Desert Solitaire


Mt. Charleston, Mummy Peak, and Griffith Peak help purge Las Vegas from my soul

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

I had to go to Vegas for Interbike, so I was trying to find something to do in the surrounding environs to clear my soul from all that plastic and crap. I found Bob Burd's trip report for these three peaks in the Mt. Charleston Wilderness Area, just 20 miles from town. Like Red Rocks and other southern Nevada areas, just a few miles gets you away from the Vegas plastic glitz. Thank gawd!

To get started, I took a cab out to the car rental place about 5am, then started the repeated process of getting lost trying to leave town. Vegas is busy at even 5am, so trying to read the crummy car-rental map while driving in Vegas traffic was crazy. Get me outa here! Help me, Mr. Wizard!


As I finally turned up the road to Mt. Charleston, it was 6:45am and already daylight. I had a ticket for a 6 o'clock flight home, so the 'lateness' had me worried. It seemed like the South Loop trail was the more recommended, so I decided to do the loop 'backward' so that if I wasn't moving fast enough, I could at least see part of the loop before doing a reversal.

So as the sun hit Cathedral Rock, I was hiking through the closed and gated picnic area, looking for the trailhead, which sits at about 7500'.

Cathedral Rock

The early part of the trail seems to be an old road, but a steep one. Later it turns into a nice zigzagging trail, also steep. From the trailhead to the ridge top is about 3500' gain.


As I worked my way up, I started to get more views. Here's Mt. Charleston at the head of the valley.

Mount Charleston

And across the valley, Mummy Mountain.

Mummy Mountain

The trail heads first for the ridge adjacent to Griffith Peak, which I couldn't see until I was almost on top of the ridge.

The three peaks form a 'C' around the head of the valley. The panorama below gives you an idea of what that looks like from the summit of Griffith. At this point it was only 8:30, so things were going really well.

But it looked a long way to Charleston (below, on the left).

Griffith Peak
Spring Mountains panorama

After flowing on easy trail through forests and meadows, the trail finally gets above timberline as it follows the lengthy ridge. Generally, the entire trail was easy and fast walking.

Middle Teton

I hit the top of Charleston at just before 10:15, but I was feeling the fast pace. Well, I guess I have time to complete the loop.

At this point, I had already walked about 9.5 miles. Fortunately, I was well-acclimatized from my outing last weekend.

Garnet Canyon

The South Loop trail had been pretty mellow, but quite scenic nevertheless. It wandered through white-bark and bristlecone pines, open meadows, and included the normal great views you get from a ridge-top.

The North Loop was nothing short of spectacular. It plunged down the face of the mountain, then wound back and forth through terraced cliffs. Yes, there is a trail in the picture.

Cliffs and trail

From further along, this is looking back at Charleston. In the bigger version you can see the trail switch-backing down the left-hand face, then traversing cliff bands all the way to the right side of the picture.

The trail is solid, but in places it is hung right above unstable-looking scree slides ending in big dropoffs. I found that I wanted to watch my feet.

And I started passing a lot of ascending 'climbers,' many in shorts and t-shirts without a pack (so not much water). A common comment was "How much farther?" I had a hard time explaining that I was moving really fast yet had left the summit over an hour previously.

Face of Mount Charleston

After a long, long time I finally could see my route up Mummy. I had contemplated trying to run the ridge instead of following the now-descending trail, but was afraid I might get cliffed out and lose a big chunk of time (as it turns out, I met a local who told me the ridge goes). So instead, I had to climb about 300' up a heinous scree/gravel/sand chute to regain the ridge. Partly due to fatigue, but mostly due to the terrain, this was the hardest part of the whole day.

Once you gain the saddle, there is a use trail that ascends the now-gentle ridge and leads to a trail across a bench that accesses the final chute to the summit.


The chute looked wide and inviting from down below. But when I arrived at the bottom, I was presented with this dark slot.

It was actually kind of fun to do a bit of Class 3 (the locals call it 2, but I was definitely using my hands). Just don't stand at the bottom of this big funnel if anyone is climbing the extremely loose stuff higher in the chute.


I hit the top of Mummy at about 12:45. But I was really tired and there were still quite a few miles of descending to do, followed by a short uphill hike on the pavement to return to my car. As I descended this part of the trail, I was constantly wobbling my head around to stare at the limestone cliffs. It was right about here that my 100 oz. camelbak made the dreaded empty-gurgle sound.

When I finally got to the car, it was almost 2:30. I was dry, hungry, tired, and my feet hurt. But I had a smile on my face that stayed there, even through Las Vegas airport security.

Looking up Mummy Mountain

Mr. Natural Home | 2009 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski