Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gray Cap - 11/8/11

In the cold early hours of this morning, fifteen hikers gathered at Sandstone Quarry of the Red Rock Canyon NCA to take a hike. The hike du jour was Gray Cap Peak; a six mile hike with 1900 feet gross elevation gain and some of the most beautiful views in the park. We began hiking out the Calico Tanks Trail and turned left into a rocky wash. From here, we made our way up to the high point of the base of Red Cap Peak. It was a drop down into Gateway Canyon after this.

We turned left in Gateway Canyon and began climbing up the limestone. There are several fun dry waterfalls (one is seen to the left) and many rocks to climb and balance on. Turtlehead Peak looms above for much of this part of the canyon. We were all shedding layers of clothing about midway through our climb. It wasn't so cold after a bit of physical exertion.

Turning one more corner, the red and yellow sandstone at the end of the canyon came into view like color TV arriving after so much black and white. (Yes. We remember this.) A few more waterfalls and we were there at the base of the sandstone. "Where now?" you ask. "Well. See that tree at the top of the sandstone wall in front of you?" the coordinator replies. "We'll wait for everyone there. Go have some fun!"

So, up, we scrambled! Huffing and puffing. Looking for the "easiest route" and realizing that there really isn't an "easiest route." We needed one or two personal breaks as we ascended to the next level. Then, finally together at the top, we crossed over to a very large deep tinaja. Bone dry! (Wasn't there rain at Red Rock just the other day?) Anyway, we balanced across the adjacent sandstone fin and began rounding the peak up to our right.

Our group had become separated and the first segment was already making the final climb when the second segment finished rounding the smaller peak. Picking our way up through the treacherous loose rocks, we passed the "picnic table," picked through more rocks, then found a faint trail as we passed onto the limestone layer. Eventually, all of us made it to the top where we sat for a much deserved break.

From Gray Cap Peak, views of the Las Vegas Strip, the Red Rock escarpment, Red Cap Peak, Turtlehead Peak, Calico Hills, Calico Basin and Brownstone Canyon are all around. Yeah. This is why we hike.

After our break, Mike O'C. lead us down the sandstone using variations on the theme. At the peak where we rounded before, most of the group took off to the left on a route that would take them to the saddle above the top of Gateway Canyon. Three hikers chose to return the way they came. Gathering at Gateway Canyon, the group sped down the wash and back up around Red Cap. Another variation on the theme occurred when we exited through the small slot canyon as we neared the Calico Tanks Trail. Even though the morning seemed to go by rapidly, Gray Cap turned out to be a four hour hike ... again.

John S. reported as follows: Four maverick trekkers decided to go it alone for Grey Cap Peak from Calico Basin. Their leader- j*S took the scenic SW route that skirted boulder hopping to reach a colorful plateau half way up. From here it was but an easy side-ridge up-climb to the Peak. Their time- 1 and half hours. After a brief snack break, j*S led them on a gentle-down NW route that again avoided any difficulties. Thus, by noon, all four mavericks were back at the car; now faced with the drudgery of afternoon home chores.

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