Saturday, March 31, 2012

Red Springs Loop - 3/31/12

                                Calico Hills

                                Red Rock Rendezvous Participants

 There were nineteen participants in today's early hike on Red Springs Loop. This hike begins at the Red Springs Picnic Area parking lot in Calico Basin. Our first order of business was to hike over to a rock fall area that leads up to Red Springs Saddle, or Angel Pass. There are several names in circulation for this particular saddle between the Calico Hills.

 We made our way up to the base of the rock fall and began a steep climb. The group stayed on the same trail but got separated from time to time. Several rest stops were made to make sure that everyone was able to get up to the saddle. A special thanks to those who were working as the "sweep," a very important position when hiking in a group. The leader has to try to gauge the speed and give suggestions as to how to negotiate obstacles but the word doesn't always get all the way back to the end of the line. That is where the sweep is very helpful to those hikers who have not heard suggestions first hand. The sweep also makes sure that the trail is not lost to those hikers when inadvertent gaps have been created in our long trains.

                                Descending from Angel Pass

                                Angel Carving

 After waiting for everyone to summit the saddle, we began down the other side. As is the ascent, the descent is covered with choices of trails and routes. For the most part, we all stayed on the same route and ended up at the angel carving as seen in the photo above. While we waited here for everyone to catch up, we inspected the carving from all angles ... see photo to left.

 Two hikers explored a route on the extreme left side of the canyon staying up on the rock ledges. We continued down from the carving into the floor of the canyon and climbed up on snack rock which overlooks the wash below the Calico II Overlook on the scenic loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA. While we took our break, a large group of Red Rock Rendezvous participants climbed up through the wash and seemed to be learning the basics in rock scrambling along with their lessons in rock climbing.

                                Snack Break on Snack Rock

                                First Climb out of Wash

 Next, we traveled a series of wash hiking and trail hiking down below the scenic loop past Calico II and Calico I. Trying to stay in the wash as much as possible, the hike required still more scrambling which the nineteen hikers did not seem to mind. In fact, there were mumblings about how using the trail for all of this section of the hike tends to get boring.

 It's true that the wash gave the hike a lot of variety so we happily followed it out until we hit a trail that climbed up to the left. We stopped shortly at a small petroglyph site then took off up the hill. We seemed to go high too fast but it all worked out in the end. Around the corner and over the saddle, then it was back down to the Red Springs parking lot. The hike was a great workout at only four miles and 3.5 hours. Although we weren't really trying, we did beat the worst of the predicted afternoon strong winds.

                                Dry Waterfall

                                Circling Calico Hills on Return

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tank Discovery Scramble - 3/29/12

            View down from climb up Peak I on Tank Discovery Scramble.

                                Hikers pass Sandstone Quarry Arch.

 The idea for the Tank Discovery Scramble was conceived while perusing the Calico Hills on Google Earth and discovering quite a few dark areas that were assumed to be water tanks or tenajas. These tanks fill with water when there is sufficient rain. The water only escapes the tank through animal consumption or evaporation. Reflections in these tanks can produce very nice photos of the surrounding landscapes so a small group of us got together to find the tanks. Henceforth, the Tank Discovery Scramble was born.

 Unfortunately, today's hike into the Calico Hills showed dry tank after dry tank. There were only three tanks with any water at all. Therefore, the hike was deemed one grand scramble. Eighteen scramblers set off from the Sandstone Quarry parking lot found on the Red Rock Canyon NCA scenic loop. Hiking past the remnants of the old sandstone quarry from sixty or so years back, we turned right into the sandstone to pass by a large arch that is off the beaten path. Phase I of the hike continues up past the arch to the peak where we got our first view of the canyon floor. Two hikers broke off to find another route to the second peak and we continued the hike backtracking a little ways to find the Calico Tanks Trail below. Phase I was completed and we were warmed up ... ready for Phase II.

                             Touching base with the Calico Tanks Trail.

 We hiked up the Calico Tanks Trail until we were past the red sandstone and Rooster Rock. A spur trail to the right took us up to a plateau where we found a way to climb the west end of the sandstone hill in front of us. The formidable climb brought us to the first large tank. It had very little water in it so we enjoyed the views around us while we waited for everyone to recover from the effort.

                                Hiker arrives at the first large tank.

 Next, we continued up the north side of the neighboring plateau, dropped down to the left and found the next tank. This tank, seen to the left, is a pretty little tank that provides nice reflections when it is full and the skies are blue. Today, it was a mere puddle! Interestingly, there were smaller tanks (or puddles) along the way that did have water. Not sure why the larger tanks were dry-ish.

