Mountain Logo
Ascender Title
March 2009
Volume 15, Issue 3


Report and Photos by Harlan Stockman

What Are They?

The LVMC “50 Classic Peaks” is a list of summits in Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah that were deemed as emblematic of the mountains “near” Vegas. Most are within 250 miles and none require skill greater than Class 3 climbing. One involves a ridiculously short walk (if the roads are good), but most involve substantial exertion and planning. The list spans a wide variety of mountain types, from desert peaks to alpine summits with tarns and glaciers. Some are so remote that you can’t even get good radio reception in your car; and some hang right above the chaos of Las Vegas. The variety is amazing, and the list almost seems Zen-like… until you realize it was initially conceived by two guys who had been drinking heavily.

The First Six: Clueless

How did I get started on the list? Well, it just sort of happened, without my conscious realization.

I’m not really good at finishing stuff on other peoples’ lists. Yeah, I’ve made exceptions for jobs and education; but whenever there was a list of mountains to climb, I felt some itch to depart from the list, maybe two-thirds of the way through, and follow my own weird goals. When I was a youngster in the Adirondacks – back when trailless peaks were true navigation tests – I stopped the official “46ers” list at 30, and made a stubborn pledge to find wilder, more obscure peaks. I must have been rebelling against something; but I don’t think anybody else noticed or cared.

When I finally got through endless education and deferred gratification, and started a real-life job in New Mexico back in 1982, I was very enthusiastic about returning to my wilderness roots. I had a personal list of places that I wanted to visit; near the top was Wheeler Peak, which was featured in a 1969 article on the proposed Great Basin National Park. I had to wait a bit, but found myself spending the night on top of Wheeler Peak, New Mexico, in October of 1982. And then I realized: this is the wrong Wheeler Peak. When I returned home, I confirmed that there was another Wheeler Peak in Nevada, almost as high.

My life in New Mexico became increasingly more like work, and less attuned to outdoor adventures. I spent a lot of weekends just trying to catch up at work, and once or twice a year did some harrowing backpacking trip, sprinkled with back-country skiing and quick trips to the Sandias and other local mountains. I couldn’t plan anything that didn’t revolve around work; every year, I gave back unused vacation time. Subtly, I had succumbed to a life of finishing other peoples’ lists, which were rarely my own.

By spring of 1998, we were ready for a change, and my wife and I moved out to Nevada. As a way to calm my nerves through this uprooting experience, I convinced myself that I would get back to the outdoors; in fact I’d climb the other Wheeler Peak. On business trips to Vegas, I had used idle time to run through Red Rock, and to hike to Mary Jane Falls. I surfed the web for mountains near Vegas, and found the familiar Charleston, Mummy, and Bridge. But when I arrived in Nevada, my bosses immediately flooded me with work; work that required cancelling plans, staying late at night, and using weekends to fight the massive inefficiency of the system.

Very fortunately, I had some young friends, just out of college, who convinced me to join them. By October 1998, three of us went on the Charleston Peak loop, an almost religious experience that reminded me of all I had missed for so very long. And unknowingly, I had just climbed my first of the LVMC “Classic 50 Peaks.” There were few people on the mountain that day; it was incredible to me that such a wild area could be so close to Sodom.

Work crept back in, but the same young friends, and their friends, kept convincing me to get outside. In 1999, they planned a trip to Whitney; for a warm-up, we climbed Mummy, by a slightly unorthodox route. Two weeks later we hiked the Whitney trail, and again unknowingly, I had ticked off two more of the Classic 50. But it would be four years before I joined LVMC, and I hadn’t a clue there was a list.

The summer of 1999 came and went, work crept back, and I realized that I had been in Vegas 19 months without fulfilling my promise to myself: I still hadn’t been to Wheeler. There I was, working on Saturday, October 16. Already, snow had fallen at Great Basin National Park; I told my wife that I would have to hold off another year. She said, “well then, let’s go tonight”. And then we were driving up routes 15 and 93, past Paranagut as the sun set; I had no idea that such a magical place could exist in the deserts of Nevada. We hit route 6 and eventually took a room in a motel in Baker. The next morning we got up and sauntered over snow and ice patches to Wheeler. It was like a dream; this was the way I used to feel about the mountains. And even more important, I had climbed the mountain on October 17th, a superstitious day for me. When I was barely 16, I nearly bought the farm during a cold, blowing whiteout, above timberline in the northeast, on October 17th. In one fell swoop I had exorcised a demon, and climbed peak #4 on a yet unknown list.

