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Ascender Title
Spring 2015
Volume 21, Issue 2

OTROS PICOS!

Winter 2014-2015
Report & Photos by Harlan Stockman

Introduction

The Desert Peaks Section (DPS) of the Sierra Club lists four peaks in Mexico. A few years back, I joined some friends on a climb of the most notable of the four: Picacho del Diablo in Baja. That was an enlightening exposure, both as an outdoor adventure and as a cultural experience. The “other” Mexican peaks are Cerro del Pinacate, Cerro del Pescadores, and Pico Risco. I really had no intention of going back for the last three Mexican peaks, which looked to be rather lumpy and arid.

But I set about making gps-compatible maps for those “other” peaks, after my experience of finding sparse and incorrect topographic information for Picacho del Diablo. In the process of making the maps, I had to read a lot of trip reports, to reconcile errors in the digital elevation models. It was a fun bit of detective work, and was augmented by the first programming I had done since retiring in 2009. Slowly I was drawn in by the sometimes-creepy stories of these mountains, and a few pictures of breath-taking scenery. So I posted feelers on the LVMC board, to see if people were amenable to a trip for these summits. Jodie showed consistent interest; up to four other people planned to join us, and we were happy for the “safety in numbers.” But all the other folks dropped out, often right before the trips and for good reasons, so we went “alone.”

I enjoyed these peaks. They involved modest difficulty in travel (especially because I wasn’t driving), and there was an exotic air. But they are a long ways off, so maybe you can combine them with other peaks on the way. There are enough impediments involved in going into Mexico, that you should view any other accomplishment as icing on the cake.

These peaks are relatively safe (Pinacate and Risco more so than Pescadores), partly because they are close to the border in areas that (currently) have little drug traffic. Pescadores has an interesting history with the Sierra Club; one group was intercepted by the Mexican army (and that ended well), and one group found mummified human remains en route (and that ended well for DPS, but not for the corpses).

If you have any intention of trying these peaks, read the last section first. This is not your father’s Oldsmobile. I have gps info for the hikes, and for the drives on paved and dirt roads; contact me if you want that info. If you just want a travelogue, carry on...

Pinacate

Pinacate sits in a vast volcanic field, and far more people go to that area (a United Nations Biosphere Park) to see the deep impressive craters, than to climb the mountains. Edward Abbey (of “Monkey Wrench Gang” fame) loved this place, and signed in the register back in 1968 (more on that later).

Map of Pinacate area

Jodie picked me up in Vegas at 6:30AM on Dec 27, for the long drive down to Organ Pipe National Monument, in very southern Arizona. We arrived around 2PM, and I insisted on finding a campsite that had shade, which Jodie found rather amusing. It was around 34F at night and we weren’t there much in the daylight, and when we were, we were moving chairs around to get last bit of sun’s warmth.

We got up early the next morn, planning to be at the border (5 miles away) when the gates opened at 6AM. The bored border guards were a bit late, but let us through without showing interest in our passports. Then we quickly drove the 34 miles to the Pinacate National Park, arrived at 6:45AM... to find that it didn’t open till 9AM. I walked around to pass the time, and caught the attention of the Mexican caretaker. Fortunately he was pretty fluent in English, and the three of us had a pleasant conversation. After a few minutes, he decided to let us in 2 hours early... so we started the drive on the dirt roads. I was glad we had Jodie’s Wrangler; but frankly the road would be drivable in a less-capable vehicle (I would have no qualms about taking my Subaru).

Closed gate for Pinacate

Then began the hike challenges, which can be summarized as: sharp very uneven lava; lots of cactus; and steep extremely annoying talus. Our navigation skills were spent trying to find a route that avoided the “jumping cholla,” pieces of which stuck on our boots then spiked us in the calves.

Sharp frozen lava flow

We got to the top early, where there were mellow views of the Sea of Cortez, and the volcanic craters all around.

In foreground are volcanic cones; in the middle are buff-colored sand dunes; and in back is Sea of Cortez.