After playing in the puddle, we climbed back up to the plateau and crossed over to the south side of the hill.  It is necessary to make a traverse through a very brushy area to get to the east end of the hill. So, down and over we went through brush and boulders, balancing on tree logs, and finally arriving on sandstone again.

                The brushy traverse portion of Tank Discovery Scramble Phase II.

 Climbing a crack up about twenty elevation feet, we found another large sunken tank ... dry. We climbed back down, climbed up a rock fall, crossed a wash and climbed one more sandstone hill. We had arrived at our snack break destination, Calico II Overlook Peak. The going had been slow and we were ready for refreshment after only two miles!

As we summited, we met the two hikers that had found another way from the first peak.

 The view from this peak is tremendous! There is a 360 degree view of the surrounding sandstone and limestone landscape. The temperatures were mild with very little wind and the clouds kept the sun at bay. Conversations were interesting, to say the least, but, what happens in Vegas ... etc.

It was decided that four hikers would descend from the peak on the usual route. The remaining hikers took fate into their hands and took the route with "mucho exposure." Interestingly, it was the crack (or "Yikes moment!) at the bottom that was talked about the most. What exposure?

                             The "YIKES" moment during Phase II!

 We connected with the Calico Tanks Trail for a few feet then turned right to climb up the sandstone ... again. Passing another dry tank, we dropped down into a wash and continued until we met the trail again for a short way. The scrambling didn't stop as we found alternate ways to do the "tourist" trail that we paralleled. Phase III was underway.

                Turtlehead Wash & Slot Canyon in the beginning of Phase III.

 Turtlehead Wash was next on the agenda. It is a gravel wash that leads into a small slot canyon that we have dubbed Turtlehead Canyon. At the end of the slot, there is a dry fall that is a little tricky to get up then the hike goes forward to the seldom used trail at the foot of Turtlehead Peak. This trail takes the hikers back toward the Turtlehead Trail and turns into a sandstone cove where the last climb begins.

 The climb to Peak III is steep and a little scary. But, it is well worth the effort as it leads to the most beautiful tank on the scramble of all. The tank was filled about eight inches with green water. However, the setting of this tank is between two sloping walls with Turtlehead Peak reigning over one end and the escarpment back- dropping the other side. Oh, and by the way, the acoustics here are great!

                            Phase III Descent

 We carefully climbed down from the peak and circled around more sandstone to find petroglyphs. We stared across the large wash for a moment then someone asked if we could visit the Mormon Arch which also contains pictographs from the Mormon travellers. "Sure. Someone lead the way!"

At this point, five hikers had left the hike for various reasons, so thirteen hikers climbed the nearby sandstone hill to inspect the closed arch. Another exciting climb down sandstone, as seen in the photo below, topped off the day's hike and, finally, it was time to return to the cars.

We found the Turtlehead Trail and followed it all the way back to Sandstone Quarry. After five hours of scrambling 4.5 miles, most of us were ready for a nap!

                            Visiting the Mormon Arch.

                                Hiking out on the Turtlehead Peak Trail.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Club Members' Toroweap Excursion - March 2012

The Grand Canyon from Tuckup Trail at Toroweap.

 Paul and I (Jerry) got back from our four day and three night hiking/camping trip on Sunday organized by George McDonald.  I’ve attached some photos below and the gpx files for two of our hikes.  To get to Toroweap you must drive southeast from Saint George for 60 miles on fairly nice dirt roads.  Once you get to Grand Canyon NP the roads turn much worse and are almost as bad as Rocky Gap Road.  We camped within easy walking distance to the Canyon and Colorado River beneath what is called Toroweap Point (according to George’s map).  We arrived Thursday afternoon and set up camp.  Friday we piled into George’s pickup for the ride to the Lava Falls Trail head.  (Note to Doyle: Lava Falls Rapids is downstream a couple hundred yards from the trail so I never saw the rapids.)  The following is the harrowing account of our Lava Falls hike:

 We got out of George’s pickup about 9:30am on Friday, March 23, 2012 with the intent to hike the 1.5 miles down to the Colorado River.  This would involve dropping about 2500 ft in 1.5 miles.  The Lava Falls trail is particularly dangerous for several reasons.  First, the footing is loose rock and dirt with several scree slopes.  Second, the slope is very severe dropping 2500 ft in 1.5 miles or about a 33 degree slope on average for the whole hike.  Third, the hike goes down at the start giving the typical hiker a false sense of security since they are going downhill in the relatively cool morning not realizing they will have to go back up a severe slope in the hot afternoon.  I understand that three people died on this trail last year.

