Mon, Jul 17, 2017
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Day 2 in the Spring Mtns saw me tackling a group of summits west of Lee Canyon. In his book, Rambles & Scrambles, Courtney gives high praise to the traverses between North Macks/Macks and South Sister/North Sister. The former he describes as "Perhaps the finest alpine(ish) adventure in Southern Nevada" and "Even better is a link-up of the Macks Peak traverse and the Sisters traverse." With such glowing reviews, it seemed a no-brainer to give it a go.
I had spent the night camped about two miles along the maintained gravel/dirt Macks Canyon Rd. Courtney (and others) say high-clearance is recommended, but that might only be true if you're in a hurry. I found it driveable by any vehicle, including my van. It never got below 70F during the night, a bit dicey for car camping imo, but I slept decently and was up around 5:20a. I had planned an even earlier start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms, but I would finish with hours to spare before the first raindrops fell. In fact, the afternoon rains were all over Las Vegas, but none in the Spring Mtns. Go figure. Starting at sunrise around 5:45a, I plied the road into Macks Canyon on foot for 1.7mi before turning abruptly right for a westerly cross-country jaunt towards North Macks NE Ridge. The ridge looks tough from a distance, particularly the start. My wandering up slopes led me to the right edge of the East Face where I picked up a ducked trail leading around the base of the cliffs to the north side. The start of the NE Ridge was a bit steep for my liking, despite the limestone rock that generally provides excellent traction. I started up about 10-20ft of this ridge before backing down and perhaps more prudently deciding to follow the ducks further around to the North Face. I had thought I had wussed out on Courtney's four star route, but later found that he describes it as " via North Face to NE Ridge" which is pretty much what the ducked route did. The peaks are also on the LV 52 Peaks Club list so it was no surprise to find ducks marking the various routes. Although Courtney describes the need for careful route-finding, one simply needs to pay attention to the ducks for all the tricky sections along today's route.
The North Face ducks lead to the NE Ridge where one gets some fun knife-edges, limestone slabs (as easy as it gets), and then a few diversions on the west side of the ridge where the ridge cliffs out. It took me two hours to complete the route to the first summit where I found the usual busy register found on these popular peaks. The traverse to Macks P eak would take another hour, again made easier with ample ducks to mark the route. There were two handlines installed to facilitate the effort, one just below North Macks and the other about halfway along the route. Neither was used, but I could see that others might find them useful for these short class 4 sections. Wherever the traverse deviates from the crest, the route drops on the west side, which probably makes up 2/3 of the traverse. An ammo box held the register atop Macks Peak with ample entries dating back only a few years. There are fine views from the summit, including The Sisters to the east and MacFarland/Bonanza to the west.
I followed the continuing ducked trail off the south and east sides of Macks until I was through the cliff section and could traverse around the Macks Canyon periphery on my way to South Sister. The going gets much easier once through Macks' cliff band, with a use trail appearing as I climbed up towards the ridge connecting to South Sister's SW Face. More ducks begin to appear as my route joined the regular South Sisters route up from Macks Canyon below. South Sister has a lower subsidiary summit to the SE that provides a good view of Mt. Charleston and the Lee Canyon Ski Area below it looking south. The higher summit to the NW is climbed via some easy class 3 scrambling, bringing me to the highest peak of the day at 10,170ft. Another ammo box is found here, this one with three books attesting to its popularlity.
The traverse to North Sister is an easier effort than the Macks Traverse, going at class 3 instead of class 4. Ducks mark the route as it first deviates to the east side (with a cool tunnel and a think twice exposed ledge before moving to the west side (some neat caves) where it stays until just west of North Sister, the crest proving a striking sight but hardly a reasonable scramble. From North Sister I ropped off its north side onto easier terrain for the traverse to B lack Rocks Sister. With imposing summit blocks when viewed from a distance, the summit proves no harder than class 3 via a chute on the west side of the summit. A slightly easier route can be found from the north. From Black Rock Sister, I continued northeast and north along the crest separating Macks Canyon from Lee Canyon, eventually descending into a drainage where I found an easy route which soon dropped me onto a Forest Service road I could follow back to Macks Canyon Rd. It wasn't yet 12:30p when I finished the 9mi+ outing - not enough time for the Mummy Mtn effort I had scheduled for the next day, but perhaps plenty for a visit to Pioneer Rock in Lee Canyon. Courtney describes this one as class 4 which was inticing, but I found all the roads leading off the main Lee Canyon Rd closed and signed for No Trepassing. Not that that would stop me normally, but it was enough to recommend I call it a day. And so I did - off to find a place to shower and clean up...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Macks Peak - The Sisters South
This page last updated: Tue Jul 18 16:12:00 2017
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