18, Issue 3
summit photo on Telescope Peak
along the trail
on toward the summit
well-used trail cuts across a slope
happy to be getting close to the top
Report and Photos by Jose Witt
Most years a climb up to Telescope Peak in April is ambitious and requires
a bit of skill with handling ice and snow. A climb in 2012 proved tame
due to the low amount of snow seen in the west. Members of the club gathered
at Mahogany Flats (8,200') campground in Death Valley on a clear Friday
evening. The next morning 10 LVMC members were on the trail by 7am.
Telescope Peak is the highest peak in Death Valley which
overlooks the Badwater Basin over 11,000 feet below, making it an attractive
goal for peakbaggers. It is also on the LVMC Classic 50 list, which a
handful of the members on this hike were working on. Furthermore, this
hike was a co-lead for Craig, a newer LVMC member who was in the process
of becoming an Outings Coordinator.
The trail up to Telescope is in great shape. From Mahogany
Flats the trail climbs up the eastern side of Rogers Peak to the saddle
between Rogers and Bennett Peak. From that saddle Telescope comes into
view and appears quite close. The trail then meanders and skirts around
Bennett Peak to the west without much elevation gain. This is a great
time to enjoy the views of the Sierra Nevadas in the distance.
The trail then continues to gain more elevation as it
skirts yet another bump on the ridge that gives the hiker good views to
the east and of Badwater down below. The crux is the last mile to the
summit, which gets pretty steep. Although every step is getting you closer…it
sure doesn’t look like it. As you climb to the summit great views
to the east open up as you can see Hanaupah Canyon, Badwater, the Funeral
Range and the Spring Mountain Range which of course includes Mt. Charleston.
Once on top, the peak lives up to its name. Panoramic views abound.
The last of the LVMC crew got to the summit in 4.5 hours.
After a long break on top all headed down to Mahogany Flats. Some returned
to Vegas that day, others decided that the campground was so nice, they
stayed until Sunday morning. Congrats to all of the climbers that made
the peak. Onto the next classic.
CANYON NATIONAL PARK - TOROWEAP
group at the entrance sign
deer near camp
group admiring the view
at Toroweap overlook
scenery is spectacular.
and Lehman posing
mountain lion tracks that Jenn found
Report and Photos by Chris Meyer
Toroweap is in a very remote part of the northern portion
of Grand Canyon National Park and is accessible only via dirt roads. The
shortest dirt road originating from Las Vegas is the 56 mile option from
Colorado City, AZ (FLDS territory). Keep in mind, the conditions of the
road change frequently depending on the weather. It can be impassible
in the winter due to snow, ice and snow melt while interesting in the
summer due to flash flooding. An off-road capable vehicle is highly recommended,
but not necessary (I'll explain later). I've visited the area often as
a tour guide with Pink Jeep Tours passing many places to explore that
I can't and won't take tourists. This trip provided me an opportunity
to share that exploratory interest. We didn't get to do everything I wanted
out there so more trips will be necessary in the future.
I picked early March for this trip so the odds of issues with mud from
snow melt would be minimal and the temperatures at the river would be
reasonable. The daytime temperatures at the rim would be comfortable at
around 60 to 65 while 70 to 75 degrees by the river, although the night
time temperatures would get down to the mid-30s. There is a road from
St. George, UT that is longer, but would take less time to get to Toroweap.
However, that route is covered in snow, ice and mud longer since it is
higher in elevation. That route is great in the late Spring to early Fall.
My last trip of mine down the Lava Falls Trail consisted of a large group
that was spread out along the route. I didn't want a repeat so I opted
for a small group. I'm sorry several people didn't get to go on the trip.
We started the trip at my house loading up in two vehicles. Jenn and Lehman
Pyeatt rode with me, while Mark Rosen rode with Luba Leef and Ed Forkos.
There are no water sources at Toroweap so we needed to bring enough water
for the four-day trip for each of us. It took us about five hours to drive
to the Toroweap campground making one stop at the Little Creek Chevron
gas station in Apple Valley, UT to top off our tanks. The road starts
off smooth and level allowing you to drive quite fast at up to about 50
mph or more but you do have to be careful as there are ruts and bumps
that sneak up on you. The closer you get to the canyon the worse the road
gets, requiring you to slow down considerably. The worst part of the road
starts when you officially enter the Grand Canyon National Park. Because
of it's remoteness, there is no fee to enter. The last stretch of the
the road is quite rough as you basically drive on sandstone rock.
