Mountain Logo
Ascender Title
Spring 2014
Volume 20, Issue 2


Muir Trail Ranch to Whitney Portal

July-August 2013
Report by Heather Witt, Photos by Jose & Heather Witt

Welcome back to the John Muir Trail! It’s day thirteen on the trail and we’ve stuffed ourselves with bacon, eggs, potatoes, and fruit before heading off to McClure Meadows. We left Muir Trail Ranch around nine in the morning and after a day of rest it was a bit difficult to get back on the trail. Today we cross into Kings Canyon National Park on our way to McClure Meadows, leaving the John Muir Wilderness behind us.

We bid farewell to the John Muir Wilderness and enter Kings Canyon National Park.

We stopped for lunch and ate our giant sandwiches and Doritos before the arduous climb up to Evolution Valley. Climbing up switchbacks on a hot day with a very full stomach was likely not the best plan, but eventually we made it to a beautiful waterfall and reunited with our friends Vance and Steve. We continued along with Vance and Steve to a river crossing- the first and only water crossing of the entire trip, where we actually had to wade in the water- and then on to McClure Meadows in Evolution Valley.

Crossing Evolution Creek- this sure looks more like a river to this desert girl!

Jose crossing Evolution Creek

After the creek crossing, we hiked about 2 more miles before coming to our camping area, which looked much like a gypsy tent village because there were so many people! We camped with Vance and Steve, two couples we met at Muir Trail Ranch and a group of British guys. It was a tight fit, but a beautiful place!

Evolution Creek and the Evolution Range

Purifying water for dinner

Vance and Steve

Beautiful Sunset on Evolution Creek

Day 14 finds us heading out of Evolution Valley into Evolution Basin and then over Muir Pass. We hiked up to Evolution Lake with Vance and Steve where we parted company for a while before reuniting at Sapphire Lake. Jose and I continued on to Muir Pass while Vance and Steve contemplated camping at Sapphire Lake. They were hiking heavy with all of their food for the rest of their trip as their last resupply was at Muir Trail Ranch. Jose and I had one more resupply scheduled before finishing up on Whitney.

Evolution Lake

Taking a break at Sapphire Lake with Vance and Steve

Sapphire Lake

Jose and I continued up to Muir Pass, ate some lunch, and checked out the Muir Hut. After a much needed break and nourishment, we continued on our trek down Muir pass to our campsite below Helen Lake where we shared a camp with a couple we met at Muir Trail Ranch. The other couple we met at MTR passed our camp around 6:00 pm and let us know that Vance and Steve had crossed Muir Pass and were camped just above us.

Muir Hut

Inside Muir Hut

Helen Lake

We set off at around 7:15 am on day 15 for a 14 mile hike down into Le Conte Canyon and up to Lower Palisade Lake. The hike through Le Conte was easy-going and gorgeous, filled with beautiful views of meadows and peaks. Our original thoughts were to camp at Big Pete Meadow, but upon reviewing our options we decided to press on to Lower Palisade Lakes which meant climbing the Golden Staircase at the end of our day rather than camping below the Staircase and having to face both the Staircase and Mather Pass the next day.

Le Conte Canyon

Big Pete Meadow

The Golden Staircase

Continuing up the Golden Staircase- also known as my own personal never-ending Hell!

When we finally reached the top of the Staircase we were both pretty exhausted. We found a pretty crappy campsite (seriously, horse poo everywhere!) near Lower Palisade Lake. As the sun set behind the mountains, the Palisades were aglow and made for a lovely sight, but the wind picked up and it got pretty cold really fast. After a 14 mile day, I was definitely ready for my nice warm sleeping bag.

Horse Apple Camp at Lower Palisade Lake

A deer wanders into our camp

The Palisades aglow

Another long day was in store for us on day 16 as we decide to try and cross both Mather and Pinchot Passes. The climb up to Mather Pass was not too difficult, especially considering we had the Golden Staircase behind us. Coming off the pass was pretty speedy and the trail flattened out for a good long while before we got to Kings River Crossing. We stopped at Kings River Crossing to refill our water and eat a snack. With a little over 2000 feet of gain ahead of us, Jose was not feeling confident that we would make it over Pinchot Pass. We pressed on up the 800 or so feet up to Lake Marjorie, refilled our water again and decided we had time to tackle Pinchot and hopefully reach camp by 5:00.

