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Winter 2016
Volume 22, Issue 1


Summer 2012
Report & Photos by Mina Mkhitarian

The California Conservation Corps (CCC) Backcountry Trails Program has been at it for 36 years supplying trail crews to serve in America’s parks and forests. From Yosemite National Park to Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the program really covers some ground. Applicants range from 18-25 years old and sign on to this motto: “Hard work, low pay, miserable conditions…and more!”

In 2012 I spent 5 months living in a 2-person tent (awesome!) and working on a CCC Backcountry Trail Crew in the Stanislaus National Forest. I can’t in any succinct way explain what drew me to the program. All I can say is that I had an irresistible desire to experience wilderness. More than that though, I wanted to give myself completely to something greater than myself – the forest and community of the 18 people I lived and worked with during my season 2. Through this experience I went from the lowest point in my life to the highest, literally and figuratively. In the literal sense, I went from the Las Vegas valley to the Sierras! But beyond that I transformed from weakness, depression, and constant angst to an extraordinary strength, motivation, and peace. It was a time when I found hope anew and realized that there is still good in the world. Such an experience is impossible to quantify, yet undoubtedly valuable. All made possible through this underfunded and little known CCC Backcountry Trails Program.

I went to visit a Backcountry Trail Crew this summer that was working in the Trinity Alps Wilderness of Shasta-Trinity National Forest. One of the leaders of my crew, John Goodwin, was leading another and I wanted to say hello because I was in the neighborhood. John has been leading Backcountry Trail Crews for over 20 years. The following story is about that trip – the adventure, the place, and the trailwork that makes so many of our outdoor adventures possible.

After a 600 mile drive from Los Angeles to the trailhead, 12 miles of which were off-road in my little Toyota sedan, I geared up and started hiking Boulder Lake Trail towards the crew’s camp. The first thing I realized was that the poor air quality I was attributing to nasty California smog was, instead, smoke - smoke so thick and foggy that you could taste it! Then 100 yards from the trailhead, I was startled by the sound of something big and fast running off the trail and into the bushes. I figured it was a bear (which I later verified by looking at the tracks) and it dawned on me…I’m alone in an unfamiliar place surrounded by unfamiliar creatures. So, kind of worried about bears and fire and my own shadow, I somehow mustered the courage to keep trekking. As I was hiking,I began singing and shouting as I walked in order to give the next bear a heads up!

My goal for the day was to blitz my way all the way to the Crew’s camp. I arrived at the halfway point, Boulder Lake, about 1 hour before it got dark. Still nervous and on the edge I decided to play it safe and make camp, leaving the rest of my hike for the following morning. I put up my tent, set up mypad and bag, and verified what I already knew – I had the whole lake to myself. One part of me was really excited for the solitude, and the other afraid. Anyhow, I wasted no time getting in my birthday suit and going for a swim. I was baptized by the Trinity Alps.

Still feeling like prey on alert for a predator, I proceeded to prepare my supper - good ol’ l Mac-N-Cheese. As evening set in, I began to calm and reconnect with my primal, intuitive self. I improvised a short piece of paracord to hang my food, I created a noise maker to keep in my tent to ward off wildlife (a hardhat and tent stake combo), and I crawled into my tent for my first night alone in bear country. I can humbly say that never before have I so related to the following John Muir quote:

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

My last night was in stark contrast to my first - I didn’t even set up my tent. I just slept out with my pad and bag, calmer then I’ve been in months. Oh yes, and no noise maker. John Muir was right! Wilderness is a necessity.

The next morning, I awoke to a fresh start and an excitement to reach John and the crew. I cleaned camp, had my oatmeal, and started for the trail. I made my destination just as the Crew was heading out for a day’s work. After a warm welcome from John, I unloaded my big pack and set off to volunteer for the day. On our way to the project sights, John was showcasing all of the work that had been done on the trail so far. I was impressed.

Trails are complex in their engineering, more so than the average hiker realizes. Rightfully so, because “the best trailwork goes unnoticed.” Done right, trails exist in harmony with ecosystems. Done incorrectly, they can alter them. Trails have drainage structures to mitigate water erosion and other structures, such as rock walls, to retain soil. 3,4 They also have what’s called “rip-rap” which, like tile, creates a durable walking surface where soil retention is otherwise impossible. 5,6 Trails require regular “brushing” to keep them from being overgrown and regular clearing to remove trees that have fallen across the trail. All of this work is done using old school techniques, such as dry stone masonry, and hand tools like crosscut saws, shovels, rock bars, and pick-mattocks. Yes, even the 1,000 lb rocks that go into these structures are moved by hand over distances sometimes as far as 2 football fields – even if the project requires 50 of them.

