Sexton Ridge is a 5-7 mile ridge South of Griffith Peak beginning at about 8,400ft and leading to the 11,060ft summit of Griffith Peak. The entire ridge including its access point from the summit of the Griffith Shadow Loop in Lovell Canyon is pure wilderness with some major brush navigation at points. Otherwise, this is a class 2 level climbing/scrambling experience.
The views along the entire route are spectacular including Lovell Canyon, Griffith Peak, Harris Mountain and the saddle between, Potosi Mountain, Gass Peak, the Sheep Range, Las Vegas Valley and beyond, the Nopah Range, Telescope Peak, Mummy Mountain, Fletcher Peak, Lee Peak, Charleston Peak and too many more incredible points of reference to mention here!
The major challenges explained below from my multiple explorations are:
See the trailhead directions on the Lovell Canyon Trail page of this site.
This is getting to be a regular annual ultra-marathon distance trial. The goal is an out and back summit of Griffith Peak from the Lovell Canyon trailhead. The overall distance will be between 30 and 40 miles and the overall elevation gain about 6,000ft.
1) Make this a 2-day adventure: Spending the night under the stars on Sexton Ridge would be incredible. Of course, the downside of this is carrying more gear and needing more water.
2) Make this adventure a crossing between Lovell Canyon Trailhead and the South Climb Trailhead in Kyle Canyon. This would require 2 vehicles and thus an additional level of planning and coordination.
Both solution #1 and #2 are possible given my current level of endurance, the number of daylight hours in late August (today was the last Saturday in August) and the amount of water I carried today.
3) Mid-Summer Trip in Mint Physical Condition: A third solution that would make a round trip from Lovell Canyon Trailhead to Griffith Peak summit possible in one day would be to accomplish this on a late June/early July day having stashed 2 liters of water at Griffith Peak summit the prior week and being in marathon conditioning at or below my ideal weight.
I think I will attempt solution #3 next Summer!
Each route attempt for summiting Griffith Peak from Lovell Canyon Trailhead brings me a little closer to accomplishing the entire adventure in a single day! And, each attempt places me in a unique and spectacular wilderness setting for an entire day!
Being only 300ft higher than the second exploration in Spring of 2021, this does not seem too significant. However, on this adventure I nearly closed the remaining gap of Sexton Ridge. Earlier, Summer 2021, I had descended Sexton Ridge from Griffith Peak to about the 9,500ft level. Today I ascended Sexton Ridge from Lovell Canyon Trailhead and stood just 200ft below that earlier descent and could see clearly the small remaining gap which looked rather easy. This means that Sexton Ridge all the way from Lovell Canyon Trailhead to Griffith Peak Summit is entirely accessible via class 2 climbing. There is a brief 30ft class 3 scramble out of a wash onto an approach ridge leading to the Sexton Ridge ridgeline. Otherwise, it’s all class 2.
The difficult aspect of the Sexton Ridge approach to Griffith Peak is the distance and the ascent, which more than equals an ultra-marathon. The ascent is about 6,000ft total and the distance is around 25 miles. Timing today was 7 hours to the 9,300ft point (minus about 1.5 hours rest and video filming; then 3hrs 45 minutes for the return trip.
Access Sexton Ridge from the Lovell Canyon Trailhead in the La Madre Mountains Wilderness. Take Lovell Canyon trail 1.6 miles to where it breaks off to the left toward Handy Peak/Griffith Shadow Loop. Continue another 1.3 miles, then take another left onto Griffith Shadow Loop. Continue on Griffith Shadow Loop trail for a couple of miles until just before it begins to dramatically descend into Lovell Canyon. At this point there is a saddle that heads up the approach ridge to Sexton Ridge. To get to this approach ridge take a left through an opening that way cut through the thick brush. In less than 1/4th mile that opening descends into a canyon wash. Take a right up the wash for about 1/4th mile until you hit a dry waterfall barrier. Take a sharp right ascending out of the wash to the approach ridge to Sexton Ridge. The approach ridge is the most dramatic ascent of the entire adventure until the final 1000ft ascent below Griffith Peak. Continue up this approach ridge until you reach the Sexton Ridgeline. Take a right and continue on up to Griffith Peak.
7 hours to the 9,300ft point; 3.5 hours return to the Lovell Canyon Trailhead.
I may make another attempt at Griffith Peak summit via Sexton Ridge in the Spring of 2022. Starting out 1.5hrs earlier (today was a late start) and taking less video time could save around 2 hours, which would land me within 800ft of Griffith Peak summit. My conditioning on this day was much better than Spring of 2021 due to a healed running injury. This permitted a lot more running which caused me to exceed the extent of the altitude attained in Spring of 2021 though I got a later start today.
We took the same approach to Sexton Ridge, only started out 2.5 hours earlier and shaved another 30-60minutes off the time by maximizing speed and avoiding any false turns along the way. As a result, we achieved the beginning of Sexton Ridge and continued up to the 9,000ft point for a total elevation gain of about 3,500-4,000ft.
Getting up to Sexton Ridge itself via the approach ridge we took was the most difficult stretch of the trip. That mile with 1,500ft elevation gain was mainly up an avalanche slope ridge with loose rock and lots of brush to navigate. There was always a pathway through the brush, but weaving back and forth to find the route between brushy areas added another 50% distance to the slope.
