Friday 2 August 2013

Vegas: Escaping the heat and depressing casinos at Mt Charleston

To escape the ridiculous heat (104°F, 40°C) and the noxious casinos, I hired a car and headed up Mt. Charleston.

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The drive is fast, (less than an hour from the strip!) and straight. In fact it barely feels like you're climbing until you notice that the barren desert got populated first with Joshua Trees, then with real, needing-actual-water large pine trees. At about 8,000 ft (2,438 m), the area I was hiking in was significantly cooler, about 80°F (27°C), although the top of Mt. Charleston is still higher at 11,916 feet (3,632 m).

My hastily conceived-that-morning-in-the-hotel-room plan was to hike the summit via the South Loop.  But I was up way too late to actually get to the summit and still make my flight home, so I thought I'd just do some of it.  But when I got to the Cathedral rocks picnic area it was closed, and so was the whole south loop due to some just-barely-burning spot fires remaining from a larger fire they'd had.  

Instead I did the Trail Canyon trail up to the saddle for some spectacular views of limestoney Mt. Charleston and surrounds.  The trail guide said four hours, I only took two with plenty of photo stops and a detour to watch some rock climbing.  On the way back down I passed a few guys pushing MTBs up, it would have been amazing ride down.

Not Mt. Charleston, it's the baldy one below
The bare rocky top of Mt. Charleston

On the way back down I took a detour into the climbing area known as the Hood.  This photo is of Compton cave, a huuuuge cave with fixed bolts all over the massively overhung limestone.  This guy led a very impressive, super-powerful 12d "Straight Outta Compton" while I was watching, and continued on, joining it onto another climb at 13a.

Straight Outta Compton 12a lead
I guess in Nevada a "No Shooting" sign that actually says "OK go ahead and shoot but try not to hit anyone" is par for the course.
Next I headed to Fletcher Canyon, which follows a creek into what eventually turns into a very narrow and steep-sided canyon rock scramble. Great walk.

It's no antelope canyon, but it's still pretty impressive

Can't decide if this is completely natural water wear.  All of the rocks are covered in dead dried-out algae from the spring, pretty slippery.

The Mt. Charleston area is great, there's still a bunch of interesting day hikes I didn't get to do, and the summit itself which I'd like to do one day.  I'm jealous that there is amazing year-round climbing to be had < 1 hr from Vegas (this plus Red Rock).  I'd love to come back in winter for some XC skiing and snow shoeing.

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