Looking toward Mather Pass

Mather Pass

Deb and Dave (one of the couples we met at MTR) on Mather Pass

The trail flattens out for quite some time after Mather Pass.

Lake Marjorie

The climb up Pinchot was very strenuous for me and I had my first share of some mild altitude sickness. We made it to the top in due time, snapped a few photos, and then made our way down quickly as some storm clouds were rolling in. We were hoping to drop down in to the lovely valley below to set up camp, but sadly, the trail had been rerouted keeping us far above the valley floor. Continuing on the trail, hoping to find a campsite soon, we heard coyotes howling and yipping off in the distance. Finally we reached a lake with some suitable campsites around it. After 16 miles and 3500 feet of gain, I was rather done in! We set up camp, ate dinner, and went to bed.

Jose above Lake Marjorie

Pinchot Pass

Ominous clouds

The lovely valley we were hoping to camp in

Because of our long haul on day 16, we were able to sleep in for a mild 9 mile, 2000’ gain day 17. We left camp around 8:00 am, hiking mostly downhill to the Woods Creek Suspension Bridge. This bridge is so narrow that only one hiker is permitted to cross at a time. We took a snack break, crossed the bridge, and then began our 2000’ climb, which looked much more gradual on our map. In reality there were quite a lot of steep sections followed by some flat bits, and then back into steep sections. The two previous long days had caught up with me, and I began to not feel very well- I was probably also suffering a bit of dehydration. We took several more breaks before setting up camp at Arrowhead Lake early in the day.

Having reached our destination for the day so early, we decided to take advantage of our extra time and get some laundry done. We used our bear barrel as a wash tub for both our laundry and ourselves. It was just too cold to jump in the lake with a chilly breeze blowing through our camp. We warmed up with one of our favorite backpacking dinners- Shepherd’s Pie- and enjoyed some chocolate mousse for dessert.

Morning view from our camp at Twin Lake

One of many pack trains we encountered on our trip

Mmmmm... Wild Currants

Woods Creek Suspension Bridge

Our camp at Arrowhead Lake

Shepherd’s Pie

The morning of day 18 was a chilly one as we began our hike up Glenn Pass. The hike up the pass was fairly steep and we stopped for a nice long rest at the top of the pass before heading down toward Charlotte Lake and our final resupply. We could see Charlotte Lake as we made our way down from Glenn Pass. Shortly after noon, we reached the trail to Charlotte Lake and soon encountered a 3 X 5 notecard with “Witt” written on it and an arrow pointing off the trail. We followed the arrow and found the tents of our re-suppliers- Harlan, Susan, and Jeff- with a note that they’d gone peak-bagging and would return later. Nearby we found our name spelled out in rocks and sand on a nice tent site. It was so nice to see and catch up with friends from home and also to reunite with Brendan, one of our friends from the trail. Brendan had hiked in to Onion Valley for his resupply and we had told him we would be at Charlotte Lake on our 18th night, and spent a very enjoyable evening of sharing trail stories.

Beautiful but chilly morning at Arrowhead Lake

On the top of Glenn Pass

Charlotte Lake

How we found our camp

Our tent site

Jeff, Susan, and Harlan

Brendan, Jose, and I set off the next morning for Bubbs Creek as Harlan, Susan, and Jeff planned to hike another peak and then head back home. We had a relaxing day, hiking only 6 miles to our next camp at Bubbs Creek. We arrived at camp around 12:30, relaxed, cleaned up in the creek, and had camp set up all before 4:00. As I was finishing up zhushing our bedding, Mike and his sons showed up with the rest of his Scouts. They had left the trail at Vermillion Valley due to all of the smoke, but returned for this pre-planned Scout trip to Whitney. Mike told us Vance and Steve were camped about a half mile behind so our little trail family was almost all back together again. Mike also snuck us some of the Scouts' Oreos, which was the best gift ever!

