Sunday, December 9, 2018

Blue Diamond Canyon #1 Loop - 12/8/18

Blue Diamond Canyon #1 above Fork - Mt. Potosi in Background

Abandoned Conveyor and View of Las Vegas Strip

Strip from Trail above Cliffs

Paul tackles the Lower Canyon Brush
Across from the little community of Blue Diamond, Nevada and within the bounds of Red Rock Canyon NCA, there are five canyons that cut into the hill leading up to the gypsum mine property. If you are standing in Blue Diamond and looking across SR 159, the canyons are named from the right to the left. Therefore, Canyon #1 flows out across from the intersection of SR 159 & Arroyo Street. A small parking area for the trailhead is found in the corner that the two roads make. Since this hike has been off the radar for a while, a large number of hikers (17) showed up for the short but interesting hike.

Bottleneck at Difficult Scramble
One of the hikers was David H. He did the honors of leading the group. So, we crossed the highway and started into the brush on a small path. There was a bit of brush until we got about 30 yards into the canyon.

Blue Diamond Canyon #1
Canyon #1 is a very narrow canyon and has some interesting scrambles that require climbing some walls that provide a few steps and hand holds. The largest was only about 5 feet in height.

Fossilized Roots, Sponge Fossil and a variety of Paperbag Bush

Small Break
We kept our eyes on the canyon floor and noticed a large number of fossils. One interesting and unusual fossil display was a set of plant roots. They were as hard as the rock in which they were seen. Another interesting find was a kind of Paperbag Bush that we had not discovered before. There were also small fossils of sponges, shellfish and other sea creatures from the Precambrian Era. We stayed in the main canyon until we came to a large fork. In the past, we have taken the left fork. Today, we took the right fork climbing up the left side of that canyon.

Charlie, Cheryl and Jerry 
As soon as the left wall came down to meet us, we climbed up on it. This put us on a ridge between the left and right canyon forks. We took a moment to turn around and see the impressive view as seen in the first photo.

The Thomas(s) in Canyon #1

Climbing Right Fork Canyon of #1
Next, we began climbing that ridge. It was a good climb and the surprising heat of the almost winter day had us sweating. At the top of the hill on the ridge, we stopped for a small break and noticed a snow-capped Griffith Peak peeking up over the Red Rock Canyon Sandstone Bluffs. We crossed the saddle in front of us and intersected with a trail where we turned right. The trail took us around a small peak and right into the gypsum mine property. This is not a corner of the property that is being used.

Hiking up the Ridge between Right and Left Forks
Another right turn took us down near the old abandoned conveyor building that the mine used years ago to transport the mined gypsum down the cliffs to the manufacturing plant. Nowadays, big trucks are used to move product around.

Good Climb on Ridge!

Snow-capped Griffith Peak behind Bridge Mountain (L)
At the cliff where the conveyor rests, we could see the Las Vegas Strip in the distance. We turned right at the cliff and sat for our break with this view. Here's where we are a bit confused. The map that is used by the Friends of Red Rock shows that the cliff area down to the highway is in Red Rock Canyon NCA. (This boundary is seen on the maps below in pink.) However, we saw signs today that indicate that the boundary line is at the top of the walls of the canyon and do not include the cliff ridge. This area is in danger of becoming residential so the boundary line is of utmost importance. The entire hiking community, a substantial part of the Las Vegas population, is fighting tooth and nail to keep this land from being raped beneath our eyes.

Red Rock Canyon to Spring Mountains
After the break, we followed the trail down the cliff ridge until almost all the way to the bottom edge that is another cliff. We could see our cars from here. Rope, anyone?

Abandoned Conveyor at High Point
We turned to our right and began a steep but doable descent back to Canyon #1. It is important to descend at just the right place.

Starting down the Trail above the Cliffs

Hiking the Trail above the Cliffs
We followed David down into a side canyon then circled around a corner and finished dropping into Canyon #1 just above the two difficult scrambles. Seventeen hikers are a lot of hikers to gather at a particular drop but everyone was very experienced and arrived at the right place at the right time. We continued down the canyon, through the brush and across the road. This is an interesting and beautiful scramble that is off the beaten track. Excellent group!

3.5 miles; 900 feet elevation gain; 3 hours

The Steep Descent back to Canyon

Precise Return to Canyon

The Canyon Down Climb

Thursday, December 6, 2018

7-Up! ~ (A CW tour of seven mesas in the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada) - 12/4/18

 Tuesday's epic hike in the Valley of Fire State Park found five club members scrambling up and over seven mesas. Laszlo took some photos as seen and Brian offers the narative below:

