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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

How will I be contacted for hikes?

What is the “class” that you refer to?

How long will a day-hike take?

How much water should I bring?

What else should I carry for a day-hike?

What is “good aerobic condition”?

What is accumulated gain?

What is exposure?

What is a handline?

What is sticky rubber?

Is it OK to double-book my outdoor activities, then tell you at the last moment that I’ve changed my mind, or maybe not tell you at all?


How will I be contacted for hikes?
We contact people automatically, via the meetup software. The meetup software uses the email address you have listed in your profile. To protect your privacy, does not let us see that email address.

It is important that you use a real email address in the meetup email; use an email that you actually check often, and make sure the address is not sending the mails to your spam folder. Some spam filters automatically redirect any email that contains a link to a web address – most meetup messages contain such links.

We DO NOT post specific meeting places or times on the publicly-accessible web page. Why? Because we don’t want people simply to show up, especially when the terrain requires special caution or training.


What is the “class” that you refer to?
Some of the "hikes" list a class rating, which is intended to warn the hiker how much the trip will deviate from a simple trail (class 1), toward technical rock climbing (class 5).

Read the basic definition here.

The resource here intentionally gives different opinions about what the classes mean.

The above source is very good for the frank and varied interpretations of the rating system.

In the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS), the class rating for the entire trip reflects the worst terrain encountered, even if it is just 10 feet of a 10-mile trip. In reality, many people describe an off-trail hike with the amount of class 2 and class 3 that will be encountered.

The LVMC class ratings, which are adapted from “Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills” (Seventh Edition, p 550), are as follows:

1 - hiking on a trail
2 - rough cross-country travel, occasional use of hands for balance
3 - frequent use of hands for climbing, moderate exposure, most do not use rope/some do
4 - intermediate climbing, constant use of hands, high exposure, most do use rope/some do not
5 - technical rock climbing - using rope, harness, climbing shoes, anchors, and protection hardware
(5.0 through 5.15 - 5.0 easiest, 5.15 most difficult)

Some examples:
class 1 -- the South Loop or North Loop trails to Mount Charleston;

class 2 -- the upper parts of Turtlehead trail, or Fortification Hill, Mount Wilson (NV) by the normal route all the way up First Creek (NOT through Hidden Bowl); North Peak in Red Rock (easy class 2).

class 3 -- Bridge Mountain by the normal route; Turtlehead Jr (Redcap); Muddy or Moapa Peak; White Rock Hills by the southern route; Mt Wilson (NV) by Hidden Bowl.

Look at the examples in this album (but remember that it will always look scarier when you are actually there on the rock). Be sure to read the captions and comments for the photos.

Note that the exertion of the trip has nothing to do with the class rating.

In addition, there are certain intangibles. For example, the "class 3" of Bridge Mountain often seems worse to those unfamiliar with exposed terrain; but the route has been pruned of loose rock, so the climb is safer than it looks. Moapa Peak has similarly been pruned, and the rock is so frictional that it is hard to slip; but the knife edge–which is really just class 2–has such terrible exposure that many competent wall climbers are turned back there. I've been up routes in the Sierra that were called class 4, but seemed like class 3 with extreme loose rock danger.

Exposure vaguely figures into the class rating; notice that many divide classes 3 and 4 with the likelihood that one will survive a fall (on the route you MUST take to make the ascent). My personal separation is like this: I will go up "real" class 4 without a rope, but I sure don't want to go down it without a rope (but may).

None of the LVMC Classic 50 Peaks require anything above class 3.

There has been “inflation” over the years, so that many routes originally described as class 2 by the DPS (Desert Peaks Section of the Sierra Club), would now be called class 3 by most people. (NOTE: YDS "grade" means yet something else!) The ratings in Secor’s guides to the Sierra often seem a little low, and the ratings for many Colorado routes often seem a little high.

I’m absolutely sure that one could come up with a better, more analytical way to define classes 1-4; but this is the system that has been used by many people over the years, and there are lots of published ratings for mountains and routes.


How long will a day-hike take?
Generally, we allow for wide variation, especially for off-trail hikes. We like to finish together, for safety reasons. People differ so much in how well they handle rough terrain, and an injury can slow the group down a lot. For example, I’ve gotten a leg cramp in the last ½ mile of a 10-mile cross-country trip, and took a full hour to hobble back to the car. There is a reason that the list of “ten essentials” includes a light source! (See “What else should I carry?”)

My general rule for trail hikes, when people are in good aerobic condition, is to allow 20 minutes per mile, plus 1 hour per 1000’ of accumulated elevation gain. For trail-less hikes in easy terrain, such as the Mojave desert, I allow 30 minutes per mile. Allow additional time for the effects of altitude above 8000’, and for the number of class 3 stretches, particularly if it is a large group. If a handline must be dropped at each class 3 section, or if a bottleneck forms when people descend a single-width chute, extra time is lost. Of course, these calculations do not account for time spent on the summit, or on breaks.