After setting up the campsites, we went to the overlook to enjoy the scenic
views and pictures. On the way back we hiked the short Saddle Horse Trail
to an overlook for Saddle Horse Canyon. We scanned the canyon looking
for possible ways down on Day 3 to the Colorado River. Since Ed and I
drove to that trailhead, we had to go back to the cars to drive to the
campground. Luba joined us while Jenn, Lehman, and Mark continued the
loop trail back to the campground. On their way back, they found recent
mountain lion tracks. We enjoyed the sunset from the campground. After
the sun set, we heard a motorcycle approaching that stopped short well
before the campground. Several minutes later, I heard a greeting from
a familiar voice. Ranger Todd Seliga came by to say hello. I had contacted
him prior to our trip inviting him to stop for a visit. We had great visit
and conversation. I asked him for some recon to reach the Toroweap Point
on our Day 4, and he told us that there is only one way up through a break
in the cliff band. While talking, we all stopped to view an amazing near
full moon rising over the canyon. We never got to see that again for our
other two nights.
The next morning we drove to the Lava Falls trailhead. Upon arriving,
I was surprised to see there was no longer a sign identifying the beginning
of the trail. Instead, there was a sign for Vulcan's Throne. I knew where
to start the hike (starting at 08:00) so we continued. About 20 minutes
and a third of a mile along the route we came across the sign I remember
the last time I did this hike three years ago. I then realized the reason
the sign was moved was to discourage people from this route since three
people have died since that time in separate instances. One was due to
a fall and two due to dehydration. All occurred in the summer heat and
within about ¼ mile from their vehicle. The park service instead
now wants to encourage people to enjoy the Vulcans Throne hike that also
has a registry on the peak for further enticement.
On the Lava Falls Trail, you are really in the middle of nowhere on the
route down with lots of loose volcanic rock. Gloves are a necessity for
protection. The route descends 2,500 feet in 1.5 miles. Since the route
has become “popular”, there is a fairly well-defined trail
along with spray painted markers with white arrows and white dots that
were not visible on my last trip. I later talked with the ranger to discover
they were not placed by him and he is not happy about the markers. I imagine
sometime in the future the markers will be removed by the park service.
Even with the markers, we got off the trail and had to navigate over some
interesting terrain. On the way down about 1000 feet from the river we
came across a deflated inner tube. Very odd place! I noted the coordinates
with my GPS and told the ranger later. He then responded “I thought
I got all of them”. Our group then were perplexed “...all
of them?!?!?!?!” It turns out people have soaked inner tubes in
kerosine, lit them on fire, and rolled them down the hill! Ranger Todd
will later remove that inner tube. On the way down, we passed by a number
of ocotillos and barrel cacti, climbed down several rocks, and enjoyed
the great views. There were a few class 3 sections with only one exposed
option. Otherwise, it is almost all class 2, but slippery and loose. At
that point, the group understood why I wanted a small number of people.
It took us about 2.5 hours to get to the river. We followed the trail
to Lava Falls. It is one of the most difficult rapids in the Grand Canyon.
While having lunch, a large group of private oar rafters stopped by to
recon the rapids. I offered them a rare opportunity to take pictures and
video of their trip through the rapids and email to them. We managed to
forward them over 1 GB of video and pictures. I was able to take a series
of pictures of one group giving a thumbs up, entering the rapids, getting
hit by a wave engulfing the raft, flipping over, and then floating upside
down. Others in our group got the entire sequence on video. Luckily, those
rafters were uninjured. All of them were very happy and appreciative of
the footage I emailed them later and thanked all of us immensely. We then
started the 2.5 hour hike back up. It was slow going due to the loose
steep rock. We pretty much managed to follow the route using the arrows
and dots making the trip easier.
After this tough hike, we all decided to punish ourselves even more by
doing Vulcan's Throne. The trip was only 1.5 miles round-trip with 1000
feet elevation gain taking 1h 15m, but we were basically going up 35 degree
grade of ball bearings for almost a half mile. Lots of loose volcanic
pebbles. It was hard! Fortunately, it was very easy on the way down. I
have to say the views on Vulcans Throne were amazing. This is the place
to visit for sunset photos of the Grand Canyon Toroweap. We soaked in
the view, signed the registry, and then headed back quickly. Upon arriving
at the campsite, we were very tired and hungry.
The next morning we started our exploratory of the Tuckup Trail area heading
east. I'd never been there before and I really wanted to check it out.
