cathedral rock: mt. charleston

Hiking in the Vegas area during the summer months is a tricky thing. As in, you could die doing it if you’re not careful.

I’m not a daredevil. In fact I’m pretty cautious. When I take risks, they are well calculated. I suppose that claim could be called into question when I decided to hike rim to river at the Grand Canyon at the end of May last year. For the most part though, I live my life in a way that aligns to my massive and mostly unfounded fear of dying.

Clearly, hiking at Red Rock Canyon would be a stupid, stupid thing to do in July. The altitudes are not high enough to offer relief from the heat, and there isn’t enough vegetation to provide shade along the trails. Those Joshua trees aren’t exactly throwing much shade.

Mount Charleston is the clear choice for hiking in the summer, so that is exactly where I went on Wednesday. What better way to celebrate Canada Day then by hiking a mountain in Nevada? I could think of none.

After a brief stop at the new Visitor’s Center to confirm that the trail I planned to hike was open, we were on our way to the trailhead.

Cathedral Rock trail had been on my list for 2.5 years. My one and only other summit of this mountain was November 2012, a few days before leaving for Fat Camp in Malibu. I remember it being hugely challenging (then again, I was pretty out of shape back then). I’d been wanting to hit this one again – to test how far I’ve come. Unfortunately, wildfires in 2013 shut this trail down until this past May.

A little bit about this hike:

Distance: just a measly 3 miles round trip; however…

Elevation gain: 1,200′ in 1.5 miles. Burn baby, burn!

The suggested hike time is approximately 2 hours. I’m pretty confident that the Nov 2012 hike took over three. And that was in November.

On Wednesday, I found myself attempting this hike in 114 degree Fahrenheit (45 Celsius) heat. In fairness, those where the temps down in the valley. It was probably only 95F / 35C on the trail.

Yes, I realize how stupid that statement is. Only 95F. Dry or not, hot is hot.

You don't scare me.

Cathedral Rock: You don’t scare me. Much.

At the start of the trail, there was a bit of shade. This served mainly to lull me into a false sense of security that this hike on this day was, in fact, a good idea.

2015-07-01 12.24.01-1Cathedral Rock lay ahead, taunting me.

3At this point I’ve hiked, oh, about 10 minutes and have already sucked 1/4 of the water from my CamelBak.

4The hike was definitely challenging, with steep elevation gains despite the switchbacks, but it was the blistering sun that wore me down more than anything. I can count the number of shady spots on one hand. The heat plus direct sun was brutal.

And I was a cranky bitch. Yes, even with these views.

5While I never considered turning around, I did slow down and take rest breaks often.

Then I came across the obnoxiously loud family. They were resting in one of the few shady spots, about 1/4 mile from summit. I knew we would have to rest there to get a brief respite from the sun, and hoped they would leave so we could have some peace. They did.

Unfortunately they turned out to not only be obnoxious and loud, but also very slow. We closed in on them quickly, despite the 5 minute lead they had on us.

I looked at Mr. Enthusiasm and declared that I could not take that maddening cacaphony for the rest of the hike. I knew if I didn’t pass them I ran the risk of assassinating one or all of them. This after admitting at the rest break that I had to slow down before I suffered a heart attack because I was fully spent.

I considered my options, then turned to Mr. Enthusiasm. “I am deeply motivated to pass these idiots. Are you with me?”

And with that I found an energy born of sheer hate for douchebaggery, and passed them, maintaining an accelerated pace until there was sufficient distance between them and me.


In fact, we made it to summit with sufficient lead time that we were able to “enjoy” our picnic of granola, fruit and water in peace before they even made it to the top. Official time to summit: one hour fourteen minutes (01:14).

7I use the quotation marks around the word enjoy because this summit featured zero shade and no comfortable spot to sit on. Still, we had peace and quiet.

And a lovely view.

8We happily set back down just as The Annoying Clan arrived. Official complettion time 01:52. In July’s scorching heat. I’ll take it.

Keep moving,

xoxo nancy

62 thoughts on “cathedral rock: mt. charleston

  1. Hi Nancy! Congratulations….but you are one crazy, crazy girl hiking in such temperatures. Here in the California desert we had a young woman die who was hiking the nearby mountains in the heat. It is seriously dangerous for people who are unused to the temps and/or out of shape. So glad to learn you made it and the PHOTOS WERE GREAT 🙂 ~Kathy

    • I made it, with just a wee sunburn as my only injury. Oh, also some scratches on my inner left thigh (climbing over a downed tree trunk blocking the trail on the way up) and then a gouge on my left knee, climbing over that exact downed tree trunk on the way back down. I clearly learned nothing from my mistake. 🙂

  2. such gorgeous photos! Looks like a great hike (well, minus the heat, and the idiots, and the severe incline…but you know, awesome) 🙂 Hope you’re well, my friend! MWA

  3. You are amazing! I was in Vegas once. It was near 100 degrees. It wasn’t so bad just walking the strip but going for a hike? Wasn’t gonna happen. I love that annoying people fueled you with the motivation you needed to pull ahead. Thanks for making me laugh. Gorgeous pics too.

  4. I’m impressed you even consider hiking in those temperatures(even though I can see the temptation of the scenery )! And what a splendid time, must be good to see again how far you’ve come!

