Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mt. Charleston (Las Vegas, NV)

Before coming to Vegas, I had never heard about Mt. Charleston but I quickly learned it is the biggest mountain around, is in the range boasting the only ski resort anywhere near here, and can be counted on to be at least 20 deg cooler than Vegas at any time. I was sold!

This Saturday made for the perfect opportunity to attack it. After hiking Boundary Peak, I realized I was pretty out of shape and probably wasn't quite ready for the much longer trip up Charleston but I decided to go for it anyway..... and I am glad I did.

This was one of those hikes that has it all.....

... as long as you are willing to tough out a 16 mile day!

I camped at the Kyle Canyon campground the night before. I enjoyed a campfire and a phone conversation with my Mom before field testing my bivy sack tent and getting some rest for the long hike ahead.

The hike starts with a steep 4 mile climb to the saddle just below Griffith Peak. The majority of the climb is a long series of switchbacks that traverse a wide variety of terrain and forest.. starting with an avalanche flattened aspen grove, past the base of a huge cliff, up through a pine forest (where snow still lingered) and eventually into grassy meadows as the trees thinned. From there the majority of the rest of the hike is a flat ridge walk until the last mile when you leave the treeline behind and hit the final ascent.

It took me 6 hours to get up (arrived just before noon) but that needs to include the 1-2 mile detour up a portion of Cathedral Peak. I really should pay more attention to the signage at the trailhead! It took me another 4 hours to get down. It was a full day and afterwards I truly did feel fulfilled.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Frenchman Mountain (Las Vegas, NV)

I am starting to realize how little time I have left in Vegas so I have been trying to cram in some fun stuff! Last month, on my way home from the temple, I noticed the beauty of the city lights and wondered to myself what the view must be like from the top of the mountain just east of the temple. When I got home I learned it is called Frenchman Mountain and I decided I would climb it one evening for a couple of pictures.

It turns out the trailhead for the hike is in a vacant lot popular for illegal dumping. I kept my fingers crossed for a vandalism free adventure and took off. The hike is 2 miles each way with a 160oft gain. What the trail guides don't tell you is that you have to gain at least a third of that twice!!

I started at 7:30 and reached the first crest in time to get a snapshot of the colors in the sky from the setting sun. The trail ahead can be seen in this next picture. A steep climb with a dozen or so steep switchbacks at the top. This "top" is the highpoint of the trail on the North peak. The true summit is on the South peak and the saddle between the two drops at least 500 ft. By the time I was dropping into the saddle, it was dark.

I rarely ever night hike but tonight was fantastic. The dark meant cooler temperatures and a strong desert breeze was blowing. I opted to not use my headlamp and instead was guided by a combination of the ambient city lights and my adjusted vision.

Although the true summit is gated off with communication towers and all other kinds of man made stuff, the view of the valley below was not spoiled in the least. I just wish I had the skill and equipment to take a decent night picture! Here is one of the better photos.....

Vegas may get kind of a bad rap but scenes like this are hard to beat. The astute observer will notice that the brightest section of the photo is the "strip" on Las Vegas Blvd.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Boundary Peak (Nevada Highpoint)

When I heard the forecast for Las Vegas (high of 85 deg and cloudy), I knew I was going to be in for a cold one at Boundary Peak. After finishing the CFA exam, I threw my gear in the car and headed north past Dyer, NV (a town so inconsequential for Nevadans you actually have to go into California to get to it), up a 13 mile dirt road (in the sedan), to the trailhead at 9000 ft. I didn't arrive until almost 11:00pm and the thermometer was reading a balmy 41 deg. I folded the seats down in the Saturn and tried to get some shut-eye.

I woke in the morning to this beautiful site. I also woke-up realizing I had forgot my boots in Vegas? There was no way I was going to make it up in my Adidas Sambas. Luckily, a group of three guys arrived as I was preparing to leave (~7:00am) and one guy offered me his pair of size 11 Montrails. Sweet providence!

This is a picture in the direction of Boundary Peak (not actually the peak) from the trailhead. As you can see, the conditions were going to be snowy.

This hike is only about 3.5 miles each way but the last two are very tough ones. Altogether the gain is around 4000ft. The walk along the valley floor was beautiful. The trail paralleled a creek and thick willows for more than a mile before heading toward the tree line. You can see from this picture that the blue skies didn't last. Most of the day was spent in and out of the clouds.

There was lots of bristlecone pine along the way.

The toughest part by far was getting to the saddle from the start of the treeline. The slope was downright sandy and steep. Steps forward were often lost as your back foot slide down mid-stride. Add that to the elevation gain in that stretch from 10k' to 12k' and I was seriously beat when I reached the saddle. I was also feeling the altitude. I was pretty dizzy and decided to take a break.

This picture was taken from the saddle. The trailhead is at the end of the canyon that stretches from the left to the middle of the picture. If you look really closely, you can see the dirt road in the distance as well. I don't know about you but I had no idea Nevada had places like this. Absolutely beautiful!

This picture was taken after summitting and as I started to head back down. The saddle is visible about 1/4 of the way from the left of the picture. This part of the climb was slow going (a combination of snow and altitude).

I finally summitted just before noon (5 hours for 3.5 miles? that should tell you something!). As you can tell from the picture, the peak was socked in with clouds so I didn't stay long. I had originally wanted to hike over to Montgomery Peak as well but my hands and feet were pretty cold, the weather was looking sketchy and I was feeling pretty tired!

I made it down in half the time and coasted my way into Dyer for a Gatorade and Dr. Pepper. I repented of the ridicule I had cast on this small town as I savored the sweet, sweet beverages and then made my way back to Vegas.

Bagged another highpoint!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Turtlehead Peak (Red Rocks, Las Vegas, NV)

Taking on two internships this summer is going to put a cramp in my hiking style but I am still going to try and be a weekend warrior.

Recently Mike Esselman (fellow BYU MBA 1st year student) and I enjoyed an early morning summit of Turtlehead Peak in the Red Rocks recreation area in Las Vegas. A steep climb and therefore satisfying! Here are a few shots...

A view of the peak during the ascent. The trail went straight up the gulley to the left (the steep part) and then approached the ridge from along the ridge and up the backside of the peak.

A view from the peak with the popular Red Rocks in the foreground. There were a lot of people climbing, rapelling, exploring, etc... on a Saturday morning.

A view from the peak.