A few years ago leaders of the 52 Peak Club found a route to Mack's North Peak starting from Mack's Canyon Road. This was a big improvement, but the route had a long and loose traverse (not dangerous, just aggravating) all the way around to the north side of the mountain. On top of that the descent route had a lot of elevation gain! That should be hiking illegal :)
I had been hiking to Mack's Peak for 20 years. The other day I was looking at a photo of Mack's when I noticed a ramp that was about halfway between Mack's Peak and Mack's North Peak. I thought this would be the perfect route to Mack's North Peak. It would be very direct and would eliminate the need to first hike to Mack's Peak.
The ramp in the photo was an easy class 2 ascent, but then there was an extremely loose 100 foot climb. The climb was only class 3, but you couldn't trust any handholds. I put up three ropes, but it was still a very sketchy climb. The top of the ascent met up with the original Mack's Peak Traverse route, which at this point weaves around to the NW and looses about 400 feet in elevation.
The Ultimate Route or Is It?
I did not think the route I found was safe, especially for a group hike. Upon looking at photos, I saw what appeared to be the ultimate route. It would eliminate the 400 feet in elevation loss, avoid the loose ascent and save at least 40 minutes! This would be my greatest find in the Mt. Charleston area.
I had to take down the ropes and cairns that led to the extremely loose 100 foot climb. It was too dangerous and not practical. There's an old saying in screenwriting: You have to kill your darlings. It applies to most things in life. Once I had taken down the ropes, then I could complete the ultimate route to Mack's North Peak!
Here I Go:
So DH and I set off to find what would be an amazing route to Mack's North Peak. The night before I studied a photo that showed our potential route. Although it might look sketchy in the photo, I know from 20 years of finding routes that you do not know if it goes until you try. We ascended the ramp and started looking for the traverse in the photo. And then we saw it...
The Moment of Truth
From the photos and video below it's obvious this is a death traverse. It's extremely exposed, very difficult, and the rock is rotten. It was just 25 yards from far and safe side of the traverse. In fact the cairn on top of the boulder is one I made! I had been to the far side of the traverse several times via the normal Mack's Traverse route.
Bottom line: Sometimes 25 yards are too far. This is one time a route did not go. I was very enthusiast, but I can't let that cloud my judgement. This lesson pertains to all aspects in life.
So this route is a no-go, unless...
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