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Ascender Title
March 2012
Volume 18, Issue 1


Henry climbing up the steep section - note the angle of the wires, that's the slope of the ground

The very steep beginning of the route - my Xterra is parked on the next road to the right

The rock with the USGS summit marker

Henry descending from the summit

Moon rising between the summit and Peak 4701

The top part of the ridge down- the steepest section is on the far side of the last shaded hill on the right

January 6, 2012
Report by Eric Kassan, Photos by Eric Kassan and Henry Jingle

In early January I was looking to climb Avawatz Peak (about 75 miles southwest of Las Vegas). In doing the research I noticed that the typical route involved a tortuous road followed by a steep hike with significant up-and-down. It looked like it would be much easier to approach it from within Fort Irwin. So I gave Fort Irwin a call, and after a couple transfers (they weren't sure who I should talk with), I spoke with someone who wasn't sure where the peak was, but suggested I come on the base and we could discuss options. He mentioned the upcoming Friday would work best, so the date was set. Because of the short notice and the fact it was on a weekday, only Henry the Mountain Man was available to join me.

Getting to the base took some time because we needed to drive almost to Barstow to catch the road going to the main gate which is on the south side of the base. We got a kick out of numerous tank crossing signs on the road. We needed to stop briefly at a visitor information area to pick up a pass to get us on the base. From there, we went to meet the man with whom I spoken, in a department called "Range Control". They oversee all access to the uninhabited areas of the base. When he could see the area in which we wanted to hike, he told us that the whole slope was likely littered with UXO - unexploded ordnance (i.e. live bombs). Fortunately, there is another peak with 2,000 feet of prominence on the base, Tiefort Mountain, and we could be allowed to hike there, in a narrow corridor around some transmission lines that went to a station on the summit.

But first we needed to complete a safety course that took about 90 minutes. The course reminded me of what I had heard about the drivers-ed film "red asphalt" - it used gore to promote fear. It showed everything from a variety of lethal weapons to training munitions (which could still cause serious injury) in both normal use, and accidental use.

With the course complete, we were issued a 2-way radio which we were told to leave on and monitor as they would check in on us from time to time. We were also given magnetic labels for my car to more clearly identify it. The hike itself was simple compared to all that had led up to it, but much of it was steep and on relatively loose ground so the descent took us about as long as the ascent. There was often a use-trail, and routefinding was easy given we were instructed to follow some (phone?) wires that went to the summit. Listening to chatter on the walkie-talkie was interesting, as numerous groups were out and about on training exercises, some with "live fire", this in-between major training sessions, which were scheduled to resume the following week.

When we finally got to the top, there were some contractors working on the communication equipment there- they had been dropped off via helicopter, and were waiting for it to return for their trip down. Another odd sighting was a rock with a USGS summit marker on it, free-floating in an open steel structure used to house much of the equipment.

Overall it was a fun trip, and very different from my usual climb.

Helicopter landing at summit to pick up workers

One of many "tank crossing" signs we saw, this one with Tiefort Mountain in the background


February 11, 2012
Report by Harlan Stockman and Joel Brewster, Photos by Harlan Stockman, Eric Kassan, Kay Kumuro, and Ali Haghi

by Harlan Stockman

Jumbo Peak would be a class 2 climb, if not for the last 100 vertical feet… and those last feet are doozies. This peak was once regarded as nearly unclimbable. Because Jumbo is on a list of 2000’ prominence peaks, it is now getting more attention. However, the long and convoluted drive (with poorly-signed dirt roads) and quasi-technical summit are limiting visitation.

Jumbo is the dark peak in the center of the photo, in the distance

The first known ascent was in 1993, by the peripatetic Don Palmer and his son, via a true rock-climbing route. Later Ed Forkos and Jim Egan found a 5.1 route past scary, crumbling granite flakes. Then the likeable CP found two more routes, both requiring some rock skill and gear. Andy Martin, a well-known peakbagger, found a descent route that bypassed the upper rappel; it was part of our mission to find this route and use it for ascent.

The LVMC Trip
Jumbo is not that far from Vegas, as the crow flies; but it is located in the stark Gold Butte “peninsula,” and requires modest 4x4 to travel the last 8 miles to the base of the climb. BLM has been forward-thinking, and has kept the roads “designated,” so as Gold Butte approaches some protected wilderness status, this scenic area will still be open for thoughtful OPV (off pavement vehicles) access.

