Monday, July 7, 2008

Mummy Head to Toe - Lessons Learned

On Sunday, July 6th, four hikers completed the 6th annual Mummy Head to Toe hike. The route travels to Mummy's Forehead, Mummy's Chin, Mummy Mtn., and Mummy's Toe. There's no trail until you reach Mummy's Springs hours after the hike starts. This is one of the toughest hikes in Mt. Charleston. Since I have done this hike at least six times (I forget), I was looking to do something a little different. As we stood on Mummy's Chin I looked at the rock on the east side of Mummy Mountain. See the photo above left. I had thought about exploring a route from that side. The traditional route goes to the west and loses elevation. From Mummy's Chin the rock on the east side did not look too steep. We (Nick, Barb, Debbie and myself) figured the route had two possibilities: going up the crack (circled in the photo) or head east around a bulge and then up. To give some perspective the circled area in the photo is over 100 feet!
As we approached the crack the rock was a lot steeper than it looked from Mummy's Chin. The first climb to get into the crack was committing, but there was a tree near the top that could be used as an anchor if we had to retreat. I then started up a very steep section that had very slippery rock. A lot of water flowing down this crack during springtime made the rock slick.
I backed off and Barb started over a few yards and found the rock grippy, but near vertical. There was a very airy traverse on the climb that Debbie slipped on, but luckily caught herself and she was able to downclimb a few feet where she could stand. I was in no position to help her where I was. I climbed (4th class rock) to a place where I could anchor myself and throw her a rope. She grabbed the rope and batman past the tricky part. Barb and Nick kept climbing, which was a good sign. I was hoping we would not come to a spot where we could not get past. Since there were no natural anchors (too steep for trees) and we only had a 40 foot rope, what would we do if we got stuck? I came up with an idea, but I am glad I did not have to use it!
In hindsight we should have never climbed that crack without more beta or more gear. Bottom line here is we got lucky and you can't push your luck too much in the mountains. The lesson here is twofold: Don't push your luck and bring more equipment than you think you need. Since I had done this route several times, the rope would have been fine, but we took a different route. I can not recommend this variation of the route. If you fall, you die!