Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gray Cap - 5/05/09

This blogger's first ascent to Gray Cap Peak was nothing if it wasn't fast! Hiking on Marathon Tuesday is a necessity if one wants to do some of the most difficult hikes.

Fourteen hikers left from Sandstone Quarry with an early start. We hiked up the wash from the main Calico Tanks trail that leads around the Calico Hills and down to Gateway Canyon. Turning left, we hiked a beautiful limestone, dry waterfall filled Gateway Canyon which circled around to the right as we climbed.

When all that was left of the canyon were rock-filled washes, the limestone turned into a colorful display of red, white and yellow sandstone. We continued up the wash to the right reaching the top of the drainage. The drainage on the other side of the hill led down to Gateway Canyon and the "saddle" that crosses over to Krafft Mtn. But, we took off up the side of the steep hill to the left using the rippled sandstone as stair-steps.

At the top of this initial sandstone climb, we found a plateau of sandstone that we crossed over. Although I did not see them, some of the more experienced hikers said there were tanks in the area. Then we began climbing again. The sandstone climbs were very steep and sometimes involved loose rock. The speed of the hike was breakneck ... maybe a bad choice of word.

The final climb to the peak was laid in limestone as Gray Cap is so named because of a "cap" of limestone on top of a mountain of sandstone. The peak, itself, is not particularly photogenic, however the views from the top are outstanding. Unfortunately, today was hazy and the LV Strip was difficult to even see. Other than the dusty air, the weather was warm with little breeze. To the left, you can see the view of Calico Basin and below, the view of Red Cap and the route from which we came.

After taking a break on the peak and writing in the summiters' log, the fourteen of us headed downhill. Remember the steepness and the loose rock? Well, let's just say that downhill was a challenge. Although hiking sticks would have helped this blogger at this point, there is so much steep climbing and bouldering that the sticks would have been in the way for that. It always comes down to a matter of choice.

We headed back down the way we came up until we reached the sandstone plateau. After another short break, our fearless leader decided to take the scenic route which amounted to going straight up over this small peak and then straight down and down and down the other side.

Almost all of the rock we were climbing down was loose and several avalanches were created. It became very important to watch your back as well as your front and side. With ears open and aware, we all made it down at our own speed and arrived at the point where Gateway Canyon had ended and the sandstone had begun. From there, we returned to our normal breakneck speed while flying down the dry waterfalls and negotiating big and little boulders. This blogger's knees will hurt for a while!

The final climb was that which ascended from Gateway Canyon to the edge of Calico Hills. Although it didn't seem like a difficult task, the thighs and hamstrings were pretty much done and the climb became the proof in the pudding that we had had one heck of a workout.

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