Our plan was to assemble by 8AM Saturday at the old Gold Butte townsite (no buildings). This is a stark area, whose only attractions are 1) it is accessible by passenger car (particularly a rental), and 2) it is relatively easy to find, yet is just 8 miles from Jumbo.

The others arrived from 2PM Friday to 7:30AM Saturday, when we distributed gear, and I showed photos of the intended route. Soon we headed out on decent 4x4 roads, testing our vehicle paint jobs against the assaults of catclaw bushes. We were able to drive to a point just 900’ lower than the top of Jumbo.

The hike up the east side of Jumbo

The lower 800’ of the climb is just a class 2 hike, but as one gets closer and closer to that last huge boulder, the peak looks like serious business.

View of the last 100’ of Jumbo, from the northeast side of the ridgeline

We got to the ridge in staggered fashion. Three folks opted to wait below (Ali was stopped by a knee injury). I pointed out the main features of the possible routes to Joel, Colin and Bart: the huge crack at the bottom; the 5.3 face (where I would belay folks if the tunnel were a problem); and the junction, where the fabled tunnel was supposed to reside. (As it turned out, Ali and Kay were able to get some great photos from below.) Down below, the wind was pretty strong, and I suddenly lost any desire to free-climb the face.

These are the main features on northwest route. The tunnel communicates between the cracks.

We donned our harnesses and helmets, and I took a smaller, “second-stage” pack with 120’ of 9mm rope, lots of webbing, some biners, rapides and a headlamp. I headed off for the first part of the climb—a stiff narrow crack, filled with some boulders that presented challenges to progress. The idea was that I would ascend the crack quickly, find the legendary tunnel, and communicate whether the route “went.”

Well. at least that was the plan. In reality, it’s pretty hard to shout—and be heard-- from the center of a mountain. I found the tunnel, which was amazingly tight. I had to take off my rope pack, flip over, and found myself in the open, with blue sky above me. I shouted back that the route “went.” Now the communication problem started to become more obvious. I heard shouts from below, but I really couldn’t tell what they were saying. No problem, I’d just rush to the top, and shout out directions.

And that’s when it got interesting. I thought the tunnel would take me to the other side of the peak; and it would have, if I could scale the 10-12’ smooth, very tight walls on the side of the “tunnel” – which was actually the crack on the right side of 5.3 face, unbeknownst to me. I looked around the other way, and was by now completely disoriented; I could hear people shouting below; how could that be, if they were on the other side of the mountain? In reality, I was now 180 degrees turned around. I climbed directly up to the sky, via a rather stiff route, and emerged below what would later be our rappel anchor. I could hear people shouting below, and an unseen voice asked me what route I’d taken. I replied that I’d taken the crack. I anchored and threw down a webbing handline in that very crack. At this point I thought everyone had followed my tunnel route. Indeed they were right behind me, but I wouldn’t understand why for a moment.

The others had followed, but when they got to the tunnel, hadn’t seen the “trick” about turning on your back and pushing through; I had been warned that it was a tight squeeze, but I hadn’t relayed how tight (in fact, I didn’t know). They had deemed the crack unsuitable, and had climbed out to the base of the 5.3 face.

It wasn’t till I’d clambered to the very top, that I realized what had happened. Chagrined, I took off my pack, went down to the anchor rock, and started to set up the webbing and 9mm rope for what I expected would be leisurely belays. At that moment I heard Bart’s calm voice state (paraphrased) “I could use some help.”

Bart starts up the 5.3 face; unfortunately, the handline was on the other side of the face!

I looked over the edge and saw Bart in the middle of the 5.3 face, on an area covered with lichen. He had rock shoes; but ironically on the lichen, the rock shoes were less grippy than regular boots. The webbing handline was a good 10-20’ away—I had placed the handline, thinking folks would be coming up the crack, but Bart was coming exactly up the 5.3 face that I had pointed out before! It took me about 20 seconds to redirect the handline, and get in a secure slot for a body belay, but that 20 seconds seemed like 5 minutes to me, and may have seemed like 5 hours to Bart. Bart did absolutely fine without the webbing, but logically wanted a belay, if it were available.

All’s well that ends well; but there were a few more interesting moments. Collin did try the crack; but now the handline was 20’ away, in the middle of the face. Bart redirected the handline back to Collin, to take his pack. For a moment, the handline stuck in the webbing that I was trying to set up for the rap anchor. Shortly after, Eric popped over the edge… having climbed the face unbelayed… wearing sneakers!

