Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Red Cap, Calico Peak, & Calico II Overlook Peak - 3/27/12

                                Red Cap & Turtlehead Peak from Calico Peak

 Eleven men hikers and one lady hiker (Ladies, where are you?) set out from Sandstone Quarry on the scenic loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA on the Calico Tanks Trail. We turned onto the Ash Canyon Overlook Trail until we were on the north side of the little peak known as Red Cap situated on the northern end of the Calico Hills and under the watchful eye of Turtlehead Peak. Turning to our right, we realized our short warm up was over as we began a difficult scramble up through a sandstone crack.

                             Climbing Red Cap via North Side Crevice

                                Helping hikers climbing the western Red Cap peak.

 Huffing and puffing, we gained the top of the crack then climbed up a short wall with the help of a pile of rocks and friendly hands. Red Cap is divided into two separate peaks by a large deep gap between the red stone tops. The traditional route takes the hiker to the eastern peak. Today, the crevice had taken us up to the western peak. We were greeted by a log book and we took a shadow photo of our summit. Views of the Calico Hills, Turtlehead Peak, and the Red Rock Canyon escarpment surrounded us on this beautiful and warm day.

                                Red Cap Summit Photo

 After enjoying our first peak of a three- peak day, we climbed off of the top by way of a steep scramble to the south and headed down toward the ridge between there and Calico Peak. We passed a few of the tanks on the ridge and found that they were still dry as a bone in spite of the recent rains we have had. Winding our way past the tanks, we reached the steepest descent of the day.

                                Climbing down to the largest dry tank.

                             Jerry says, "I don't think so. That's pretty steep!"

 Stepping off of the edge, one by one, we found the descent thrilling. The most difficult part was the end where a drop of two or three feet was required. The ridge was filled with ups and downs. Although they were very steep ups and downs, the sandstone provided hand holds, foot holds and whatever else we needed to get from place to place. Eventually, we circled around to the right and ended up on Calico Peak; a peak that lies 250 elevation feet above the main Calico Tank to the north.

                            Eight hikers descending on Calico Tank Ridge.

 We signed the book here, too, and took another small break. Next, we scrambled down a steep descent that ended just above the western end of the main tank. Then, we quickly began an ascent on the other side of the small canyon. A narrow wash with walls on both sides, led us up to the next peak named Calico II Overlook Peak. This area holds three large (dry) tanks and views of sandstone formations all around. We stayed here for our early lunch break.

                                Calico Hills from Calico II Overlook Peak


 Starting out again, we returned down to the main tank area via the same narrow wash. At the end of the wash, we turned right and made our way to the top of a very exciting and long descent through the rock. Few photos were taken due to the necessary concentration and use of hands that were needed as we let ourselves down from rock to rock. At two different points, we passed groups of young rock climbers testing their skills on the sheer sandstone walls. They eyed us as we went by. We surprise a lot of people with our agile yet experienced physiques!

                                Richard descends into the red sandstone.

 At the bottom, we connected with the Grand Circle Trail below Calico II. We had around a mile of uphill to go before reaching the Sandstone Quarry parking lot where we had left from earlier in the morning. The hike was only about 4 miles, however, there was a gross gain / loss of almost 1600 elevation feet in that short distance. It was an enjoyable challenging hike.

                                Indian Paintbrush in bloom.

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