View from summit of Pinacate east to Carnegie Peak

We decided to go back over Carnegie Peak, which was actually less annoying; we stayed near the cactus so we could use a stabler slope, and amazingly managed to avoid getting spiked. We ran down the talus slope from Carnegie, and found a route by deep volcanic throats and lava tubes. The hike out was pretty uneventful, except I managed to give us more sharp lava to appreciate.

View from Carnegie, back west to Cerro del Pinacate

Vertical lava tube feeder for volcanic eruption

We drove back to the gate, and dutifully waited to pay for our visit. We met the fellow who kindly let us in that morning, which was fortunate, because his boss (who dealt with financial transactions) didn’t speak English, and was at a loss to translate pesos into US dollars (interesting, as half the visitors to the park are from the US). While I was trying to pay our bill, a college prof came up and told me he was with Abbey for his climb in 1968, when Abbey was totally drunk (that could have made an interesting descent through the cacti). I began to suspect this prof was a bit drunk.

We drove back on MX route 8, noticing all the nearby mountains that looked more impressive than Pinacate, and wondered why the DPS had settled on this peculiar mound. Possibly the answer is safety and accessibility – national park status assures access (except when the park is randomly closed for obtuse reasons – see trip report by Matt Hengst at FirstChurchoftheMasochist). We cruised quickly through the US border checkpoint, and actually got to show our passports.

We got back to Pipe Organ for a glorious sunset.

Sunset at Organ Pipe campground in AZ

We climbed Ajo in AZ the next day, then drove to Mopah (2x for me), for a 4-peak trip. The extra peaks helped justify the long drive!

Cerro Pescadores

We left Vegas around 2:30PM January 30, and planned for a 6 hour drive to El Centro CA, where I had booked a couple cheap motel rooms. Initially we were supposed to meet 3-4 other people at the parking lot of Walmart at 6:30AM, but they all cancelled within days of the trip, so we were stuck with this the 15 mile drive to the border crossing at Calexico/Mexicali. First up was Cerro Pescadores (“Mountain of the Smelly Fishermen”).

Map for Pescadores and Pico Risco. 1a is our route on the way in to Risco when the “dry” lakebed was covered with mud; 1b is the route we took back when the lakebed was truly dry. The default route is labeled 2; this is the wet-weather route, which is reputed to be VERY washboarded and at least 1 hour longer.

Immediately we had a sense that things were different. As we neared the border, a Mexican man decided to emigrate, by running through the crossing to the US side. One border agent was chasing him, but the odds for catching him didn’t look that good. (Such occurrences are normal; our friends went 3 weeks later, and watched 2 folks climb the fence into the US while they waited on the MX side of the crossing, explaining to the US guards why they had terrible items such as fruit and luncheon meats bought in CA.)

Our next act was to get lost in north Mexicali. I knew we had to keep right, but the Mexican drivers didn’t agree. That’s when the off-line “Navigator” app on my Nexus tablet was actually useful; it routed us through some back streets of Mexicali, toward MX route 5. Soon the city gave way to agricultural areas, and after about 35 miles on route 5, we were ready for the next challenge: navigating the garbage dump on the east side of the road, between us and Pescadores.

OK, that’s a bit harsh; it’s really a tire pit, ever-expanding, so the road was even a little different when our friends went through 3 weeks later. (In the US, we automatically recycle tires; apparently tire disposal is a big issue in MX.) The tire pit is actually in just the first half mile of a 5 mile drive. The DPS instructions here are woefully inadequate, and I mainly worked off GPS tracks from Matt Hengst’s trip in 2014. You have to drive around the pit, sometimes on the very edge, which is not a comforting experience. There were comical aspects to the pit; apparently they are trying to preserve some species of tree, and there are pillars of ground that rise high above the pit floor, each topped by a lonely tree. Jodie was fascinated by the randomness of garbage dumped along the road; it was fairly similar to some of the garbage I would see dumped on BLM land in NV, except it wasn’t filled with bullet holes.

