Five years ago I had an epic day on 12,000-foot Mount Charleston near Las Vegas. I biked, hiked, and snowshoed from the bottom of Lee Canyon Road (elev. 4000 ft) to within a couple hundred feet of the summit. Then just like that, I was stopped in my tracks. There, near Devil's Thumb, the South Loop Trail follows a narrow limestone ledge, with similar narrow ledges above and below. To my horror, I watched as the trail disappeared beneath a 50-degree slope of icy snow. Without crampons, one slip would have equaled certain death. It was heartbreaking.
Defeated--after 20 miles and 8,000 feet of vertical--I retreated and wondered if I'd ever muster up enough motivation to tackle Charleston again. But for what ever reason, when I got back to my car and looked back at the mountain, I knew for certainty that I'd be back.
I've had nearly five years to think about that failed climb. Ultimately, to make things right, I decided I wouldn't simply repeat the same route, but that I'd make the trip as long and difficult as possible. That meant starting at a lower elevation, adding several more miles to both the biking and hiking portions, no shortcuts through the ski resort, and I'd do it in winter conditions (mid February).
|Here, I'm about 2 miles up the South Loop Trail from the bottom of Kyle Canyon as I begin the steep approach to the summit ridge. Patchy snow meant the snowshoes were constantly off on on at this point.|
|Once on the summit ridge, conditions improved dramatically as there was little snow on the south-facing slopes. Much of this portion was runnable and I made good time.|
|On the summit ridge just above the tree line.|
|Final approach to Charleston. No surprises, thankfully, this time around.|
|Steep east face of Charleston Peak.|
Over the last few years, a monument has been constructed in Kyle Canyon to honor those that served their country during the Cold War--often in complete secrecy and without recognition. Fixed binoculars at the monument allow viewing of the wreckage. The monument will be dedicated as the Cold War National Memorial in May, 2015. This short documentary is very interesting and is definitely worth a look.
|I reached the summit at about 2:30 pm. Charleston Peak is well-known for its high winds, but I had lucked out this day--not even a slight breeze. Considering all the effort to get there, this one felt really good.|
View from the top.
|I love it when you can look all the way back down the mountain and see where you had started in the morning.|
|At the end of the day, I had biked nearly 40 miles with 4600' vertical, and hiked/ran/snowshoed 17 miles with 5700' vertical. It took 14 hours! What a day. Getting even with a mountain never felt better.|