After 3 days of trade shows and a forecast high of 108 for Friday, it was high time to get out of Vegas, Sue and I took off for an hour drive into the Spring Mountains Northwest of Las Vegas, to the village of Mt. Charleston. The village sits at about 7500 feet, so the temperatures here are supposed to be 30 degrees F cooler than in Vegas. The destination for today was Charleston Peak, the highest peak in Southern Nevada at 3633m.
The hike has two main parts, a 950m ascent up a nice switchbacked trail to gain the ridge, then a ~6km hike along the ridge to the summit. Here are the stats:
Trailhead elevation: 2328m
Summit elevation: 3633m
Elevation gain: 1387m (including two 41m down & ups)
Start time: 7:00am
Gain ridge: 9:45am (950m elevation gain to here)
20 minute break at ridge
Summit: 12:40pm (5h 40min slow but steady pace, small breaks with one 20min break)
Begin descent: 2:00pm
Arrive at car: 6:20pm (including a 25 min break on the way down)
We met nobody on the trail until the summit, where a Mexican fellow arrived from the North loop trail about 20 minutes after us.
Map of the route:
Looking towards the Spring Mountains from the hotel room at 5am:
Smoky sunrise driving on the Vegas freeways:
On the way to Mt. Charleston. Charleston Peak can be seen in the center distance. The highway looks flat but is a steady uphill.
Cathedral Rock, another shorter hike in the area:
The trail is pretty good parks quality trail, with the roughest parts probably near the bottom. About 10-15 minutes in, the trail crosses an avalanche path, with many trees toppled over. Soon after that the Switchbacks start through open pine forest, gaining elevation steadily. The smoke from the southern California forest fires was getting thicker, so even though the sun was rising it was getting less intense.
Charleston Peak in the distance, disappearing as we head up to the left.
Typical trail sections on the switchbacks:
There were many large old trees! This one is at 3100m:
As we near the ridge there are nice meadows with a few wildflowers:
Finally we reach the ridge and it is much more open, fewer trees to rest in the shade. A hat is a must now, temps around 75 degrees with good wind gusts.
A bunch of pics to add to the snags thread:
More than 4 hours into the hike we round the corner and can see the summit in the distance, at least another hour to go. This was a bit discouraging, but we sucked it up and continued on.
About a half hour before the summit there is the wreckage of Air Force C-54 that crashed on November 1955, killing 14 people aboard. (Some more history on the crash here
Finally the summit, time for lunch and a cold beer:
A beer can be used for useful scientific purposes such as determining the angle of the sun:
We spent about an hour on the summit looking at the hazy views. There were many bugs and butterflies flying around the summit in the winds, but they weren't bothersome. Quite a few ravens as well, eating the bugs maybe? On the way down, just below the summit we ran into a guy that had just running shoes and a half full bottle of water, and no backpack! I guess we are pretty close to Vegas.
North ridge (another trail comes up via this route):
Yup we hit snow in Nevada! Part of the plane wreckage is behind:
The route back goes over the slight col on the right then along the ridge to just before the far peak, then down switchbacks to the left.
We ran into about 6 more people heading up while we headed down. Another 25 min break at the junction, and we did the switchbacks down to the car in another 2 hours. We met the Mexican guy that we saw at the summit at the bottom and gave him a ride up to his car at the other trailhead.
If you have Google Earth installed on your computer, you can check out the track here.
(don't forget to uncheck and check the KMZ file under "places" in Google Earth so you can see the waypoints!)
The idea for this hike came from www.birdandhike.com
. I found his trail descriptions and waypoints to be spot on. Check out this site for some hiking ideas if you're in the Vegas area.