Center Peak

Bubbs Creek

Another beautiful sunset

With only three more hiking days left in our trip, on day 20 we met back up with our little trail family and made our way up Forester Pass- the highest pass on the John Muir Trail. Vance and Steve passed our camp shortly before Brendan, Jose, and I were ready to head out- the Boy Scouts would be leaving as soon as the Scout Leaders were able to get group of teenage boys out of their sleeping bags, dressed, fed, and on the trail. As we made our way up the pass Jose and I began a random karaoke montage of songs which we decided to call Monday Morning Mash-up- things you do when you’ve been on the trail for 20 days and you happen to be climbing above 10,000 feet. Don’t judge. We reached the top of Forester pass at 13,153 feet just after 10:00 am, took a group photo with Brendan, Vance, and Steve (the Scouts were behind us due to their later start) and then headed down off the pass. The trail down Forester is a series of switchbacks that were dynamited into then rock, opening up this “new” section of the trail in 1931. We found a campsite with a bear box at Frog Ponds near Tyndall Creek and set up camp. Vance, Steve, and Brendan all went swimming in the pond, but the water was a little too chilly for our warm desert blood.

Hiking up Forester Pass

Vance, Brendan, Jose, Heather, Steve on top of Forester Pass

The dynamited trail coming off Forester Pass

Life is good!

So close to Whitney!

Frog Ponds

The hike from Frog Ponds to Guitar Lake was a microcosm of the John Muir Trail thus far; we went up and down, and then up and down, and up and down again. We stopped at Crabtree Junction to pick up our wag bags and headed up the 800 feet and 3 miles to Guitar Lake. Vance and Steve had arrived before us and saved us a great campsite, which was wonderful because people were pouring into the area from every which way. It was a warm day and at 11,460 feet there was not a lot of escape from the sun- which meant there were also not a lot of places to make oneself private in order to answer the call of nature...

The tub of wag bags

Brendan contemplating the need for “only 1 bag”

Guitar Lake camp

Our final night was a windy one and I didn’t sleep well. We got up shortly after 4:30, ate breakfast, and each went our separate ways to try and find a private place to make use of our wag bags- which then became the subject of many jokes as we packed up camp and prepared for our summit bid. We dropped our packs at Trail Crest (except for Jose who just kept water in his pack for us) 4 miles and 200 feet up from our camp, before hiking up the trail to Whitney another 1.9 miles and 1000 vertical feet away.

Jose had decided he would try to tag Mt. Muir on the way to Whitney and so he sped ahead of our group. Having determined that Mt. Muir would be class 3-4 that he was not comfortable climbing solo, Jose made his way back to our group. We reached the summit of Whitney shortly after 9am, feeling pretty cool about hiking 211 miles to the highest peak in the contiguous US. We spent some time at the peak taking photos and then headed back down to Trail Crest and our packs. Shortly before arriving at Trail Crest we met back up with Mike and the Scouts who had gotten a much later start than us. They were taking an extra day to come off Whitney so we said our farewells.

After Trail Crest we had to go up for a bit before descending, which was ridiculously unfair in my opinion. Vance flew down the never ending switchbacks. Jose, Brendan, Steve, and I eventually caught up and we all stopped for a lunch break. Six thousand feet below Mt. Whitney and nearly 17 miles from where we began our day, we finally arrived at Whitney Portal where we immediately found our friends Don and Julianne Stewart, who generously volunteered to pick us up and drive us back to Vegas. Vance and Steve hitched a ride to the hostel in Lone Pine so we said our farewells quickly. Jose and I had volunteered a ride to the hostel for Brendan from Don and Julian. The five of us sat down at the Whitney Portal Store to a delicious second lunch. Don and Julian had brought us amazing sandwiches from Bishop, and provided us with a variety of cookies, chips and snacks. After our second lunch we dropped Brendan off at the hostel in Lone Pine, parting with hugs and fond memories. We waved to Vance and Steve who were waving back from their hostel room window, then continued on to Bishop and a well-deserved shower.

So ends our adventure along the John Muir Trail. We had an amazing time in a beautiful place and met some wonderful people. It was an awesome trip and I’m so glad my husband asked me to come along with him! Until our next adventure, happy trails!

Sunrise at Guitar Lake

It really does look like a guitar

Brendan and Heather making their way up to Trail Crest

Brendan, Vance, and Heather heading toward Whitney

Group Summit Photo (Front: Vance, Jose, Heather; Back: Steve, Brendan)

The Mount Whitney Hut

We did it!

Our Trail Family (Front: Vance, Jose, Brendan; Back: Steve, Heather, Jake, Will, Mike)

Trail Crest

Onward and downward!