Soon the random garbage thins out (but does not altogether disappear), and the next challenge appears: deep sand. This is where 4wd helps a lot, and the traction strips were waiting should we bog down. Jodie navigated like an expert, though at times it felt like we were on the back of a manatee swimming through jello. We stopped about 0.5 miles from the “end” of the road, unwilling to bet on the depth of the sand. (We could have driven that stretch, but both agreed walking would make us relax more.)

The route consists of navigating scenic washes till you see a pointed boulder way up on a ridge; then you mount the ridge and aim for that boulder. Immediately you realize this is not going to be a walk in the park; it’s DPS class 2 in the same sense that Spectre Peak is class 2. The ridge is loose in places, very rocky, and one has to pick the way carefully to avoid cliffs.

Sandy washes on way to Pescadores

Roughness of terrain

At the top of the ridge, we skirted some pinnacles, and then I made the first significant questionable choice. I saw that one of the old tracks on my gps indicated a route over the goblinesque rocks at left, filled with caves; and one indicated dropping to a little into a hidden valley at right. We opted for left, and were soon clambering across ever-sketchier granite covered with sand. After losing about 15 minutes, we got back into the correct wash, and were soon at the summit. Views were incredibly clear to the east (very unusual for the normally smog-filled route 5 valley), and the Sea of Cortez looked magical; but the west was shrouded in rain clouds, so one couldn’t really see Pico Risco. After weeks of worrying about potential heat, it was actually cool, and we began to worry more about rain and getting mired in the sand on the road.

Goblin Rocks

Summit of Pescadores, view west

I kept looking for shortcuts on the way down, and managed to add about 150’ extra gain and a quarter mile, before deciding it was most prudent to follow our old track. We got a tiny spitting of rain, but then the sun came out and for a few minutes we were downright hot.

We got to the car, and had an uneventful drive out... except the gate entry to the tire dump was now closed. It took me about 2 minutes to undo the rickety closure, and we pulled back onto MX rte 5, reclosed the gate, and headed north. In 15 minutes or so, we did one of the interesting u-turns common in MX, then headed west on routes 2D and 2 for the drive to Canon Guadalupe and Pico Risco.

Pico Risco

Once you are on MX route 2 west (to Tijuana), there are two options for driving down to Canon Guadalupe: the eastern route through Laguna Salada, a dry lake bed (you hope); or the western high route, known for being incredibly washboarded and miserably slow. The folks who run Guadalupe Oasis Hot Springs told us the eastern route was dry and in good shape, so we opted for that approach (PLEASE don’t plan on taking that road without calling them first). We made another u-turn off route 2, and headed back east to the south turn across Laguna Salada.

Now for some more culture. There was a smiling, overweight guy at the turn; he had stretched a chain across the entry. He and his wife had set up lawn chairs next to a nice SUV; he said we had to pay $10 to go across the Laguna. We suspected this was goofy, but after a moment, said what the Hell and gave the guy $10 (fortunately, Mexico accepts US dollars for bribes).

We began driving south, and our first discovery was that the lake bed wasn’t quite dry; Jodie’s Wrangler began to skid sideways, like a drunken manatee on a hockey rink filled with chocolate pudding, and got hilariously covered in mud in very limited areas – like the door handles. We saw a distant track from someone who had negotiated the lake bed, and that track was pretty good; soon we were cruising south at about 40 mph. We connected with the western road by an olive orchard, and soon the route got successively rougher till it seemed like a 4x4 road. At this point, we noticed Pico Risco, rising above the canyon, looking beautiful and rather foreboding, but not at all muddy.

We started driving through palm trees up to the hot springs, and were greeted by folks who were quite fluent in English. They felt bad that we had paid for camping for 5 people, and gave us a site with a hot tub. Within 15 minutes Jodie was friends with everyone in the camp, and had learned that guy who charged us $10 had done so illegally. I was pretty beat, and quickly fell asleep, even though the neighbors were partying a bit.

Next morn I woke up early, and began exploring by headlamp to find the way across the stream. The way seemed trivial; just head NW on the road till it crossed the stream. Jodie started to stir in her Jeep, and we hit the stream crossing at first light.

Pico Risco was pretty awesome in the rose glow of morning. Soon we were negotiating a rat’s nest of trails, and crossed out of Canon Guadalupe, to the drainage that eventually runs down the north side of Risco.

