Mount Wilson is not only the second highest peak in Red Rock Canyon (after La Madre Mountain), it also poses one of the most difficult routes. So Dinah and I turned to our Las Vegas friend Shin to guide us. Prior to our trip, Shin had been up Wilson five times using different routes. For this trip, he chose to do a loop. We would hike partway up First Creek Canyon before leaving it to scramble to the hidden bowl. From the hidden bowl, we could gain the ridge leading to the South Summit and Mount Wilson. For the return trip, we would come down the standard (easiest) route using the southwest ridge.
At the trailhead, while we waited for Shin's friends Adrian and Matt, Shin pulled out his cell phone and talked to a friend who had camped on Mount Wilson. Although his friend was too far away for us to see him, we could see flashes from his mirror. When Adrian and Matt pulled up, we were introduced and the five of us started up the trail.
First Creek Canyon, like most canyons in Red Rock, involved some fun bouldering. Shin led us through a maze of rock and bush leaving us to concentrate on scrambling rather than routefinding. Eventually, we left the canyon and scrambled up steep rock slabs. Here Dinah and I wished we had grippy climbing shoes like the others instead of our light hikers. But the slabs didn't last long and after reaching the hidden bowl, the grade eased. We ascended the ridge south of the summit.
Before climbing the summit of Mount Wilson, however, Shin took us to the seldom-visited South Summit of Wilson. Because it's an exposed class 3 ascent, few venture to climb it. First, though, we took a break on a five-foot ledge under the South Summit. Below the ledge there was a 600 m drop.
After the break, Dinah opted to stay behind while the rest of us climbed the five metres to the top. I couldn't help but be aware of the terrific drop below me, although the five-foot ledge gave some comfort. On the airy top – it fell sharply away in all directions – there was barely room for the four of us.
After carefully down-climbing the south summit we set off for the true summit. In contrast, reaching the true summit from the ridge was just an offtrail hike. Regardless, the views from the highest point in Red Rock were inspiring. Shin celebrated by drinking from a bottle of Powerade he had cached on the summit more than two years ago. The best-before date had, of course, long since expired, but that didn't stop him from enjoying it.
From the summit, Shin took us on a route that avoided the steep slabs we had ascended earlier. We followed the southwest ridge to the west end of First Creek Canyon and followed the canyon back down. Actually, we bounded down the canyon, jumping and bouncing off the boulders until we reached the desert flats.
Dinah and I had a great time climbing Mount Wilson with Shin, Adrian and Matt. We have to thank Shin for leading us. Without his routefinding, this would have undoubtedly been a long, difficult trip.
Mount Wilson: South Summit is the yellow bump on the left; true summit is right.
First Creek Canyon
Scrambling in the canyon
Reflections in the creek
Adrian starts up a chimney while Dinah waits. Shin is coming out at the top.
We leave the canyon.
Looking back at the slabs we climbed above the canyon.
On a ledge
Heading to the hidden bowl
At the bottom of the bowl
After the smooth rock we'll angle right.
Stopping to regroup
Here the ascent becomes a slog.
Climbing shoes would have worked better here!
On the ridge heading to the South Summit (centre).
On the ledge below the South Summit. We'll ascend the rock behind Shin.
Under the ledge, there's a big drop.
Scrambling up the South Summit
Reaching the top
Hiking to the true summit (not visible here)
Las Vegas in the distance
Matt, Adrian, Dinah, Shin and I on Mount Wilson
Our Calgary friend Sonny Bou beat Dinah and I up Mount Wilson by four weeks.
Heading down the descent route
Desert big horn sheep
Back in First Creek Canyon
Shin drinks from a bottle of Powerade that he left on the summit more than two years ago.
Shin enters the chimney.
Blue Diamond 1:24,000 Topo (8.8 mi, 7070 ft, 3415 ft)