the next level. This chute is somewhat easier than the famous Class 2+ chute on the traditional route. At the top, there is a trail you can find that first leads to the left then makes short switchbacks up to the traditional trail where Jerry and Cheryl were waiting for us.

Hardy Bristlecones guarding the Peak
A left on the older trail kept us climbing toward what looked like a peak behind the trees at the top of a very steep slope. This was the final push on a very steep dirt and scree trail. We climbed very slowly to reach a covy of very old, very hardy and very much still alive bristlecone trees. These trees mark the "entrance" to Mummy's Toe Peak. Finally, all four of us were standing on a small peak at ~10,800' in elevation taking in one of the most amazing views in all of the Spring Mountains NRA! We signed the log book then took several photos. Many of these photos are displayed in this blog. Then, we took a leisurely break before our treacherous and exhausting descent began.

The Rest of Mummy Mountain Parts

We started down and, perhaps, the descent of the steep stuff was even more slow than the ascent had been. Carefully, we took it step by step. What a workout!

A Summit Photo Fest!

View toward Fletcher Peak
We came back to the place where we had joined the last old trail and transferred down to the old trail that leads to the traditional chute. Following this trail, we hiked down across the Mummy Springs gully and made the fun descent down the chute. The steep stuff wasn't done yet, but it was getting better as we traversed across the hillside to the 7 switchbacks. The stashed water bottles were recovered and we took another break at the campsite found at the top of the Deer Creek Ridge. Ready to continue, we hiked down the ridge and down the trail along the creek. Veering to the left (north), we passed the old sawmill and connected with Cougar Ridge Trail. A left turn started us climbing another 300' of elevation on the road up to the Mummy's Nose Overlook. A last rest break was in order!

Following a Trail down past the Steep Stuff

Ready for the last phase of the descent, we got back on Cougar Ridge Trail to continue around the mountain. As we hiked, a hiker visiting from California hiked along with us to share information.

The Chute on the Traditional Route

Just as the road curves around to the left and an old road track is seen just below the edge, there is a descendable ridge with a game trail on it. I'll call this Horse Ridge since it seems that wild horses were the first the establish the ridge's trail.

Leveling Off above Mummy Springs

Cheryl strikes a Pose at the bottom of Deer Creek Ridge
We started dropping down onto the ridge where it is at first steep. The horse trail appears quickly. As we did once before, we just followed the trail all the way down. At first steep, next flattish, then, finally a gentle slope. You are spilled right down onto one of the old abandoned roads found in this area. By dropping down right off the end of the ridge, we ended up on a road that we needed to turn left onto. A little further down, we took a sharp right onto another dirt road that leads down to the area exactly across Deer Creek Road from the parking lot we started in almost 6 hours earlier. The parking lot was packed with picnickers so we were pretty happy that we took the long way around for our descent. Fun hike! So glad to have climbed the Toe again!

Stats: 6.5 miles; 2850' gain; 5.75 hours

Mummy's Toe from the Old Sawmill

300' More Gain on Cougar Ridge Trail

Gentle Horse Ridge Descent

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Big Falls Overlook - 6/22/20

Big Falls (in shadow) as seen from the Overlook on North Loop

Charleston Peak from Big Falls Overlook

Desert Paintbrush on 4.25 Mile Overlook

Mummy's Toe from Trail Canyon Saddle
Big Falls Overlook is found on the North Loop Trail at the 10,850' elevation mark about 4.6 miles from the Trail Canyon Trailhead. Almost all of the initial elevation gain on the North Loop Trail is accomplished by the time you reach this cliffside overlook so it is always a little bittersweet to make this your turnaround point. However, the overlook has much to offer in views and also provides a somewhat large campsite where there is room for 3 or 4 tents to find a premium spot among the logs and rocks. Just don't sleep near the cliff if you are a sleepwalker! Four club members began at the bottom prepared for a long steady climb. It was early enough that other recreational hikers were spread sufficiently along the trail and we had no problem social distancing. In fact, we didn't even see other hikers on the trail (except 3 that were resting at the saddle) until we began our journey down.

