Mummy Snow Solo (west of Las Vegas, NV)

H.W. Stockman
Thursday April 14, 2005

See narrative at bottom of page.

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GPS trace.

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Early in the day, still in Trail Canyon: a view up (NE) to the eastern Mummy range. There was a lot of snow, even at lower elevations.

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At the top of the talus slope, a view to Griffith.

 

 

 

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Looking back over the cornice and my tracks. Though not obvious from the photo, there was a lot of "air" on the left (south) side. In most places, this was not a true cornice (not overhung). The sun has melted the fine structure.

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From the top, a view of Charleston.

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My writing hand is partly paralyzed, and it is hard for me to make an orderly entry. Space in logbooks is precious.

Tom Fisher was a childhood backpacking friend. We always planned to get together for an "old times" hike. Last December I lost my chance.

 

 

 

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Look at me! Look at me!

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Look at me! The very top of Mummy is often swept clear of snow, even when there is heavy snow right below the summit.

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Panorama ~ south, from La Madre at left, to Charleston at right.

 

 

 

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Many people are confused by the fact that the benchmark says "Deer". "Deer" is really just the name of the survey in the PID database. Don't believe me? Download the NV_DECI (Nevada) database here. You'll find this summit is officially called "Mummy Mountain".

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Top of the chute, at the beginning of the descent.

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View of McFarland.

 

 

 

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Looking back up at the slopes I've descended.

 

 

 

 

 

Narrative:

I got a late start, so I didnt hit the Trail Canyon trailhead till after 9AM. I parked my car down below the road closure (they are still cleaning up debris from the avalanche); I later realized that Nick had told a way to drive around the closure and get to the trailhead. Oh well.

I decided to forgo snowshoes, and just take crampons, relying on good info from Anya. That turned out to be a good decision. The crampons went on about 0.5 miles up the trail, and stayed on for the rest of the hike. I post-holed 10 times only, all on the way back. Most of the day I wore a T-shirt and shorts, with short gaiters to keep the snow out of the tops of my crappy Gore-Tex boots. My only other "snow-specific" equipment was a pair of trekking poles with small snow baskets. I left my ice axe in the car.

I skipped most of the switchbacks on the Trail Canyon trail, and just went up the hogback*. I could tell when I intersected the North Loop Trail, but the differences between trail and untracked woods were subtle; there was no evidence of snowshoe packing, and the snow went in a uniform slope across the trail, as if no one had been by in recent times. I did see occasional snowshoe prints up high on the North Loop, but the intense sun has erased most evidence.

The talus slope was almost pleasant with crampons. My high altitude conditioning has been very sparse this year, so I would take 50 steps in 50 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds, to keep my heart from exploding. At the top of the talus slope, about 11 AM, I thought I heard shouting from the direction of the summit. I knew another group planned to skin up from the east side that same day, and I thought that maybe I heard them.

After the talus slope, the ridge east posed a slight dilemma. The more pristine snow on the north side of the cornice was actually softer, and would yield under my weight. So, I stayed as high on the cornice as I could, which led to some interesting views on the right side (i.e. big drops).

The final chute before the top was a cinch. There was enough snow, still hard, to give the crampons a good bite. I got to the top of Mummy in about 2 hrs 40 min after parking my car; Im convinced that on that particular day, snowshoes would have added at least an hour.

At the top, there was evidence of the previous group, from log entries to uhh other bits of evidence. I stayed on the top for about 40 minutes, and was surprised to find it was only about 40-45F. I put on a light windbreaker on top, but quickly got too hot on the way down.

When I reached the top chute, there was a slightly unpleasant surprise. The snow had begun to get mushy, and was balling up under my crampons, giving the impression that I was on slightly unstable stilts. I had to knock the snow out every 20 steps, and had to force myself to jam the crampons straight into the slope (fighting the primal urge to position them at a low angle).

After that, the descent was a piece of cake. I considered taking off the crampons so I could glissade down the snow-covered talus slope; but I found that I was able to plunge-step down the slope quickly in crampons, with total control. The snow softened a bit, so I started to post-hole rarely, and was always surprised at the snow depth I would sink in up to my crotch, and seemed to stop only then from the constraints of geometry, not because I hit dirt.

My GPS put the round-trip at 7.5 miles. I was surprised it was that long, considering all the switchbacks I cut.

* At the top of the hogback, the conditions for backwoods skiing were very good by ~1PM. The snow was dense, yet a corn consistency on top, so it could be cut reliably by edging. There are few trees up there, so the chances of becoming part of the scenery are minimal. For a moment, I wished I had my skis, along with the portion of cerebellum that controlled my right foot.