If you ever wanted to hike Charleston Peak via Big Falls, this is the time to try. Kathy and I just did the route on 8/7/2009. We must have built 50 cairns to help others follow the route. I also took new photos and will rewrite the route for the Members Only section of my web site. The route we took is the safest route I have done through Big Falls. There's a minimal of loose rock, which is amazing considering the terrain.
I got altitude sickness on the hike, because I did not drink enough water. Yesterday was unseasonably cool and I was not thirsty. I estimated I only drank 15 ounces of water. No wonder I got altitude sickness. Here's the point: drink! You have to keep hydrated for peak performance. Now I will admit there's times when I don't drink much and it has no effect on me. Yesterday it caught up with me and I had to suffer the consequences.
Normally we descend the North Loop Trail, but this time we descended the Big Falls route. I would not have done this with a group. The rock is too loose. The downclimbs were actually easy and we made good time descending the gully. Once out of the gully we had some problems following the route even though we had made plenty of cairns. We were never lost, but it did slow us down. Bottom line is I DON'T recommend this route as a descent route. It's much harder than the trail, very hard to follow (even with cairns), and it took almost as long as hiking the trail. The upside is it's not as boring as the trail.