Charleston Peak And Mummy Mountain
After spending about a week in Utah, Kelly Bou and I decided to make an impromptu visit to Las Vegas, Nevada to round out our vacation.  We checked into the Tuscany Suites & Casino on 5 October 2009, and while Kelly was eager to go shopping on the Strip over the next couple of days, I was more keen on exploring the nearby mountains.  Charleston Peak in the Spring Mountains just west of the city immediately caught my attention because it is the highest mountain in southern Nevada and its summit is easily accessed by a long but well-maintained loop trail.  Although I was initially going to hike this trail which is comprised of the South Loop Trail and the North Loop Trail, further research revealed a shorter approach (Lee Canyon) via a local ski resort and also a more interesting route along the peak's north ridge known as the Devil's Thumb Shortcut.

I left the hotel early on the morning of 6 October 2009 and drove for about an hour to the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort on the north side of Charleston Peak.  As I got out of my car, I was a little shocked by the frosty temperature which was more reminiscent of the Canadian Rockies than Las Vegas.  Trying to generate some warmth, I quickly hiked up the slope underneath the westernmost chairlift.  Near the top, I headed left along a road which dead-ends at a small waterfall.  The waterfall was partially frozen on this day, and I carefully scrambled over the ice into the drainage above.  Despite a lot of deadfall choking the drainage, I managed to follow bits of trail and even walked atop some of the bigger downed logs to avoid the nasty undergrowth.  Further on, I entered an obvious gully leading straight up to the skyline ridge.  The gully is deceptively long because of foreshortening, and I took more time than I thought I would to gain the ridge crest.  Once there, I paused briefly to savour some warmth from the bright sun before hiking along the North Loop Trail toward Charleston Peak's north ridge.  While it would have been stupidly easy to follow this trail all the way to the summit (the trail switchbacks up the east face of the summit block), I relished the very slight challenge presented by the Devil's Thumb Shortcut which entails an awkward and exposed scramble up a short cliff band.  Beyond this crux, I encountered no serious difficulties along the north ridge and reached the summit about 4.5 hours after leaving my car.

The weather was surprisingly calm at the summit, and I spent nearly an hour there taking photographs and reading the summit register.  While I was at the summit, a hiker came up via the North Loop Trail.  I tried to chat him up, but he was not particularly forthcoming though I did learn that he was originally from Chicago and was working temporarily in Las Vegas.  With nothing else to talk about, I left the guy alone at the summit and began descending the North Loop Trail.  I did this to avoid the potentially tricky down-climb at the crux of the Devil's Thumb Shortcut route.  Further down the east face of the summit block, I ran into the aloof hiker's partner who looked like he was labouring really badly.  Figuring that he did not have too many breaths to spare for a conversation, I quickly acknowledged him and continued descending the trail.  By this point, I was already thinking about Mummy Mountain and quickened my pace.
The ski resort actually opened the next day--their earliest opening ever. The base area of the ski resort already has snow.
A 13-year old boy was killed when he was swept off a chairlift by an avalanche at this resort in 2005. Here is a view of the road and the drainage beyond.
It was a bit tricky scrambling around the ice later in the dark. This is the partially frozen waterfall.
It's painful just looking at them! There are lots of these prickly thistles in the drainage.
It's hard to see, but there are still a lot of those nasty thistles out there! The drainage leads to this gully which grants access to the ridge.
It's longer than you think! Sonny scrambles up the gully.
If you look closely, you can spot the North Loop Trail as it switchbacks up the east face. This is the summit block of Charleston Peak.
It beats walking up and down the Strip! Hiking the North Loop Trail is a treat.
Wanna climb The Sisters with me? Sonny pauses to look back at the ski resort (bottom right) and the rest of Lee Canyon.  At center are a cluster of peaks known collectively as The Sisters.
Highly recommended!  The trickiest part is near the bottom. The Devil's Thumb Shortcut (red) is shown along Charleston Peak's north ridge.
I think this is bristlecone pine. Here is a close-up of some tree bark.
There are some great viewpoints along the North Loop Trail. Sonny stops to admire the view of Charleston Peak and its north ridge.
Why are these things always called the "Devil's Thumb" and not the "Devil's Big Toe"?? This is the pinnacle known as the Devil's Thumb.  The shortcut begins at the gap to the left.
People with short reaches will find the crux challenging. This is looking up at the start of the Devil's Thumb Shortcut.  The crux is at dead center.
It's interesting that there is so little undergrowth here (ie. no grass or bushes). The remainder of the north ridge is an easy plod.
Just another 20 minutes to the top from here! This is the final section of the north ridge before the summit.
I think that's Mount Stirling in the distance to the left. Sonny hikes up the last few metres to the summit.
Must have been one of those free heli tours the street vendors were giving out on the Strip! A helicopter crashed near the summit of Charleston Peak only 9 days earlier.  Miraculously, all three people aboard the helicopter survived.
"MT. CHARLESTON PEAK"??  A bit redundant don't you think? This is the sign at the summit of Charleston Peak.
Guess why it's called 'Mummy Mountain'... Sonny stands on the 3623-metre summit of Charleston Peak.  Mummy Peak dominates the view to the northeast.
America, f**k yeah!! A colourful sticker adorns the metal pole supporting the summit register canister (ammo box).
Dinah and Bob climbed La Madre Mountain earlier in the spring. Las Vegas can be seen to the east.  Some of the hotels on the Strip are visible as well as Frenchman Mountain (distant center) and Lake Mead.  At far right is La Madre Mountain.
I'll come back for Griffith on a future trip. In this southward view, the South Loop Trail follows the connecting ridge to Griffith Peak which is at far left.
Wonder what people do for kicks in Pahrump... The town of Pahrump is visible to the west.
They're just all begging to be climbed in one long day...maybe! MacFarland Peak is at center in this view to the north.  To its left is Bonanza Peak followed by Willow Peak and Wheeler Peak.
This is less complicated to descend than the Devil's Thumb Shortcut. This is looking across the lower east face of Charleston Peak's summit block.  The North Loop Trail begins its switchbacks to the summit here.
Okay, let's head for Mummy! The North Loop Trail hugs the base of the cliffs below the north ridge.  The Devil's Thumb is barely visible on the end of the ridge at far right.
I was well aware that Dinah Kruze and Bob Spirko had climbed nearby Mummy Mountain earlier in the year, but because I had been anticipating a long day just to ascend Charleston Peak, I did not entertain thoughts of tagging a second peak until I started descending the North Loop Trail.  I had plenty of energy left, but I was not sure if I had enough daylight especially after squandering about an hour at the summit of Charleston Peak.  Another problem was that I was somewhat uncertain about the route up Mummy Mountain.  I did not bring any route descriptions with me, and my memory of the details in Bob's trip report was sketchy at best.  Even my GPS was virtually useless since I was unable to upload any maps of the area prior to this trip.  Still, I had a good look at Mummy Mountain from the summit of Charleston Peak, and I could roughly guess where Dinah and Bob went up.