Once we reached the beginning of Sexton Ridge things greatly leveled out. There were patches of pine forest on the summit of the ridge. However, a swath had been cut through the forest along the top of the ridge making progress very easy. It appeared in recent years a fire crew has created the swath as a fire break. The slope to the right showed remains of a burnt forest. The fire break seems to have successfully stopped the progression of the fire. One of my YouTube subscribers, Albert Cobos Miranda verified that the Carpenter One Fire of 2013 swept through this area. The fire was caused by lightning.
We ended 2,000ft and about 3 miles below the summit of Griffith Peak. The entire peak was not visible, but it looked as though the base of the peak had some major cliffs, and possibly an opening between. We can’t be sure until we get closer to the base of the peak. From our perspective, there were 2-3 high points on the ridge partially hiding the base of the peak.
Time from Lovell Canyon Trailhead to the high point was 6 hours minus about an hour video filming. Return time was 4 hours due to difficulty achieving any speed because of the avalanche slope and brush. By waking up an hour earlier and stretching out the adventure 2 more hours on the other end it is possible one might do the entire Lovell / Griffith out and back in a single day, but then there is still the endurance issue. I’m thinking that we’re looking at 3 hours from the 9,000ft point on Sexton Ridge to Griffith Peak summit, and 1.5 hours back to the 9,000ft point from the summit adding a total of 4.5 hours to an already 10 hour adventure. 14.5 hours may be pressing the limits, but still possible mid-Summer. However, mid-Summer also presents higher temperatures, in the 90’s around the Lovell Canyon Trailhead. Lots of trade-offs!
This time, when we reached the summit of Griffith Shadow Loop Trail we revisited that curious unmarked passage through the brush to the West. It did descend at first, which is why we decided not to attempt this on the first and second explorations. But today we continued along the passage down to a narrow wash. Actually, the wash was only about 1/8th mile from the Griffith Shadow Loop Trail. We took a right at the wash and ascended above the barrier brush line. In about 1/8th mile the wash was blocked by a small ledge. Rather than ascend over the ledge we noticed evidence of a scramble route up the ridge to the right. We took that route and ascended what turned out to be the continuation of the ridge above the brushed-choked saddle at the summit of the Griffith Shadow Loop Trial!
So, the passage we took turned out to be a 1/4th mile bypass of the brush-choked saddle. This ridge easily continued upward to connect with the beginning of Sexton Ridge, the Southern approach ridge to Griffith Peak. At our turn-around point, we ended the exploration just below the beginning of Sexton Ridge. Next time we’ll start earlier, move more rapidly and see how far up Sexton Ridge we can ascend. According to the looks of the ridge and study of topo maps, Sexton Ridge promises to be a gradual ascent with no further barriers, at least until we reach the base of Griffith Peak. It’s mainly an endurance test with around 10 miles one way and 6,000ft ascent from the Lovell Canyon Trailhead to the summit of Griffith Peak. Half of the distance is on ridges with no trails. Compare this with the traditional approach to Griffith Peak from the South Climb above Charleston Village. That approach is about 4.5 miles one way with 4,000ft ascent on well established trails all the way.
The challenge is to reach the summit of Griffith Peak on an out and back day trip along this long route. On the other hand, this would make an awesome 2-day adventure. On this day we were about 4 hours to the high point and 2 hours back. An additional 1.5 hours was consumed by video filming, picture taking, route discovery and rest. Additionally, we started about 2 hours after sunrise. It was early May. Mid Summer will give another 1.5 hours of sunlight. Having recently recovered from a long-term running injury, my conditioning is steadily increasing which could account for another hour of savings. This leaves room to buy another 6 hours time for a future trip, which could potentially get us through the entire length of Sexton Ridge and potentially to the summit of Griffith Peak.
I’ve made it to the summit of Griffith Peak in about 2 hours on the 4000ft South Climb ascent from Charleston Village. From where I ended today there were about 3,500ft to go on the Sexton Ridge route. Was I just 2 hours below Griffith Peak today? If so, potentially, given ideal conditions, the total approach would take 6 hours and the return trip 2-3 hours, making the round trip from the Lovell Canyon Trailhead a 9-hour adventure.
Here we again ascended Griffith Shadow Loop Trail in search of a passage through the brush at the summit of the trail. We continued around the summit of the trail and back down toward Lovell Canyon in search of another ridge, not chocked with brush, that might lead back up to the high Sexton Ridge Southern approach to Griffith Peak. We did locate such a ridge and the ridge did promise to lead to the summit of Sexton Ridge. We were within about 1/4th mile of Sexton Ridge at “turn around” point. However, this approach involved too much elevation gain and loss, and the rugged terrain made progress too slow to achieve Griffith Peak and return in a day, though this approach would make it to the peak. See more…
This is our first exploration of the Lovell Canyon Trail where we made the largest loop possible, Griffith Shadow Loop, up to about 7,200ft. There we found a saddle that bridged the space between the summit of Griffith Shadow Loop Trail and the high Sexton Ridge that was the Southern approach for Griffith Peak. However, the saddle was choked with a wall of thick impassable brush. While at the summit of the trail we discovered a curious unmarked trail heading West. It looked as if it led nowhere, so we headed back down toward Lovell Canyon in search of a passage that would take us above the thick brush at the summit of Griffith Shadow Trail. We continued to descend to Lovell Canyon floor, circled around the East side of Handy Peak, reconnected to Lovell Canyon Trail and then back to the trailhead. See more…