Collin climbs the crack on the right side of 5.3 face.

Meanwhile, I continued setting up the 9mm rope, both for our rap down, and as a belay or handline for Joel, who was still below. This all seemed to work so well in my head, in the days before the trip; I would place a small amount of aesthetic, rock-colored webbing around a pinch point on the summit boulder. The wind had other ideas, and ripped the webbing out of my hands several times. I had no choice but to make a ridiculously long sling around the entire boulder. We tied the sling securely, and put a rapide over both rope and webbing. I threw down the two rope ends in sequence, and Joel tied the ends together. I noticed that with all the flapping in the wind, the webbing had
stuck asymmetrically in the pinch points. No problem, I anticipated this; I would move the rapide to a position on the other side of the water knot, where the weight would equalize on both sides of the sling… when I saw the rope go taut. Joel had started climbing the rope! If he pulled the rope right now, the rapide and water knot might suddenly slew around the boulder for 10’, dropping him.

We managed to communicate to Joel to stop climbing. Frustrated, I jammed myself into a wonderful crevice for a really secure body anchor. Joel climbed the rope and we were all on top! THEN I finished the anchor!

We’re all on top!

The whole circus had taken no more than 10 minutes. I had planned to tie 120’ of 7mm tagline to the 9mm rope, with a biner (and backup stopper knot) blocking the rapide; but by now my nerves were a little frayed. We opted to rap a mere 50’ over the 5.3 face, back down to the ledge, pull the rope, and then downclimb the lower, big crack.

Collin downclimbs the upper crack; I prepare for a fireman’s belay as Bart clips in.

The rest of the Jumbo trip went as clockwork; we got back down to the cars, and went on to the next peak of the day.

Epilogue: Lessons Learned

In all, the climb worked out well; no one made the 5 o’clock news. Yet it was a learning experience, and I came away with these notes “to myself.”

1) Calibrate your time scales. When you are on top setting up anchors, it may seem to you that 10 minutes is a short time. But to someone waiting in the dark on a cold ledge below, it is a really, really long time. People simply get antsy when waiting, with the excitement and adrenaline of the climb; it’s to be expected that the longer they wait, the more they will tend to say “what the heck” and start moving.

2) Communicate! You must communicate before the climb, before the iffy sections, and while folks are tackling anything that requires exposure. I thought I had done this, but as I replayed the climb in my head, I realized that I sent mixed messages. The wind was a confounding factor; while it was windy enough on top to mess with voice communication, it was actually quiet on the ledge below the 5.3 face. To make matters worse, I have a form of brain damage that makes it hard for me to talk in tense situations. Above all, if you anticipate there will be a time when no one can talk to you—even for a few minutes—you must prepare people for that contingency.

3) Be flexible. I had this mental picture of the order events would take; we would use the tunnel shortcut, and I would use a webbing handline if needed. Then I would take the time to finish the really secure rap anchor. That’s not how it played out. Once it was clear that it was hard to shout to the folks below, I might have settled into the secure meat anchor position, and got people up as fast as possible, THEN done the rap anchor.


by Joel Brewster

From my point of view, the climb went a lot smoother than Harlan's account. I agree that maybe the communication wasn't ideal, but I think Harlan might be a bit too self-critical. Fortunately, those of us that summitted Jumbo were all experienced hikers and were quite comfortable with class 4 scrambling. Although the last section was more class 5 than 4, we were all experienced enough to assess the options and choose a route we were comfortable with or request help from above (from Harlan, not divine help). Collin went up the crack on the right side of the face; Eric just scrambled up the face; Bart followed Eric, but used the handline. I tried to follow Collin up the crack, but found it uncomfortable as the rocks were scraping the skin off my legs, so I retreated and followed Bart's route using the handline as well.

We were all excited and giddy to have made this difficult summit, but Harlan was a bit stressed about the ascent and coming rappel descent. Since some of us had limited rappelling experience (including me), we took it nice and slow, and double-checked all systems. The rappel went quite smoothly and we all made it back to the ledge no worse for wear. From there we all descended the narrow class 3 crack down to where the others were waiting. The only close call was when a rock came loose and tumbled down the crack, luckily missing all of us.

The climb was exhilarating, but we were all glad to be down and take off our harnesses, helmets, etc. I thought Harlan did a great job getting us up and down safely and also organizing the entire trip.