  5. Oh my gosh Nance, that is hot weather to be hiking in and I’m Australian!!!! We do hot. At 45 degrees the only place you’d find me is at a water source or in an air conditioned house! Glad you survived to tell the tale xx

  6. But it’s a dry heat, Nancy! My daughter flew down to Phx to visit her brother for the long weekend and she kept saying that phrase all week long. My response is usually, ‘yeah, even an oven is a dry heat, but it still cooks’. Congrats on completing that hike in the heat and I’m stealing your term “douchebaggery”…. love it. During our travels we run across lots that fit into that category 🙂

  7. I’m going o be there in a few weeks and was thinking of taking a day to head out there for an easy hike but with those summertime temps I don’t know if there is such a thing as an easy hike: reconsidering 😦

    • Unless you are used to hiking at altitude I would advise against even short trails at this time of year, Norm. If you’re feeling ambitious, perhaps try Bristlecone Trail – which I just hiked this afternoon. Most of the trail was in the shade of the Bristlecone Pines – which made the +1,064′ elevation gain tolerable. If you do hike while here, please bring LOTS of water (preferably camelbak) and rest frequently.

  8. Nancy, these pictures are incredible!
    And it’s amazing how far the “energy born of sheer hate for douchebaggery” will take you! Good for you!!

    • Well, less about the photos and more about the type A asshole that lives deep inside me and refuses to quit. I’ll admit to feeling smug as shit when I summit and then finish a climb. 🙂

      • Hey you gotta take the credit for the work, I say. Are you still out there or are you back in town for the craziness of the impending games?

      • Here until the 11th. Home for a bit and then headed to New Orleans for a conference. I don’t know what I did to deserve NOLA in July. That humidity may break me.

      • I love that City… been there in the summer many times, it’s so bloody humid that when you get off the plane you feel like you’re drowning. But such a great place, I have family down there. Enjoy it, Nancy.

  9. Ha! I do the same thing when I come across obnoxious hikers 🙂 It is amazing at how the company on the trail can totally impact your experience. Well done on the hike, I have hiked at Mt. Charleston before but we didn’t do this particular hike. I will have to check it out sometime! Thanks for sharing and a great job on the time!

  10. You are one crazy chick. That kind of heat would do me in pretty quickly! But you got some stunning photos for your trouble. The blue in the sky is the definition of “azure,” and the photos have a surreal look to them. I am glad the idiot family did not ruin the hike!!!

    • It wasn’t the best decision I’ve ever made, Linnet. I’m lucky to say my only injury was a sunburn on my shoulders. Now I know which Mt. Charleston trail NOT to take in the summer. 🙂

  11. Love that Top Shot of Cathedral Rock, NT.
    As for the rest of the vast vistas . . . I’d rather not wade through a furnace to see them. 🙄

    Thanks for sharing your peek at the peak ~ which I enjoyed while being coddled by my A/C!

    • I’m pleased to report that I had a much more pleasurable hike at Mt. Charleston on Bristlecone Trail. I was under a canopy of Bristlecone Pines for most of the hike! What a difference a trail makes! 🙂

  12. Beautiful scenery … absolutely stunning.
    … but the heat? You are one crazy-lady!! In that kind of heat, you’re going to find me outdoors only if there is a body of water nearby for a swim 😉

    I have to agree with you about loud, obnoxious people when you’re trying to enjoy the great outdoors. To me, that makes it’s quiet! You’re in this amazing scenery, you should only be hearing the sounds of the outdoors … and your own breathing 😉

  13. First, let say, OMG, Nancy…even if it is a dry heat!!!

    Then, I must jump in on your statement at the beginning about risk, since you worry like my mom would if she remembered, about my motorcycling…”if I take risks, they are well calculated.” Training, safety gear, super-awareness of the other guy. That’s my calculation. 😉

    The photos of the views are absolutely spectacular and I understand why you wanted to go, but hot and no shade? I don’t think I could do it. If I was there, and the loud, slow, obnoxious family was in my space, I Damn sure would have passed them too! 🙂

  14. I adore Red Rock Canyon, Nancy, although it’s been donkey’s years since I’ve been there. My most memorable trips there were at night though, in the cold desert air in order to do stargazing. Quite possibly one of the most miraculous and memorable sites of my whole life.
    So glad you made it up and down and lived to write of it. Makes me quite nostalgic.
    Congrats, you warrior you.

    • Red Rock Canyon is my go-to hiking destination from Sept to May because it’s both beautiful and close by – just 10 mins from my home. Mt Charleston usually offers a respite from the summer heat but this particular trail was completely in the sun, which is rare for Charleston trails. Live and learn!

      p.s. I have yet to hike Red Rock Canyon at night – but I will! Thanks for the reminder, Shelley!

  15. Amazing what a bit of hike-rage can push you to do 🙂 Looks amazing. And well done on not dying from hotness!! x

  16. Avoiding douchbagery as motivation? Love it! And +45’c is actually HOT as opposed to the laughable ‘heat wave’ London is experiencing. We’ve been… er… a little chilly 😉

  17. Pingback: made in the shade | my year of sweat

  18. Pingback: story time at my year of sweat | my year of sweat

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