Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Anniversary Narrows (via End Around Loop) - 3/13/18

Entering Anniversary Narrows from Top

Big Boulder Dry Fall

Spring Mountains from Second Saddle

The Arch Excursion
So, the Anniversary Narrows / Mine saga continues. In a previous entry called Anniversary Narrows Peak & South Bowl, we talked about the beef between the Bureau of Land Management and the "new" owners of the mining property. This standoff prevents the public from hiking in to see the gorgeous Anniversary Narrows of Lovell Wash without doing a strenuous hike to get there. The hike in to the slot canyon was an easy to moderate stroll before just a couple of years ago. Now, the hike must be legally done by either a climb over Anniversary Narrows Peak, a long hike down Lovell Wash from the North Bowl of Fire or a dangerous drop into the slot from a high clearance 4WD road that runs off of West End Wash Road. Fifteen hikers chose the latter access today for a very strenuous 7 mile loop.

Starting Out
To access the Arch Trailhead, we turned north onto the West End Wash Road near mile marker 13 of Northshore Road. This turn circles around to the left and junctions in the West End Wash where we turned right.

Fresh Morning DST Faces
After around 0.75 miles, we took a right fork onto Anniversary Mine Road. Then another 0.4 miles brought us to a three-way fork. Take the far left fork near the wash wall for approximately 1.5 miles.

Big Boulder Dry Fall

Searching for Sun Rays
There is a non-drivable wash on the right here (our hiking route). And, up to your left, there is a large spanning arch in the Bitter Ridge Limestone Member of the Horse Spring Formation. This is the "Arch Trailhead" and we pulled off the road and got ready. Eight of the fifteen hikers decided to climb up to the arch for a look-see before starting the loop hike. Several photos were taken and a few of them are in the first photo collage above. When everyone returned to the cars, we began our hike out that non-drivable wash. This is a pretty and wide wash that curves around and runs into a very colorful dead end at a high dry fall, Big Boulder Dry Fall.

Bear Paw Poppy, Sun Ray and Hiding Lizard
Big Boulder Dry Fall is climbable. Go to the base of the pour over and turn to your left. Make your way through the huge limestone boulders until you are on top of the upper terrain. Then make your way back over to the top of the pour over. (Here, one hiker turned back. And, then there were fourteen.)

The Left Fork Wash
Luckily, we had an extra vehicle and the hiker that turned back was a driver of another one. So, all worked out with the ride sharing.

Finishing Climb to First Saddle

Starting down from First Saddle
The route continued up this wash as it entered into a large expanse of rolling cryptobiotic soil covered ridges and small washes. Although, today, we ventured up into those rolling ridges to find blooming Sun Ray flowers, the good route is to stay in this main wash without veering into any of its tributaries. The Sun Rays were not blooming yet ... well, we found one that was on its way ... so, we returned to the main wash and continued up. Half of the group went high instead and it all worked out but it is still important to not tread on the living soil. Our main wash came to a three-way fork. The right and middle forks will work. The far left fork will not work. The right fork goes to the saddle but in a very wiggly way.

Descent Wash
The best choice is the middle fork. This is a nice high walled wash that will take you to a dark gray dry fall wall. We turned to climb out to the right at the base of the gray. Using a game trail, we climbed over into the direction of the wiggly wash to the right and continued up to the First Saddle.

Two Dry Falls Up and Around
An option here, if you prefer, is to climb the gray dry fall, continue up to the first right turn wash/crack, climb up this and find a game trail. This game trail will take you directly to the First Saddle ... or so the satellite map indicates. (It's something to try for fun.)

Dropping back into Main Wash

Lounging while Waiting
After a quick rest on the saddle, we dropped onto a side trail then the wash to begin our descent. It is a rocky wash so beware of your footing. We gathered again at the top of the first of two dry falls. The first dry fall isn't impossible to get down, however, the second one would require a rappel. Nevertheless, the up-and-around begins here at the top of the first one. We climbed out of the wash to the left and accomplished an, at times, precarious and exposed go around that involved dropping into a side wash on the left side before dropping back into the descent wash.

Continuation of Main Wash
Back in the main wash, much of the group went upstream to take a look at the second dry fall. There must have been a lot of discussion on how to climb it since the others finally gave up waiting for them and started down!

Wash flows into Lovell Wash
The talkers caught up as we all found our way down the obstacled wash in a leisurely fashion. There were only a couple of puddles to contend with then we flowed into the large Lovell Wash.

Taking a Break at Top of Narrows (5.0 miles in)

Rita inside Anniversary Narrows
With still another mile before the Narrows, we were anxious to stop for our break. At the top of the Narrows, we were 5 miles into the hike and we sat for our break. All around us, we noted small cairns built on the rocks. Yes, strong hikers have continued visiting this geologic wonder. We had two Narrows Newbies on our hike today and they were truly impressed. We were all alone in what had been a bustling recreation area. After the break, we slowly took our time hiking down through the slot taking all the photos we wanted. The gravel level was slightly high meaning that the small scrambles were no big deal.