After our descent to the vehicles, we also summitted nearby Mica Peak that day, and I, instead of riding back to our campsite, chose to hike up Gold Butte then descend directly to our camp. It was an enjoyable side trip and I found it significantly easier than did Collin and Bart, who had done it at about midnight the previous night!

The next day, Kay and I climbed Bonelli Peak, a great peak with tremendous views of Lake Mead, the surrounding peaks, and even Las Vegas! On the drive home, I decided to tag Little Virgin Peak as well. All in all, it was a memorable weekend, all made possible by Harlan's experience and planning!


Sue Schager

1. Where were you born?
Pirmasens, Germany

2. How long have you lived in Las Vegas?
I moved to Las Vegas from the Washington, DC area in 2004.

3. What is your occupation?
Real Estate Appraiser

4. How long have you been an LVMC member?
I joined LVMC in December 2008 to become a better climber.

5. What is your favorite hike/climb?
Among my favorite hikes are the waterfalls of Havasupai from Mooney Falls to Beaver Falls and Zion Narrows top to bottom. Last year's attempt to summit Mount Rainier via the Kautz Glacier route with LVMC is also one of my favorites. My favorite climbs are Sinocranium at City of Rocks, and Frogland and Dark Shadows at Red Rock Canyon.

6. What is the most challenging hike/climb you have done?
Last spring Mark Beauchamp and I hiked the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in a day. We started our trek at 1am from the North Rim on Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch then headed up Bright Angel Trail finally reaching the the South Rim 10 hours and 24 miles later. Exhausting but so spectacular!

6. How did you get into hiking/climbing?
I began hiking with my family as a child mostly as part of missions to pick berries or mushrooms. My first climbs were in 2003 aboard Royal Caribean's Radiance of the Seas cruise ship. I was hooked, but it wasn't until a hiking friend in Las Vegas "showed me the ropes" in 2008 that I began climbing for real.

7. What are your hobbies other than hiking/climbing?
I enjoy most things outdoorsy. Lately I've been focusing on skiing, but I'm also into biking, kayaking, photography...the list goes on. Favorite indoor activites include cooking, yoga, scrabble and hanging out with my furry friends.



President: Jose Witt
Vice President/Training Director: Richard Baugh
Secretary: Sue Schager
Treasurer: Lynda Gallia
Newsletter Editor: Joel Brewster
Outings Director: Dan Young
Membership Director: Eric Kassan
Website Director: Amy Brewster
Public Relations/Marketing Directors:
Al Bennett
Club Gear Director: Dan Young
Social Director: Kristi Meyer
Assistant Directors: Heather Torrey, Chris Meyer, Barb McGibbon

The Ascender is the monthly online newsletter of the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club. All content is property of LVMC and may be used only by the original submitters. All others must obtain written consent from the Board of Directors.
All Club members are invited to submit trip reports, photos, trip listings, recipes, classified ads and other related information. April 10th is the deadline for the next issue.

Joel Brewster




Please send any address, phone number and e-mail changes to Eric Kassan, membership director. LVMC currently has approximately 130 paid members or families.

If you wish to send a check instead of using PayPal online, 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.

To the following members, please note that your membership will expire this month, unless you have recently renewed it:

Mark Beauchamp
Caroline Erickson
Brian Haas
Terry & Ron Kassof
Dave Luttman
Valerie McNay
Chris, Kristi, & Kenny Meyer
Angela Reyes
Sam Richardson
Matt Riley
Mike Robison
James Schmidt & Mariso Musso
Karen Schneider, Marie Gabriel, & Kelly Gabriel
Michael Tautfest
Hannah Wilner
Dan Young


This club gear is available at no charge to members (a refundable deposit of the gear's approximate value may be required):

4-season tent
Bear Barrels
Alpine Axes*
Strap-on Crampons*
Hiking Boots
Climbing Shoes


Belay Devices

Belay Plate
Ice Tool
Ice Screws

Deadman Anchors

*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 Dan Young.

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 meet on the 4th WEDNESDAY of the month at 7 pm at REI in Summerlin.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Backpacking in the Grand Canyon
Dan Young & Doug Hladky

5 hikers...4 days...1 canyon.... A grand experience.
Dan and Doug will be presenting on their recent hike in the Grand Canyon. This will be an excellent opportunity to
learn about what it takes to do a multi-day
backpack through the Grand Canyon.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012


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