Rose glow on Pico Risco. The arrow points to our route up; the “normal” DPS route heads up the wash at right.

When we got closer to the mountain, I could see the “wash,” which we were supposed to use, was full of absolutely huge boulders. I thought we should try to keep left, near the cliffs, as long as we could; I hadn’t seen any obstacles from afar. Fortunately, we were able to sidehill and avoid cliffs, which was good, because the wash was now far below. We cut left to intercept the southern ridge about 900’ from the summit.

Here’s where the mountain got enjoyable, and occasionally creepy. We started hiking among, and clambering over, huge boulders. We were looking for a route that moved to the west side of the ridge, then cut back to the east side trough a “keyhole” tunnel. At one point I did some exploration to where I thought the tunnel should be, but there were no cairns, and no sign of wear on the rocks. So I backed off and found another way to skirt the cliffs on the east side (it turns out I was actually about 10’ from the tunnel when I turned back!). We went over some spooky terrain, but always found a way. I actually passed the summit, then looked back and saw the famous “step-across” which we two negotiated in different ways.

Jodie on step-across; it’s shakier on the way back.

Jodie below step-across

On the way back, we were about to reverse our sketchy traverse, when I looked right and saw the keyhole. We went through it, and sure enough, it was exactly where I thought it should be. When we got down to the sandy wash WSW of the summit, we decided to try the DPS route back; it couldn’t be worse than the route we took up, could it?

Keyhole below summit

Yes. While it was fun, it was challenging; the downclimb got progressively steeper and the boulders seemed to get bigger. Jodie and I alternated route-finding; we often had to zig-zag 3x the straight-line distance to avoid 30’ drops. The boulders reared up like huge drunken stone manatees. It was like First Creek Canyon on steroids, with less brush the more we descended. We finally started to see cairns, and followed a confusing spiderweb of paths, to get back to the car after 2PM; this was the first DPS summit where the “suggested time” was close to our actual time (we’re usually faster), and the DPS estimate of distance should be multiplied by 2. The return time down the wash may take as long as the ascent.

Jodie at top of wash

Jodie on house-sized boulders

Jodie’s jeep at our campground. She spent blissful nights in the jeep, I in a tent, where it was slightly noisier.

We had reserved 2 nights at Guadalupe Oasis hot springs “just in case,” but were anxious to hit the road on the lake bed before dark, and knew we might have a wait at the border. So we bid hasta luego to the staff (who seemed truly disappointed that we chose to go early), and took off. The lake bed had totally dried out, and we were able to hit 50 mph at times. We had a plan for me to jump out and take the chain off before the gatekeeper could get out to charge us; but he was gone (probably in church). Soon the Navigator app was routing us through the streets of Mexicali, where we had a 90+ minute wait to get back to the US side of the border. When we finally made to checkpoint, they asked us if we were bringing back anything from Mexico, and we said “mud.” That seemed to amuse them. In any case, we were anxious to start the LONG drive home.

Summary

We both agreed Pico Risco was the nicest of the three. I’m not much into hot springs, but it would be a shame to rush to Canon Guadalupe and not absorb some of that vibe. There is actually an “easier” way to the mountain from the west, but it involves a lot more walking through high desert. Pinacate seemed like the lamest, but it is really close to Organ Pipe, so it would be a silly to miss a visit, if you are already down to climb Ajo and Kino. I also wish we had more time to visit the other volcanic features in the Pinacate Biosphere park; I bet it would be neat to camp there. Perhaps if you could find a time when the cholla were not dropping abundant buds (those pieces of cacti that end up in your legs) it might be a lot more fun, or at least, a lot less annoying. Pescadores was the shakiest, in terms of navigation through the unstable roads by the tire pit, and somehow the hike was a lot harder than I thought, but that actually made it interesting. In retrospect, I enjoyed all the peaks.