We started on the trail and then went down Saddle Horse Canyon. We soon
found a rock with lots of fossils and after that we surprisingly came
across an area with cattails. We had also found a watering hole in an
area carved by water causing a concave section with a small ceiling where
a couple significant sized plants were growing down. It was a very, very
interesting place. We then cliffed out at a drainage a little beyond that
area. I was able to scramble down to check it out, but determined we would
have to jump about 8 feet to get down further. The next issue would be
how to get back up after exploring that layer further. I decided it was
not a good idea so I aborted. I'll have to come back on a future trip
to explore. My next problem was that I couldn't climb back up since it
was too slick with very few holds. Ed had to lower some webbing using
himself as a body belay so I could climb back out. We continued looking
for another way down. We all climbed down to another layer while Ed continued
further to find a way down without luck. We aborted and went back to the
rim looking around. We found several neat vantage points relaxing taking
in the scenery and came across lots of potholes/tenajas in the rock with
water and desert shrimp growing along with worms and other insects. We
were careful not to step on the abundant cryptobiotic soil found throughout
the area, but it was challenging in some sections to only step on rocks.
We even came across a radio-controlled shark air swimmer. We collected
the trash to dispose properly later.
The last side canyon we came across was later discovered to be Covington
Canyon. We found an easy scrambling way down through another surprisingly
vegetative section and pretty colorful views. We reached a cliff about
1/3 mile into the canyon descending about 500 feet. It didn't look down-climbable
so I took pictures later noticing Luba scrambled down finding a way down
to a ledge. I followed her as Ed told both of us to come back. We noticed
a short old historic wood and wire ladder. We could have used the ladder
to explore further to a cliff that would have been neat to visit, but
it would have been difficult to not damage it. Also that ladder was blocking
the best way down. We could have set up webbing if we carried some, but
it was getting late and the others couldn't see us. We thus turned back.
I'll have to come back on a future trip to explore. I later discovered
from Ranger Todd that Henry Covington mined the area until the 1960s for
gold, silver, lead, and other valuable minerals including uranium. I'm
amazed anything could be mined here, but hardy individuals found a way.
We then called it a day heading back to the campsite returning via the
trail. Upon arriving we discovered a young man actually drove a Honda
Civic sedan to the campground. We were amazed he made it. He thought it
was tough and realized he probably shouldn't have made the trip. Although,
I have seen worse out here....a Toyota Prius. Of course, that vehicle
did scrape its underside on numerous occasions. Not very smart!
The next day we headed back home. One last hike was to Toroweap Point.
It is a high plateau visible from the overlook. Todd had told me the route
starts from the Ranger Station which is also his home. He also told me
out of respect for the fact it is special spot, he requested I keep the
route on the down low. Therefore, no details about the route nor posted
pictures have been posted. While we were getting ready for the trip a
group of young people drove up in an SUV around 09:00. They were walking
around like they were looking for something. I asked if they needed anything
only to discover they wondered where there was some water. They were surprised
when I told them there was none. They indicated they had some and were
going down Lava Falls trail. Our group discussed that that was a bad idea
since they were starting late, didn't have enough water, and didn't realize
the terrain to get to the river. They later actually (learning from Ranger
Todd) knocked on the Ranger's door asking for water. He told them he only
had enough until his next delivery. I wonder if they continued their hike?
We hiked to the plateau above the Ranger Station noticing only one set
of footprints, which turned out to be the ranger's. We also noticed a
lot of cattle tracks. We were perplexed as to how cattle got up there,
but the plateau is very large so they must have started at a lower section
and walked to this point. I didn't end up researching exactly where to
go when up here so I referred to the highpoint marker on my GPS. It turns
out we reached that highpoint, but were about one mile away from the actual
Toroweap Point that offered views of the Grand Canyon. I'll have to come
back on a future trip to explore. We enjoyed the views and then went back
to the vehicle.
Upon arriving Ranger Todd came out of his home saying goodbye. We had
another good conversation. He is an ideal individual for this remote assignment.
He also greatly enjoys the area and assignment. We then drove home very
tired. It took me several days before my legs stopped hurting. It was
another great trip; I'll definitely need to go back again to explore more.
Sometime after this trip, I came across a short National
Geographic article (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/02/vermilion-cliffs/klinkenborg-text)
about the Vermillion Cliffs with some very interesting quotes from a BLM
official. "Exit the car, enter the food chain, …. The predators
here are sun, heat, thirst, ignorance, and isolation.”. I thought
about that quote and integrated it into my tours to make guests realize
the severity of the situation in the region especially during the summer.
I build upon it with the following result:
? Sun - UV index of 10 - 12 out of 10.
? Heat - temperatures over 120 degrees.
? Ignorance - clueless as to the situation you are getting yourself into.
? Isolation - something goes wrong, no one will be passing by to help.
? Thirst - where are you going to get water?
