Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hidden Peak - 3/20/18

Hidden Peak from Overlook

Tough Tree on Hidden Peak Overlook

Limestone Arch seen from Escarpment Rim Trail

Hiking up the Burnt Ridge
 Today's Tuesday Extravaganza was an almost 10 mile partial loop hike to a welcoming peak that lies within the treasure trove of the Red Rock Escarpment, aka the Wilson Cliffs, aka the Sandstone Bluffs. Before we can really appreciate the Aztec Sandstone lying below the darker gray limestone south of the Red Rock Scenic Drive and west of Cottonwood Valley, an explanation of how this beautiful yet massive feature was created is taken from that book again as follows: *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; pages 20.
Climbing the Mountain Springs Peak Trail
 *The Keystone Thrust System: The Sandstone Bluffs, the 2000-foot-high cliffs ... are composed dominantly of red and white Aztec Sandstone. The Aztec Sandstone is Jurassic in age (probably deposited about 180 million years ago) and is the same rock formation as the Navajo Sandstone found on the Colorado Plateau.

Mountain Springs Peak Trail (Spring Mountains in Background)
  *On the skyline you can see a series of dark gray rock layers that now lie above the Aztec Sandstone. The sequence of rocks exposed in this escarpment is out of normal stratigraphic order; that is, older rocks are resting upon younger rocks (Cambrian rocks on Jurassic rocks). Since this unusual arrangement cannot result from normal depositional processes, it indicates the presence of a major fault - in this case a thrust fault - between the two layers.

Small Window (Monument & Hidden Peak in Background)

Hiking the Escarpment Rim Trail
  *Faults that generally place older rocks on top of younger rocks are known as reverse faults and, if they are inclined at low angles, they are called thrust faults. Thrust faults result from compressional forces within the Earth's crust.
  This particular thrust fault is known as the Wilson Cliffs thrust, one of the oldest (here topographically lowest) of several west-dipping, low-angle faults which make up the well-known Keystone thrust system. The fault is inclined gently downward to the west and places the older Cambrian rocks on top of younger Jurassic rocks. Because of its spectacular exposure - in many places it appears as a knife-sharp contact from the air - this structure is one of the most photographed thrust faults in the world.

Black Velvet Canyon from Rim Trail
 *The Keystone thrust system is one of a series of thrust faults in southern Nevada that collectively moved blocks of rock - originally 3 to 4 miles thick - tens of miles eastward. Movement along these great thrust faults probably occurred during the middle of the Cretaceous Period, although the exact age of activity on these faults remains a point of controversy among geologists.

Northern View from Hidden Peak Trail Junction
 (More on the Sandstone Bluffs later.) As I said, it was Tuesday, the first day of Spring, and, true to March's form, it was cloudy and dreary to all but eighteen first class desert hikers. We parked at the Mountain Springs Pass Trailhead and, just for a bit of variety, we ascended to the saddle via the burnt ridge that we sometimes use for our descent.

Hidden Peak Trail Descent off Rim

Crossing Bench to Hidden Peak Ascent
 (Since this was our first ascent this way, we overshot the saddle and ended up on the Hollow Rock Trail!) Back on track, we headed out to Mountain Springs Peak passing the right fork to Windy Peak. Along the rim, Paul joyfully exclaimed, "It's 9:15! Welcome to the solar equinox!" ... Or, something to that effect. Then, we peaked out on Mountain Springs Peak to find that the log book was nowhere to be found. Note: If you plan to go here soon, bring a notepad, pencil and weather proof box. Thanks. From here, we descended down to the "Snack Cliff" where the small window resides. Hidden Peak can actually be seen through the window but, well, anyway. Later, we saw the window from Hidden Peak! Now, that was really something! The next trailing ridge would be our later descent so we placed a cairn that we would see and continued around.

Black Velvet Canyon from Bench
 The larger limestone arch that hangs off of the side of the rim could be seen around the corner (see third photo). We followed the Escarpment Rim trail around until we saw this arch from the other direction. Now, to our right, we could clearly see Hidden Peak sitting above deep Black Velvet Canyon on its right.

First near View of Hidden Peak
 Why is it called "Hidden Peak?" This stealthily tame but proud peak lies south-southwest of Monument Peak. From the east, the peak appears to just be part of Monument Peak and, thus, nothing special. Sneaky, huh? Identify the peak from the approach as the round dome with a large red-orange scar on its north side. (First photo.)