Number 5 was on January 01, 2001; on that day I met Branch Whitney, and accompanied his group up Bridge Mountain. And that was almost the end. There were lots of other “unlist” peaks, and a cross-Grand Canyon day trip; I went up the north side of La Madre in January 2002. Life was about to change in a big way.

I had my yearly checkup in late February, and the doctor told me I had no traditional risk factors for stroke; I was fit, had moderate blood pressure, low cholesterol, low pulse, and so on. Shortly afterwards I had a terrible sinus infection. But other people -- above me -- had made lists; we must visit these folks in California for “team building”; we must finish something else (within two weeks) that has been lying undone by others for 5 years. And by “we”, they meant me. I found myself rushing to finish presentations, traveling while sick. To deal with the infection, I was taking prescription decongestants. I stayed home March 08, 2002, but continued to work. Finally, I couldn’t sit up anymore; I called in sick, then moments later, had a non-traditional stroke. Well, I’ve always been a non-traditional sort of guy.

A clot had blown through a congenital defect in my heart, and landed near my brainstem, destroying the neural pathway to my left inner ear, as well as my ability to control the fine balance motions on the right side of my body. At that time, Las Vegas was in the grip of a medical crisis; the ER was filled with folks using that outlet as primary health care. I basically lay there while part of my brain died. My wife was told that they were unsure if I would live through the night, and the doctors asked her if I had a living will.

But I did live. I had this vivid dream, while in the ER; I had to rip up all the wiring for a huge computer network, and rewire everything. I woke up to an odd phenomenon; my bosses seemed really benevolent, and urged me to take my time. Meanwhile, the swelling on my brainstem went down, I was discharged in 7 days, and started to relearn simple things – walking, balancing, handwriting, talking. I built a balance board, walked two hundred miles on street curbs for balance, and did some truly weird-looking vestibular exercises.

End 1st part of life; begin 2nd.

The Next Casual 30

Nick Nelson, whom I’d met on Bridge a year before, e-mailed and asked if I might be ready for a hike some time, when I was recovered. I didn’t know if such a time would ever come; but in the summer of 2002, my young friends encouraged me to take three hikes over 10,000’. By fall, I climbed Mack’s Peak by the chute, and White Rock Hills Peak by the 3rd class route. By December, I went on a few hikes with Nick, one with a few brief class 4 sections. I also went on my first LVMC hike, December 21, 2002; in the cold and snow, I climbed Fortification Hill with the Brewsters and a very young Toby; and that’s when I met Ali Haghi.

Number seven, on the LVMC list, was Mount Wilson, Arizona. I could see this peak during my recovery walks, and the mountain looked so remote. At first Nick thought this might not be so great a goal, but after I’d asked him for the tenth time, he agreed. It was a good trip, the first of many times I rode in the tough old blue Cherokee, often with Pierre Macheret. Shortly after, Nick lost his famous blue sweater and hat, when they were stolen by a bighorn sheep.

Then came 2003; I climbed Muddy Peak (#7) from the south with Branch Whitney’s gang on New Year’s Day. Many more peaks were climbed that year; and I was still clueless about the list, and was not yet a member of LVMC. In February, Nick and I went up McCullough (#8) and then up the next strange peak to the north (we both had an interest in strange peaks).

Two hikes stand out; I snowshoed up Griffith Peak (#9) on March 08, 2003, exactly one year after my stroke. That started a tradition; I’d try to do something challenging on every subsequent stroke anniversary. I climbed Moapa Peak (#10) with Nick and Pierre; I now had to believe that my balance – while not what it was – was better than average.

On Sheep Peak (#11) that May, I met some more of my other “Classic 50” co-conspirators – Howard Herndon, Alan Nakashima, and Luba L.eef.

I officially joined LVMC in the fall of 2003, and saw the list for the first time. “Harrumph” I thought; “if I happen to climb them OK, but I’m through with other peoples’ lists.” I made up a list of 50 peaks that were not on the official list.

The Homestretch

Flash forward to 2008. Occasionally I would look at the list. Somehow I’d climbed 42 peaks! But I wouldn’t be bound to the list, no sir.

