Monday, July 13, 2009

The Ultimate Route to Charleston Peak

This past weekend (7/11), hikers spent their weekend camping and following the most challenging route to Charleston Peak via Carpenter Canyon. We all met at 4 pm on Saturday and drove to Carpenter Canyon, a west facing canyon west of Charleston Peak. It's a two hour drive from Las Vegas.

Carpenter Canyon has year round running water that begins at Peak Springs some 4,000 feet above the canyon. This is without a doubt the best camping area in Mt. Charleston. We set up camp, ate, and then watched a movie before crawling in our tents. I know, we were really roughing it.

We got up early Sunday morning and hit the trail a little before 7 am. The first part of the route is always challenging to follow. There are multiple paths many ending in brush too thick to plow through (are you reading this Davis?) and some coming to abrupt drop offs.

After a few miles the brush disappears and the route follows the canyon through a wooded area. The going is fast here with few obstacles. Soon the water returns making for some very slippery spots. Shin, Debbie and Adam slipped in the slick, limestone drainage.

Once the water disappears, there are numerous dry falls to climb. Luckily all have easy work arounds. The rock was poor quality leading to several missile like rocks crashing down near hikers below. No one was hurt, but this serves as a reminder of how dangerous the rock is in Mt. Charleston.

Once we left the drainage the hard part starts. It's about 600 feet of steep terrain with a few hundred feet of scree before setting foot on the South Loop trail. We intersected the South Loop trail about 0.33 of a mile before the airplane crash. The walk to the peak on the South Loop trail seemed easy compared to what we just did.

It was windy and fairly cool at the peak as we sat and had lunch. Shortly after arriving Wrong Way, Terri, and Doyle showed up. They hiked the South Loop trail to the peak. We all admired the new flag Kenny had recently brought to the peak. Unfortunately, the wind already had ripped the flag. We left the peak around 12:30.

The descent took four hours and would have been faster if we could have followed the best paths back to the trailhead. Every year I wind up following the same path back and I know there's a better way, but I can't find it. There's one tricky stream crossing that we do not do on the way up.

Notes: It took us 5 hours up and about 4 hours down.
The road is in good condition. A high clearance vehicle is needed.
When driving back out on the gravel road, take the middle fork at the three way divide.