Last Day Hiking in Red Rock Canyon

We headed back to Red Rock Canyon for the final day of our trip (11/7/16). I had hiked Turtlehead Peak (6,324′) almost exactly one year before, while interviewing for residency in Las Vegas, and thought it would be a good hike for the family. Since we had the entire day (overnight flight home leaving around 10pm), we made it a combo by adding a side trip to Calico Tank Peak (4,870′).

View from the top of Calico Tank Peak

View from the top of Calico Tank Peak

A relatively short trail (1.5ish miles) took us to the Calico Tank (which didn’t currently have any water), where Allison stopped with Micah and let him play on the rocks for 20 or 30 minutes. I used the time to climb the rest of the way to the summit, a short climb of a few hundred feet, with one short class 3 chimney that required a little bit of effort.

Looking back down on Allison and Micah, from just below the summit

Looking back down on Allison and Micah, from just below the summit

Looking toward Turtlehead (top right) from the summit of Calico Tank Peak

Looking toward Turtlehead (top right) from the summit of Calico Tank Peak

Micah climbing on the rocks

Micah climbing on the rocks

We then retraced our steps to where the trail forks, and started the long uphill hike to the summit of Turtlehead. Micah was in a cheerful mood the entire day, despite the heat and the long stretches of riding in his carrier.

Looking back down toward Calico Tank and the parking area, from Turtlehead's summit

Looking back down toward Calico Tank and the parking area, from Turtlehead’s summit

Family picture

Family picture

We made it back to the car around 2pm, then drove back into Summerlin for a late lunch at a pizzeria. By the time we finished, we had time to squeeze in one more short hike (which we let Micah walk along for) in the Calico Basin area. Then it was time to return the rental car, take our shuttle to the airport, and fly back to Cincinnati.

A nice vacation; now for a month of long hours in the ICU…

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Published in: on November 27, 2016 at 2:34 pm  Comments (1)  

Valley of Fire

On day 4 of our trip, we did a few hikes in Valley of Fire National Park – about an hour’s drive northeast of Las Vegas.

The first hike was a short, ~1.4 mile out-and-back trip to see the well-known ‘Fire Wave’ rock formation.

Fire Wave

Fire Wave

View of the park

View of the park

Our longer hike took us down the White Domes loop, then connected up with the Prospect Trail. Near the White Domes, we passed through a short slot canyon, which Micah was fascinated by.

Slot canyon

Slot canyon

The Prospect Trail is a little over 5 miles one-way (10-11 miles round trip), but as we quickly learned, the trail isn’t exactly easy to follow. I’d expected it to be well-marked, so I hadn’t brought along any maps. The trail snaked through numerous canyons, forking into several unmarked trails, and I’m pretty sure we ended up losing the main trail in the process.

Climbing on some of the rock formations

Climbing on some of the rock formations

Hiking through the canyons. Do we go left or right?

Hiking through the canyons. Do we go left or right?

We hadn’t planned to hike the entire trail, though, so it didn’t really matter. We explored a few side canyons, before eventually backtracking and returning to the car.

Tight squeeze

Tight squeeze

Another network of canyons

Another network of canyons

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At one point we stopped for a break on a large, slanted slab of rock, and let Micah get out of the carrier and practice his climbing skills. He was surprisingly coordinated on the uneven surface, and did a nice job of imitating what he had seen us do – climbing uphill on all fours, then turning around and crab-walking down feet first.

Practice going up...

Practice going up…

...practice going down

…practice going down

We stopped for a late mid-afternoon lunch in Overton, NV, and I was even able to catch a few minutes of the Colts game while we ate.

Rather than returning to the hotel via the interstate, we took the scenic drive along Lake Mead, stopping along the way for another short hike, which we let Micah walk for rather than riding in the carrier.

Published in: on November 19, 2016 at 3:11 pm  Comments (3)  

Hamblin Mountain

Day 3 of our trip was Hamblin Mountain – one of the larger mountains in the Lake Mead area that’s technically part of the ancient Hamblin-Cleopatra volcano, which has since been split apart by earthquakes. Of all the hikes we had planned for the week, this is probably the one I was least excited about, but it turned out to be our favorite.

Our route

Our route

The entire hike took roughly 4.5 hours (splits above don’t account for stops). There were trails in some places, but not reliable enough to follow to the top without a map. I used a map I’d found online to get us to the summit, though we ended up finding a much faster/easier but less scenic route down. We mostly followed ridgelines on our way up, and stream beds and washes on our way down.

Heading up the first ridge

Heading up the first ridge

...getting higher...