We had a great trip to Toroweap, March 7-9. On March 8, I managed to make my anniversary hike, descending down to Lava Falls. The plan was to hit both Trumbull and Logan the next day. But it wasn’t to be; we got up Trumbull (#43), in the snow and late in the day, and realized the road to Logan was a muddy mess. The better part of valor was a return home while it was still light. Defiance rose in me; the list was artificial; Logan was a lump; I might climb the other peaks, but would leave it at 49, forever.

In the last few years, I had gotten more into climbing weird desert peaks; some quite challenging. I had moved toward intense hikes that were engineered to use the total amount of daylight to get as far as possible, or gain as much elevation as possible, in a day. Two of my hard-traveling co-conspirators, Lori Curry and Mark Beauchamp, could often be convinced to do a normally mundane hike, if it somehow involved lots of exercise. Thus they joined me for a trip to Mount Bangs (#44), in Arizona in April; but we started in the west, and gained nearly 5000’ elevation. No matter – it was conditioning for a much harder mondo hike that we planned to do within two weeks (that mondo hike involved climbing Bridge, Rainbow and Wilson in one day).

Summer came, and finally it was time for “stretch goals” – a phrase bosses had used, and a term I had always disliked. Supposedly, these are the goals that require an individual, extra effort. I had tried to get to Williamson (#45), in the Sierra, for three years; but people had non-synching schedules, or wanted to take more time, or had to go on weekends, when no permits were available. So I went “alone” in the middle of the week; and “alone” is always a somewhat ambiguous term on popular Sierra peaks. But a strange, isolating influence would affect my next three LVMC peaks; there were intense fires in southern California, which would cut off views of distant civilization.

Williamson takes some conditioning and planning, especially if you want to climb it with Tyndall, a nearby California 14er. There is just a narrow window, between the melting of snow in late June, and July 16, when the mountain is closed to the public (as a bighorn study zone). The normal route is by Shepherd Pass (a camping spot well above timberline), and the trip to the campsite alone requires an accumulated elevation gain of 6300’. This gain is usually done with a full pack, usually in one day. At that time of year, the trailhead (at a mere 6300’) is often very warm, so it behooves one to start early. I managed to reach Shepherd Pass just after 12:30 PM the first day. The next day I awoke ill, but still managed to climb both Williamson and Tyndall. The real tedium of this trip is an undulating boulder field, “Williamson Basin”; the most interesting part is a steep “class 3” chute near the summit. I met many interesting people, including: a guy who had bivied the night before at 11,000’, and had to drive back that night (I later saw him on Tyndall); two “old-timers” (my seniors by ten years!) to whom I gave advice on Bunker Hill; and one group that stumbled back through the campsite after dark (I had twice earlier found them off track, and given them instructions, which presumably were good!).

By now, the quest for the 49 – I would still not consider Logan -- was a subtle obsession. Joel was planning a trip to Table Mountain; I’d join him, and do Morey by – what I thought – was a short, unique route. So I drove up to Tonopah and then past Warm Springs, on a Friday afternoon, and coaxed my Subaru up the Sixmile Canyon Road on the west side of the peak. This road was really at the car’s limit; I believe it was maintained as late as 2002, but has been abandoned lately. The weeds grew 3’ high in places, and there were 21 stream crossings with water. I felt more alone here, than on any Sierra trip. I got up early then next morn; I wanted to be done with the hike soon, mainly so I would have a chance to dig my car out of any road hazard, before the day heated up. But the hiking route on the west side was beautiful; lush, with roses, columbines, and a multitude of other flowers. I was past iris season, but clearly they had just finished blooming. The peaks loomed rugged above me, and I was on top of the first (of two) by 8 AM. I hurried back to my car, and tensely drove back the very rough road, watching bald eagles, and a herd of pronghorns. I drove very cautiously till I hit the bajada at the mouth of Sixmile Canyon, and eventually hit route 6 again. (Nick later told me that he has found an abandoned 4WD blocking this very road, at one of the stream crossings; I’m glad I didn’t know that beforehand.)

