Grueling Easter, with zero Pave Hawks, Apr. 8, 2007
by JB737

By walking in from the Hancock Summit area, I had a Pave-Hawk-free weekend. It is amazing how quiet and dark a place those mountains are at night. After getting well away from the ET Hwy, I think the only manmade lights (other than things like a general glow from Vegas, etc.) I saw were at the Medlin ranch.

Due to energy/daylight/water constraints, I had to turn around well under a mile from my goal of summiting JB7795, at elevation 7200. In addition to being somewhat exhausted, I could see more up/down remaining ahead than expected. But the real bottom line is that I knew that downclimbing the steep rockslide I had barely made it up in daylight, would be nearly suicidal descending in the dark. And staying above it for the night was not a good option, having cached my sleeping back and some other stuff down below to save climbing weight.

I'm a rather fearless hiker, not because I'm dumb (although it helps :-) ), but because I've done crazy climbs solo before, know exactly what I can and cannot do safely, and do a pretty good job of managing the risks.

But the thought of heading down this one alone in the dark, scared some sense into me. Even descending in daylight, I picked my way over to an alternate route down, figuring that nothing could be worse than the direct line I had taken upwards. Basically, I was right, and got down to my cache just fine.

Of my 25 hours hiking (or should I say hiking/resting, everything but sleeping), 11 hours were done in the dark. Of the 11 hours of night hiking, about 7 hours were done with a 2AA LED flashlight and about 4 hours were done with a powerful headlamp. The headlamp usage could have been cut down to 1/2 hour or less without sacrificing much effectiveness.

During 30+ hours in the mountains between Tikaboo and Hancock Summit, I did not see a single aircraft, except for a few blinking along at night extremely far north of me (low to the horizon) going E-W or W-E beyond the northern end of the restricted area.

I saw 2 meteors, 0 aircraft, 0 weird or very unusual things. This was my first trip to that area scoring 0 on the last count. Maybe they don't put on a show unless you trip their sensors. :-)

I just got home, and still have to load my computer with all of the photos and GPS data gathered.

The access to Tikaboo and point JB7795 are both long and grueling from Hancock. But I did not run across any unreachable locations or impassable terrain...with the exception of the north-facing cliffs SW of JB7795.

There were endless miles of thornbushes of several varieties, frustratingly long and steep sections of what I will generously call "rockslide trail", and plenty of ups and downs when level ground would have been a welcome sight. difficult and dangerous, but not impassable.

A major annoyance was the amount of dust/dirt breathed in, just from what is kicked up by your own footsteps. If only there could be a slight headwind for every direction of travel!

The dustiness added greatly to the thirst factor, which adds to the weight carried, which makes the whole thing more strenuous, etc. A vicious circle of circumstances.

Basic conclusion: you can get just about anywhere you want to in that range, but be prepared to haul a lot of water and gear with you.

More than anything, be prepared to suffer, especially if (like me) you aren't in the kind of shape you should be in to do this. An extra 15 years and 40 pounds make a huge difference. I can't turn back the clock, but this hike convinced me to get back in shape and stay that way.

I stayed radio-emission-free the entire time. I didn't even turn on my cellphone to use it as an alarm clock, using my watch alarm instead. I didn't turn on my scanner either, although it was tempting to do so, to see if anyone had detected me. My car must have been very visible to anyone traveling westbound through Hancock Summit, but there just weren't any good hiding places I was willing to start my hike from. With 4WD, or even just my own car willing to take a few scratches, I could have reached some hidden areas quite easily, in addition to getting me farther underway on my route.

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