Peak 3,740ft
Peak 3,970ft P500 RS
Ecru Peak P300 RS
Feline Fang RS
Canine Crag P300 RS
Sutor BM P500 RS
South Twin P300 RS
North Twin P300 RS
Dog Skull Mountain P750 RS

Sat, Feb 16, 2019

With: Iris Ma
Bill Carpenter
Robert Wu
Angela Giberti

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2


It was another cold and windy day in Las Vegas, the 14th day this month that Las Vegas had recorded lower than normal temps. At least it wasn't raining and today would have mostly clear skies. In the afternoon a few isolated showers moved into the area, luckily avoiding where we were hiking. I had picked a handful of peaks from Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles in the southern part of Las Vegas Valley, these in the Sloan Canyon area found within the North McCullough Wilderness. Iris was the only one of the group that had planned to join me until the last minute. Bill's plans for the weekend had fallen through, so knowing Iris was heading to Nevada to join me, asked to come along. Robert hadn't considered joining until the night before, not deciding definitively until 2:30a. On a very spur of the moment decision, he and his girlfriend set out from SoCal soon after, but were more than an hour late for the 7a meeting time. Consequently, they would be following behind us for the loop around Sloan Canyon, never quite catching up, but keeping in touch via cell phone and occasional sightings at a distance. A second hike was made in the area about 5mi to the southwest, this time Robert joining us. Angela was too tired for the second hike, instead enjoying a 2hr nap in the jeep while we were out.

Sloan Canyon Peaks

Bill and Iris were already at the TH when I arrived a few minutes before 7a. Or at least what would serve us as the TH. We found the gate to the Sloan Canyon Visitor Contact Station and parking lot closed, not scheduled to open until 8a. We simply parked off the pavement outside the gate and hoofed it from there, not long after 7a. Our goal was a half dozen summits sprinkled around Sloan Canyon, a BLM area known for a large number of petroglphs found in the canyon along one of the gravel washes. Our looping route would start in the canyon but shortly climb out, making a loop around the six summits before descending back into the canyon where we could view the petroglyphs. We had to first hike about 3/4mi to the parking lot before starting on the trail system. There are two trails labeled "100" and "200" which go up different forks of the canyon. The trails are really just compacted gravel washes, not the best of surfaces but easy enough to travel on. The trails are very popular, especially on a holiday weekend, but we would have it to ourselves in the short time we used it before the 8a opening.

About 3/4mi from the parking lot, we left the wash to start up the Northeast Ridge to our first stop, Peak 3,740ft. We reached it in about an hour's time, finding a good view from its summit of the remaining peaks in our nine mile loop. After a brief stop, we continued off the west side, dropping almost 300ft to a saddle before climbing up to Peak 3,970ft, a distance of about half a mile that took us 25min. Like most of the rock we encountered in the area, it is of the varnished volcanic variety, with lots of variously-sized rocks lying about with little easy, open terrain. Peak 3,970ft had a geocache dating to the turn of the century. It had a somewhat busy register, but not being ovely fond of geocaches, I only snapped a picture of the last page. Robert had texted me that he and Angela were almost to the first peak, but we could see no sign of them before we started off again.

Ecru Peak (also called Silver Dollar Peak) is a mile south of Peak 3,970ft, with a drop of 650ft along the way. With some cliffs on the north side, we aimed for the easier saddle on the NW Shoulder and went up the class 2 line from there, taking about 45min. A register found there had been left poorly protected in a rusting Altoids tin and the paper inside was mouldy and faded. The next two peaks and the traverse to reach them were the most interesting part of the day with some decent class 3 as well as some not-so-decent, sketchy stuff to keep things spicy. We followed the ridgeline from Ecru to the saddle with Feline Fang even though there were easier class 2 options off the left side if we'd wanted. At the saddle we crossed Trail 200, following it a short distance north before turning right to climb up Feline Fang. We chose the easier of several options we considered to start, then chose progressively harder options because the rock seemed fairly solid and the challenge was enjoyable. Reaching Feline Fang by 10:15a, we found the first of four registers left by Kevin Humes of the LVMC. From the summit we caught sight of Robert and Angela for the first time as they arived atop Ecru Peak. There are easier ways to exit Feline Fang, most readily off the south or southeast side, but we again chose a more challenging route off the very steep east side where loose rock made it a very cautious affair, taking our time trying not knock rocks on each other or give too much weight to suspect holds. Our route up the west side of Canine Crag had a tough initial step, but then fairly easy class 3 scrambling after that on mostly solid rock. With a short distance between them and no sizable drop, it took us only 15min to get from Feline Fang to Canine Crag. The latter was the higher of the two and had a much busier register, with nine pages of entries dating back nine years.

Our last summit in the area was Sutor BM, another 0.8mi further east. It was the highest of the group with more than 700ft of prominence, but it is class 2 from any direction and not all that exciting a climb. We decended steep class 2 slopes off the SE side of the Canine Crag, dropping 300ft to a saddle, then climbing more than 500ft to the summit of Sutor BM in about 40min. The summit had an ammo box with a very busy register dating to 2002, far more entries than I wanted to photograph, so I just got the first and last pages. It had gotten windier while at this summit and of with it, colder, so we beat a retreat before having to dig into our packs for jackets. Our descent route off the northwest side took us nicely into the wash with the 100 Trail, only a few hundred yards from where the petroglyphs were found. The trail was suddenly very busy with those who had come to see the ancient rock art. Boulders on the west side of the canyon had more than a thousand images in hundreds of groupings. None of the petroglyphs are protected by barriers of any kind, allowing up close examination and photographs. Many of the figures were familiar like bighorn, snakes and people, others left to one's imagination to guess the subject or meaning. Continuing downstream, we came to a 20-foot drop that goes at class 3 but can be a scary proposition for the uninitiated. This obstacle needs to be overcome in order to view the petroglyphs and there were quite a few determined folks taking a crack at it on either side as we passed through. The rest of the 2.5mi of hiking were flat and easy, the trail continuing to be busy with folks of all ages. We finished up around 1:10p with Robert and Angela less than 20min behind us at this point. They would catch up with us at the start of the second hike.

South & North Twin - Dog Skull Mtn

These three summits are found along the east side of Interstate 15, roughly halfway between downtown Las Vegas and the California border. Driving south on Las Vegas Blvd which parallels the Interstate, signs along the road warn of shooting ranges in the area. It was easy to spot more than half a dozen heavily used target practice areas on BLM lands and the sound of gunfire became a regular occurence on the drive and during the hike. Nevadans do seem to love their guns - if only they could clean up after themselves when they were done shooting...

Our group of four cars met up at a dirt road forking off the pavement. Here we left three cars and piled the five of us into the jeep for the 1.6mi drive up into the hills to the road's end at a fence and another informal shooting area. Angela decided to nap in the car while the rest of us went off to do a three mile loop that would take us a little over two hours. None of the hiking and scrambling here is harder than class 2. We made a rolling traverse to the south to tackle the furthest peak first (South Twin), then turned back north to hit the other two peaks in succession. Each had a significant drop between them such that we were getting fairly tired by the time we reached the third summt, oddly named Dog Skull Mtn. All three peaks had registers left by Kevin Humes in the past few years, using the names given by Purcell in his guidebook. It would be close to 4:30p by the time we finished up - nine peaks would be enough for today. We all agreed it was a good day save for the cold and windy weather. I'd like to say the next day was forecast to be better, but in fact they said it would be even colder with a decent chance of snow falling on the valley floor. Now that would be interesting...


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