Back in Tonopah, I was almost ready to head north for Table Mountain, where I would meet Joel and other LVMC folks that afternoon. I enjoyed a burger at McDonald’s; this place always fascinates me, as there are often crowds of well-dressed foreign people, driving nice cars, mixed with down-and-out hillbilly types. Where are the well-heeled folks going? Where did they come from? I called my wife, then headed north up the Monitor Valley, through Belmont (with a courthouse made famous by Charles Manson), and after many dusty miles, turned right for Morgan Creek, to camp at the northern base of Table. I had contemplated waiting out in the desert, in case the other folks didn’t know the way. Darn lucky I didn’t, because I’d just missed Joel’s call, telling me that Amy was sick, and he’d have to cancel. Cell service ends slightly north of Tonopah; in fact, most surface-based radio stations won’t make it here. So anyway, I left a few LVMC signs at the critical turns. I walked the last 0.2 miles first, cleared some big rocks, and found a fragment of a Subaru plastic “skid plate”; this was likely part of Kim’s Subaru, from the trip four years before, when Josh had torn the ripped and dangling plastic from the bottom of the car. Then I took my Subaru up the hill, and found out, mercifully, that I had excellent radio reception on the hill – better than I would have till I got back to Vegas the next day.

Merciful, because Joel and company didn’t show up that night. I listened to the radio till 7:30 PM or so, when it was patently obvious that I would be alone that night. I had pretty convincing dreams that they were trying to reach the campsite that night, and that they were stuck and I was digging them out.

But in the morning, I was still alone, and I quickly trucked up Table. It’s hard to call this a “peak”; it’s more of an expansive, very green, tilted mesa. There were copses of trees, and some snow on the north sides of sharp ridges. It seemed that I could be walking through Ireland. The top is anti-climatic, but pastoral and … well, just pretty. The register had the familiar names; Howard Herndon, Josh, Kim, Alda, Alan N, Nick, Ali, and Luba. I didn’t quite retrace my steps; I detoured through copses of aspen, half expecting flying monkeys to come out, chasing a scarecrow, lion and tin man. I got back to my car, and with a warm glow, drove back to Vegas. Near Goldfield, I picked up a really neat radio station, which played songs that I hadn’t heard for 45 years. I was transported back in time. But the nostalgia was broken when they announced the web address,

I took off a weekend to “help” Ali Haghi finish his list, by climbing Langley in California. He didn’t need any help, but I thought it would be neat to accompany him for his 50th peak; I’d been up Langley two years before, and knew the logistics. Alan N accompanied us, not for the long hike, but for the reminiscences and moral support. I’d convinced Ali he could do this as a mere 21-mile dayhike, and he did, and is STILL talking to me. On top, we saw the famous “Dirty Girls”, visible in the photo below.

Next on my personal list were Bald Mountain (#48) and Pyramid Peak (#49) in the Great Basin. This would be a trip with many goals. I would eventually join the LVMC “beginners’ backpack” to Baker Lake (chuckle, snort… beginner my foot!). But first, Ali and I would go a day early, to Wheeler campground, and do a karma restoration. You see, Ali had accidentally taken a Nepalese Rupee note from the register of Jeff Davis Peak in 2003; he meant well, as the note was about to blow away, and he pocketed it… and forgot to put it back. When he found the note still in his pocket, at the end of the day, he found a solemn warning about removing said currency. Shortly after, he was seriously ill. For five years he was slightly haunted by this superstition. So we planned that I would first truck over Bald Mountain, and then meet Ali on Wheeler. Next we would traverse over to Jeff Davis Peak, and replace the rupee. Along the way, the bad karma spirits tried to stop Ali by breaking his trekking pole, but he persevered, and eventually, we restored order to the universe on the top of Jeff Davis. Then we descended back on the NE shoulder of JD; I’ve done this route twice, and find it a miserable, freaky descent, because big quartzite blocks move at unpredictable times, threatening to snap an ankle. Finally we got back to the cars, and had some well-deserved wine, and another pleasant night at a mere 10,000’.

The next day, it was hard to get going in a hurry. I had casually mentioned that we were to meet Chris R at Baker Creek Campground, at 8 AM. By driving like a maniac, we were just about 15 minutes late, but Chris and the other three LVMC members (Jose, Heather and Chris 2) were waiting patiently.

Chris R set a moderate pace, knowing that we had to gain nearly 3000’ with full packs. We trudged up; at one point Ali said he would go ahead a bit, since he was old, and had to take his time, because of back injuries. Then one of the youngsters made the mistake of trying to catch up with Ali, and almost blew a gasket. Chris R took over the lead, and was politic enough NOT to explain what Ali meant by “slow”. We reached Baker Lake, I threw down my big pack, and took a quick side trip to Pyramid; unencumbered but for a light daypack, I was back to the campsite in 1 h 45m. With this compulsion finished, I thoroughly enjoyed the next two nights at Baker Lake.