Optical Illusions
Anniversary Narrows is approximately 0.4 miles long. The way the water cut the slot is obvious in its "design." We flowed down through the slot the same way the water did for millions of years.

Enjoying the Narrows
At the bottom end of the slot, we all exited and crowded around the Wilderness Boundary sign (pole). Silently, we gazed up at the mining scars in the distance hills. Shame. How did the mining all begin?

Mike OC

Stage Curtains
*The largest borate deposits in Nevada are in the Muddy Mountains of Clark County. Deposits have been mined in two separate areas, White Basin in the central part of the Muddy Mountains, and in the area of Lovell Wash in the southern Muddy Mountains. These deposits are found in the Bitter Ridge Limestone Member of the Horse Spring Formation. The borate mineral in these deposits, colemanite (hydrous calcium borate), is thought to have formed in shallow ephemeral playa lakes that occupied lower parts of the extensional basin within which the sediments of the Horse Spring Formation were being deposited. Boron, calcium, and other elements were added to the lake water by hot springs, and the borate minerals precipitated from the water as the playa lakes periodically dried up. The resulting colemanite-rich beds are irregular in thickness, mostly less than three feet thick in White Basin and from about 8 to 18 feet thick in the Lovell Wash area.

Making our Exit from the Narrows
*Colemanite was discovered in White Basin in 1920 and deposits there were mined and milled by the American Borax Co. until 1924 when litigation with the Pacific Coast Borax Co. halted activity. The Anniversary Mine colemanite deposit, in Lovell Wash about 11 miles southwest of the White Basin deposits, was discovered by F.M. Lovell and G.D. Hartman of St. Thomas in 1921. The deposit was acquired by West End Chemical Co. and production began at the Anniversary Mine in 1921. The operation closed in 1928 due to competition from California mines, and there has been no borate production from the Muddy Mountains, or anywhere in Nevada, since that date. Total production from the Anniversary Mine was about 200,000 tons of borate. 

 (June 24, 2011: Anniversary Mine was sold to Wagenaar Conrad Kristophere. It isn't clear to the writer what this company is mining at this time.)

Flirting with the Wilderness Boundary
*Geologic Tours in the Las Vegas Area (Expanded Edition with GPS Coordinates), Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 16, University of Nevada, Reno, Mackay School of Earth Sciences, 2008, Bear Printing, Sparks, NV; page 69.

Starting Up

When we gathered again, we re-entered into the narrows and spied our escape route on a left side ramp of "sticky" limestone and loose rock. It rises at around a 45 degree angle ... and the day was getting warm! One by one, we climbed the ramp, each finding our route. Most of us, climbed the right side of the ramp near the narrows abyss. We dropped into a wash then continued up the slab on the other side since there is an immediate dry fall that we had to go around. A bunch of precariousness later, we had gone high enough to go around the dry fall and settle into the wash above for a break. We were all "sucking air!" (BTW, staying on the opposite side of the wash from the beginning is also a viable option.) After we gathered again, we began our warm hike/scramble up the wash and, later, a right side trail to the Second Saddle. Another rest here then the group separated for the last time.

Steve Gingerly Scrambles (Narrows left and Down)
 The front hikers disappeared down the other side and the back hikers enjoyed their descent as well. We all began on a game trail that paralleled above the wash on the right side.

Up Slab on other Side of Wash

We followed the trail all the way down to the end of a trailing ridge then dropped into the wash.

In Ascent Wash at Top

Using Game Trail to Reach the Second Saddle
The wash turned to the left and we followed it down, down, down. A few of the fancy cairns that Chuck had built last year were still there. The most important one led us down a particularly large drop in the wash. Finally, we hiked through a colorful area and spilled out in the wash we had begun in that morning. A left turn in that took us back to the Arch Trailhead junction. Although this is a long loop, the rewards are great. Gonna be sore tomorrow! Great group of hikers today! The Tuesday group ROCKS!

7 miles (7.5 with Arch Excursion); 1300 feet elevation gain; 5 hours (5.25 hours with Arch Excursion); all stats configured after relinquishing "GPS bounces" that occurred inside the narrows.

Front Hikers follow Game Trail Down

Back Hikers start down Exit Wash

Nearing end of Exit Wash

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Bitter Spring Cliffs & HCV Tour - 3/10/18

Toward Southeast End of Bitter Spring Cliffs

Tallest Cairn built on Bitter Spring Cliffs

Bittersprings Spring Area

Wild Horses around MM 26 Northshore Road
Just as we turned left off of Northshore Road at MM 25.5, we spied what we thought was an odd car on down the road. It was moving slowly and in a cross road direction. Our driver slowly negotiated the immediate rough downhill and everyone in our car realized at the same time that the odd car was a wild horse! Very rare in this area! On down the road, we got a good distant view of them, 3 of them, and we jumped out of the car to take photos! It was a great start to the morning!

Road Scenes from Bitter Spring Scenic Byway
Thirteen hikers were in three high clearance 4WD vehicles traveling on the Bitter Spring Scenic Byway, a popular off-road route that runs from Northshore Road in the Lake Mead NRA to Valley of Fire Highway near Moapa through the Bitter Spring Valley.

