Thursday, June 17, 2010

Window in the Cliff - 6/17/10

The Window in the Cliff hike begins at the Bonanza Trailhead which is located at the end of the dirt road which leads out of the Cold Creek community. This area is known for roaming wild horses and houses powered by solar alone. It is also a community settled a few miles into the mountains from the prison and correctional facility!

Window in the Cliff is one tough hike! It could be the fifty-seven switchbacks up 2000 feet in elevation over four miles. Or, it could be the half mile of scrambling over sharp fossil encrusted limestone and large scree-falls over a forty-five degree angled slope. Or, it could be the return of the half mile which requires a reverse of the second choice. Or, perhaps, it is the endless hike down the fifty-seven switchbacks which tests the knees to their limit. In the photo above, a few of today's sixteen hikers crowded in to get the long distance view of the destination of our climb.

The redeeming qualities of the Window in the Cliff hike are as follows: the window, itself, is uniquely placed at the top of a cliff (how did it get formed?), the hike is not well-travelled (therefore, the hiker is one of the lucky few to experience the window), and, it feels absolutely fabulous to have accomplished the nine-mile hike after it's over!

The Cold Creek, Nevada community from one of the switchbacks.

The town of Pahrump and Death Valley, California beyond from the top of the saddle.

Talking with your hiking neighbor is a good way to make the time and effort pass quickly as you hike the switchbacks up the mountain to the Bonanza saddle which lies just below the Bonanza Peak. We took a small break at the saddle to munch something and put our gloves on. Gloves are important here because the next phase of the hike requires close contact with the razor sharp limestone that crowns the ridge which we scrambled along next.

When we were unable to climb over the limestone outcrop- pings, we had to drop down into the heavy scree that covered the steep slope. There is no trail for this part of the hike and, as a result, there were several interpretations as to what the best route was to take through the forest of white trees. This area was burned by a forest fire several years ago and the trees now display an eerie quality like something from "Lord of the Rings."

When we finally climbed the last slope of scree to the window, we were ready for a break. We sat under the shade of the window or on the rocks in the sun and contemplated the beautiful views of Nevada on one side and California on the other side. There was a sign-in book and many pictures were taken.

Eventually, the return climb across the ridge had to be faced. Again, there were a few different routes that were taken. The most successful route seems to have been the one closest to the peak of the ridge. We took another short break at the saddle and began the long and arduous trip down the switchbacks. Five hours after beginning the hike, we returned to the cars and began the forty mile drive back to the carpooling point. Although this hike had its up and down, we will be back to experience it again next year.

Wild horses were roaming the area a few hundred yards from the dirt road which leads out of Cold Creek.

This Google Earth map was taken in January of 2007. We only saw one little patch of snow on the trail today.

This is a map of the trail with the approach.

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