Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gray Cap Scramble - 2/12/12

                       Gray Cap Peak from the top of Scramble Canyon.

                                Morning colors on a cloudy day.

It was a Super Sunday Hike today as ten hikers took on Gray Cap Peak through Scramble Canyon, a canyon that leads almost straight up to Gray Cap from Lower Gateway Canyon.  This canyon takes the hiker through a white / yellow layer of sandstone, continues through a deep red layer then another white layer before finishing on the gray limestone layer that tops the sandstone. Over the course of the 5.5 mile hike, we climbed a total of 2200 feet in elevation and averaged a little less than a mile an hour.

The ten hikers were anxious to get started as we left our cars parked at the furthest parking lot in Red Rock Canyon NCA's Calico Basin and headed up Five Stop Hill ... just for a warm-up. Gaining the hill in record time, we dropped into Lower Gateway Canyon, hiked up a little ways and turned right up beside a small side canyon. The weather was cool but the predicted breeze was not around. We had blue skies above us but this would not last throughout the morning. Rain and snow was slowly moving in from the Spring and Sheep Mountains.

                                Starting up out of Gateway Canyon.

 Chapter One of this tale involved the first white layer of sandstone. We made our way up in a roundabout way as we headed over to the mostly red Scramble Canyon. So many possibilities and so many cairns lit the way, however, our fearless leaders, Mike O'C. and Steve A., had done their homework. We scrambled here, there, and everywhere but always in the right direction.

As we reached Chapter Two, the red layer, someone spotted a fox staring down at us from its lookout.

                                Gray fox watches us.

                                Gray fox plans and makes good its escape.

 The way cute fox just stared at us as we stared back about twenty yards away. Finally, it looked right and left to plan its escape. Quickly, it took off to our left and lithely climbed a very steep sandstone wall where we could only watch.

We happily continued our steep scrambling into the red layer. We were always aware of the trickiness of the loose boulders and exposure to the abyss.

 However, kudos, once again, to Mike who kept the pace at a safe crawl. He and Steve were always telling us where to go ... well, they were!

Eventually, we reached an area of small tenajas at the bases of cascading waterfalls. We edged up the waterfalls to the left then crossed over the top of one.

  Nearing the top of Scramble Canyon between Gateway Canyon and Gray Cap.

 We took a small break at one point as the going was relentlessly tough. A little later, at the advice of the leader, some of us stashed our hiking sticks. We would retrieve them on the return. But, right then, the sticks would just continue to get in our way especially when we begin the down portion of Scramble Canyon.

(By the way, if anyone knows what the actual name of this canyon is, feel free to let me know!)

                                        Balancing at the dry waterfalls.

 Hiking past a large red wall of sandstone which Mike and Steve named Rooster Rock (most of us didn't see the rooster), we met Chapter Three, the second layer of white sandstone. Still following cairns, we soon merged with the standard route used for climbing Gray Cap the easier way. Up, we climbed past the "picnic table" and over to the limestone layer ... Chapter Four.

 The writer neglected to get a peak shot of the ten hikers due to a) need for rest and sustenance and b) concern over the approaching rain clouds. However, the photo to the left should affirm that we made it to the top!

We didn't stay long on the top due to the aforementioned rain clouds ... not to add the few sprinkles that we tried our best to ignore.

                      Downpour over the escarpment. We got sprinkles.

 We returned to the standard route junction and turned left to begin going down a slightly different way. As we journeyed through the red layer, the rain / tiny hail began lightly falling. The camera was put away and didn't return until we had reached the white layer again. Suffice it to say, we worked our way down very carefully on the possibly slippery rock.

We finally reached the meadow and then Gateway Canyon. The climb up to the saddle was dubbed "The Epilogue" and we quickly descended Five Stop Hill and returned to the cars. The hike was a definite workout but we all enjoyed the day down to the last step!

                                Andre hikes through the white layer.

                                Back at the saddle above Five Stop Hill.

1 comment:

Jerry Thomas said...

I'm glad the photos of the red fox came out OK. He was sooo cute!