The conclusion to my point is to take the first letters of each word to
really describe your situation and how you'll feel! I get a number of
laughs or sighs of understanding from my guests. Thinking about the group
we met at the Ranger Station intending to hike down the Lava Falls trail
unprepared and the unfortunate individuals who have died on that route,
I emailed the info to Ranger Todd for consideration to post at the Ranger
Station to further warn the unprepared. He loved it and actually asked
if the NPS could borrow from it!
TOWER, NEVADA: A Little Help from My Friends
Report by Harlan Stockman, Photos by Harlan Stockman, Eric
Kassan, and James Cho
Luba finds the route up the tower in 2006. In this photo, she is climbing
the scariest move, while CP watches from below, on the first ledge.
On January 14, 2012, the LVMC took 13 climbers up Castle
Peak, NV, and 12 of those climbed the tower on top for the true summit.
The tower is a 75’ pinnacle of volcanic rock perched at the top
of the mountain. The trip went smoothly, thanks to help and cooperation
of all. We did a lot of preparatory scouting with numerous friends (who
will be mentioned below). First I’ll describe the trip, then talk
about the convoluted history and preparation… which started in 2003.
Our party included two summiters of Denali, who were also graduates of
U Mass Amherst (yet didn’t know each other before the trip!). I’ve
made the climb with two Kilimanjaro summiters, so there must be some good
karma on this peak.
The 2012 LVMC Trip
The trip had some odd omens at the start. We were to
meet at Railroad Pass Casino. I had my car all equipped and ready the
night before. But on Saturday morning my battery was dead, and after hurried
attempts to revive my signature Subaru, I borrowed my wife’s car
and rushed down the meeting place… forgetting some of my gear. We
car-pooled and headed off to the gravel road, about 21 miles S on route
95. When we hit the off-road parking east of the Highland Range, Pat M.’s
van ran over a cactus and
blew a tire. Hmmm. But soon tribulations were forgotten, and we headed
The trip is handily broken into two distinct parts; the
approach and climb of Castle Peak, up to the benchmark; and the climb
of the tower itself, which is quasi-technical. The benchmark for the mountain
is not on the highest point; the benchmark crew sanely decided not to
attempt the tower, so you don’t have to make the last climb to “sign
in,” and you still get rewarding views. I wanted to keep the route
below the tower at class 2. I had scouted the routes to the peak and tower
in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2011, and just 5 days earlier in 2012, and had finally
settled on a compromise with some nasty talus, but little talus over cliffs.
After we left the cars and drew nearer the entrance canyon,
the range was transformed from distant lumpy hills, to dramatic cliffs
and sculpted terrain with a 2000’ rise. This type of scenery change
is typical of many Nevada mountains; they look mild until you get close.
Soon we were on the approach to the upper ramp; the rugged
mountains that towered above us in the canyon, were now below.
east, start of upper ramp. The rugged, unnamed mountain in view has a
hidden route just through the deep notch.
We hugged the cliffs when we could, rounded a bend on
the upper ramp, and popped through a notch onto the relatively easy, upper
slopes of the mountain.
View west as group rounds
the bend on the upper ramp route.
View east and down as
Ali pops through the notch.
As one reaches the last “gentle,” ramp, the
views of the sculpted ridgeline are spectacular.
The palm-shaped formation in the low point is called “Hand of God”
by locals; we used to call it “Monkey Fist.”
Soon we were right below the tower’s north side,
and rested in a little alcove. We all donned harnesses, and some put on
helmets and rock shoes. We tried to lighten the loads a little; I had
to carry 200’ of rope and about 125’ of webbing, but didn’t
want to be off-balance for the delicate moves near the top. When I got
to the second ledge, I took out 75’ of 15mm nylon webbing, which
Bill directed to Dan. Dan quickly tied loops in the line, and took a hairy
position at the first anchor, to help guide folks up the exposed stretch.
View up as Bill, Harlan
and Dan deal with the handline.
down over Dan and Lynda on the second ledge. Ali (red helmet) is below,
on top of the first ledge,
which is about 25’ above the ground.
Dan tops out, and gives
a rebel shout.
We took people over the top in groups, “like a
conveyor belt” as Dan put it, because the summit didn’t have
room for more than about 6 people at once. The consequences of a slip
became clearer, when Eric dropped his ATC, and it went bouncing down the
200’ cliffs on the west side of the peak.
Some of the conspirators
on top, by rap anchor, view south
I rapped down shortly, and did the very thing I tell
people never to do: I forgot to put my pack back on! So I quickly took
a picture south from near the benchmark, capturing Dan and Lynda on top,
and I quickly climbed back up… only to find the Bill had kindly
taken my pack down with him!
