Five LVMC members went to Colorado at the end of July 2009 to climb seven fourteen-thousand foot peaks, mostly in the Sawatch Range. All of our routes were class 1 or 2 hikes so we could move quickly with little route-finding or technical problems. Our routes averaged maybe 10+ miles and 4000+ feet of elevation gain each. There are about 54 fourteeners in Colorado, depending on what rules you believe for several of the peaks. The team included John “Snafu” Mueller, Jose Witt, Roy Trafton, Mark Beauchamp, and Richard Baugh. Snafu spent the month of July in Colorado as part of his migration eastward to his home base of Ohio. Mark changed his plans for a Tetons climbing trip at the last minute to join us. Roy drove all the way from Memphis, Tennessee. Jose and I drove from Las Vegas. Base camp was in Buena Vista, CO at tent sites in an RV park. All of our hikes were day outings, and we always arrived back in camp by the afternoon for dinner, beer and wine drinking, hot showers, and wireless Internet access. The weather was unusually rainy, and we even experienced rain several days as we headed for the trailheads at sunrise. The usual afternoon thunderstorms were relentless this year, so we were constantly trying to beat the weather to reach the summits and to descend before noon to avoid the lightning danger.
This was not an official LVMC club trip because Roy and I were being selfish to ensure climbing certain specific peaks as a follow-up to our 2008 trip. We were very selective about the participants since the schedule was very aggressive. All participants, however, were LVMC members and decisions were made as a group. On our 2008 trip, Roy and I climbed 7 fourteeners in about 8 hiking days in the same area: Mt. Shavano, Mt. Belford, Mt. Princeton, Mt. Yale, Tabeguache Pk., Mt. Oxford, Huron Pk. On this year’s trip, we planned to climb 7 more in 7 hiking days: Mt. Harvard & Mt. Columbia (in the same day), Missouri Mountain, Mt. Antero, La Plata Peak, Mt. Sherman, and Mt. Massive.
Day One, Mt. Sherman: We chose Sherman for the first day since it was short (about 4 miles and 2800 ft of gain).
Day Two, La Plata Peak
Day Three, Mt Harvard & Mt. Columbia: We climbed Mt. Harvard first, but were trapped in an adjacent drainage by the lightning of a thunderstorm as we tried to reach Columbia. We could not safely regain the ridge we needed for our descent, so we had to abandon our Columbia attempt and retreat to another trailhead, far from our truck. Fortunately, Snafu stayed in camp that day, and we reached him via cell phone to pick us up at the other trailhead. He even had cold beer to greet us. Snafu can now say he performed a Colorado rescue.
Day Four, Rest Day and Rock Climbing: Our friend Tammy from Salida, CO hosted us at her local crag (Bob’s Rock) for a day of top-roped climbing. Of course, it started raining at noon, so we retreated to a brew pub for beer and pizza.
Day Five, Missouri Mountain: We bid farewell to Snafu as he headed back to Ohio and we hiked up Missouri.
Day Six, Mt. Columbia: We went back to finish off Columbia after our previous retreat, and we were successful on this attempt. This second attempt on Columbia forced us to abandon one of the seven planned peaks because we were behind schedule; we chose to leave Mt. Massive for another trip.
Day Seven, Mt. Antero: It is possible to take a 4wd vehicle almost all the way up Antero, but we parked and did it the hard way.
On August 2, Mark, Jose, and I headed back to Vegas, and Roy headed back to Memphis. Although we didn’t climb Massive, we were pleased with our accomplishment, especially considering the weather challenges and how many miles and elevation gain we had achieved. We suffered no blisters, sore joints, or altitude problems, but several of us suffered at least one moderate hangover. For those of us hoping to climb all 54 Colorado fourteeners, our tally over many years is now Snafu 19, Roy 17, Richard 22, Jose 6, Mark 7.
MOUNT CHARLESTON, GRIFFITH PEAK, & MUMMY MOUNTAIN
There were five of us that made the hike - Kristi, Joel, Tomasz, Jan, and I (Quentin). All of us envisioned hiking up to Mt. Charleston and Griffith Peak; however, we also discussed hiking Mummy Mountain as well, in addition to Mt. Charleston and Griffith Peak.