Continuing up the North Loop

Trail Canyon is in the same condition that it was last year. Pretty good. We climbed at a steady pace of 2 mph without a rest break until we reached the saddle. A surprise since this was the first time up this year for 3 of the 4 of us. (Daily swimming keeps the muscles working during isolation!)

Cave Springs Water Trough

It was a beautiful cool morning. We relished in the lower temperatures because it would be a lot warmer on the way down. (And, it was!)

Cockscomb Ridge from Switchback

The Mummy Trail Tree
After a short rest at the saddle, we started up to the left on the North Loop Trail. We found our steady 2 mph rhythm and continued without a break to Cave Springs a half mile further. There, we found the water to be running plentifully through the black rubber pipe into the old wooden water trough. Last year, the water never ran so we assumed that the pipe that comes down from the spring above had been replaced. The water was cold and refreshing. (But, don't drink!) Next is the dreaded switchback! It's long and sometimes steep but we kept our pace and made it to the wall corner before stopping. Following that, we passed the "M" tree. This tree indicates the turnoff for the scree climb up to Mummy's Tummy. (A difficult and famous 500' climb.) We looked at it then continued up the North Loop passing the place where the horse slipped and fell a couple of summers ago. The rock trail still has not been improved for horses wearing iron horseshoes. 

Leveling off on the North Loop in Elevation

And, we still do not recommend the North Loop for a horseback ride to Charleston Peak. Even if you get by this obstacle, the trail is extremely narrow and cliffy in many places. One slip and you're both gone. Do you really want to risk the life of your horse, too?

Arriving at the Big Falls Overlook (Charleston Peak-L & Lee Peak-R ... Devil's Thumb-C)

The next point of interest, after a few cliffside campsites, is the ~4.25 Mile Cliff Overlook. Here, there is a log for resting and cliff viewing. It is also a good turnaround point if you don't need a view of Charleston Peak.

Viewing Big Falls from the Cliff Overlook

Taking a Break
The stretch between this overlook and the Big Falls Overlook has elevation gain but we were still working steady while using small rest breaks to catch our breath for a few seconds. Finally, we summited the cliff ridge and enjoyed the views while taking our break. There was still water coming down Big Falls but we couldn't see it in the shadows with our naked eyes. Charleston Peak and the North Loop's famous final switchbacks were squarely in front of us. So close yet so far away! The climb was great and now the descent. We took it slow to protect the feet and knees passing a handful of hikers before we returned to Cave Springs. Most of the other hikers we passed were on the lower end of Trail Canyon. Just an observation: the recreational hikers we passed on this hike seemed more conscientious of social distancing than they seemed on the South Loop Trail a few days ago. Sometimes, it kind of takes two to tango in the social distancing realm!

Stats: 9.5 miles; 3100' gain; 5.25 hours

Tree Art

Precipitous Slope off of the North Loop

The Descent

Friday, June 19, 2020

Griffith Peak - 6/18/20

Oops! We climbed Griffith Peak!

Panoramic View from atop Griffith Peak

Lower South Loop lined with Blue Lupine

Sun Rising on Kyle Canyon
On one of the last luscious days of Spring '20, a small group of four social distancing hikers started from the South Loop / Cathedral Rock Trailhead to do a relaxing climb up to the South Loop's Third Overlook. It soon became apparent that the day was too beautiful and the hiking legs were too strong and refreshed to cut the hike short. In all our collective minds, we were telling ourselves that we just might not stop at the Third Overlook! Yep! We ended up all the way on top of Griffith Peak on a gorgeous day in the mountains. Well, so much for elevation training! The highest elevation I had climbed so far in this short season was only 10,000 feet to Fletcher Peak three days ago.

