Monday, August 16, 2010

Cockscomb Peak: One of the Best Hikes in Mt. Charleston

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Mt. Charleston is only 35 miles west of Las Vegas, NV. No permits are needed for day hikes and you only need to fill out a self issued permit for backpacking. The trails are not too crowded compare many other hiking areas and the routes see virtually no hikers. Cockscomb Traverse is a mountainerring route. Forget nicely groomed and easy to follow trails!

The hike starts by following Trail Canyon Trail for two miles where it meets up with the North Loop Trail, which can be hiked all the way to Charleston Peak (11,918 feet), the highest summit in southern Nevada.

From the junction the hike follow's a hiker's path along Cockscomb Ridge. Some of the best views in Mt. Charleston are along the ridge. After a quarter mile are so the hike turns into a mountaineering route and traverses below the summit ridge along the east side. The rock is loose and the route is hard to follow without a good hike description. There's one nearly vertical class 3 climb before route reaches Cockscomb Peak (9692 feet).

From the Cockscomb Peak the route traverses the ridge south travelling to two additional peaks. The first of these two peak is where the old route use to descend. It was believe the only way to continue the traverse was by doing a rappel.  This photo shows why. We found an easy class 3 descent. It winds and twist, but makes it down to a saddle landmarked by a twisted bristlecone pine in the slide show.

The route continues along the east side before climbing back up to a saddle that sits just below the third and final summit. It's a short traverse along the west side of  the ridge to the summit. The three peaks in one day along a magnificent ridge... not bad! The route descends past a pinnacle that is clearly visible from Trail Canyon Trail.. The pinnacle stands above a 200 foot wall making it appear impossible to scramble to without ropes. Just beyond the pinnacle stands a cool arch.

The descent is vastly better than the old descent (shorter and not as loose). And the best part: Once you intersect Trail Canyon Trail, it's a seven minute walk back to the trailhead!!!