We started hiking at 7 am at the Trail Canyon trailhead which is at about 7,800'. The Trail Canyon trail ascends very quickly. The first two miles go up about 1,500 feet in elevation. It felt like I hit a wall several times on this trail because it was so strenuous. You definitely don’t need any coffee to wake you up in the morning on this trail. The nice thing about starting off at Trail Canyon rather than the South Loop trail to go up to Mt. Charleston Peak is that you are in the shade the first two hours of the hike, so at least you’re able to stay somewhat cool. I found Trail Canyon to be one of the most difficult parts of the entire hike. Once we got up to the saddle, we connected to the North Loop trail and took a break there. From there Joel, Tomasz, and Jan set off hiking up the North Loop Trail and then to a junction up to Mummy Mountain (Mummy's Tummy) which is 11,530 feet high.
To get up to Mummy Mountain, you have to climb a steep, difficult route up a scree field. Then you join a path that leads to a chute that takes you to the plateau-like summit.
Kristi and I kept hiking the North Loop to Mt. Charleston Peak. The North Loop is very scenic with many great viewpoints of Mt. Charleston as you follow the ridgeline along the top of several cliffbands.
Once you get to the eastern face of Mt. Charleston, you will notice very little vegetation. You then gain about 1000' as you climb the grueling, barren switchbacks. Once you get to the peak, all the hard work pays off. The views from the summit are magnificent at 11,918 feet. Since Mt. Charleston is the highest peak in southern Nevada, you have an amazing 360-degree panoramic view. You can see almost all of Las Vegas and all of Pahrump. It was extremely windy up at the peak. There is a book at the peak that you can sign your name to let everyone know that you’ve been there. Kristi and I then set off down the South Loop en route to Griffith Peak.
Joel, Tomasz, and Jan were about an hour and half behind us because of their side trip up Mummy Mountain. About a quarter of a mile down Mt. Charleston, you can still see the plane crash wreckage from the 1950’s.
The first mile and a half down from the summit is steep, but feels good because you are finally going down in elevation. You then reach the meadows, a quite lush area with where it is relatively flat for several miles. There are many great campsites throughout the meadows. This is one of my favorite areas of the hike because it is very surreal - a leisurely stroll through grass and flowers at 10,500'!
Kristi and I then headed for Griffith Peak. I went ahead of Kristi because she took a little break. At the base of Griffith Peak there is a fork in the trail. I went right because it was a wider trail and I thought that this was the trail up to Griffith Peak. I guessed wrong and circled around of the base of Griffith Peak to the other side. It was a very scenic trail because you can see some of Red Rock Canyon and part of Las Vegas. Luckily, all of us had radios to communicate with each other. When the trail started to descend, I contacted Kristi and realized I went the wrong way so I had to turn around.
Kristi made it up to Griffith Peak first. When I finally made it back to the fork in the trail to go up the correct trail to Griffith Peak, I met Kristi coming down. Tomasz and Jan were tired and decided to head down the South Loop trail and not head up to Griffith Peak. Kristi decided to get a head start and went down the South Loop trail. I met Joel at the fork in trail and we went up Griffith Peak together.
The trail up to Griffith Peak is very steep, especially at the end of a long day, but is well worth the short climb. Once up at Griffith Peak, you have amazing views of all of Las Vegas and part of Red Rock Canyon. Griffith Peak is 11,056 feet in elevation and is the third highest mountain in southern Nevada. Joel and I agreed that Griffith Peak actually has better views than Mt. Charleston. There is also a book up at this peak to sign your name.
Joel and I then hiked down the South Loop trail. There many switchbacks going down this trail and it becomes somewhat monotonous - left, right, left, right.
Joel and I finished at around 7 pm for a total of 12 hours to complete. Joel did all three peaks, while Tomasz and Jan completed Mummy Mountain and Mt. Charleston, and Kristi and I completed Mt. Charleston and Griffith Peak. If you decide to attempt this hike, make sure to bring plenty of fluids (minimum one gallon) and some snacks. Overall, it was a scenic and strenuous hike, but was a very enjoyable to spend a day.
LVMC MONTHLY BIO FEATURE:
Let's get to know a little about Las Vegas Mountaineer Jose Witt.
Where were you born?
How long have you lived in Las Vegas?
What is your occupation?
How long have you been an LVMC member?
Just over a year
What is your favorite hike/climb?
Tough question, but due to the ease of access and the amount of fun I’ve had doing it, Rainbow Wall via Pine Creek
What is the most challenging hike/climb you have done?
Toiyabe Dome - no trail, loose rock, bushwhacking and acres of wild roses and other thorny plants!
How did you get into hiking/climbing?
My first trip to Zion about 8 years ago opened my eyes to the challenges and beauty of hiking. I got back and started exploring Red Rock Canyon and have been addicted to the outdoors ever since.
What are your hobbies other than hiking/climbing?
Reading, continuing education, keeping up with current & political events, roller hockey, soccer and composting.
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