Fire Peak aka Longwell Peak
The main challenge in climbing Fire Peak is finding a way up to the summit. From the roadside, we could see little of the route. Cliffs and ridges hid the washes and canyons we needed to hike up. Even the summit, just a slight curve on the skyline, was difficult to spot. The only thing we could see clearly was the desert flats ahead that stretched for a kilometre to the base of the mountain. I was glad we didn't have to determine the route then and there: Harlan Stockman had laid it out on his website.
Shin, Dinah and I started across the flats, heading towards the cliffs below the pass we needed to reach. Keeping right of the cliffs, we had no difficulty reaching the pass. On the other side, a wash drops into a delightful canyon. We followed the canyon until it flattened into a wash. We couldn't miss the truck-size boulders that mark the exit from the canyon/wash. Above the boulders a wash splits. We ascended the wash on the right, but the left wash, which we later descended, turned out to be easier and more colourful (the map at the bottom depicts our descent route). Either way, it was important to gain the shoulder above so we could look down at the entrance to a slot canyon.
So far our trip had been largely an offtrail hike, but in the confines of the slot canyon, steep walls presented bits of class 3 scrambling, more interesting than challenging. Shortly we emerged onto a wash. In the distance we could see our next objective, a saddle. The summit on the left was hidden. We slowly made our way to it.
From the summit we had fine views all around, but the most splendid sight was the line of crimson peaks in the Valley of Fire. Perhaps it's this scene that gives the mountain its name, for we saw nothing fiery about Fire Peak. And despite its fierce-sounding name, it was an enjoyable climb filled with satisfying scenery.
Starting across the desert flats. Fire Peak is on the right, well in the back (click for larger image).
We headed to the low, buff-colored ridge on our right
From the low ridge we made our way to the right side of the nearest cliffs
After keeping right we found a weakness in the cliff band. There was even a cairn at the top!
Looking back after we climbed up the weakness
Heading to the pass
On the other side of the pass we followed a wash down to a canyon
In the canyon
We passed impressive conglomerate boulders
We left the canyon, now a wash, when we spied these boulders
Above the boulders, the wash diverges. We ascended the wash on the right but descended
the one on the left. I recommend taking the left wash (note the green wall) for both ways.
Heading to the shoulder
From the shoulder we made our way to a slot canyon to the right of the large cave
(click for a larger image)
Entering the slot canyon
This was a fascinating canyon to ascend
Shin waits for us in the canyon
We passed a couple of small caves
After emerging from the slot canyon we can see the saddle well in the distance. The summit is
somewhere left, out of sight.
The slog to the saddle seemed interminable and there's still no sign of the summit
Looking back at the wash that leads to the saddle
Almost at the saddle
From the saddle the Valley of Fire appears in the foreground while Moapa Peak rises behind
Looking back at the saddle as we head to the summit
Posing on top of Fire Peak
Coming down from the saddle
Back in the slot canyon, Shin starts down a tricky section. After dropping
down a short way he'll traverse the ledge on left.
After reaching the shoulder, we kept right and descended a different wash than we ascended
Looking back up the wash to the shoulder
Some unusual rock formations line the right side (click for a larger image)
Farther down we found a striking, green wall (click for a larger image)
Dinah joins me by the green wall
Back in the wash where our descent and ascent washes can been seen above the boulders
(click for a larger image)
1:24,000 Bitter Spring and Echo Bay Topos (5.5 mi, 3940 ft, 2054 ft)
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