Well, I said that I’d leave it at 49, didn’t I? Two things changed my mind. One was the chance to go back to Logan-Trumbull area, with friends; more specifically, with friends who liked to drive and would keep a pleasant conversation in the air. The other was a memory, from eight years ago. One of my bosses has written, in merit view, that I always tended to pull back from success, as if I were afraid to finish the last bits of anything, and ended up ceding the credit to someone else. Was that my destiny? I pictured the Navajo weavers, who never finished blankets, but always left a small unclosed part, so the spirit could escape if needed. So I would go for 50.

As Joel B has reported elsewhere, this was a low exertion trip; we camped one night at Nixon Springs, then went up Trumbull – a second time for Joel and me – so Luba could tick off her #41. Then we drove up the back side of Logan, to maybe ½ mile from the top. How different an accomplishment this was, compared to Williamson. But there was a warm glow of camaraderie, pleasant conversation and great, unexpected views. And I finally finished a list. By now, the list was my own.

Epilogue: As I looked back over pictures to include for this article, I was flooded with memories, mainly of camaraderie. My first overnight trip with the club was in August 2004, when we climbed Boundary Peak NV, and Montgomery CA in one day. I enjoyed the campfire stories, the elaborate meals, and the pleasant talk around the fire as much as I enjoyed those climbs. In this day and age of quick internet hiking connections, I truly miss the slightly-older-days of long-anticipated and intricate trips. There is much to be said for getting out of sight of Vegas, and things that remind you of work and the cares of everyday life.

I do have some gripes about the “classic” list. Each year, I would determine how far I’d advanced, with just a few perusals. I’d look at each listed peak, and mark off the ones I’d climbed. This process allowed me to carry sustained illusions about peaks that I thought were on the list, but were not. I thought for years that La Madre must be on the list; I didn’t realize my mistake till José W pointed out the error in late 2008. How could this magnificent mountain – so close to town, but only accessible after hard work – be off the list (while lumpy Logan was nominated instead)? Well, being off the list hasn’t stopped me from climbing more than a hundred “unlisted” peaks. Perhaps we finish other peoples’ lists because we maintain the independence to set our own goals.


Hi, My Name is Brandon and I am a Rock Climber

Hi, my name is Brandon, Brandon Estrella to be exact. This is a narrative of a recent long-weekend getaway, spent outdoors with a climbing partner of mine. I hope you enjoy it.

The rock outcroppings we had spied with binoculars months before were once again in our sights. We were back. It felt good. We sat atop a snowy peak, and while having a snack of peanut-butter crackers, and jellybeans, we planned our attack. (Did you know that you will lose weight, eating jelly beans all day, or whatever is your pleasure, if you put your body through extreme-sport working conditions such as mountaineering? It is a major benefit to mountaineering-fun. I learned that earlier this year by experience.) We knew the next three or four days were ours to revel in. We’d be wrestling with decisions, dealing with cold and other obstacles, and how should I put this?........Having the time of our lives……….as usual! We had done our research on the area, and our holy grail was now realistic and within reach. In a nutshell, we had climbing on our minds, but first we needed to figure out how to get there.

Roped up, and with my climbing partner leading, we found clear sailing in descending the ravine toward the mouth of the canyon. Crampons were necessary because the conditions were icy. Having been cliffed-out with our first attempts this morning, an alternate route seemed most prudent. It ended up taking us about two hours total to traverse the thousand foot drop in elevation to the canyon bottom. Three-quarters of the way down, the walls got steeper and slippery so we slung trees and rapped the last 400 feet. We used Dyneema slings with steel rap rings, for retrievable anchors, which worked excellently.

Upon reaching the bottom, we noted that our work was definitely cut out for us. We knew it was going to be a rough scramble, thus why earlier this morning our first preference and our first attempt was to follow the ridgeline southwest for our approach. Boulders the size of small houses were strewn about like war debris and smaller ones of all sizes were everywhere. Melted snow had ice-encrusted everything making the way treacherous. It was obvious that the potential was high for punching through the crust and dropping into a void. It was like being at a water-slide fun park, but without the water or the fun or the park. The decision was made that we would zip-line our way down canyon rather than take the chance at a broken leg or worse. I questioned my infatuation with Spiderman comic books with this decision. Our packs were heavy with trad gear and the typical mountaineering necessities, making us awkward and unstable on our feet.

