I have led groups on hundreds of hikes over the past 18 years with very few incidents. I always stress safety first. We do some pretty extreme hikes and you would think the number one danger would be someone falling, it isn’t. Watch the video.
The video shows how dangerous rock fall can be in the mountains. Imagine if that rock hit you! It would bust a rib, break a leg or, if it hit you in your head… let’s not think about that.
How To Avoid Rock Fall
The obvious answer is to hike only on trails. Since there are only two peaks that have official trails to them in Mt. Charleston (Charleston Peak and Cathedral Rock), that’s not practical for peak baggers. Red Rock has one peak that has an official trail to the summit: Turtlehead and it’s impossible to follow the trail.
I have hiked all over the southwestern United States and Mt. Charleston has some of the loosest rock I have ever hiked. We can’t change that, but we can decrease the odds of getting hurt.
The greatest danger is on the descent. During the descent hikers become tired and they do not pay attention. They accidentally dislodge a rock hurling it down the slope sometimes hundreds of yards. You do not want to be 100 feet below a hiker who dislodges a rock.
Rules to Keep You Safe:
The Rock Has Your Name On It!
It’s a sick feeling watching a rock coming at you. Unfortunately, I know from experience. If there’s enough time hide around a wall or behind a tree. I realize this is not possible most of the time.
Stay quick on your feet and be ready to jump out of the way. Don’t assume the rock will not hit you if it’s 30 feet to your left or right. I have seen rocks take some crazy bounces.
If you can’t get out of the way, try to deflect the rock with your hands.
If it’s coming for your head, duck or cover your face.
Rock fall is part of mountaineering and that’s what you are really doing when you follow routes, not trails, to the summits in Mt. Charleston. It’s a risk you have to accept if you want to climb most of the peaks in Mt. Charleston or the Sierra.
Branch Whitney is the author of Hiking Las Vegas and creator of the 52 Peak Club where members hike to the best 52 Peaks around Las Vegas, NV