Dan and Lynda on top
D. raps down the tower. I got on top of a spire to the south to get this
Cho raps down, view from below.
In short order, we were all down from the tower. Dan
pruned some melons off the top of the peak, and Matt kindly put the rope
in his pack. Then we did the hardest part of the trip: got down below
the talus, with just some minor scrapes. The way out seemed mellow, and
we all had a sense of accomplishment. Fortunately, nobody got stuck in
an animal trap, or made the evening news!
The Long Road
I hinted above that plans went on behind the scenes:
here they are.
Nick Nelson first introduced me to the Highland Range
in early 2003. Bob Greer had told Nick about the unexpected, rugged beauty
of this place; Bob actually used Castle Peak for rappels.
(1) Getting to the Tower
With rare exception, the only place where you won’t
find some talus or scree*, is the climbing gym. All routes up Castle Peak,
to the Tower, have some talus. People generally hate moving on talus;
for me, the loose rock is mainly an inconvenience. However, I always try
to avoid routes with talus perched above cliffs, since it is so easy for
a person to lose and never recover footing, before sailing into the abyss.
Routes, viewed from the south
routes, as viewed from the east, beginning of approach
With that caveat in mind, the “easiest” and
safest routes up the peak follow the tops of two cliff bands on the south
side, as shown in the pictures above. I had scouted the lower band route
(light blue) in 2006 with Alda Behie, and returned up the exact same route
with Ed and Luba in 2009; but both times, we went up that route, and chose
another path for descent. The lower band route requires a short class
3+/4 chimney to break through the last cliff band, but I hadn’t
thought this was much of an issue. In 2011, Lori C and I went up and down
the lower route, and I realized that there was a place below the chimney
where one had to travel down a steep set of slabs, with much loose rock;
Lori and I were hard-pressed not to kill each other with rockfall. This
was not a route for descent, for any sizeable group. Since we had a real
possibility that we would split the LVMC trip into two groups for descent,
I didn’t want a loop trip; I wanted to use one route for going up
and coming down.
So that left the upper band route (shown in dark blue
in the photos above). This route is invisible and seems improbable for
much of the approach. I had been up this route with Nick N and Pierre
M in 2003, and down this route with Ed and Luba in 2009, so it seemed
“bi-directional.” But I was interested in one more test. So
five friends agreed to go with me to the tower, just five days before
the LVMC trip. With uncharacteristic scheming, I deliberately invited
an adept climber, Gina… who hates scree and talus. We
went up and down the higher cliff band route; on the way down, we honed
the route so we stayed near the cliffs and avoided almost all loose rock.
And Gina complained, but very little.
(2) Protecting the tower
When I first climbed the tower in 2006, with Luba, CP,
and Don B, we rated the tower class 3 with a class 4 move near the top.
Luba found the route, and was on top in a flash; perhaps it was her confidence
that spurred the rest of us on.
I was younger, bolder, and stupider back then. However,
I was struck by two events in 2006. First, Don B – a very skilled
and confident rock climber—asked if we could protect the class 4
downclimb. We slung a 10’ webbing loop over a very shallow horn,
which added enough confidence for the blind move. Don was the last one
down, and shook the webbing off the horn. (Luba had downclimbed the class
4 unprotected, and spotted CP.) Second, I remember getting back down to
a stretch where one has to search for a foothold in the crumbling rock,
and thought: “Did I really come UP this?” So I dimly thought
that in the future, it might be good to have a handline.
When LVMC went to meetup.com in 2009, I made an album
of peaks I would like to repeat with LVMC. Castle Tower was in the album;
I put the photos on the meetup site. Soon after, Luba and Ed joined me
for a trip to refresh my memory, and see if we could protect the last
move a little better. When we got to the tower, it seemed a bit creepier
than I remembered; particularly, the rock at the last class 4 move seemed
less certain, and the whole thing seemed closer to class 4, even low 5.
The shallow horn looked a lot worse as an anchor, and Ed predicted (probably
with accuracy) that the horn would simply come off some day. Ed set a
sling around a boulder, and we handlined back down. To lower my confidence
further, I suffered a bad ankle sprain/fracture on the way back to the
car… so I put the trip out of my mind as too dangerous… until
In late 2011, I asked Lori C if she would accompany me
to the peak. I was frank about my ulterior motives: Lori, an experienced
canyoneer, could set a rap anchor that we could use with confidence. She
would also help me judge what was “too creepy,” and I could
count on her to be honest. Lori was once my “student;” but
she has far surpassed my crippled-old self. When we came up the last stretch
of the tower, I nervously extended my hand; she refused to take it, but
firmly announced, “I am not downclimbing this. We are going to rap.”
