Thursday, January 6, 2011
River Mountain - 1/6/11
The River Mountain hike began this morning with a couple of unusual obstacles. After parking at the River Mountain Trailhead off of Highway 93 in Boulder City, fifteen hikers were lead into a concrete drainage where they began their climb up to the Red & Black Mountain saddle. Today's hike was energetically lead by guest coordinators, Chuck and Joan, who normally lead hikes for the Lake Mead NRA.
We walked up the drainage to the end then connected with the traditional trail for Red & Black Mountains. It is a bit shorter this way than taking the traditional trail from the parking lot. The River Mountain hike is eight miles with an elevation gain of 1400 feet and every little bit of shortcut helped.
Half of the group of hikers hiked up the wash to the saddle, instead of using the switchbacks, to do a little bouldering for the day.
After rejoining the other half of the group and hiking over the saddle to the other side, we took a small break where we had a beautiful view of the Las Vegas Strip.
At this point, we went off trail heading directly down into the "caldera." Presumably, this area in the shape of a large bowl between the River Mountain Range and the east side of Las Vegas is a caldera made by an ancient volcano. Although it isn't obviously a volcano crater, with a little imagination one can see the bowl in the middle of surrounding mountains.
After hiking quickly through the caldera, we found a very rough dirt road which lead up between River Mountain and another mountain in the range. Huge power poles and lines ran along the side of the road carrying electricity from Hoover Dam. At the top of the hill, we came to the last utility pole before the power lines took a dive down the mountain on the other side.
Somehow the power lines in front of the view of Lake Mead seemed almost proper. After all, Lake Mead is all about water and electricity, isn't it?
This would make a great zip line ... except for the million volts of electricity you would have to deal with!
Turning to the left, we began our final assault on River Mountain. It was steep. It was challenging. And, the views were fantastic! We left two members of the group at the last power pole. They watched us as we climbed to the peak. We also watched them and waved to them occassionally. The group split into two on the way up. One group taking a good route and one group finding a difficult lateral crossover to the final saddle.
One by one, we reached the peak where two lightening rods reigned over the magnificent 360 degree views of the Strip, Spring Mountains, Lake Mead, and Henderson. Lava Butte stuck up into the air as if to say "Look at me! I'm colorful and perky!" We stayed up here for a short while. The wind was chilly but was not a constant hindrance then nor throughout the hike.
Although this panorama did not turn out well, it might give the reader an idea of what it was like on top of River Mountain.
Ready for the descent off of the peak, we slowly made our way down the steep and somewhat slippery trail.
When we reached the power pole, we each had a large smile on our face. The descent had been tricky and it had to be carefully dealt with. Regrouping at the pole, we began the hike down the dirt road. The hike back across the caldera was very swift as the leader was interested in giving us an excellent workout.
From here, we could see what we thought might be an ice fall next to the trail we would be returning on. Curious, we anxiously climbed to the trail and found a spot to view the ice fall. We were surprised that there was such a thick ice fall at this lower elevation. A little further and we were once again on the Red & Black saddle. Interested in making it back to the cars with our legs and feet still in tact, we took the switchbacks down. No one chose to make the return down the wash that we came up.
From the trail, you can see the red and black colors of the rock.
Healthy Teddy Bear Cholla were growing next to the concrete drainage on which we returned.