Q & A: Preliminaries

0) Will my smartphone help me find the way? Well, if you have a service in MX, it might; but chances are you don’t, and roaming cell service will be quite expensive. However, there are some off-line programs that will give you decent directions in MX. These programs pre-load all maps, and just require the GPS in your smartphone/tablet – they don’t need cell service. Just make sure you get an app with maps for Mexico; applications that can use the free OSM (Open Street Map) data work well enough. Some of the commercial ventures (like Tom-Tom) may charge you for MX maps, but last I heard, many of the not-free maps were worse than OSM. I had installed “Navigator”(by MapFactor) on my Nexus tablet (Android OS, but the program is also available for iOS), and it did a decent job with routing via OSM, taking us on an interesting tour of the slums of Mexicali when we missed a turn. You won’t needmore than basic directions for Pinacate, but Mexicali (on the way to the other peaks) may be a little more confusing.

1) Do I need a Tourist Card (or FMM -- this is issued in MX, and is NOT your passport)? The answer seems to be no, especially for Risco and Pinacate, as long as you stay in Mexico less than 72 hours. For short stays, there is a border zone that does not require a tourist visa, augmented by vaguely-defined “tourist corridors.” The border zone is variously described as 20, 30, and 35 kilometers from the border, but the tourist corridors may extend for 100 km. The road to Pinacate is in the Sonoyta–Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) tourist corridor, and does not require a visa for short stays. The folks who operate Guadalupe Canyon insist their property does not require a tourist visa... even though it is located 56 km from the border as the crow flies. So what about Pescadores? The dirt road to Pescadores in 29 km from the border as the crow flies. Some people who have traveled from Mexicali to San Felipe on MX route 5 (past the Pescadores dirt road) have tried to buy a tourist visa in Mexicali, only to be told it was a waste of money.

There is one reason to get a tourist card, even if officially it isn’t needed: so you don’t give the Policia one more reason to roll you and charge you $4000 to get your car back from them. This sort of thing hasn’t happened (much) recently.

2) Where should I park my car if I’m meeting people to carpool to Mexico? The answer is easiest for Pinacate. You can camp for a few days at Organ Pipe, just 5 miles from the border at Lukeville; or you can pay $12/day to park your car at the ABC Gringo gas station, on the west (right) side of the road right before the port of entry at the border. This site is likely very safe, because the border patrol guards look down into the lot as they patrol the area. For Pescadores and Risco, there are similar pay-for-parking stations in the town of Calexico, right on the US side of the border. In recent years, people met at the Walmart superstore in El Centro, and left cars there, as there is 24-hour parking and security. However, California has been clamping down on overnight stays at Walmart; supposedly this ordinance is limited to car-camping.

3) Do I need Mexican car insurance? Yes! Make sure you get some vandalism coverage. The site bajabound.com is probably your simplest option, but many border stores (in the US!) sell insurance.

4) Do I need a passport? Yes! You can get the traditional passport book, but if you are just traveling to Mexico and back, the passport card is a lot more convenient and fits in your wallet (I take both, in case I lose one).

5) Are there items I must not take to Mexico/back to the US? Be sensible; you will probably go to Mexico for at most two nights for these peaks. Skip guns, raw meat and large (really large) amounts of alcohol. There are online resources to tell you what is forbidden; see the full list at http://www.mexadventure.com/MexicoTravel/Prohibited_Items_Mexico.cfm.

The MX border guards will probably not bother to search your car on the way in. Your problems will more likely occur when you come back through to the US; if you have a newbie border guard, you may get questioned for a long time about items that you actually brought in from the US—firewood, meats, etc. For these peaks, there is no reason to buy anything other than gas in MX. Remember that CA has an extremely strict open container law, but the federal officers are not obliged to enforce.

6) Are there bad times to cross the border? The border near Lukeville (AZ) is open from 6AM to midnight, and is rarely crowded. The border in Mexicali is open 24/7. But in Mexicali, if you try to re-enter the US on a Sunday eve or after any holiday weekend, you may wait for 2 hours.

7) Do I need Mexican pesos? No, not if you stick to buying gas and simple items. We had one toll on MX route 2D where the woman asked for MX pesos, then made a quick calculation for US dollars. Gas stations (run by the state) will accept US dollars and Visa. People accepting bribes will take US dollars. Know the exchange rate before you head down.

