Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Blue Diamond Canyons 2&3 - 1/18/17

Peering down Blue Diamond Canyon #3

The Narrows of Canyon #2

From the Top of Canyon #3

Negotiating the Rocky Start
  The Blue Diamond Canyons are found across Highway 159 from the small community of Blue Diamond, Nevada within the boundaries of Red Rock Canyon NCA. They are numbered from right to left. Today, nine hikers parked outside the fence of the utility building near the north side of the road and climbed through the barbed wire fence meant to keep the wild burros out. There is a gate there but it was locked with a chain. We hiked up behind the little building then dropped down into the mouth of Canyon #2. This hike has a very rocky start as it routes up through the boulders and catclaws.
The First Dry Fall of Canyon #2
It was a very cold morning that promised to warm up but the canyon stayed in the shadows for a while and we were all questioning our choice of wardrobe!

Hiking past Owl Corner
We climbed up past the first dry fall then wound our way up to the second major dry fall. Standing at the top of this obstacle was one of our hikers who had gotten a head start. Now, we were ten.

The Most Difficult Dry Fall Today

Watching our Steps
This dry fall suffered a flood about six months ago and the sturdy rock pile at the bottom was dislodged. It needs to be rebuilt. Any rock pile architects out there? For now, there are three ropes to help in climbing the wall. A higher rock pile would be preferred. Anyway, we helped each other get up and, afterwards, most of us had warmed up a bit. We continued up between the beautiful canyon walls enjoying dry fall after dry fall. Most of the climbs were a lot like staircases.

Finding Dry Fall after Dry Fall
We talked about the owl(s) that live in these canyons and, not long after, we saw one swooshing above our heads up canyon.

A Fun Little Number
The next major dry fall isn't too bad. We each found our hand and foot holds or helped each other find theirs.

The Last Major Dry Fall

Climbing the Last Major Dry Fall
But, the last major dry fall is a little tricky. Sure, it's probably easier to climb on the left side but if you do the choreography, the right side is a lot of fun! Most of us did this for the challenge. After this, there are a few small step ups then the canyon begins leveling out. We stopped just below the gypsum mine boulders for our break then we climbed the hill to the left. There is a trail at almost the top of the hill. We found it to be washed out but still legible.

Canyon Floor
We followed the trail until we began dropping into the top of Canyon #3. This canyon begins fairly gentle then works its way down to several interesting drops.

View from Top of Hill between Canyons 2 & 3
Only two hikers decided to use a strap to help themselves down the big 12 footer. The rest of us hiked the go around and found it to be very scenic!

Starting the Drops in Canyon #3

Fun Drop after Big Dry Fall
The floods that have ravaged these canyons for the past year have encouraged the vegetation (i.e. catclaws, acacia, and velcro plants) to grow. We could still get around the mean plants but watch out for them. With the exception of that second dry fall (with the ropes), all of the climbs and drops remain fun. We dropped through several more dry falls in Canyon #3 then found the small game trail that led up to the left side onto a "shelf" of sorts. There is a small cairn here. If you squint your eyes, you can see the trail leading all the way back over the terrain to the utility building. When we got back, someone had unlocked and opened the gate wide. Have no idea. Anyway, we left it the way we found it which should have been closed. These canyons never disappoint. A fun morning!

4 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Canyon Walls tower Above

The Lower Section of Canyon #3

Following the Game Trail across the Bottom

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ejection Seat Ridge Extended - 1/16/17

Spring Mountains from Ejection Seat Ridge

Ejection Seat Ridge

Redstone below Ridge

Starting up Slot #1
 Ejection Seat Ridge is a small ridge located on the south side of Northshore Road between mile marker 14 and mile marker 15. It's claim to fame is that it is a crash site of a military jet on a training run back in the early 1950's. The pilot ejected from the plane, presumably just before it crashed, in his ejection seat which is found on the ridge near the crash site. He survived with injuries but did not take the ejection seat with him! The plane lies in a small canyon wash in some of the largest pieces in the Lake Mead area.