“Going to the mountains is going home” – John Muir (photo taken from Wikipedia commons)


April 6, 2014
Report by Toby & Sierra Brewster, Photos by Joel Brewster

The following is an interview with LVMC's two youngest canyoneers, Toby Brewster (age 12) and Sierra Brewster (age 8). I took them on their first canyoneering trip down Keyhole Canyon that was led by Lorri Curry and assisted by Matt Riley.

Ascender: So what were your first impressions of canyoneering?

Toby: It was a little frightening at first, but then fun, once we got started. It was intimidating until you realize that you can trust your gear 100%.

Ascender: Were you scared at all?

Sierra: I was a little scared on the first rappel and the beginning of the second rappel. There was a creepy move at the start of the second rappel that was hard.

Ascender: What was your favorite part?

Toby: The fourth and final rappel was really fun. It was about 100 ft. I was totally comfortable by then, and I could really enjoy it. At the bottom of the rappel, a family of four had hiked up the canyon, and were amazed to see me and my 8 year-old sister rappel down this big dryfall! I felt so cool.

Ascender: What did you find the most difficult?

Toby: I would say learning the mechanics of rappelling. Also, starting each rappel was a bit challenging.

Ascender: How were Lori and Matt as leaders?

Toby: They taught and explained things thoroughly. They were both excellent teachers. Matt rappelled very fast; he made it look easy.

Ascender: Anything else to add about the overall experience?

Sierra: I liked the way the sliding rope tickled my hands. I liked the last 100 ft. rappel with that family watching. I was like a slow version of Matt. I liked the teamwork, and I especially liked my sassy buddy, Cory.

Sierra and Toby taking a break on the hike up

Our awesome leaders, Lori and Matt

Lori instructing Sierra at our "practice spot" before we drop into the canyon

Minas practicing

Toby practicing

Happy Lori!

Getting ready to rappel

Sierra descends. Note all the loose ends of the harness we had to secure. We borrowed this "fully adjustable" harness from Harlan.

Toby was a natural.

Lori belays from a relaxed position.

Sierra and Cory

Toby enjoying himself

Sierra ready to drop the final 100 feet.

The Brewster kids on double rappel!

Lori with Cory descending

Group photo at the end of the final rappel

Cory and Sierra in a "sassy" pose

by Dan Young

Back to Basics: Common Climbing Courtesies and Other Standard Practices

1) Never interrupt a climber when he/she is putting on a harness or tying in to the climbing rope. Subtle failure to complete each task perfectly can have disastrous consequences.

2) Never step on a rope, especially if it is someone else’s rope. Pushing small pieces of sand past the sheath and into the core can seriously degrade the strength of the rope every time the rope stretches and contracts. Or your foot could roll off the rope and you could lose your stance in the blink of an eye. Conditions when it is okay to briefly step on a rope: you are anchored in and the rope is not on sand or dirt, or it is a static rope.

3) Always check that your partner’s harness is doubled back, locking biners are locked, the belay is set up correctly, the tie in knot is through both tie in points of the harness, and the knot is dressed and has at least 6 inches of tail. This goes for climber checking belayer and belayer checking climber. Every time.

4) Don’t shortcut the 4 basic commands: “On belay?” “Belay on.” “Climbing.” “Climb on.” Ever.

5) Know the best commands for lowering your climber: “Tension Jack.” “Tension on Jill.” “Lower Jack.” “Lowering Jill.” Use names to eliminate any confusion between your climbing partner and those climbers around you. “Take” is no longer considered the best command. “Tension” is now preferred. Make sure you point your head in the direction you are yelling – up for the belayer and down for the climber – and use a big outdoor voice.

6) Don’t leave your backpack, shoes, misc gear, etc scattered around the start of a multi-pitch route. Your yard sale is ugly and disrespectful to anyone else that shows up to climb that route after you’ve started up but before you are back down. Tuck your stuff far enough away from the start of the route so every one can have the same experience when they start climbing.

7) Don’t chalk up your hands and then go hand-searching for the best hold to use for your next move. Now all of the sucker holds have chalk on them for no reason. Find your good hold, and then chalk your hand to make the move. This will lessen the impact of chalk all over the route.