And within minutes she built a beautiful rap anchor worthy of a canyoneer,
despite the cold, 30 mph winds.
sets an anchor.
And finally, we had one last practice. My friends Fabe,
Cory, Gina and Jack agreed to go with me five days before the LVMC trip.
Besides finding improvements for the upper ramp route, we tested another
anchor, this one for a hand line down the northeast side, protecting climbers
on the iffy ledges. Gina redirected the hand line, so folks could climb
up directly. I got to give my little lecture on the three rap rules (
1: Never let go of your brake hand. 2: Never let go of your brake hand.
3: Never let go of your brake hand). Fabe checked the harnesses and the
anchor. I was anxious to see how people would regard the rap, which is
slightly overhanging in one spot, and has a somewhat awkward launch. We
all successfully climbed and rapped the tower.
(top) and Fabe (below) test handline.
Now you know what went on behind the scenes; I had a
lot of help from other folks. Some places don’t require much preparation;
but some places do. I really wanted to introduce LVMC to the Highland
Range, but given the nature of the rock and fragile holds, I wanted to
minimize the risk. The ridge just south of Castle is actually more fun,
prettier, more rugged, yet doesn’t require quite as much preparation.
Perhaps LVMC will go there some day… and they will know what to
*What is the difference between talus and scree? Well,
the two terms are often used interchangeably. “Scree” is usually
reserved for the gravel-sized stuff that tends to get in your shoes; often
deep scree is fun to “ski” on, but a thin coat of scree on
a sloped rocky ramp is very dangerous. “Talus” is more often
used for loose rock debris, perhaps in pieces up to a meter wide.
RANGE: A Nice Place to Re-tire
Report and Photos by Harlan Stockman
The Quinn Canyon Range is one of those hidden gems that
keep Nevada a place of wonder and discovery. No, they are not spectacular
mountains, but they are rarely traveled, and generally have running water
all year long, with good access roads and campsites. This is a good "transitional"
area; the camping is at 6500', under trees and is about 25 F cooler than
Vegas, so late spring and early fall are typically mild. While the hordes
crawl all over the mountains near Vegas, these 10,000' peaks see few visitors.
The good gravel roads pass on both sides of the Worthington Range, with
the rugged Meeker and Worthington Peaks available as challenging "hikes."
Peak as seen on the route in from route 375
The LVMC had a trip to the Quinn Canyon Range on May
12-13, 2012. On the first day, my good friends CP and DB joined me for
an exploration of the southern peaks. That evening, we were joined by
Eric, Bart and Kay, who had just climbed Worthington. The next day we
went up the Quinn Canyon Range Highpoint, complete with eight stream crossings,
and were twice faced with lessons in preparedness for trips in the remote
Part I: Car troubles, beautiful
mountains, pesky arachnids
I met CP and DB at Love’s gas station by the route
93/I-15 junction. I decided it might be best if we had two cars, since
the area was remote, so we motored up 93 to 375, headed toward Rachel,
then took the excellent gravel roads north. Suddenly I heard a “whump-whump-whump”
on the right side, but the noise quickly went away. I stopped and looked
at the tires, but saw nothing. That’s because the 3” nail
that had penetrated my right rear tire had now bent over, but wasn’t
causing a dramatic leak. We continued on the last 10 miles of increasingly
rough road to our campsite at 6500’. I looked forward to an uneventful
Then I noticed that my parking lights would not turn
off. I didn’t discover the cause for two days: there is a hidden
switch on my steering column that allows one to keep the parking lights
turned on all the time. On the way up, a garage-door-opener had fallen
from the visor, and bounced on this switch, turning it “on.”
I had never used this switch in the 8.5 years that I owned the car, and
didn’t see an obvious description in the manual. With the help of
DB, I pulled the fuse for the parking lights, and put the fuse back in
the next day. Finding the correct fuse took us a harrowing 90 minutes,
but I was glad to avert a potential dead battery. (I always carry an emergency
pump/spare battery, but I really didn’t want to depend on it.)
The next morning, I woke up, looked at my car…
and saw the right rear tire was completely flat. I felt around and found
the bent-over nail. While I carry 2 spares, it’s an AWD car, and
you are really supposed to have matching tires; so I would try to remove
the nail that evening, and patch the tire. This sounded like a good plan,
but need to patch the tire would bug me all through the day’s hike.
So I tried to put the flat out of my mind, and CP, DB
and I set out for a pleasant exploration of the south side of the range
(see the red track on map below).
of two routes. We took the southern red route on the first day, and the
northern magenta route on the second.