Backcountry Trail Crews work hard. The average corpsmember hikes 700 miles in a season. Through a close-knit community and strong camaraderie, they push their bodies and minds to the limit and serve. They serve those of us who enjoy hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, or any other form of recreation that requires trails. They also serve the resource, because bad trails lead to more trails as people go around obstacles like trees, roots, and rocks. Through proper maintenance our human footprint is concentrated on a single path, thus minimizing our impact.

As we go on our awesome adventures and hike the beautiful trails throughout the country, whether it is the JMT, the AT, or anything in between, let’s think about those people who came before us who made that experience possible. People, often at their best, using primitive tools and brute strength to carve out trails and maintain them for future generations to enjoy. If you’re in California, it was probably a CCC Backcountry Trail Crew.


September 26, 2015
Report & Photos by Joel Brewster

On September 26, our family volunteered for a joint LVMC/Friends of Nevada Wilderness event on National Public Lands Day. We and a group of about 20 other volunteers spent the morning repairing a wilderness area near Mountain Springs. It was an excellent well-organized experience. Our task was to block off an area that had been used and eroded by vehicles, especially motorcycles. Our group put in a row of posts (very hard work) that served as a barrier, and covered the area with a method of horizontal and vertical mulching.

Basically, this means digging and "planting" dead branches (vertical mulching) and laying these branches flat across the ground (horizontal mulching). We were given an arsenal of digging and pounding tools as well as hard hats and gloves. It was hard work, but quite fun. It was amazing how fast the work went with a big energetic group as we finished in about an hour and a half! We then were treated to a delicious lunch as Minas and Grace gave us an educational talk about wilderness conservation as we ate.

It was an enjoyable day with a great group. We learned a lot and felt good about helping preserve our wilderness!

by Dan Young

Five Common Gym-to-Crag Mistakes

BY BLAKE HERRINGTON (From Climbing Magazine)

We’re in the midst of a climbing gym boom. There are more than ever, and that’s great for the sport. What we’re also seeing is a mass migration of first-timers from the indoors to outside crags. Although these plastic paradises make fantastic training and practice environments, they also facilitate or even reward some bad habits that can hold you back or be downright unsafe outside. Remember that we all start off as clueless gumbies, but we don’t have to—and shouldn’t—stay that way. Observe, ask, and emulate the habits of more experienced climbers. Their practices are produced by years of experience and hundreds of days climbing outside, but you can jump-start your transition to outdoor master by avoiding these five common mistakes.

1. Don’t lead belay while standing far away from the base of the wall (fig. 1) This “stand back and observe” habit is a function of wanting to view the entire pitch while belaying, and some gyms require that belayers anchor themselves into the floor, typically 10 to 15 feet from the base of the wall. At the crag, stand adjacent to the wall, directly beneath the first bolt or piece of protection and slightly to the side of the climber (fig. 2), moving around if you have to. In the event of a fall, you want to be pulled up, not slammed into the wall. As the climber moves up a few bolts, you can step back just a bit, but you should remain relatively close to the first bolt. You’ll spend more than half your climbing time belaying, so it’s important to develop your safe-catch skills as much as you develop your climbing technique.

2. Don’t anchor yourself in at the base of the wall on single-pitch routes. Unless the route begins off a narrow ledge or your climber massively outweighs you, it’s better to be mobile and able to step side to side or be lifted up off the ground in the event of a large fall, which gives your climber a softer, more comfortable catch. This mobility will help you avoid small falling rocks and ensure low-impact catches on marginal gear, two considerations that don’t come into play when gym climbing.

3. Do spot your climber before she has the first bolt clipped. Gym floors are covered by huge mats of soft foam while crags are strewn with sharp talus and tree roots. Falling from the start of a route outside, even just a couple feet up, can have devastating consequences. Until the first bolt or piece of gear has been clipped, don’t consider yourself a belayer, consider yourself a spotter. Ensure that the belay device is rigged correctly and then feed out more than enough slack to allow the climber to reach the first piece of protection. As the climber begins, take both hands off the rope and belay device and focus on spotting the climber to mitigate a ground fall. The rope is useless until it’s clipped to something. As she’s clipping the first piece, get into proper belay position.