Suppose you want to climb Charleston Peak by going up Trail Canyon and the North Loop trail, coming down the South Loop, and walking back to your car. That’s 18 miles and 4500’ accumulated gain, or 6 + 4.5 = 10.5 hours without breaks. But most of the route is above 10,000’, so you’d better allow for the effects of altitude: add an extra hour. And you’ll probably want to spend some time on top, so allow 12 hours.

Now let’s look at a place where the rules break down. A popular “hike” is up White Rock Hills Peak in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (RRCNCA). The round trip is about 3.5 miles, and the accumulated elevation gain is ~2000’. Yet the climb can take 7 hours. There are many places along the way where one has to drop a handline, help people with class 3, and navigate rugged terrain; the net result is a very slow trip.


How much water should I bring?
The amount varies hugely with a person’s fitness and metabolism. For example, I often climb Charleston Peak in summer with just 2 liters of water; but most people feel they must have at least 3 liters. My observation is that when the air temperature goes from 70°F to 75°F, I need about 1.5 times as much water; at 80°F, I need about twice as much water as I need at 70°F.

In addition, weather makes a huge difference. A slight cloud cover, or slight breeze, will suppress your feelings of thirst. Remember, this is southern Nevada, and more often than not we will have little cloud cover.

The first rule of thumb is: better safe than sorry.

It is often possible to “cache” water on the way; that is, you may hike in 5 miles with 3 liters, hide some at that point, and then make the last, steep mile to the summit with (perhaps) just 1.5 liters. Of course, you must be able to find your water on the way back, and you must make sure the hike is actually coming back that way; many of our hikes are loops.

A counter-intuitive problem, is that people often drink too little in truly cold weather. The body is still sweating, though the sweat may not be noticeable, and water is needed for the metabolism of food and processing of wastes. Yet people don’t feel like drinking, and if they are using hydration systems (like camelbaks) the tubing may freeze shut.

Remember too that few of our hikes in NV pass streams or other sources of clean water. Often the streams, in the rare occasions that they exist at all, are down in the valleys, hours from the sun-exposed summit. When the trail passes by snow banks, it is sometimes possible to dig deep in the snow, and refresh the water supply, but don’t depend on this source.


What else should I carry for a day-hike?
First and foremost, you should have a comfortable pack, with a hipbelt, and preferably a belt across the chest.

“The Ten Essentials” (see below) are good starting points. We may modify some for southern Nevada. Often people forget to bring toilet paper; maybe that should be up with number 2 (ha ha). Perhaps the most useful item for first aid is a roll of athletic tape. In any weather, spare socks can add greatly to your comfort level, and will help keep a blister patch from falling off your wet feet. 

According to Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, the ten essentials are:

  1. Map
  2. Compass (optionally supplemented with a GPS receiver)
  3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
  4. Extra food and water
  5. Extra clothes
  6. Headlamp (outdoor)/flashlight
  7. First aid kit
  8. Fire starter
  9. Matches
  10. Knife

The textbook recommends supplementing the ten essentials with:

  1. Water treatment device (water filter or chemicals) and water bottles
  2. Ice axe for glacier or snowfield travel (if necessary)
  3. Repair kit, including duct tape and a basic sewing materials
  4. Insect repellent (or clothing designed for this purpose)
  5. Signaling devices, such as a whistle, cell phone, two-way radio, satellite phone, unbreakable signal mirror or flare.
  6. Plastic tarp and rope for expedient field shelter.

The list above is somewhat biased by the fact that “Freedom of the Hills” was written by people who mainly climbed in the northwest; there are some modifications more appropriate for Nevada and environs. Out here, a brimmed hat -- especially one with a “curtain” in the back-- is very important. Make sure the hat has a means to stay on your head during a strong wind. The insect pests we encounter are rarer; often a few DEET towelettes will suffice as emergency equipment, and are quite light. We have more of a problem with ticks, than mosquitos; if you travel a lot in tick country, you might pretreat your clothes with permethrin (available at Sports Chalet and other places) a few times in the spring and summer. (If you get permethrin, be sure to read the instructions; it is NOT applied to the skin, just to your clothes well before a hike, and NOT when you are wearing the clothes!) For emergency water purification, one can take along 4 chlorine dioxide tablets (in their tough foil wrappers) for a day-hike; we generally plan to bring all our water, anyway, as there are few reliable sources on southwestern hikes. A single long, thick nylon shoelace can suffice to repair many gear items. I have not had thin nylon cord in my emergency kit for years; however, I often carry 4000-lb-test 15 mm webbing for descending rock in an emergency.

I take lots of stuff, no matter what the weather predictions. Why? Imagine you break an ankle and must wait a day for rescue. Pleasant mountain daytime temperatures may drop below freezing; and a front may move in quickly, especially during our “monsoon” season. I have started an ascent of Mummy Mountain under clear skies, then crossed the top in snow and whiteout conditions, just 3 hours later. Shock–after a painful injury, or one that involves blood loss–is a big killer, and can take people on seemingly warm days.

Many people refuse to carry any sort of rain protection; after all, we’re in a desert, right? Perhaps you might consider this compromise: carry a small disposable plastic poncho for emergencies, or even a large trash bag (inside another small plastic bag to protect it from abrasion in the pack), even when the prediction says there is little chance of rain. However, if you expect any chance of rain while on rugged mountains, you should have a waterproof garment that will not interfere with your travel; a poncho tends to get in the way when climbing class 3 rock.  And don’t depend on a plastic poncho to last long among prickly bushes and sharp rocks.