Rabbit Rock ... Hmm
This end of the road isn't bad as far as off roading goes. As you get closer to Buffington Pockets on the Valley of Fire end, the road becomes impossible for all but the toughest vehicles.

Approach to Bitter Spring Cliffs and Trailhead

Starting Up
The road descended from MM 25.5 for 3.25 miles then we came to a crossroads junction. (There is a road sign here.) We would later use the right turn to leave by way of the springs. The road continuation actually turns to the left here but we went straight for a drive by of a large cliff-type pour over. This is probably akin to Niagara Falls when it rains really hard! (Okay, exaggerating.) Anyway, our route returned and at 6.5 miles in, we passed Rabbit Rock on the left. Another hmm .... Anyway, a half mile later, we parked off the road on the back side of Bitter Spring Cliffs, aka the Desert Colosseum. On the right side of the road, an impressive dark colored rock ridge rose steeply. This is the West Longwell Ridge.

Junctioning with the Ascent Ridge
On the left side of the road, all we could see was a desert mountain cut with a couple of washes. When we hiked up to a trailing ridge on the middle right side, we found a vague trail ... up.

View down to Bitter Spring Road (East)
This "mountain" that we were now climbing ends in a cliff face on the north side of Bitter Spring Valley. The cliff is cut in the Bitter Ridge Limestone Member of the Horse Spring Formation. (Ah, no wonder we saw the horses. 😐)

On Ascent Ridge - West Longwell Ridge Behind

The Ridge Ascent
The trail remained vague for the duration but every once in a while we passed one of around three large ascent cairns that assured us we were on the same route that many climbers before us have used. Our route was logical. As the coordinator and I lagged behind, we spied a little desert friend; a horned toad. It was amazing how well he blended in with his/her surroundings. Nearing the top, we sidled over to the left side of the ridge and took a traverse route over to the end of the cliff where we saw a tall cairn as seen in the first photo. Before we reached the cairn, we found ourselves at the edge of the very high cliffs (~ 800 to 900 feet high). The rim of the cliff was covered with large plates of rough Paleozoic limestone common in the Bitter Spring Valley and Horse Spring Formation. BTW, Frenchman Mountain came through the Bitter Spring Valley once upon a time. (I know. So difficult to wrap your head around.)

Eastern View from Ascent Ridge (Bonelli Peak in Background)
The geology of the Lake Mead NRA is so complicated but, at the same time, fascinating. Lots to learn as we hiked along what was once the bottom of a shallow sea trod by ancient reptiles.

Small Horned Toad
After the first cairn visit, we turned to hike along the cliff rim. We passed a double cairn then came to a single cairn that was the largest of all of them.

Following Cliff Rim toward Northwest

Double Cairns Mid-Way
The cairns were made solidly out of those limestone plates and have, apparently, been there for a long time. At the largest of the cairns, we stopped for our rest. Views were fantastic in every direction all along the rim but we didn't want to loiter for too long. Face it. It wasn't the best of weather this morning. Sprinkles were threatening all morning then a downpour was coming in later. We needed to get the short hike done, visit the remaining sights in the area and get back to the paved road before rain complicated things.
Arriving at Largest Cairn
So, after the break, we continued along the rim until we had to start on a steepish descent. For this, we turned to the right and took a pleasant desert ridge down to where it ended in a knob formation.

Taking a short Break
At the knob, the coordinator said that either the right wash or the left wash is viable but he led us to the left. Good choice!

Following Rim

800-900' Cliff
This wash was fun and very pretty with the plates of limestone underfoot. We descended easily for 0.4 miles in the wash. Then, a trail led sneakily up to the right at a corner. This took us overland while cutting off a large corner of terrain. The wash continued off in a leftward direction. Again, the trail was quite vague yet easy to follow and we came to the next wash over to the right. Instead of dropping into this wash, we hiked alongside of it until we came to a (vague) trail zigging down into the wash bottom. The trail continued from here through its shallow mouth all the way to the trailhead and the cars at the base of West Longwell Ridge.

Descending Ridge on Northwest End
We felt the first very light sprinkles at the knob just before we dropped into the wash. As we descended, we felt a few more. At the cars, there were droplets on our windshields.

Knob at Bottom of Ridge
Still, not a huge threat of rain. So, we got in the cars and continued out the dirt road for another 3/4 of a mile to see an old mine or dwelling of some sort on the right side of the road.

Nice Wash Descent to Left of Knob

Back at the Trailhead
Now, it was time to go home but we had one more sight to see; the spring for which Bitter Spring Road was named. So, we returned to the crossroad we had passed coming in and turned left at the sign. This section of the road can become sandy in dry conditions but we didn't have any problems today. We stopped to visit the beautiful spring area then continued out to Northshore Road mile marker 33.5. A big sigh of relief by three drivers when we hit pavement even after the sprinkles had ceased! Although the hike is a short one, it is a strenuous climb and the drive is very exciting and worth the adventure. The Bitter Spring Cliffs are no longer a mystery. Very fun and exciting day!

3 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 2.25 hours

Square Room in Rock

Tunnel in Rock

Different Route back to MM 33.5 Northshore Road