4. Don’t walk around in climbing shoes. Rather than trodding (relatively) clean cloth floors, you’ll be walking across gravel, mud, and desiccated guano. Your climbing shoes rely on pure contact between the rubber and the rock, so even a super-thin layer of dirt in between will reduce the friction. Over time, it will damage your shoes, and it coats the first few holds of the route in whatever you just stood in before starting up the wall, which not only makes holds slippery, but is also pretty bad etiquette.

5. Do ditch of all of those “not for climbing” accessory carabiners. This might seem too cautious, but I’ve seen multiple climbers accidentally grab a plastic toy biner when they meant to grab a full-strength piece of gear. Leave those for your keychain, and if you must clip shoes, water bottle, or chalk bag, use a fully strength-rated carabiner.

by Heather Witt

Trail Burritos


Ground turkey (optional)
Refried beans
Shredded cheese
Tapatio packets
Chopped onion (optional)
Taco seasoning

Note: Shredded cheese and fresh chopped onions will keep just fine if you enjoy these tasty burritos on your 1st night out.

At home:
Dehydrate ground turkey and refried beans on separate trays. Place dehydrated turkey and beans in a 1quart freezer bag, along with the taco seasoning. Place shredded cheese and chopped onion in separate zip-lock bags.

At camp:
Pour boiling water into turkey/bean bag and set aside to rehydrate. Alternatively put turkey and beans in a pot of boiling water and rehydrate while cooking. I usually do a combination of both methods to save fuel. When turkey/bean mixture is rehydrated, carefully warm tortillas over your stove. Spoon bean mixture into warm tortillas top with cheese, onions, and Tapatio. Fold up your tortilla and enjoy!

Note: salsa dehydrates and rehydrates quite well. Dehydrate salsa at home. At camp cover salsa with cold water and let it sit awhile to rehydrate. Enjoy with chips or in your burrito- or both!


Amber Cavazos

Where were you born?
Irvine, CA

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

What is your occupation?
Territory Sales Manager for Altria Group Distribution Company

How long have you been an LVMC member?
3 years

What is your favorite hike/climb?
This changes all the time. But currently Mount Marcy in New York. It was a decent hike on all trail and absolutely gorgeous. We had a fun group of friends and snagged a state high point. It made for a great day!

What is the most challenging hike/climb you have done?
This is always a toss up between Toiyabe Dome, Williamson or Whitney, Muir & all the sub needles as a day hike (took me 18 and a half hours, LOL). Come to think of it, Rim to Rim was no picnic either, LOL. That was mainly challenging due to gaining all of the elevation at the end when you're already tired.

How did you get into hiking/climbing?
I had a friend take me to Cathedral Rock and I almost died. I was huffing and puffing the entire way up. I hated every minute of it until I got to the top and saw the view. Then I found out how many calories I burned and I was hooked. I went straight to REI and bought a backpack and have been hiking ever since.

What are your hobbies other than hiking/climbing?
Scrapbooking and watching movies


President: Matt Riley
Vice President/Training Director: Richard Baugh
Treasurer: Jim Morehouse
Newsletter Editor: Joel Brewster
Outings Director:
Membership Director: Eric Kassan
Website Director: Amy Brewster
Public Relations/Marketing Director: Minas Mkhitarian
Club Gear Director: Dan Young
Social Director: Lynda Gallia
Community Outreach Director:
Amanda Wagner
Directors-At-Large: Sue Beauchamp , Jose Witt

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. April 20th 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:

Roy Trafton
Jennifer Brickey
Anji Cerney
Jeannette (Jen) Chapman, Barry & Austin
David Chorpash
Henry "The Mountain Man" Dziegiel & Anya Dziegiel
Bryan Friesen
Alexander Leef
Michelle Napoli
Penny Sinisi
Crissy Bercier
Ali Haghi
Sandy McAnelly
Ann Montana
Tonia RunningHawk
Michael Shackleford
Elliot Szabo
Ted Williams
Jose & Heather Witt
Justin Bautista
Rebecca Deuel
Christine Gal
Shane Jensen
Chris, Kristi & Kenny Meyer
Ken Miller
Amber Overholser
Levi Stephens
Robyn Young
Glenn Zieve


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, February 24, 2016

Peaks in Central Asia
Aysel Gezik



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Seven Summits
Kurt Wedberg


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Gannett Peak, The Highest Peak in Wyoming
Joel Brewster

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