Passing Small Tinaja

Crack Scramble to Sandstone Bridge
There are two junctions that can be used to attain the Hidden Peak Trail. One junction is at the small rise just after the limestone arch. But, we continued to the next corner and followed the trail that also leads down to Little Zion. Hidden Peak Trail continues steeply down to cross a bench onto the sandstone below. Views of Black Velvet Canyon to the right are spectacular! Little Zion lies silently down to the left. (Remember, this trail has to be climbed back up on the return portion of the hike.) The trail becomes very vague once it hits the sandstone but suffice it to say, it rounds the corner to the right and heads over to a down climb via various easily maneuvered sandstone cracks. You are still on the bench but the terrain is becoming a little more serious! The final down climb crack leads to the finale portion to the sandstone bridge which can be crossed atop the shear wall of Black Velvet Canyon or in the safe dirt and pine trees on the other side.

Crack Scramble to Sandstone Bridge
 As I perused the situation, I decided to stay above the final descent crack to watch the summit approach by seventeen strong hikers unfold! The Hidden Peak Overlook was a beautiful place surrounded with sandstone, views, precipitous boundaries and the limestone escarpment rim above. A photographer's dream. (Just need a prettier day.)

Hidden Peak Ascent from Overlook
 So, the remaining hikers took one of two ascent routes. The front hikers headed on up to the left on a ramp trail after which became a steep scramble to the top. The back hikers climbed up on the right side, turned left into a crack and came out closer to the summit on a different steep climb. Both routes were made to look easy to, me, the observer.

Weather Beaten Tree on Overlook

Mountain Springs Peak (R), Mt. Potosi (C) from Overlook
 After a rest on the top, they headed down but, this time, all used the left side to descend. When they reached the overlook, I stood as a landmark in red! We had a little difficulty finding the trail to head back but these hikers rarely really need a trail! Eventually, we found the trail to cross the bench and do the difficult climb out to the rim. Back on the rim, we chose to return to the trailhead via the Mountain Springs Peak Loop trail since this would eliminate some of the elevation gain. (It also adds about a mile.) Regardless, we charged into the downhill ridge, wash, and side ridge with gusto! At this point, we got pretty spread out and ended up in three smaller groups. The route back can be a bit detailed but, did I mention, this group rarely requires a trail!

Summit Photos on Hidden Peak
 At any rate, we all found the Mountain Springs Trail and returned to the cars with various routes here and there ... and feet on the accelerators. Fun stuff! Hidden Peak is a wonderful escarpment peak and I highly recommend just the Hidden Peak Overlook if it suits you.

Northern View from Overlook
 To continue with trivia about the Sandstone Bluffs, I, again, quote that book from *p. 21.
 *The escarpment we have been observing and describing is officially named Sandstone Bluffs. By official, we mean Sandstone Bluffs is the name recognized by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, the naming branch of the U.S. Geological Survey. Government maps, being official and all that, only use "official names" so any published government map will show this feature labeled as "Sandstone Bluffs."

Part of the Limestone Escarpment Rim (Keystone Thrust)

Interesting Rock Designs
 *But what about the other names, Wilson Cliffs and Red Rock Escarpment? These are alternate names for the bluffs and each has a loyal following of local users. Who named it Sandstone Bluffs? No one knows, but about all this name tells us is that the bluffs are made of sandstone. "Red Rock Escarpment" sounds impressive, and the feature is definitely impressive, but it took little thought to come up with this name for an escarpment cut in red rocks. Wilson Cliffs, on the other hand, isn't descriptive, but this name does have a tie to local history. James Wilson and his partner, George Anderson, established a ranch at the base of the cliffs in 1876 and the Wilson family owned the ranch until 1929. It therefore seems fitting that the rugged cliffs rising to the west of the ranch carry the name Wilson Cliffs.
Hidden Peak Descent from Overlook
 *The Wilsons, however, called their holdings "Sandstone Ranch," so could they be the ones who coined "Sandstone Bluffs" as a matching name? The ranch, after several name transformations of its own, is now Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.

The Big Climb back up to the Rim
 The Sandstone Bluffs stand tall along the Keystone Thrust with the highest sandstone peak being Wilson Peak at 7071 elevation feet with a prominence of 670 feet.

Cloudy & Snowy Day over the Springs Mountains

Dropping into the Descent Wash
 The most prominent peaks of the escarpment from south to north are Hollow Rock, Windy, Black Velvet, Monument, Sandstone, Indecision, Wilson, Rainbow, and Bridge Point. Other hikable peaks include Hidden, Global, Peak-ee-Toe, Spirit, Far, Bridge, Juniper, North and Goodman. ... Well, and that's just to name a few of the many destinations of hikers and rock climbers of Red Rock Canyon NCA.

Hidden Peak Loop stats: 10 miles; 2800 feet elevation gain; 5.5 hours.

Hidden Peak Overlook Loop stats: 9 miles; 2200 feet elevation gain; 5 hours

Gathering in the Descent Wash

Lower Descent Wash

Mountain Springs Trail

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