Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gray Cap Peak - 11/4/10

There were eleven hikers on today's hike to Gray Cap Peak in the Red Rock Canyon NCA. Gray Cap is a small peak with an elevation of 5400 feet above sea level. It is named as such because the "cap" on the mountain consists of limestone around fifty feet deep surrounded by yellow sandstone which makes up the rest of the mountain.

We left from Sandstone Quarry off of the scenic loop when the sun was still very low on the horizon. As we rounded the base of Red Cap, the sun gave a nice glow to the sandstone we hiked beside (2nd photo). Peeking around the corner, we saw the Ash Canyon Overlook backdropped by the morning sky (3rd photo).

Here, we took a small water break at the usual place and started off again (4th photo). We hiked down the wash which lies between Turtlehead and Krafft Mountains and arrived at our lowest point when we entered Gateway Canyon. Below, this photo of Turtlehead shows the view that met us.

We turned left and began our climb up through the Upper Gateway Canyon. This section of the canyon is made of craggy limestone with many boulders strewn about. There are also several dry waterfalls that must be negotiated. The rough limestone provides many foot and hand holds to enable the steep climbs as seen in the photo below.

Upper Gateway Canyon is a fun scramble for which gloves are useful. The rock can be smooth at times but often it is sharp. Water floods the canyon every year and it seems to be one of the most dynamic canyons in the Red Rock hiking area. Boulders move, gravel changes locations and obstacles are presented in a new way annually.

When we reached the top of the canyon, we faced a red sandstone "wall." Taking a break, we turned around to see this small boulder arrangement on the hillside. No one could remember seeing this before. Maybe it was always there. Who knows? Anyway, we turned back to face the red wall which was filled with cracks, crevices, loose rock and eroded shapes. Yep. This is the wall we climb for a good steep 300 feet in elevation. Up we went as the sun peered over the horizon. Usually, we appear as ants climbing all over the hillside. Today, most of us stayed close together and let Chris do the thinking!

Just before we crested the hill among the sandstone which had changed to yellow, we stopped for a breather. The view above appeared majestically over the ridge to the right. Continuing, we hiked above a very large tank. Two months ago, this tank was completely dry. Thankfully, it was now filled with water for the wildlife to drink.

On the other side of the "fin" (photo above) we walked across, there was a small tank that was also filled with water (photo to right). This tank provided a nice reflection as the shadows of the hikers walked past. Moving on, we climbed further up the sandstone to the right. The panorama at the top of this entry was taken during the next portion of the hike. In it, one can see Red Cap, the escarpment and the wash in the foreground of Red Cap in which we had hiked toward Gateway Canyon.

The air was fairly clear in the valley today and we were able to see the Strip from this section of the hike. We continued hiking the yellow sandstone in a lateral way until we reached the final climb. Up we went again. Then, finally, we hit the limestone. A little further and we were on top of Gray Cap Peak. The panorama below and the one at the bottom of the entry were both taken from the peak.

On the way down, we were photo- graphed by one of the two hikers who had chosen to rest at the bottom of the sandstone wall (aka "The Fun Zone"). Carl and Luci lounged in the sun and shade below and watched us negotiate the steep descent as seen in his photo below.

We joined them at the bottom and began our scramble down Gateway Canyon. The hike finished at Sandstone Quarry after taking a few more water breaks. The sun had become hot even though it is already November. Ah, ... we love Las Vegas!

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