8) Is it safe for US citizens? Be reasonable. Don’t be an ugly American, and don’t be overly obvious. Your biggest danger might be in dealing with the Policia. The posted speed limits are often ridiculously slow, so just pull up in back of a truck (probably speeding) and go the speed of traffic or LESS. You won’t have far to drive on the highways, and the dirt roads will take up most of your time.

9) Should I bring any emergency gear for my vehicle? None of these areas are truly remote, but it would be pretty annoying to have a breakdown, or to get mired in the mud or sand. I would bring a shovel, traction strips, a tow strap, a portable battery jumper and pump, and a tire plug kit, plus lots of water. Check your spare before you leave, and practice taking it on and off. Nowadays you can buy a very small battery jumper that works off Li-ion batteries, and you can use it to run or charge other gear.

10) Should I go when it is hot? NO! Are you crazy? You will read about folks getting driven off these low peaks by sleet, but the general rule is that it gets hot down there from late March through October, and the sun is merciless, even when the air temp is below 70F. That said, there may be windows of opportunity, so it is best if you can be flexible and pick a weekend when it is cool. Remember that some of these roads will be treacherous after a rain, and the boulders on Risco and Pescadores would get very slippery. Temperatures at Risco and Pescadores are moderated somewhat by the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez, and the hottest time is actually late summer; but daytime temps are typically 90F in the canyon by May.


DEATH VALLEY PEAKBAGGING

February 13-16, 2015
Report by "GoRuck Ryan", Photos by Joel Brewster

RJ trudges up the steep wash under the blazing midday sun.

Looking NE to Funeral Peak from near top of Smith Mountain

One for each other and all for one..the three brave LVMC'ers were we. We left Las Vegas at 9 am and departed for Death Valley . We parked at a small pullout on what was supposed to be a terrible road, (it turns out we could have driven another mile or so) and set off for Smith Mountain around 11 am. After a 30 minutes of hiking on a dirt road, we cut across soft sandy burms toward our first peak of a four day Presidents' Day weekend.

When making our approach in the afternoon sun, we were quickly reminded of the intense heat which typically reigns in this forbidding area aptly named Death Valley. A long uphill scramble up very fine scree and sand in a warm ravine was enough to get our blood pumping and even feel like a slighty rude awakening to anyone who has "showered since Eagle Peak". After a few false peaks we finally reached the summit and peered 6,000 ft below to the salt flats which attract thousands seeking to get "low" instead of "high". A dry and delirious jaunt down powdery slopes of sandy soil saw that we had just enough sunlight to make it to our vehicles to enjoy a cold beverage. After a short drive in the dark, we stumbled onto more travel companions (Jim and Lorraine) and a massive remnant of some old mining equipment.

Summit photo on Smith Mountain

Jodie descending off the Smith Mountain ridge

A swimming pool? Not what you expect to find near your camp in the middle of Death Valley!

The next morning we took plenty of photos with an abandoned summer camp that "came out of nowhere" at our camp site. We braved the burro road to our next trailhead below Manly Peak adjacent to a sheet metal cabin (Russell Camp) that would make Charles Manson blush. With a total of four hikers and a loyal cheering section of one (Lorraine), we made our ascent. Stakes marked a use trail most of the way until large class 2 boulders had us divided. It was every man and woman for themselves as large ravens circled ominously almost as if they might dare to pick one of us off the mountain. After 3,000' of ascent we reached a rocky saddle filled with deep and soft sand that forgave careless footing very little. Before we could decide whether winding use-trails or soft sand was the bigger foe, we reached the twisted spire of gargantuan granite slabs constituting the summit of Manly Peak. We circumnavigated nearly 300 degrees before we found a chink in the armor of the golem. After some snacks, socks, photo shoots, and head scratching, we all did our best to take the form of bubble gum and wedge our way up a twelve-foot crack to mount the summit. Once there, we took in a panoramic view and defied death by crowding the peak to maximum occupancy. With some easily placed webbing we each made our way down with a modicum of grace. The descent was predictably expedient, almost to the point of anti-climax; we made it down in less than half the time it took to go up!