By criss-crossing above this canyon bottom with a zip-line, we successfully avoided these dangerous crevasse laden minefields, floating over them. It was a simple system. The follower stayed behind with the packs while the leader fought his way along the slope on the opposite side of the canyon, trailing the rope. Ice axes and crampons were necessary equipment. Upon finding an ideal zip-line landing location, the leader would then set up a sling in a tree and the follower would cease feeding out rope and set a biner-block anchor system to a sling in his tree (up river and higher in elevation). We were limited to 200 foot zip-lining because our two ropes were 70 meters each. Once the follower anchor was set, the leader would then set a Z–pulley system at the bottom of the zipline, which worked marvelously at making a taught rope. We backed up our zip-line travel pulleys with prusiks to allow the tinkerbelle air travel speed to be slow and controlled. It took a while to set these up each time, but it got us over and past the dangerous spots in this canyon without incident.

Toward the end of the day, as we continued to descend, the snow and ice eventually became less and less. We finally exited this canyonland. We were met with lovely sand and gravel to walk in, with grassy slopes to look at to our sides, for the next part of the journey. It was still chilly, but the snow was only in drifts and pockets now. Our eventual climbing destination goal was only a few miles away down this gravely creek bed and then up and over a couple of rolling hills to our west. This first night we just kicked back and talked about our climbing anticipation plans for the next two days.

We bumped it into high gear first thing in the morning. In no time we could start to make out the tops of the outcroppings of our private reserve climbing mecca. As we continued to get closer, we could spot many potential climbing lines in this virgin limestone jungle-gym that awaited us.

Finally around 10 am, the humbling experience we had been working for had arrived. We stood amongst these overwhelming vertical monolithic cliffs feeling very small. These giants of teasing rock, teasing us like New Orleans teenage women; knowing we had no beads, were laughing at us. It was like being showered on by faucets that poured only the greed of desire, so that we could then be mocked. But as a single flea can turn a wolf into a panic, we were not to be deterred in our mission to climb these featureless statues. We would stir the heart of this place and humble it forever after.

All in a rush to get our gear out, panic and excitement took us like we had some strict schedule to keep up with. We immediately set about getting our gear organized. Like kids in a candy store we knew we would be making first-ascents on every climb.

We took turns leading, and we both climbed hard and well. We had a blast, to say the least. After two days of this, we finally had had our fill. We booted it down south to find my truck where we had stashed it, and we headed back north to retrieve my climbing partner’s truck so we could go home.

I am a rock climber. I am a mountaineer. I am getting out there and doing it! And I am damn proud of that. I’ve not had such purpose and focus ever before in my life. Prior to finding this passion for climbing I managed to stay happy, but not content, or maybe satisfied would be a better word. There was always something missing.

I had gone on a number of hikes and had climbed a bit of rock on outings with other clubs in town, but the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club is a world of difference. In my first year in the club I think I took all of the offered courses available for rock climbing, rappelling, anchor building, self rescue etc., and am now going to start to focus on getting more of the snow skills and mountaineering skills training that is freely available through this club.

I’ve found that these instructors in the Mountaineers Club are both skilled and knowledgeable. These folks are not practicing anymore. The competence and experience that is evident and reflected in their teaching is startling. I find the decisions I am now making as an outdoor enthusiast, a rock climber, and mountaineer, are still sometimes nearly overwhelming, but that I do have the tools now, and am managing to forage my way through difficult terrain safely with evaluation and execution skills I never knew existed. I feel I have the confidence to effectively evaluate and choose the best option to situations. I am doing and experiencing so much more through these club activities than I ever imagined possible.

It scares me to think about the climbing I did prior to joining this club. I had taken a climbing and a rappelling course with another club and I assumed all was well. But now I see the insanity of it all. First timers were rappelling without back-up friction knots or fireman’s catches, and I belayed folks completely incorrectly and had no idea that I was putting climbers in harm’s way because of incorrect rope handling skills (taking my hand off the brake rope with each pull, while taking up slack with an ATC).

Take a peek at the picture of me below with the climbing harness I was directed to use by another climbing club in town (apparently it is called a swami belt harness when tied correctly).

