Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cathedral Rock Trail to South Loop Trail - Mt. Charleston

This is a little known hike in Mt. Charleston. Once it intersects the South Loop Trail you can hike to Griffith Peak or even Charleston Peak. Hurry if you want to do this hike. Snow is coming soon and as you will read, it's getting cold in Charleston.

On Oct. 14th, Paul A did this hike. Here is his trip report:

Inspite of the weather, I decided to solo hike the Cathedral Rock Trail to South Loop Trail. The directions on the members only section are right on. Probably could have chosen a better day to do this and I forgot how cold it is up there with the clouds, rain and wind. I was prepared however, and I always tend to overpack my Kelty for worse case weather. For navigation I used the trail guide from the members only section, USGS 1:24000 Map, and a Garmin HCX GPS with the Topo Map software. This trail offers a lot of solitude.

The cairns on the trail are fairly easy to find and they really helped. Without them, it would be easy to loose the route if you don't pay attention. It appears that the path actually follows the base of three different walls from the same ridge - first wall, then steep climb, second wall, then steep climb, and finally paralleling third wall, steep climb. Where the trail hugs the first wall is a good place for a break and shelter if need be. The route is for the most part, mostly a steep climb with just a couple of segments that are somewhat level.

Some parts of the trail, are very slippery - it seems even on a dry day the trail would have quite a few areas where footing could be poor. Today the trail was damp/wet and I slid a couple of times, but caught my balance. I would recommend hiking poles for this trail.

I had a hard time finding the trail halfway between waypoints 2 and 3. In fact I didn't really see a trail and it seems that, if there were cairns in this section, many of them have fallen down - or I just missed them. I basically hiked straight up the hill, following "center mass" through Waypoints 3 and 4 until I intersected the South Loop Trail. I contemplated descending back to the start point via South Loop but the wind, cold and low clouds/rain convinced me not too. Much to my benefit, this route sheltered a lot of the wind today. I hiked down the same way I hiked up. Even then, it's easy to lose track of the exact route that I hiked up. On the way down, after passing the last "wall" I had to think hard where to join the trail back to the metal cover (Waypoint 2) because the trail fades away. I skirted the edge of the ridge towards the drainage and luckily found it quickly.

On this route, I counted 17 deer , all on the descent back down which was around 4-5pm. Most of the deer I observed were vicinity Waypoint 2 (metal cover water). I also spotted about 5 deer on the Cathedral Rock Trail just past the first wooden cut-out bench on the left as you're hiking down. These deer were around 50 yards from me and just stared back at me, probably wondering who in their right mind wanted to hike in the wind, clouds and rain today. Interestingly enough, the weather calmed down quite a bit towards the late afternoon. Other than chipmunks, I didn't see any other animals.

Even though its a "quick 2.5 miles" one way, this is a tough hike. This was my first time attempting this hike, and I did this one solo. I am always extra cautious when I hike solo and spent more time being deliberate on the trail. The sleet and rain did not stick and I did not see any snow up there. At the summit ridge today the visibility was rather poor with the clouds blowing through at that elevation. The mist blowing through the bristlecones was eerily beautiful but telling at the same time. Season is changing. It is, as I previously mentioned, getting cold up there. All in all, a great hike! I enjoyed this one.

BW: This trail is indeed steep and actually I would call it a hiker's path. Once leaving the Cathedral Rock Trail, it's not maintained by the Forestry Service. A GPS is very useful for this hike. Come to think about it, I also have seen deer on this hike.

REI has an in-store sale going on through this Sunday and it's a good one!