Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Pair of Aces - June 3-5

Last Sunday was Wayne's 80th birthday party in Las Vegas. (Happy Birthday Wayne!!) With this in mind, I developed a plan to get a bit of peak bagging in while in Nevada.  The goal was to climb Mount Charleston outside of Las Vegas before the party on Sunday and then head north to Ely and climb Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park a couple of days later.

We (Tamara, Dylan and I) arrived in Las Vegas Saturday afternoon and met up with Taylor, Mom, Wayne, Janet and Bruce (friends of Mom's from Clinton, MA) at the cabin at Mount Charleston.  Since the party was starting at 2PM (Sunday) Dylan and I figured we would have to get an alpine start to be back in time.

We were at the Trail Canyon trail head at 4:30AM on Sunday morning.  Dylan set a blistering pace in the early morning light and we quickly gained 2000 feet in the first hour and a half. As we joined up with the North Loop trail we had our first view of the peak in the sunrise.

Once we reached the North Loop trail, we began a long slog that followed the contours of the mountain at roughly 10,200 feet.  This slog lasted for roughly 4 miles and took us to the Devil's Thumb.



Our plan was to take the Devil's Thumb shortcut to add a little spice to the long hike.  The Devil's Thumb is the band of cliffs on the right side of the photo below.


A Summitpost trip report on the Devil's Thumb showed photos of the supposed "route".  Even though I had printed the pictures and had them with me, we still couldn't find the route detailed.  But we took a look around, and after one false start, found a section that allowed a little class 3+ scramble up the cliff bands and we quickly gained the ridge to the summit. 

Dylan on the Devil's Thumb
We made the final push to the summit and reached the high point in Southern Nevada in 4 1/4 hours.  Not too bad for a 7.5 mile trip.
Rocking the 1980 Vuarnets at the summit
Once on top we enjoyed the sunshine and had lunch at 8:30.  I was feeling a little woozy and after eating, I still wasn't feeling too good.  Don't know if it was the lack of breakfast, the altitude, or the previous night's dinner, but my stomach was twisting.  Rather than down climb the Thumb we took the normal trail down, switch-backing down the face and following cliff bands back to the ridge below the Thumb.  Here I took a break to fix my stomach issue and after a bit started feeling better.

Dylan was feeling great.  In fact he ran down a portion of the trail! 

We made it back to the trail head at 1:00PM just in time to take a shower and start partying.

Mount Charleston Stats:
4100 feet elevation gain
15 miles
8.5 hours car to car

Our next step was to a take a detour on the way home to Idaho.  So, on Monday afternoon, we left Tamara and Taylor with Mom and Wayne, and headed north for Baker, Nevada.  After a 4 hour drive, we had our objective in sight - Wheeler Peak, Nevada's second highest peak at 13,063 feet.

Wheeler Peak on the right
We pulled into our accommodations for the night, the Silver Jack Inn, (http://www.silverjackinn.com/) in Baker, at roughly 5:30PM.  This is a great little place with 10 rooms and a cafe situated at the entrance to Great Basin National Park.  I highly recommend it if you're planning on climbing this peak.  The rooms are clean and the proprietor, Terry, does the cooking and he fixed us a mean pizza that night!

As we were detailing our plans to Terry, another gentleman sitting there (we later learned his name was Dave) chimed in that he was planning on climbing Wheeler the next day as well.  We quickly agreed that the three of us would head up the mountain together climbing Wheeler first and then following the ridge over to Jeff Davis Peak (Nevada's 3rd highest).

The next morning we followed each other up the short road to the trail head at 10,000 feet and hit the trail at approximately 6:30AM.  There was a large cloud hanging over Wheeler and the wind was blowing pretty good, but we were not deterred. 


After a short distance we took a detour to Stella Lake and here we saw a nice line that could be used to gain the summit ridge of Wheeler.

Dylan and Dave looking over the couloir to the ridge
After talking Dave into it, we headed up over the talus.  For the most part, the rock was solid and didn't move too much. Once we hit the snow, we found it was solid, allowing us to quickly gain the summit ridge.


Once on the ridge, we found the original summit trail which made the going pretty easy.  By this time, the wind really started howling and the summit was shrouded in clouds.  We put on our rain gear and continued up into the fog.


After another 30 minutes of fighting the gusty, cold winds we reached the summit!  Total time was 2:45 to travel the 3000 feet elevation gain. 

Summit Splattski with Dylan, Dave, and myself
Unfortunately, the views were nonexistent and with visibility less than 50 yards we decided to forgo traversing over to Jeff Davis.  We spent a short time on the summit out of the wind, but the cold drove us down the mountain.  We followed the trail, zig-zagging down the mountain, feeling good that we had taken the shortcut to the top. 

Once back to the ridge, the clouds lifted and we decided to explore the area some.  With Dylan again feeling it, he led us around the rock moraine, through the Bristlecone tree grove and to the last glacier in Nevada at a fast pace.

Posing in front of a 1000 year old Bristlecone pine
Dylan at the glacier

As always happens, once off the mountain the clouds lifted and eventually disappeared.

Looking back at the end of the day

Trip Stats:
Elevation gain: 3000 feet
Distance: 3.2 miles to summit, 10 miles total
Car to car time: 6.5 hours

In talking with Dave that day, we found out that he was from New Jersey and had spent the last 5-6 years taking vacations out west to hike and climb mountains.  This year happened to be at Great Basin National Park.  We had a great time getting to know Dave and came away feeling great that we live in Idaho and can climb most anytime.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Great pictures, as usual! Loved the one with the Bristlecone pine!

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A team of adventurers consisting of John, Tamara, Taylor, Dylan, and Shadow Fadgen