We awoke early the next day, and hit the road by 7AM,
starting at the 2WD trailhead. The walking was easy, over at least 7 stream
crossings. We hit a south-trending ridge, and had mild travel up through
sparse brush, low sage, and occasional rocks, till we hit the first “peak”
the dominant flower on the slopes
north from ridge; the range highpoint is to the right, across the valley.
Range to southeast
Finally we reached the southern highpoint, at 10076’.
There was no cairn, no indication that folks had been there since the
southwest, toward Area 51, from 10076’ peak
We headed NW for the next highpoint, called Stepladder
Mountain on some maps. We had to descend, gain another peak, then descend
again. At the bottom of the next pass—about 9100’ –
CP and I noticed that DB looked a little peaked. She avowed that she was
willing to go on, but then admitted that the last 4000’ of rise
had really tired her out. So we decided to take a shortcut down one of
the sage-filled valleys.
Mountain to NNW
The sage-filled valleys in this mountain terrain have
an annoying quality: the more you descend, the taller the sage becomes.
In short order we were pushing through neck-high sage, using deer paths.
I tried not to dwell on the obvious: where there are deer, there are ticks.
Soon DB shouted the FYI that she had just pulled off a tick. By the time
we reached the wash and relatively little brush, DB and I had each pulled
off 6 ticks.
and tick-filled descent valley
We got back to camp, and Eric, Kay and Bart greeted us.
I showed them the tire problem, and all offered to help; Bart was clearly
exhausted (no sleep the previous night), was excused, and miraculously
slept through the incredible noise that followed. Kay was fascinated with
the process, and studiously watched and asked questions while I jacked
up the car, took off the tire, pulled the nail, and put in a tire plug
with Eric’s help. CP and DB, content that we were OK, had taken
off for adventures in Rachel, NV.
This was my second plugged tire in that set, and I figured that I was
due to get 4 new tires soon. Eric mentioned, with prescience, that he
also planned to get new tires “soon.”
Part II: More beautiful mountains,
more car experiences
The next morn, the tire had lost some pressure, but I
figured that I would just inflate it at the end of the day before I drove
out. Hence we were able to have a pretty good adventure, without too much
The adventure started with us piling into Eric’s
miracle vehicle, the XTerra par excellence. He was able to get a mile
farther up the road, and even did one water crossing in the vehicle, before
I convinced him that maybe we should park on the top of the hill and start
walking. In truth, he probably could have gotten at least 0.5 miles farther,
but we started to think about the consequences, both timewise and monetary,
and decided we could really use the exercise. So we had a pleasant walk
up the old road, over the many stream crossings. Kay was very happy to
see the water.
cups! Despite all the water, we still have desert plants.
I was eager to pick a route that had little brush (and
hence few ticks). We took the magenta route on the previous map, and explored
the north side of the canyon, where the highpoint is. We crossed the stream
near the cessation of the rough two-track, and headed up a very steep
rise to the first nearly-level plateau. The previous day, CP told me this
route had little brush; but CP and I have done lots of crashing through
brush on obscure mountains, and have often ended the day looking like
we had lost a fight with a mountain lion. Hence I wasn’t quite sure
what “little brush” meant. Fortunately, the route had none
of the high sage that was so attractive to ticks, and we saw none of the
pesky arachnids all day. It did have a lot of pinyon-juniper, which we
wove around, and I broke off lots and lots of face-level dead branches,
hoping to ease the way of those behind me. In fact, all my cuts from the
day were from breaking branches.
Thankfully, we finally hit rocky, open slopes, and made
our way to the 10180’ summit. The mountains to the north—also
over 10000’, also in the Quinn Range—looked wilder and prettier.
Kay posed Bart with a snow bank, we basked on the summit… and then
headed down, trying to beat the heat.
comes over the top of 10180’ highpoint. View south to 10076’
mountain of previous day.
north, to prettier, more remote mountains… some day…
west from 10180’ highpoint
and Bart play in snow.
On the way back, Kay insisted we pose, especially at
the stream crossings. Then the challenge for the rest of us became: looks
as goofy as possible at the crossings. This contest was won by Bart, who
simply ran across one crossing, splashing through the water. And it never
did get really warm; my car thermometer read just 73F when we finally
got back to the cars.
desert plant—on way out
My tire had lost just a few pounds of pressure in 8 hours,
so I filled it up, and got ready to leave. Eric asked me if I wanted him
to stay behind and drive out with me; I declined, as I figured I could
just change to my full-sized spare if need be. I checked the pressure
often on the way home, and the tire was adequate.