The awkward class 3-4 chimney to reach the summit of Manly Peak

RJ on the summit of Manly Peak

Summit Photo on Manly Peak...LSU Tigers???

Jodie with Striped Butte from along our descent route from Manly

At this point, most of us had only one thing on our mind...booty. Striped Butte was magnificent from the descent route on Manly. After pardoning ourselves along a road suddenly swarming with four-wheel enthusiasts, we promptly demonstrated that wheels were just a means to an end and not the end themselves. Only three of the most experienced peakbaggers were hearty enough to summit and return from the dramatic protrusion from the desert floor called Striped Butte in under two hours AFTER having a few beers to create the "mood". That night burros remained vigilant around our camp site while we slept like the rocks around us.

Enjoying beverages on top of Striped Butte

Jodie descending Striped Butte

A burro checking us out

The next morning, a very welcome shaded ascent eased the steepness of Needle Peak. A slightly grassier foothill with reddish, sharp rock set this area apart. Ample loose scrambles through stubborn but curious rock formations kept our focus until we reached the saddle. After a report of a small snake we finally reached the summit where more panoramas, snacking, and self-indulgent photos coupled with summit stories took place. On the descent, a few of us got "closer" to the earth - some of us on our backs, some on our butts, but no injuries. Once we descended Needle we drove a tour de force of Death Valley passing through Furnace Creek and through Stovepipe Wells, narrowly avoiding a Mad Max scenario at an inoperable gas station on our way to the final leg of our trip minus one hiker, Jodie, who headed home.

Negotiating steep, rough terrain en route to Needle Peak

A cool little cave along our ascent route up Needle

Summit photo on Needle

Low on gas, we rode through a winding canyon to make camp in Cottonwood Canyon near a grove of cedar trees and a spring. That night we gazed at the stars and although the distances we traveled were great, even distant galaxies seemed within reach. That next morning we set out for Canyon Point. A unique obstacle was a steep 30 ft climb right out of the gate to start. With that out of the way, our southern approach route offered very little shade. We found ourselves attacking the rocky class 2 ledges on the nearest ridge. Animal bones of all sorts dotted the treeless, brushless rolling landscape. Several hours of plodding and ledging took us to a mismarked summit. After signing the register and pondering the motive and solitude of legendary hikers before us, we sprinted down the slope back to camp at a record rate; we descended 2000' in 20 minutes!


Jim ascending a steep slope on the way to Canyon Point

Summit photo on the summit block of Canyon Point

We were back at camp in one third of the time it took us to ascend. All there was left to do was celebrate by binge-eating and praying that we had enough gas to get back to Stovepipe. Low on gas, but full of fond memories, we picked up some last minute, over-priced, poor nutrition snacks in addition to the necessary gas, and meandered our way back to the concrete jungle from which we escaped, remarking on nearly every peak we could see along the way home.

A large cave along the road through Cottonwood Canyon


CLIMBER'S CORNER
by Dan Young

SAFER LOWERING

PREVENT ACCIDENTS WITH BEST PRACTICES FOR CLEAR COMMUNICATION

Lowering a climbing partner is one of the most common situations that leads to injuries and rescues in Accidents in North American Mountaineering, the American Alpine Club’s annual analysis of climbing accidents. During the past few years alone, dozens of people, including well-known climbers such as Dave MacLeod, Shingo Ohkawa, and Phil Powers, have suffered serious injuries when they plummeted to the ground while being lowered off short climbs. The “Know the Ropes” section of the 2013 edition of Accidents looks at common causes of lowering accidents and provides some best practices for preventing them. Miscommunication between climber and belayer was the direct cause of nearly a quarter of all lowering accidents reported over the past 10 years – and likely contributed to others – so here are a few factors to evaluate for maximum safety.

The three key problems with communication between climber and belayer are
1) environmental (weather, distance between climbers, traffic noise, etc.),
2) unclear understanding of command language (what do “take”, “tension”, “in direct”, and “I’m off belay” mean to each person?)
3) unclear understanding of the intentions of the belayer and climber (will the climber lower or rappel?).

