Tikaboo Peak Birthday Climb, August 12-13, 2010
by Gregos

To celebrate my 41st birthday on August 11th, I decided to climb Tikaboo Peak on my day off the day after. I left work Wednesday night and drove up to Rachel arriving about 9:30 pm. It was just after a new moon so star gazing was perfect. I drove out onto Rachel's dry lake bed to get away from the light pollution and I swear you could read by the light of the Milky Way! No joke! The temperature started to drop into the low 70s which was so nice compared to the low 100s of Las Vegas. It made for great sleeping weather as I do not have 110V in my camper unless I run the gennie.

I awoke Thursday morning and tinkered around my property in Rachel well into the afternoon. Then I drove to the back gate to take some video and still photos to play around with, and maybe make a quick clip for you tube. My plan was to climb Tikaboo late in the day to avoid the heat and to minimize my time alone on the top of the mountain with not much to do but talk to myself! So after the Back Gate, I drove back to Alamo to start the hike. Well, I'd be late to my own funeral and didn't arrive at the Tikaboo trailhead until about 7:30 pm right around sunset. No big deal I thought, I only wanted to climb to the False Summit and camp at a little camp site I thought was near the Saddle. Someone erected a strange new trailhead marker at the lower campsite at: 37 21.000'N / 115 20.691'W. It was slow going up the loose shale to the False Summit as my backpack weighed in at 45 lbs (plus) -crammed with my spotting scope, water and all the rest of my kit. It was well after dark by the time I got there. Someone put red reflective tape in the trees so with my headlamp leading the way, it was fairly easy to stay on course. Kudos to that guy! However, he also left the paper backing to the tape on the ground below his markers. Now come on, dude! As I got to the saddle I searched for the little camp site which I thought was only a few hundred feet to the west that over looks the base. My GPS told me I was still a long way off so I continued to hike in the dark to the actual camp site at: 37 20.590'N / 115 21.441'W. Along the way, I picked up my personal cache of some camping gear to make my night more comfortable. I arrived at the camp around 10:30 pm with the base lit up like a christmas tree to the west. As I settled in, I got the chills and sat on my foam bed roll with my $5 dollar-Wal*Mart fleece "sleeping bag" wrapped around me. As an added bonus, the annual Perseids meteor shower was going on during my climb. I have seen hundreds of shooting stars near Area 51 over the years. They are usually a fast streak of light over in a blink of an eye. One particular meteor that night looked like it went right over my head, slow moving in a horizontal trajectory with a long fiery trail like a flaming arrow. Had I not known about the meteor shower in advance, I would have thought someone fired a live missile -Cool! So exhausted from the weight of the pack, I didn't feel like setting up my little Wal-Mart pup tent and I eventually fell asleep on my foam mat under the stars.

Strange New Trailhead Marker
I awoke Friday morning just before sunrise to scanner chatter going non stop. I was still sleepy but shivering so I reached for my little tent and wrapped it around me for some added warmth. Once the sun popped up I started to heat up fast and ditched my cocoon and got ready to finish the last few hundred feet to the summit. I was sighting in my Celestron spotting scope just as a JANET was on final approach. I thought that would have been a cool photo but I did not have the camera hooked up in time. I noticed the RADAR dishes at the north end of the base were pointed out over the test range and not pointed in their usual straight up position. This test may explain all the scanner activity in the early morning hours. Joerg gave me a tip of a new hanger near the old U-2 hangers so I made sure to get a photo for the website. Where does that guy get this info? Lol. The mysterious grey tower by the dishes looked the same as in the last few panoramas taken in the past. I could not see the new "racetrack" located near it. As I packed up my gear for the climb down, I took one last look thru my binoculars and noticed the dishes were pointing back up to the sky. The climb down was uneventful except as I passed the False Summit. It is so slippery from those loose rocks, I fell on my bottom once or twice and have the scrapes to prove it. At one point I just stayed on my butt and sort of "crab crawled" down the hill 50 feet or so until I got more on stable ground. It worked out very well. During my trip, with the heavy pack, I thought to myself, this will be my last solo climb. As I type this, I don't remember the pain being that bad and already wish to do another trip in a few months as it gets cooler. If I can make it up there, anyone can :-)

Click here for my panorama and a close-up photo of the new hangar

My Camp Site

Rocks and False Summit

Tikaboo Trail

Tikaboo Trail at Night

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