By: Gary Craig
Over the (long) weekend of May 9, 10, and 11, 1 made a trip with Ron Bartell, Christine Mitchell, and Bill Eschenbruecher to the Spring Mountains near Las Vegas to enjoy some late-spring camping and peak bagging.
After a mainly uneventful drive up the previous evening, we met at our pre-arranged spot at the junction of Nevada routes 157 and 158 at half past seven AM for the short drive to the North Loop trailhead on route 158. Our plan was to backpack a few miles in, then drop packs and explore a not-in-the-guidebook route on the north-east side of Mummy Mountain, as part of Ron's "do the whole list by multiple routes" mission. However, as many can probably attest, the weather that weekend was somewhat uncooperative --- we started noticing cumulus clouds shortly after our 8:15AM start from the cars. The first hail started around l0AM, just after we'd started over the side trail to Mummy Spring. Within a few minutes the mixture of hail and snow became fairly nasty, with plenty of thunder to go along. A little post-holing while crossing various gullies turned us around, and we returned to our backpacks after maybe an hour of misadventure (and more hail).
Our plan was to continue to our campsite at Cave Spring, where we would have lunch and perhaps try Mummy later in the day, if the weather improved. Amazingly, that is exactly what happened. A bit after 4PM we set Out with daypacks on the normal route up Mummy; we were on the summit a little more than an hour later. The skies never actually cleared, but the snow/hail/rain had tapered off to nothing earlier in the afternoon. Aside from a violent disagreement between Yours Trolley's forehead and a low-hanging tree branch, we returned safely to camp in time for a late dinner of turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, and various freeze-dried veggies. And cheese!
Fearing a repeat performance from the weather on Saturday, we grabbed our daypacks and headed for the summit of Mt. Charleston at 6:15AM. Actually the sky looked even uglier and for a while it seemed the t-storms might start even earlier. But the weather held, and our major impediment became the increasing amount of snow on the trail as we reached the 11000-foot level. A serious snowfield appeared before us just as the trail starts traversing under a huge "shoulder" on the right side of Charleston. We bypassed this by leaving the trail to the right, up the shoulder, via a bit of attention-grabbing third class. Once past this area, you emerge on top of the ridge where it is easy (but increasingly steep) walking to the summit. We thought this was definitely a "win" when compared to an unknown amount of postholing we'd have to do on the trail. We skirted another snowfield just below the top and were on the peak about 9:20 or so. My personal achievement was that it 'was my seventh (last!) DPS emblem peak.
The view from the summit was great, but somewhat limited by the increasingly dark skies. After signing in, we beat a hasty retreat (aided by some decent glissading) down the ridge. Just as we were descending the third-class section back to the trail at about l0AM, the first thunder rumbled in the distance, right on schedule. We also ran into the first other hikers we'd seen since leaving the cars; they had day-hiked from their own vehicles and had just turned around due to weather and trail conditions. We passed a few others during the remainder of our hike back to our camp. Unrecognized by us at the time, one of these hikers was Sue Holloway; we later found out that John McCully had climbed Mummy that day as a dayhike and had seen our entry from Friday. Another entry in the "small world" file.
Our round-trip time back to camp was a bit under six hours; we had lunch, packed up, and hiked out to the cars by mid-afternoon. After a gourmet buffet dinner in Vegas (Sizzler!), our destination for the evening was Lovell Canyon on the west side of the Spring Mtns. A decent dirt spur road accesses the trailhead for Mt. Wilson, a summit in the Red Rock Canyon conservation area. Our hoped-for better weather did in fact materialize on Sunday at these lower elevations; in fact, it was fairly hot much of the way despite a 7AM start (to be expected, I guess, considering Vegas was close to 100 degrees each day...). The route proceeds generally eastward up various washes to the main N-S ridge, which is descended on its east side by a combination of several loose and cruddy gullies until it is possible to regain the connecting ridge which leads eastward to the summit. The final part of the hike ascends nice sandstone slickrock to the summit where a fine panorama of Red Rocks' cliffs and canyons, and the Las Vegas valley (4000 feet or so lower) surrounds you. This is a nice hike which has been written up (in MUCH more detail) in the Sage at least twice in recent years. With deference to prior authors, our opinion was that it doesn't compare with the terrific Bridge Mountain hike just a few miles to the north. Now there's a peak that "really" belongs on the list!
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