November 1, 2011

Charleston Peak via Southloop and back on Northloop 10-25-2011

This is a second attempt from last week. Except, last week we were trying to get to the Charleston Peak via airplane gully, which is a lot steeper but shorter distance. Because we were so bummed that we couldn't reach the top, we are back for the same summit but different route. Since there is still or already snow at the peak area, we've decided to go on safer, and well-marked trail. Since we've been doing lots of class 3 and 4 hiking, thought this was going to be boring trail hiking. WELL, we were wrong! The night before, we mapped it out. There are Southloop and Northloop. Southloop shows 8.2 miles but very strenuous. Northloop is 10.8miles and strenuous. We've decided to climb up Southloop trail and come down on Northloop. This will be about 19 miles round trip. When we got to the trail head next morning around 7:30a (we were already behind the schedule), it was closed but they have created an alternate route TO the trail head. This was about 1 mile addition to the 19 miles. 
Cathedral Rocks
Anyways, for those who know about Mt Charleston hiking courses, the trail starts as if you are going to Cathedral Rocks, then the trail folks off to the side which takes us to the Charleston Peak.

Nice view!
Our goal was to be at the peak around 12p for lunch, allowing ourselves about 4-5hours climbing up. The trail is on the Mt Charleston hiking map, and well-marked. From the trail head to the peak was about 4200 elevation gain. Since there is no rock climbing, this was more about extreme cardio exercise. We took lots of pictures on the way up since the Southloop goes around the mountain edge and we could see our surroundings on how high we were gaining in elevation quickly. I must admit that the trail keeps going forever and every so many minutes we had to rest to catch our breath.
Here, I still look fresh!

At this point, it was about 9:30a, climbing about 2 hours. We noticed that the trail was going like switchbacks. And this gets steeper and steeper. This is an extreme cardio I have NEVER done on any hikings. I'm telling you, this switchback is brutal! I work out 4 days a week, cardio exercise every time. I should be used to it. But my heart was going really fast. This goes on for next 2 straight hours! I thought I was gonna die!
Observation point in between switch backs. 
We took a short break in the middle of the switchbacks, which I realized was not a good idea. It made me more tired starting back the climbing on switchbacks and took me a while to get back in the rhythm again. When the switchback was done, we were on top of A mountain top, not our peak yet. From there we could see Griffith Peak on one side and another long ridge to the Charleston Peak on the other. The trail that go through the mountain ridge line is pretty flat, as if we were going through field of shrub and woods. This ridge line is on top of a mountain and so it was VERY windy and cold. We got windbreakers out, doubling up the gloves and kept walking. 
After long long and cold trail walking, we came out to the observation spot. The view was great, but so windy and cold! We know that we've come to quite far and have been walking forever, but we see the Charleston Peak still SO FAR AWAY!!! At this point it was already noon and seeing at least 1-2 hours to go was very tiring thoughts.
 After a certain area, the mountain becomes bald all of a sudden.
It's cold. It's extremely windy,, probably 60-70mph wind. I weigh 100lb. I could barely hold myself on the ground. This condition lasts for good another 1 hour and half. We passed the airplane crush site that killed 14 people from 1955 Cold War era. Some debris are still there.
Leaving the crash site, all we got to aim was the summit. The final push to the summit was beyond what I have expected. So cold, So windy, So steep. I am getting wind burn on my cheek. I could have stopped but we were to the point where there was no turning back. My thigh joint was hurting from the brutal switchbacks earlier. I blanked my brain out and just concentrated on moving one feet forward at a time for next excruciating 45 minutes. All of a sudden, my tear came up and had hard time breathing right. Not only crying but also thinner air made my breath even chokier. My husband was right behind me so he didn't know that my tear was streaming down my cheek till we reached the summit. I had hard time catching my breath. He said at later time that he thought he had to call for a rescue.  Thinking back now, I was overwhelmed of misery in hiking in such a condition and my body was tired. He has done this hike twice previously and said it was nothing like this brutal.(the weather condition makes it 100 times worse). There is a bunker that blocks the wind at the summit. It was filled with snow but we managed to sit down for a while and rested. Thought we didn't want to stand in that wind for one more minute, we had to take pictures!
It was 1:30p. Soon after we signed in the log book, we hurried down via Northloop. We have another 10.8 miles to hike down. So we were really in hurry trying not to lose daylight. At times we had to pass through area that had ice and needed extra caution. Those part slowed us down but as we descend, trail becomes easier and we were practically jogging down.
no more snow
Jogging down at times, still took us 4 1/2 hours to get back down to the trail head. Northloop is daunting long and not as pretty as Southloop. We are basically in a valley of Kyle canyon and couldn't see out. It was 10hours shift. Hiked 20 miles! This is my record. Feeling of accomplishment was so great that I can think about my half-giving up emotional crying as comical. 

We planned to have dinner at Quiznos using groupon. We don't normally eat fast food, something clearly labeled as "not healthy" food. But we chugged down that 8 inch sandwiches and chips. The creamy broccoli soup was so yummy.

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