We started our hike and Pepe shot down the slope as if fired from a cannon.  We didn’t see Pepe again until he started back up (of course before any of us had reached the bottom).  Paul did his best to follow Pepe but soon lost sight of him.  George and I followed Paul with the seven other slower hikers following the two of us.  On the way down George kept saying how he thought we were not on the right route down and should be further left on a well-vegetated ridge.  Nevertheless, we kept going down a treacherous wash following cairns as we went.  Paul made his way to a small knob about two thirds of the way down or 1000 ft above the water.  I reached Paul’s position and then George.  Over the next hour hikers straggled to the impromptu meeting point.  I was apprehensive at this juncture since it was getting hot and it was also almost 12 noon.  I had also thrust my foot into a cactus the previous night and my right angle was swollen and sore.  We later determined that it was slightly infected.  Also, I had neglected to check my water and some had leaked out of my bladder giving me only a liter and a half at that point in the hike. 

                             The Grand Canyon from Tuckup Trail at Toroweap.

   When everybody reached the meeting point we took a census on people’s ability and willingness to continue down.  I had a particularly ominous feeling and decided it was better if I started back up.  The two young Austrians, Natalie and Michael, were enthusiastic to continue but had only about a liter of water between the two.  I convinced them to follow me back up.  Bill, an older gentlemen, also decided to go back up with me.  Matt, a young man albeit a non-hiker, also decided it was best if he went back with me.  He was the last to reach the meeting place at about 12:20pm.

The rest of the hikers decided to continue.  They started down from the meeting point about 1000 ft above the water at around 12:15pm.  George had warned everybody that the way down from there was even more dangerous than before.  George put me in charge of the small group heading back up from the meeting point.  I decided to follow the cairns that were going up where George said the trail should have been.  Immediately after we had started up Bill decided to go off on his own.  I was worried about Bill.  He is a seasoned hiker but he is a septuagenarian.  Matt got slower. We were half way up the vegetated ridge when Natalie suddenly fell to the ground and said she was sick and couldn’t continue.  Her boy friend Michael rushed up from below and gave her some of his water.  Matt joined us and gave us a Mylar emergency blanket which we used as a sun shield for Natalie.  I was starting to get very worried.  We had at least a 1500 ft, very difficult climb ahead of us with very little water left. 

I told everyone in my group to stay put and rest while I made sure our route connected with the route we had taken down.  I followed the well-cairned route up to where it joined the route we had taken down then went back to my group to help them the rest of the way up.  We went slowly up the trail.  I had to loan Matt and Natalie some of my water because they had run out.  When we got near the top I ran to George’s truck and got some bottles of water that George had brought along and then ran back to Matt and Natalie so that they would not become dehydrated.  We reached the truck about 2:45pm.  At about 3:30pm Bill showed up and I was relieved to see him.  The next to straggle up was John who had not gone down the whole way.  Paul arrived around 4pm.  In the meantime Pepe had gone off to climb Vulcan’s Throne, had returned, and set off with some water bottles to find George and the rest of the group.  Pepe had returned saying he couldn’t even see the other people although he had gone down about half way.  Everybody was back now except for George and two women, one was Matt’s wife, Magda.  The other was Nga Lam, an asian woman.  We sat together trying to plan out what we might do if George doesn’t show up.  We doubted that Search and Rescue would be able to help since it was very late in the day and there were signs saying that you had to “self rescue”, whatever that means.  We decided we would wait until 8pm until we left and then go to the Ranger station.  George had given me his car keys so we could leave although nobody wanted to.  It wasn’t until about 5:30pm that we saw George and the women come over the rise.  They still had about a quarter mile left but were apparently safe.  Everyone cheered.  We were somewhat flabbergasted when George started posing for pictures with Pepe about half the way up the final ridgeline.  It was starting to get dark.  George and the women finally reached the trailhead with George complaining that he had strained his back badly and was having a lot of pain.  We took a final group picture in the fading light and everyone was happy the hike was over.  It had taken George and the women more than 8 hours to go 3 miles.  George and Paul agreed that they were not going to do the Lava Falls hike for another 45 years.

                                Hiking at Sunset near Toroweap.


Lava Falls Trail Elevation Charts & GPS route

 Tuckup Trail Elevation Charts & GPS route