Perhaps it was the forecast temperature or holiday season or the rated difficulty, but only five hikers showed up for the clockwise circuit of the seven southern mesas at the Valley of Fire.  Consequently, the pace was steady and we did the 5.5 miles and 2050 feet gross gain in just under four hours.  Going clockwise means a two mile warm up hike before getting to the sandstone ramp at the bottom of Mesa #1.  Then #2 is just a few short yards away.  Numbers 3, 4 and 5 come fairly steadily thereafter.  Since the wind was a little chilly up on these mesas we took our break in a sheltered spot between #4 and #5, foregoing the brand new (plastic) picnic table (with padlocked coolers) on #5.  While #5 and #6 are close, there’s a deep chasm in between, requiring a steep descent and ascent.  Getting off #6 involves some steep sloping sandstone slickrock.  After another short break near the Rainbow Vista parking area, we decided to all go ahead and do the last and toughest mesa.  Ascending from the north, clockwise isn’t too difficult, but we soon found that descending to the south to be a fair bit more difficult than going in the other direction…choosing to get the webbing out at one spot.  On return to the Mouse’s Tank parking area we all agreed that we had done a hike! ~ Brian Dodd

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Red Cap Scramble - 12/3/18

Red Cap and Turtlehead Peak

Partially Filled Tinaja near Red Cap

Starting down Trail from Sandstone Quarry

Chilly Morning on Turtlehead Peak Trail
It was a chilly morning in the northern Calico Hills. The sun wasn't far above the horizon when nine hikers converged at the Sandstone Quarry Trailhead parking lot hoping to warm up soon as we embarked on a moderately strenuous scramble around and up to Red Cap. We began the 3.5 mile scramble by quickly hiking out the Turtlehead Peak Trail 0.70 miles to the Petroglyph Corner. Rather than climbing directly up to the petroglyphs, we opted to climb the steep sandstone dune to the right of them. It was a fun way to start the festivities!

Climbing Slab at Petroglyph Corner
After everyone was gathered at the top of the hill, we circled around to view the peephole that might have been used by ancient natives to keep an eye on the opposite side of the big rock from where a cave is located.

View Out from Petroglyph Corner
There is a small slot serving as an outlet for water that flows out from this large somewhat enclosed area. We took a look-see and found that gravel has filled in some of the slot "puddles."

Red Cap View from Back Trail

Dropping down the Back Wash
Next, we turned around and exited the area on the opposite end connecting with a small trail. This used to be part of the Rattlesnake Trail but that has changed and now, we'll call this the Back Trail. The Back Trail leads through desert terrain at the base of Turtlehead Peak and connects with what is now referred to as the Rattlesnake Trail. We followed the Back Trail until it crossed a nice wash. Here, we began descending the wash. There are a few small nice scrambles ending with a large sliding drop into a beautiful slot canyon. (Find the drop behind an overgrown bush!)

Fun Little Slide into Turtlehead Canyon
This slot may be named Turtlehead Canyon because if you turn around inside the slot, Turtlehead Peak is seen staring straight down into it!

Turtlehead Canyon Wash
The beautiful slot drops down into gravel and the wash eventually junctions with the, now, Rattlesnake Trail. There, we turned to the left and followed different trails to the bottom of the Red Cap West Side Ascent.

Turtlehead Canyon Continues

Arriving near the West Side Ascent Starting Point
This route begins with a fun steep climb up a crack, around a rock & bush, then up through a crack slot. Follow the slab around to the left and start a steep climb up through rocks and slabs. A good rule of thumb for this route is to keep a general leftward direction, sort of like an ascending spiral. After passing on the left of an especially deep crack, we crossed the cream colored sandstone over to another ascent crack to make the final climb up to the "tank level." When everyone had gathered again, we turned to the left and began the last climb to Red Cap.

First Scramble in West Side Ascent
When we reached the redstone, most of the group continued their climb up to the peak while the remaining three hikers rested below. When the peak climbers returned, we all took a break.

Some Steep Stuff - But, what a view!
We returned down to the tank level and began the "tank tour" by dropping down to the Wall Tank. It was a disappointment. The tank was wet but there was no standing water in it.

Circling around a Deep Crack

View Out just before Final Red Cap Ascent
Continuing the tour, we hiked up to the next tank. This one is the one that usually has water ... if any of them do. Half of the tank bottom was covered with standing water and we were able to walk through the dry side to the other side of the tank. Two newbies in the group decided to walk around the regular way as seen in the second photo. From there, we went around the corner and dropped into the large, almost always empty, tank below then waded through the 2-foot high grass/cattails(?) to the other end. A still-used trail led us up and over to the steep trail descent down to Mass Production Wall. The steep trail is precarious at best so we went slowly.

Much Exposure just below Red Cap Peak
Finally near the wall, we descended the steep slab and began the slow deliberate descent by the wall on the small boulders. Our careful descent produced no injuries!

Safe & Sound below the Peak
We dropped into the Calico Tanks Trail just as a small group of young hikers turned up the hill. I always worry that we are misguiding tourists when this happens. Nevertheless, they will have a good time!
Scrambling around to View the Wall Tank

Hiking through the Large Tank
From this junction, we turned to the right and began scrambling down the Calico Tanks Trail. Choosing to side-step the sandy portion of the trail, we took the high route above the trail. Someone has placed "cairns" in every branch of an old tree here. (Hmm. May not be good for the old soul.) When we connected again with the Calico Tanks Trail, we stepped up our pace to burn off that last bit of energy back to the cars. Fun and fulfilling morning!

3.5 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Slow and Easy down Mass Production Wall

Dodging Puddles on Calico Tanks High Route

A Cairn Tree