Slot #1
 Thirteen hikers parked at the mile marker 14.5 on the south side of Northshore Road and dropped into the wash. About 1/3 of a mile to the left, we began trying to find a way out of the wash and back up to the road.

Slot #1
 After some experimenting, we found an easy way and crossed the road to drop into the wash on the other side. A right turn led into our first slot diversion. It was a beautiful slot with a tall dry fall at the end.

Slot #1

Climbing out of Wash
 We returned to the other side of the road the same way and continued up the wash to the left. Staying to the right, we climbed up and found a large piece of petrified wood. Then, we dropped back down into the wash only to turn to our right and begin climbing up to the east end of Ejection Seat Ridge. Our starting target was a large rock outcropping that looked a lot like a UFO. We circled around the rock and started up a very steep climb. We followed a faint trail and tried to be sure-footed in the cold wind.

UFO Rock
 The view toward the Spring Mountains in the distance just got better and better. But, now that we were on the ridge, the wind became stronger.

Starting up the Ridge
 This was the top end of the ridge so we began a gradual descent as we followed it.

Steep Terrain

Group surrounds the Ejection Seat
 We saw the ejection seat in the near distance and headed straight for it. It was lying on the ground so we propped it upright again and took a photo. Very interesting that the "seat" was not a seat at all; just a backboard of sorts. After taking in the technology, we continued down the ridge coming to a small canyon wash. This was the site of the crash. Everyone took a trip down the wash to see all the large plane parts. We were very careful around the jagged metal remains. A fall could mean a cut by the sharp aluminum.

Plane Crash Remnants
 The tail section is the largest piece that is recognizable. After the inspection, we returned to the top of the wash.

Hiking down through Crash Site
 Although there is still a foot trail that we have yet to explore at the bottom of the crash wash, we decided to continue the hike by using a game trail that traverses the contours of the ridge from the top of the crash wash.

Following a Sheep Trail

Redstone from Sheep Trail
 There is nothing wrong with the game trail except that it is a bit narrow and care must be taken to not slip on the rocks. We found a very old horn from a male bighorn sheep along the trail. When we reached a point where we thought it was reasonably easy to descend to the foot trail below, we did so. Turning left, we took the foot trail over to the top of a long gentle descent ridge that passed above the redstone below. We enjoyed the smoothness after the difficult footing previously.

Descending Long Ridge
 There were a few large rocks on the gentle ridge that, for us, indicated the junction turn down to the right. At the bottom of this slightly steeper ridge was Snack Rock where we stopped for a break.

Snack Rock
 The redstone outcropping was fun to climb on for a few of us and it offered a few intriguing photos as well.


Snack Rock View
 After the break, we dropped into a wash on the other side of the large outcropping. This small wash offers a bit of fun scrambling and ends up in a slightly larger wash bedded with sandy gravel. This wash junctions with an even larger main wash that runs between the road and Lake Mead. We turned to the right and hiked up through the beautiful redstone all the way to the road. Then, we ducked through the culvert and came out the other side for our Slot Diversion #2.

Descent Scramble
 On this side of the culvert, we had a choice of going left or going straight. Today, our choice was straight.

Main Wash
 As we hiked up, the canyon slot became more and more narrow. The geology in this whole area is so interesting. Soon, we came to a dry fall that we have previously descended but that would be difficult to climb.

A Step Up

Culvert under Northshore Road
 This was our turnaround point for Slot #2 so we returned back down and through the culvert again. A large wash that turned to the left out of the main wash was next and we followed this wash back to the trailhead where we had to climb up and out one last time. It was a fun day of learning the area at a fairly slow pace. The wind died down and the sun got warm near the end of the hike.

5 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Dry Fall in Slot #2

Exiting Slot #2

Wide Wash on Return to Cars