One big thing I find with this new-found club is that it is actually more and more fun, the more serious-minded I get, which initially sounds like a contradiction. Prior to joining the LVMC, I had no concept about the degree of accountability that was necessary in these sports, or how easy it is to screw up. Through proper planning it is easy to design and plan extreme activities, but I never knew that it was through this involved planning that therein lies much of the fun. The whole extreme sports slogan “just do it” is not really where the fun is, it is in being expert at “doing it”, and through knowing that I have learned methods of protocol that are accepted, and that I can decide which method I will use for each circumstance. It is more fun knowing how to “just do it right”!

Anyway, that is what the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club has done for me. It has opened my life to the rush of climbing, canyoneering, hiking and mountaineering, where before I was basically doing a bit here and there with no real rush at all. Now that I realize the education that is necessary to properly engage in these activities, I realize with it that I was taking very serious risks with my previously cavalier attitude.

Gaining the education necessary for these activities is addictive. It is so fun talking shop with the other members. I have gained self confidence and have gained the respect of others as well. It is all very addictive. There is a whole language to climbing and mountaineering that would make no sense to a lay person. It is a society I have joined, not just a club. Had I not found this club and all it has to offer, I would still be a bumbling idiot thinking I am a somewhat knowledgeable climber. This club is a blessing to our community.

Thank you LVMC for being there. Thank you board members for making all of this happen. And thank you trip coordinators for your dedication in educating and training us members. You changed my life.

Brandon Estrella



(fictional story by Paul Des Roches)

We would like to thank Steve Krall for designing visually awesome posters for the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club, which can now be seen at your local climbing gyms, REI and other locations around town. Please call him or email him for all of your design needs. Thanks Steve!


President: Nadia von Magdenko
Vice President/Training Director: Richard Baugh
Secretary: Xavier Wasiak
Treasurer: Beth Ransel
Newsletter Editor: Joel Brewster
Outings Director: Annalisa Helm
Membership Director: Chris Ransel
Website Director: Amy Brewster
Public Relations/Marketing Director: John "Snafu" Mueller
Club Gear Director: Chris Ransel
Social Director: Kristi Meyer
Assistant Director: Grant Brownback
Assistant Director: Paul Des Roches
Assistant Director: Kim Owen

Assistant Director: Harlan Stockman

The Ascender is published monthly by the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club. It can be viewed on the “Members Only” section of our website. Current Club membership is approximately 120.
All Club members are invited to submit trip reports, photos, trip listings, recipes, classified ads and other related information. Please include the name and date of the trip or outing and the author’s name. April 10th is the deadline for the next issue.

Joel Brewster
Phone: 456-8520



Please contact the membership director if you have questions about your membership.

Please make your check payable to the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club and mail to: P.O. Box 36026, Las Vegas, NV 89133-6026.
Single membership is $30 per year, $85 for three years. Family annual membership is $40, $110 for three years. Please mail all renewals prior to the end of the month to ensure uninterrupted notification of your Ascender password.

To the following members, please note that your membership will expire this month:

Chris Schiele
Christopher Newcomer
Danah Abarr
Dave Luttman
Mary Khamsopha
Nasrin Houston
Nel Cumelis
Paul Kuroda
Robbie Godfrey

To All Members:
Please send any address, phone number and e-mail changes to Chris Ransel.

Chris Ransel
Membership Director


This club gear is available at no charge to members:

4-season tent
Bear Barrels
Alpine Axes*
Strap-on Crampons*


*Will require a signed waiver.

Non-members are not eligible to borrow club gear. Deposits taken on gear must be in the form of cash or check and will be returned upon return of equipment. Gear is also available to members for courses with no deposit required. If you have any questions or would like to inquire about club gear, please contact Chris Ransel.


Classified Ads
Members: Free
Non-members: $5

Business Ads
1/8 page (business card): $5
1/4 page: $10
1/2 page: $15
Full page: $20
All rates are per issue and will be discontinued automatically unless renewed. Ads must be prepaid and sent by e-mail or submitted on CD. Please make checks payable to Las Vegas Mountaineers Club.






The Las Vegas Mountaineers monthly meeting this month is on Tuesday, March 24th at Sahara West Library (NOT at Rainbow Library as previously listed), 9600 W. Sahara. Meeting time is 7:00 p.m.



Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Sahara West Library

State Highpoints
John "SNAFU" Mueller



Tuesday, March 28, 2009
Sahara West Library


©2002-09 Las Vegas Mountaineers Club, all rights reserved.
Dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of the mountains.
Website Problems. Contact Us.