…getting higher…

There were a few steep, rocky sections along a few of the ridges, but it’s no more than a class 2 hike. At one point a large raven followed us overhead, and I mistakenly called it a crow…so Micah spent the next 20 minutes pointing at it saying, “Cuh! cuh! cuh!”.

Along the summit ridge, we finally caught sight of Lake Mead to the south. The views were outstanding. It was also around this time that I nearly stepped on a small snake. Micah correctly identified it as a “Sneh”.

View of the Hamblin-Cleopatra Volcano

View of the Hamblin-Cleopatra Volcano

And what sound does a snake make, Micah?

“Sssssssssss”.

Micah and I taking in the view

Micah and I taking in the view

Allison (center) & Lake Mead (top right)

Allison (center) & Lake Mead (top right)

We stopped for a snack at the summit, and gave Micah a chance to get out of his carrier and run around (watching closely to make sure he didn’t run off the side of the mountain). He seemed to enjoy that a lot.

Micah at the summit

Micah at the summit

He want to go "that way".

He wanted to go “that way”.

You can see from the elevation profile above that our return trip had a lot fewer ups and downs, as we basically just followed the path of least resistance down various stream beds. This would be the way to go if you’re in a hurry to make it to the top, but we thought the ridges were more enjoyable (even though they required more effort).

When we finished the hike, we decided to drive further south the visit the Hoover Dam, since none of us had ever seen it before. I don’t think Allison liked it when I taught Micah how to say “dam,” but he picked it right up.

"Dam dam dam"

“Dam dam dam”

Published in: on November 17, 2016 at 1:44 pm  Comments (2)  

Mountain Springs & Windy Peaks

Our family just got back from a 5-day hiking trip to Nevada and California, so I’ll be posting several more times in the coming days.

The trip got off to a slow start, as our flight out of Cincinnati was delayed a couple hours. We arrived at our hotel (the Aliante) after midnight, so decided to sleep in and choose a hiking destination relatively close to Las Vegas for day 1.

We settled on Mountain Springs Peak and Windy Peak – a couple of class 2 summits on the edge of Red Rock Canyon.

Climbing toward Mountain Springs Peak

Climbing toward Mountain Springs Peak

The route was a mix of 4WD road, hiking trails, game trails, and off-trail hiking.

View from Mountain Springs Peak

View from Mountain Springs Peak

Mountain Springs is a higher, broader mountain with a well-established trail to the summit. Windy Peak, on the other hand, offered some fun rock scrambling over its final few hundred feet. Micah spent most of the hike riding in the baby carrier. Over the course of the week, we noticed that he always spends the first 30-40 minutes silently watching the scenery…then he starts singing songs and babbling…then he starts asking to get down and walk (and/or have a snack).

Micah, just below the summit of Windy Peak

Micah, just below the summit of Windy Peak

View from the top of Windy Peak

View from the top of Windy Peak

Micah enjoyed the scramble sections tremendously. He thought the entire situation was hilarious. Whenever I had to use my hands to steady myself, he broke out into a belly laugh.

Descending Windy Peak

Descending Windy Peak

We finished the hike in a little under 4 hours, then drove into the city for a delicious Mexican lunch. Total distance was 8.7 miles, with a total elevation gain of 1,940′.

windy

Published in: on November 9, 2016 at 2:38 am  Comments (3)  

South Sister and Middle Sister

Tomorrow is my first day of residency (and my birthday) and I still have a few things to get ready, so this post will be hasty.

My route: ascent in red, descent in blue

My route: ascent in red, descent in blue

Trent was still having a lot of ankle pain, so he stayed back to explore the Las Vegas Strip while I drove up to the Spring Mountains for a short solo ascent of South Sister (approx 10,150′) and Middle Sister (10,197′).

South Sister from the parking area

South Sister from the parking area

Middle Sister (left) and South Sister (right) from ridge to the west

Middle Sister (left) and South Sister (right) from ridge to the west

After finding a parking spot, I loaded my pack and hiked west for about a kilometer before leaving the trail and heading up the gradual, wooded slope. I continued uphill (north) for about another kilometer, angling slightly west along the way, up and over a small ridge before following a reentrant up to the larger ridge just west of the peaks.

Charleston Peak (left) from the top of South Sister

Charleston Peak (left) from the top of South Sister

From the ridge, it was easy class 2 up loose scree to reach the South Sister. I then headed back down into a small valley before climbing Middle Sister. This required one short class 3 climb – a 20 foot chimney with plenty of solid handholds.