I followed the North Loop Trail past where I had emerged from the gully and continued for quite a distance to a point where I could see an obvious scree slope giving access to the connecting ridge to Mummy Mountain.  Rather than lose more elevation to reach the bottom of this scree slope, I decided to leave the trail and traverse across some steep and bushy terrain that was probably more trouble than it was worth.  Getting up to the connecting ridge was by far the worst slog of the day, and it took me nearly 50 minutes to gain about 100 metres of elevation here.  Thankfully, the connecting ridge offers much more solid footing, and I soon picked up a good trail leading all the way to the crux--a chute that breaches the cliff bands guarding the summit plateau.  By the time I realized that the chute was the most enjoyable part of the ascent, I was already through to the top and only a few short steps from the summit.

I spent only 30 minutes on the summit of Mummy Mountain before retracing my steps back through the chute and down the connecting ridge.  Descending the aforementioned scree slope, I plunged straight down to regain the North Loop Trail instead of trying to save a few metres of elevation loss via the ill-conceived traverse.  A long plod back to the access gully was followed by an equally long descent in growing darkness.  By the time I reached the bushy drainage, the sun was long gone, but I was too lazy to dig out my headlamp and simply thrashed my way down to the waterfall as quickly as I could without breaking an ankle.  An uneventful stumble down the ski resort had me back at my car after a round-trip time of less than 12 hours (22.1 km total distance hiked and 1710 m total elevation gained).  I capped off the day with a hot shower back at the hotel in Las Vegas followed by a superb dinner of penne with jumbo shrimp.  Mmmmmmm!
If you're coming from Charleston, don't bother trying to cut through the trees to save elevation loss.  It just ain't worth it! The route from the North Loop Trail to the summit of Mummy Mountain is shown (red).
A rather convenient access point since the summit is just above the chute. Here is a closer look at the only weakness in the upper cliff bands.
Thankfully, I didn't have to contend with snow here like Bob and Dinah did. Sonny follows a trail below the cliff bands guarding the summit plateau.
Lotsa fun.  Too bad it was so short! Sonny starts up the chute.
It took me 3 hours and 10 minutes to go from summit to summit. Sonny stands on the 3508-metre summit of Mummy Mountain.
It's a good thing that the mummy has such a huge gut; otherwise, I would still be hiking toward the summit! This is looking north toward the "upper chest" of the "mummy".
Man, do the Americans ever love their football... Angel Peak to the east used to be the site of a United States Air Force Station.  It is now home to the Spring Mountain Youth Camp, a seasonal youth correctional facility.
Lake Mead is one of those geographic names that seems to pop up in a lot of crossword puzzles! Here is a closer look at Las Vegas, Frenchman Mountain and Lake Mead.
Dang, that sun is starting to get low! The summit of Charleston Peak is approximately 5 kilometres away to the southwest as the crow flies.
I was in such a rush that I forgot to leave a limerick! It is nice to see some familiar names on an unfamiliar mountain.
Can you spot the Stratosphere Tower? The late day sun casts some interesting shadows on La Madre Mountain in this view from the North Loop Trail.
I took this photo from the gully and was still about an hour from my car. A beautiful day in the Spring Mountains comes to an end.