Climbing the First set of Switchbacks

Tall Echo Cliffs from First Overlook

Charleston Peak from Third Overlook

Mummy Mountain from Third Overlook
We arrived at the trailhead early, (around 7ish), when there were still plenty of parking spots available. Starting up the trail, there were just a handful of other hikers around. There were no deer around in that section above the Cathedral Rock Picnic Area and we haven't seen any horses in Kyle Canyon so far. Soon, it became very apparent that the South Loop Trail had been worked on and was in relatively pristine condition. First, the lower drainage crossing was in tiptop shape. Then, when we came to "The Steps," ... WOW! They were gorgeous! Soft dirt, level landings, and clean risers. For what more could you ask? There's a photo of the steps lower down that I took on our descent. Next, the upper drainage crossing was also cleanly trailed. This is a big difference from what we dealt with all through last summer! Blue lupine and white bushy phlox were blooming all over the hillsides and lined the trail up through the first switchbacks.

Forested Switchbacks

Griffith Peak Overlook

Happy Hikers on a Fun and Beautiful Day!

View back toward Harris Peak
I won't continue the trail conditions but suffice it to say, the trail from the trailhead to Griffith Peak was in the best condition it's been in for several years. Thanks to the Friends of Nevada Wilderness and the workers from SMYC. On the way down, we passed both of these groups on their way up to do some more work. We thanked them for their appreciated hard work and were met with smiles. So, up to the First Overlook then on to the Second and Third Overlooks. We hiked steadily but the time seemed to fly by. The first time up a trail in a year will make it seem that way. By the time we arrived at the Third Overlook, we had already decided to continue up. Strong and steady, we climbed through the remaining switchbacks. That last one is a doozy but we did it and arrived at the saddle where a small breeze awaited us. While we took a breath, we saw that someone had brought the old Ammo Box from Griffith Peak down and put it at the shelter of logs there.

Last Switchback to the Saddle

Jerry inspects the Ammo Box at the Saddle

Jerry and Cheryl crossing over to the Final Stretch

Turtlehead through Trees on Griffith Peak
We took a moment to photo the trail sign then turned left and headed on up to a small high point of the trail between the saddle and the final ascent to the peak. The views on the other side of the ridge were expansive. In the near distance, Lovell Canyon could be clearly seen. Onward and upward, we began the steep climb to the peak. New small switchbacks have been added on this part of the climb but it is still steep and higher in elevation so the going got a bit slower. We shared the peak with one other hiker until three more hikers arrived. (It was a great day for hiking in the mountains!) We took our photos and a snack break. There was, indeed, a replacement Ammo Box in its usual place and we signed in. Starting down, we passed another three hikers on their last ascent.

Arriving on Griffith Peak

From Griffith Peak to Planted Flag to Charleston Peak

Signing in at the replaced Ammo Box

Mt. Potosi from Griffith Peak
We descended at a moderate steady pace passing several other hikers going up here and there. (We also saw several dogs throughout the day.) We stepped aside for the hikers we passed but it was not always possible to get six feet away from them. We tried. When we couldn't get far enough from them, we turned our heads away. Well aware of the uptick in virus cases in the area, we weren't going to take any chances. Until now, we had been hiking on trails and routes where many others don't dare go. But, with everyone back to work in Las Vegas, hiking has returned almost back to normal attendance. Almost. Therefore, we think that hiking on the more popular trails is safer (if not completely safe), than it was just a week or two ago. Yes, we have tried to wear masks, too. It's just that one needs to breathe heavily when hiking! Even a loose mask prevents good air flow! BTW, I have yet to see a passing hiker with a mask. Hmm. Sorry Gov. Sisolak. We're doing our best!

Starting Descent

Forested Switchbacks

Crossing the Wash Gulley

Lupine Switchbacks
We stopped for half a moment at the Second Overlook then took a longer break at the First Overlook. The pounding of the descent had started taking its toll on the feet. Another short rest at the bottom of The Steps for the feet and we were on our way to the trailhead and the cars. Excellent, excellent hike! Great ... no ... fantastic day! And, there were many other hikers out there that apparently agreed!

Stats: 9.5 miles; 3400' gain; 5.75 hours

Gorgeously maintained Steps!

Hillside covered with Blue Lupine

Hillside covered with White Bushy Phlox