About Me

An avid traveler I have had the good fortune to have spent my career in the travel and vacation industry. From Bali to Copenhagen and all points between is where I have been or intend to go. This blog however is specific to the Western half of the United States as I explore this part of the world.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hiking Las Vegas' Big Kahuna, Mt. Charleston Peak

I made it, 8.5 miles up and 4,190 feet of altitude gain,

Mt. Charleston is the 8th most prominent mountain in the United States with 8,259 feet of prominence with the peak reaching 11,918 feet.  I approached from the South Loop Trail starting at just under 8,000 feet.  I had been preparing for this hike solo, committed to complete it before moving to the D.C Metro area, planned my Saturday and got up to the trail head about 9:00am.  After finding parking and gearing up I was on the trail around 9:15.  The initial part of the South loop is enjoyable with some moderately steep areas and several switchbacks.  It is at the halfway point that you reach about 10,000 feet and the rest of the hike to the peak never dips below this.

Don't miss the little things.

For fuel I brought several cliffs bars, a couple tins of sardines and a hostess cherry pie as the symbolic cherry on top, only to be devoured upon reaching the peak.  For motivation, I brought my will and an Iphone with over 4,000 songs.

At about 3/4 of the way to the peak I hit a minor wall where hiking seemed to be transitioning to trudging with small cracks forming in my determination to reach the top.  But as with any goal you must keep pushing through to achieve it and with a little mental determination trickery and a switch from shuffle to a more motivational mix I pushed through, all the while with a small voice in the back of my head asking, "I think I have enough fuel to get to the top but enough to return in a timely manner?"

Not quite to the half way point

After the half way point to the peak I saw only a handful of hikers... one from Tennessee in Vegas for an IT conference sitting exhausted on a fallen tree, another whom I had seen many times before jogging the entire loop as he does every weekend. Two soldiers from Nellis AFB running the trail, listening to MP3 players and singing at the top of their lungs and finally an older triathlete who looked a bit like Ted Kazinski, but with a much friendlier demeanor.

Exactly half way to peak.  This is Griffith Peak, behind me is the way to Charleston.
As I reached the base of the final summit, I came across a plane wreck that I had heard about but had no idea of what to expect.  Apparently the twin engine prop plane crashed in the 70's and because of the altitude, etc the wreckage was left alone. A bit of an eerie sight.

70's plane crash near the peak.
The crash also signaled the final clime to the summit which would be difficult considering the altitude, steepness and the fatigue I felt from the journey so far.  It didn't help that an unexpected and strong chilly wind was blowing across the peak from the Pahrump side, and the one thing I forgot... a wind breaker... not much good in the car trunk.

My destination the larger bump to the left of the ascending path.
I finally reached the summit just before 5 pm, a little longer than I would have liked to take to reach it but with goal realized I was happy to mark my record of accomplishment in the summit log and enjoy my Hostess Cherry Pie!

Summit log books kept in old steel ammunition cases to protect from some crazy weather.
How sweet it is!  I reached the summit and am about to enjoy the cherry on top!
A view from almost 12,000 feet, where it is said on a clear day you can see 300 miles in all directions.
The picture above shows me in the dugout built to protect hikers from heavy crosswinds. After spending about 20 minutes at the peak it was time to head back... upon completion the entire hike would be roughly 17 miles round trip.  I was happy to start my decent and hoping I had enough gas to overcome the long trail back.
On the way down.
It began to get dark about 3/4 of the way down but fortunately, while I forgot my windbreaker, I did not forget my headlamp.  By the time I got to my car I was running on fumes and had just emptied my camelback.  After a hot shower I slept soundly having accomplished my goal and thoroughly worn myself out.  If you are planing on making this hike, and it is rated strenuous or a 4 out of 5 make sure you are in good shape and have prepared yourself for the elevation. Bring plenty of water and food and have a great time.  I certainly did.