Class 3 chimney

Class 3 chimney

From the top of the chimney, a fun little knife edge continued another 100 feet or so to the true summit. It was plenty wide, without much exposure, but offered sweeping views of the surrounding peaks.

Knife Edge on Middle Sister, with Fletcher Peak visible far left and North Sister visible far right

Knife Edge on Middle Sister, with Macks Peak visible far left and North Sister visible far right

More knife edge north of the summit

More knife edge north of the summit

The knife edge continued north of the true summit, and I followed it for another couple hundred feet before the exposure forced me to double back. I was entertaining thoughts of going for North Sister off in the distance, so I climbed back down the chimney and started sidesloping along the eastern side of Middle Sister. That lasted about 10 minutes before the terrain became too steep and I was once again forced to double back. I’m confident the route would have been straightforward had I taken a more conservative route, but after my two failed attempts at short-cutting I decided to head back to the car.

Cliffs on Middle Sister

Cliffs on Middle Sister

About where I turned back, after trying to shortcut around the east side of Middle Sister

About where I turned back, after trying to shortcut around the east side of Middle Sister; you can see North Sister in the distance

On the way back down, I hit a high point (~9750′) on the ridge to get a few more pictures. I then followed the reentrant all the way back down to the trail (blue line on the map above…which turned out to be the simpler and easier route, for future reference).

Another view of Charleston Peak, from near the high point

Another view of Charleston Peak, from near the high point

The round trip took a little under 3 hours. It was still mid-afternoon, so Trent and I did some more exploring in Vegas before catching our overnight flight back to Milwaukee. I also turned $12.00 into $22.50 playing roulette, which basically paid for gas & parking for this hike. Probably the first and last time I gamble, so I can now retire a winner.

Published in: on June 15, 2016 at 8:10 pm  Comments (3)  

Juniper Peak

My 11/14/15 flight from Las Vegas back to Milwaukee was around 5pm, and I needed to return my rental car by 2pm. That left me with an entire morning and part of an afternoon to squeeze in one last hike.

I had read some reviews on SummitPost, and decided to tackle Juniper Peak (6,109′) in Red Rock Canyon.

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Juniper Peak (on right) from the trailhead

Juniper Peak is situated between Juniper Canyon (to the left in above photo) and Pine Creek Canyon (to the right in above photo). It offers a fun little class 3 climb via Juniper Canyon, along with a number of popular technical climbing routes.

After a short hike to Juniper Canyon, the route ascends a boulder-strewn creek for several hundred yards. From there, I climbed a talus field to reach the base of Brownstone Wall.

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Entering Juniper Canyon

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View back down into Juniper Canyon

The route is marked by cairns the rest of the way up, so the navigation wasn’t too challenging. I passed a few climbers on the Brownstone Wall, but otherwise didn’t see any hikers.

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Climber on Brownstone Wall

From here it was another 20-30 minutes to the summit, moving at a quick pace. The route became significantly steeper, but nothing more than class 3.

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Route highlighted in red

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Looking back down from just below the summit

I reached the top exactly 2 hours after leaving the trailhead. Ended up taking 3:45 round-trip.

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Summit view of Turtlehead Peak (left-of-center) and the Calico Hills (red and yellow rock right-of-center)

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Summit ridge

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Drop-off into Juniper Canyon

The return trip was straightforward and mostly uneventful. I did bump into a coyote that had been sleeping under some bushes, which I think startled both of us equally.

Published in: on November 19, 2015 at 8:37 pm  Comments (1)  

Turtlehead Peak

I flew into Las Vegas on 11/10/15 for some residency interviews, and figured I’d take the chance for some hiking while I was there.

I picked up my rental car around noon, and had a few hours to kill before the pre-interview dinner that night. Decided to tackle Turtlehead Peak (6,324′) out in Red Rock Canyon.

Looking up at Turtlehead's summit from the lower slopes

Looking up at Turtlehead’s summit from the lower slopes

Round trip distance was roughly 5 miles, although I accidentally got off-trail for a short while on my way up. It turns out trails through the desert can be tough to follow.

Overlooking the Calico Hills (bottom center)

Overlooking the Calico Hills (bottom center)

Summit view looking south across Red Rock Canyon

Summit view looking south across Red Rock Canyon

Summit view looking east toward Las Vegas

Summit view looking east toward Las Vegas

I made it to the top in 1 hour, with a total round-trip time of 2:02. I was really impressed with Red Rock, and would end up coming back again a few days later…

Published in: on November 15, 2015 at 3:31 pm  Leave a Comment