What is “good aerobic condition”?
This definition needs a lot of wiggle room; we’ve seen marathoners poop out on hikes, simply because they went too fast. Here are some rough benchmarks that indicate “good aerobic condition”:

-In summer: you can do the Charleston Loop (described here: “How long will a day-hike take?”) in 10-11 hours, not including breaks;
-In winter: you can hike to the top of Turtlehead Peak, from Sandstone Quarry, in 90 minutes or less;
-You can run 4 miles in 40 minutes;
-At the gym, you can go 30 minutes on an elliptical trainer set at 20% incline and intermediate resistance; or you can walk on a treadmill set at 15% incline and 3 mph, for 30 minutes.

A lot of our trips don’t require this level of conditioning; some require more.


What is accumulated gain?
Often, for a trip, we list accumulated elevation gain, instead of the net between the high and low points. Why?

First, recognize that it is a lot harder to climb stairs, than to walk the equivalent distance. Many of our trips are essentially mixtures of stair-climbing and walking, with rough terrain that saps more energy by forcing one to use small muscles to maintain balance.

Now let’s look at an example for the distinction between net and accumulated gain. Consider this profile a round-trip hike to McFarland Peak, via the Bonanza/Bristlecone trail:


The accumulated gain is the sum of all the times you must climb uphill, both going and coming back. The accumulated gain for this hike is about 4600', versus 2100' net gain. The hike doesn't even go over any intermediate "named" peaks, but climbs over all manner of lumps, and does one last descent before you even leave the trail for the class 3 route. A lot of people read guidebooks that just give the net elevation difference, and think this hike will be pretty easy; it isn't. Your legs will feel the extra elevation at the end of the day.

(The profile is not quite symmetric about the peak, because we used the new Bristlecone trail one way, and the old trail the other way.)


What is exposure?
Exposure is empty space below you, implying that you could fall a long distance and get very hurt, if you were to change your position slightly. For example, you might be walking on an easy trail, but the trail happened to skirt the edge of a cliff; if something possessed you to fling yourself off, you might get seriously injured.

Then why is exposure such a big deal? Sometimes, it is all too easy to slip and make that fatal change of position; the holds for class 4 rock may be very small, and the climbing may require balance and experience just to find trustworthy holds. “Exposed moves” may require non-intuitive and precarious positions, just to move forward.


What is a handline?
This is a piece of climbing rope or very strong webbing that is dropped from the top of a route on class 3 to low class 5 rock, to ease climbing or descent. This is not a formal rappel or belay, and the user will generally not be wearing a harness or be physically attached to the handline. The safety of a handline depends very much on how well it can be secured to a good anchor, such as a rock horn or stout tree.


What is sticky rubber?
Many hikes have a recommendation for “sticky rubber” soles on shoes. Sticky rubber is the same material used on the outsides of true rock shoes (the thin, tight shoes that people wear for technical climbing). This rubber has a far greater tendency to stick to sloping rock, than the rubber used in the vast majority of hiking boots and athletic shoes. In recent years, many manufacturers have also put sticky rubber on the bottoms of select hiking, trail running, and approach shoes. Some versions of sticky rubber are called “stealth” (used in some 5.10 brand shoes) “friXion” (used in some La Sportiva) and “gryptonite” (used in some Montrails). The trade name “Vibram” does not assure sticky rubber; Vibram does make sticky rubber soles, but such soles are in just a fraction of the Vibram-clad shoes, and the nomenclature is confusing.


Is it OK to double-book my outdoor activities, then tell you at the last moment that I’ve changed my mind, or maybe not tell you at all?
Please be considerate. Our trips tend to be small, and we have a sign-up limit; often people are on the waiting list. We are very conscious of environmental damage, and the bad consequences of rock fall, which are greatly exacerbated by large groups. In addition, many areas set limits to the size of hiking parties. If people feel they are going to be wait-listed, they may not sign up at all, and will likely have made other plans if you change your mind in the eleventh hour.

We often start hikes early for good reason. We aren’t going to wait long to make sure you get there, because a lot of people have an unfortunate habit of not showing up, and never telling us. If you have trouble getting up on time, please be considerate and don’t sign up for any trip that starts early. If something comes up at the last moment, and you can’t make the hike, e-mail the hike coordinator. Most of us check our e-mail just before we head to the assigned meeting area.

Often a hike leader will list a cell phone number to call, in case you can’t find the location or need extra help. Generally we prefer that you make an actual call and not text; the receiving cell phone may not have texting capability.

Finally, some trips require 4WD (4x4), HC (high clearance) vehicles for the last few miles to the start of the hike. Often people will enthusiastically volunteer the use of their 4x4 vehicles, then will cancel at the last moment, or simply not show up on the morning of the trip. In such cases, we are left without enough vehicles to take everyone on the hike. Don’t volunteer use of your 4x4 unless you are reasonably sure you will be on the trip.


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