Kingston TrioThe Kingston Trio
We three met in West Las Vegas at the junction of routes 159 and 160, then drove west 27 miles on 160 to a left turn on the Old Spanish Trail Highway (OSTH). After about 22 miles on OSTH, we turned left on the Mesquite Valley Road, and in 8.1 miles, turned left on the Smith Talc Road, which we took for ~10 miles to the start of the hike. On the Smith Talc Road, we saw many quail, desert cottontails, Nolina in bloom, Palmer penstemon and beavertail flowers... and cattle. The last 10 miles has a few washouts, but most passenger cars could make this trip if the drivers were alert and drove slowly the last 6 miles. (Note this road trip is very different from the traditional "california route".)
Our parking spot was east of the “traditional” start
, but afforded a clear view of the ascent route.
We started hiking ~8:45AM. The day was unseasonably warm – about 88F in Las Vegas at midday, perhaps 8-10F cooler at the starting elevation of 4800’.
We saw a few faint Vibram footprints, which DB guessed were ~3 days old; this surprised us, given the remoteness of the area.
Brush was moderate for about 1 mile, then got noticeably thicker. I found that by staying on the rocky edges of washes, I could avoid the worst brush, by hopping from boulder to boulder. As we started to go uphill on the steeper stretches, and were drawn into the wash, the brush got much worse; now thorny rose bushes were getting more common. At this point, LL’s sunscreen began to run into her eyes, causing great discomfort. We stopped and tried to wash the sunscreen away, but she put up with partial blindness for at least half the hike.
I think the brush in the upper gully had gotten thicker since streeyyr made the trip in 2002. I base my conclusions of a comparison of his and my photos for the U-shaped notch; there is a lot more greenery in my photos. There were drought years in 2000-2003, but the winter-spring of 2004-2005 was very wet, and brush grew a lot.
Admittedly, the time of year made some difference in the appearence (May vs. October), but the rose bushes are quasi-evergreen, and we sure saw a lot of them.
The top of the U-shaped notch was the end of the bad brush. We cut west and went around the north side on the cliffs,
then cut SW across to the N-S ridge.
At this point, we got our first view of the peak.
The next 1.5 miles was spent following, and occasionally losing, cairns on the very faint use trail along the ridge. The “trail” (to use the term charitably) wound its way around and among granite pinnacles, occasionally passing vugs of quartz crystals in fine-grained granitoids. DB thought he saw a condor or vulture; later, I saw one very large raptor. There were huge nolinas along the way. The ridge was mainly covered with pinion pines; I somehow missed the firs.
The ridge is roller-coaster; even though the net elevation gain for this hike is only 2535’, I would guess that one does more like 4000’ accumulated gain in the round trip. The last push to the steep summit can be done class 2, but it is often more expedient to climb directly over the ledges.
The log books on the summit go back to the late 1960s. As DB had guessed, a large DPS group had been to the summit just 4 days before. There was another entry from earlier in 2006, then the previous entry was from March 2005. Unfortunately, it was a peculiarly hazy day (even though the sun was intense), so our best views were of the rugged ridges nearby. DB and LL were working on 2 and 3 hours of sleep from the previous night, and took brief naps on top (after finding 2 wee patches of shade). We left the top after about 1 hour 15 minutes.
The way back was uneventful, except that in lieu of passing through the U-shaped notch, we tried a different route for descent. This new route was on a ridge west of our ascent route. The first part of the descent was fairly brush-free, and one could plunge-step through the talus. Eventually we hit more brush, but stayed on the east side of cliffs, which afforded more shade than on the normal route. Paradoxically, I got most of my leg cuts for the day on the descent; I guess when you are focussed on the person in front of you, you don't watch your feet. I cut off to the right to walk parallel to my compatriots, and immediately hit less brush, probably because my attention was now forced on the path before me.
Once we hit the flats, brush was unavoidable; at one point LL stopped and taped her legs. About 0.8-0.9 miles from the car, DB found an old road that made for easier walking back to the Talc Road, on the east side of the bahada. In reality, the brush is mild from here to the Smith Talc road, so one gains little by taking alternate routes.
I got back to the car at 5:30PM. LL had followed DB down the old east road; I just followed the GPS trace back to the car, and hit little brush on this cattle-opened part of the desert. I was afraid my compatriots were lost, so I began honking the car horn and then went and stood on a high bank and waved my arms and shouted for 5 minutes. I always wear bright clothes, so people can see me; but now with the sun at my back, I probably looked like another yucca plant. Eventually I saw them, felt greatly relieved, and they showed up at the car ~5:50PM. We took ten minutes to drink fluids, eat apples, and generally decompress. On the way back, we stopped several times to photograph flowers.
I was surprised how tiring the hike had been; though it was never hotter than ~75F on the ridge, the skies were clear and the May sun was relentless. I went though 84 oz. of fluid, which is a lot for me.
If I did this hike again, I would probably still wear shorts. But most sane people, if forewarned about the brush, would wear long pants – perhaps even jeans. I've done Mosca Peak twice in shorts, and I've certainly been on brushier hikes in the northeast, even in NV.
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