On the drive out, I saw Leviathan Cave on Meeker and
stopped to get a photo; someday I’ll go back to Meeker.
Cave on Meeker
Meanwhile, Eric and Bart, ahead of me, had a flat tire!
They limped to Rachel and tried to patch the tire unsuccessfully, then
changed to the spare and drove home. I never saw them on the way out,
as they had pulled off a side road! Within the next week, we had both
gotten completely new sets of tires for our vehicles. All’s well
that ends well.
A better way to rack your slings
By Douglas MacDonald
You'll often carry several full-length, 24-inch slings on long
rock routes or alpine climbs, to reduce rope drag, wrap around horns for
protection or belays, or rig belay anchors. But draping multiple slings
over your shoulders is cumbersome. The solution? The alpine draw. Doubling
up a sling makes it into a quickdraw that’s versatile to use and
easy to rack on your harness gear loops. Here’s how to do it right.
First: With a carabiner on each end of the sling, thread one carabiner
through the other.
Second: Clip this carabiner into both strands of the sling to make a quickdraw.
Third: To extend the draw, clip one biner to the piece of protection,
unclip the other biner from the quickdraw, and then clip it back to any
single strand of the sling. Pull on this biner and— presto!—the
sling will extend to full length.
Six more clever ways to use slings
1. Carry a sling while working a sport route. If you can’t do a
move, clip the sling to the bolt and stand in it for some improvised aid.
2. If you rack your pro on a gear sling, buy a sling rated to full strength.
That way, you can clip it to your pro if you run out of normal slings.
3. On seldom-traveled climbs or alpine routes, always carry at least a
couple of slings tied from nylon webbing, versus sewn slings. An untied
sling is longer than a sewn sling and is easier to tie around a tree or
boulder, or to replace sun-bleached or frayed slings at an anchor.
4. When sport climbing, use slings to extend hard-to-clip bolts or to
keep a carabiner from bending over an edge.
5. A sling can substitute for thin perlon cord for a rappel back-up (such
as a Bachmann knot) or ascending a rope with a prusik or klemheist knot.
Beware: the heat from friction can easily damage thin Spectra or Dyneema
slings. Use them this way only in emergencies.
6. A long sling can be used to improvise a "diaper harness."
Loop the sling across your butt, then pull one strand up through your
crotch. Clip the three loops— both hips and crotch—with a
locking carabiner. This is only for emergencies!
MONTHLY BIO FEATURE
Where were you born?
Well, I was born in Michigan, but grew up in
Arvada, CO and Danville, CA.
How long have you lived in Las Vegas?
Ten years this August
What is your occupation?
How long have you been an LVMC member?
About 8.5 months; my first outing was Nopah
Range HP with Joel and others in mid-December of 2011.
What is your favorite hike/climb?
There have been so many fun ones it is hard
to pick only one! I guess Mount Hood in Oregon earlier this month
was the the most exciting. New York Mountains HP in March was the
most fun for a mix of hiking and rock climbing.
What is the most challenging hike/climb you have done?
I tried a traverse from Pyramid Peak to Baker
Peak in Great Basin National Park on June 24th with fellow LVMC member
Collin Kamholz. Coming off a difficult 14 hour hike on Currant Mountain
and Duckwater Peak the previous day, we summited Pyramid, then tried
the traverse with my legs already wasted. I estimate sustained fourty
mph winds with gusts probably double that, and a large field of tricky
and unstable talus that was the size of large household appliances,
made for a tiring, difficult, and hazardous afternoon! We ran out
of time after making it past the hard part and actually had to turn
back! It was a super tough call, but it was the correct one. A big
part of the difficulty was probably that I was so tired just starting
How did you get into hiking/climbing?
My former wife and I used to hike around Red
Rock Canyon and the Mt. Charleston area, and in the Bay Area (CA)
before that. I always wanted to hike up Turtlehead Peak, but we never
went that far (we made it to the saddle one time). After she lost
her long fight with cancer I was very sad, so I went and hiked up
Turtlehead Peak, enjoyed it, and began finding other mild peaks to
hike, then climb up. It has sort of grown in scope and become a bit
of an obsession ever since.
What are your hobbies other than hiking/climbing?
Most of my old hobbies have sort of gone away
since I got into hiking and climbing. I am starting to get into photography,
as it meshes well with my outdoor activities, and lets me share my
experiences with my family and friends. I want to get into backcountry
skiing as it will mesh well with winter ascents. I quit golf. I was
pretty bad at it anyway. I would like to learn to paraglide off summits
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around Mt. Blanc
& Heather Witt