The next Climber’s Corner will cover “Noisy Environment”, “Clear Commands”, and "Explicit Intentions” as they relate to lowering.

From Climbing magazine no. 323 March 2014


BACKCOUNTRY COOKING
by Heather Witt

French Onion Soup

4 1-cup servings or 1 big ol' bowl for yourself!

2 onions cut into rings
2 tblsp olive oil
4 pieces of french bread
4 cubes beef bouillon
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese

At home:
Sauté onions in oil until browned but not scorched (about 10 minutes). Place oinions on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Cube bread.

Dry bread and onions in a dehydrator or oven at 130 degrees. When cool, place onions and bread in separate zip top bags. Pack bouillon and cheese separately.

On the trail:
Cover onions with 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Allow to rehydrate. Add crushed bouillon and 2 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil and stir until bouillon is completely dissolved. Remove from heat, add bread and cheese. Cover and let stand 3 minutes. Enjoy!


 

LVMC MONTHLY BIO FEATURE
Lori Curry

 


Where were you born?
Sterling, Illinois

How long have you lived in Las Vegas?
Almost 10 years

What is your occupation?
Desk jockey

How long have you been an LVMC member?
About 8 years

What is your favorite hike/climb?
In the “have done” category: Long traverses like the Schells and three to five peaks in Red Rock and classics like Bridge Mountain and Wilson; not to mention how cool it was to do Muir, Whitney and Russell in a day. Fond memories. These days, I enjoy hikes with dogs and friends and don’t much mind where we go.

What is the most challenging hike/climb you have done?
Langley via Old Army Pass was the most technically challenging due to snow conditions. Great help along the way though, thank goodness, from Paul Kuroda and Sergio. Mentally, the Schell traverse was tough because I was up there alone and needed to make it down before dark and had altitude issues. Thankfully, Eric Kassan was there for me on the radio providing support.

How did you get into hiking/climbing?
You start out putting one foot in front of the other, and the next thing you know, you’ve completed some random club list and they are calling you a mountaineer.

What are your hobbies other than hiking/climbing?
Time with friends, canyoneering, house projects, reading, backpacking and hiking with my dogs. And, Downton Abbey.


LAS VEGAS MOUNTAINEERS CLUB
BOARD OF DIRECTORS


President: Matt Riley
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: Minas Mkhitarian
Club Gear Director: Dan Young
Social Director: Kristi Meyer
Community Outreach Director: Michelle Napoli

Director At-Large:Jim Morehouse

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. June 20th is the deadline for the next issue.

SUBMIT ARTICLES TO:
Joel Brewster
E-mail: web@lvmc.org

Hikers

CLUB MEMBERSHIP

RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP ONLINE

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:


Thomas Sakowych
Collin & Laura Christenbury
Larry Dwyer
Cory Gozar
Nish Kantaria
Fabrienne Bowman
Kevin Ford
Aaron Goodwin
Ame Hidalgo
Kathy Kelbel
Judy Kelly
Paul Kuroda
Rachel Stewart
Dan Young & Lynda Gallia

CLUB GEAR

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
Helmets
Bear Barrels
Alpine Axes*
Snowshoes
Strap-on Crampons*
Hiking Boots
Climbing Shoes
Carabiners
Quickdraw

Quantity
1
8
3
5
8
7
2
2
18
1


Grigris
Harnesses
Slings
Cordalette
Belay Devices

Belay Plate
Ice Tool
Ice Screws

Deadman Anchors
Quantity
4
5
15
1
4
1
3
8
4

*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.

Gear

CLICK HERE FOR LVMC EVENT CALENDAR

GENERAL MEETINGS

The Las Vegas Mountaineers meet on the 4th WEDNESDAY of the month at 7 pm at REI in Summerlin.

 

APRIL

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I Survived
Joe Cain

 

MAY

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

TBA
TBA

JUNE

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Preservation and Protection of Nevada's Cultural Resources
Nevadans for Cultural Preservation


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