8) When rappelling or being lowered off a route, your feet are more likely to break off rocks and send them towards your belayer and anyone else below you because your feet are hitting areas that don’t get touched on the way up. Always yell “ROCK!” when this happens.

9) If you drop a biner, yell “ROCK!” If you drop your ATC, yell “ROCK!” If anything at all is heading towards your belayer yell “ROCK!” If you are the belayer and you hear “ROCK!” fight the urge to look up. It is best to tuck under your helmet and hope for the best.

10) Loud conversations around the base of the crag while climbers are climbing is annoying at least and dangerous at worse. Keep your conversations to a soft, indoor voice level. And try to keep conversations with the belayer to a minimum.

by Heather Witt

Spicy Beef and Tomato Couscous (courtesy of Backpacker Magazine)

6 pieces dried tomato, chopped
¾ cup shredded beef jerky
2 cubes (2 tsp.) vegetable bouillon
2 tbsp. dried minced onions
1 tbsp. dried chopped chives
1 tbsp. cumin seed
½ tsp. dried minced garlic
½ tsp. fine sea salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups water
2 tbsp. ghee (recipe below)
1 ½ cups couscous

At Home: shred jerky in a blender. Mix all ingredients except water, ghee, and couscous, and seal in a zip-top bag

In Camp: Bring water and ghee to a boil in a medium saucepan. Mix in contents of bag, boiling for 8-10 minutes. Stir in couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Wait 5 minutes, toss & serve. Yields 6 cups.

Place 1 lb unsalted butter in a saucepan and melt over medium heat, bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low. Foam will form on top. Return to low boil for 8 minutes, until particles are a golden brown. Strain clarified liquid into a glass jar using a cheese cloth or fine mesh sieve. Cover with lid; discard particles. Keeps at room temperature for several weeks or in fridge up to 6 months.


Matt Riley

Where were you born?
Windsor, Massachusetts

How long have you lived in Las Vegas?
I have lived in Las Vegas for 7 years.

What is your occupation?
Assistant Director of Retail Planning at Wynn Las Vegas (In short I'm the Retail nerd)

How long have you been an LVMC member?
I have been an LVMC member for 3 years.

What is your favorite hike/climb?
I think one of my all time favorite hikes is Lady Mountain in Zion. It is a great hike that offers a good amount of vertical, a little technical ability, and some incredible views from the top (and if you're very adventurous, you can descend into Jacob Canyon). A very close second would be the Maze at Red Rock.

What is the most challenging hike/climb you have done?
My most challenging would have to be Bridge Mountain in Zion. Not sure what it was, but that one freaked me out a little.

How did you get into hiking/climbing?
Back home I was always outdoorsy and active, but the moment I rolled into town and set eyes on these magnificent mountains, I knew where I needed to be.

What are your hobbies other than hiking/climbing?
When I'm not in the mountains you can find me down doggin' at the local yoga studio. There is nothing better than a good stretch after a killer hike.


President: Dan Young
Vice President/Training Director: Richard Baugh
Secretary: Sue Schager
Treasurer: Lynda Gallia
Newsletter Editor: Joel Brewster
Outings Director: Jose Witt
Membership Director: Eric Kassan
Website Director: Amy Brewster
Public Relations/Marketing Director: Matt Riley
Club Gear Director: Dan Young
Social Director: Heather Witt
Communty Outreach Director: Michelle Napoli

The Ascender is the quarterly 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. July 15th 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 in the next three months, unless you have recently renewed it:

James Cho
Jonathan Chong
David Farley
Arin Finch
Paul Kuroda
Matthew Laue
Matthew Morris
Alda Behie
Aleksandr Erdoglyan
Pat Hooper
Judy Kelly
Stanley Labanowski
Valerie McNay
Minas Mike Mkhitarian
Andrew Phair
Jenny Ramirez
Mark Rosen
Minghung Tan
Jon Trimble


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, May 28, 2014

Hiking the Length of the Grand Canyon Under the Rim
Andrew Holycross



Wednesday, June 25, 2014



Wednesday, July 23, 2014


LVMC | Contact | Calendar | Newsletters | Message Board | Join Us | Members Area

©2002-11 Las Vegas Mountaineers Club, all rights reserved.
Dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of the mountains.
Website Problems. Contact Us.