Sunday, November 18, 2012

Calico Peak Back Door Loop - 11/18/12

                                        Calico Peak from Ash Canyon

                                Las Vegas Strip from the Daring Descent

 Fifteen hikers came out today for a Sunday Stroll ... ahem ... Super Scramble in the northern half of the Calico Hills of Red Rock Canyon NCA. This hike began as an exploratory hike to find out what lies between Angel Pass and the Main Calico Tank area. Several of the hikers contributed to the direction of the hike and the result was a sensational scramble we will now call the Calico Peak Back Door Loop; a 4 mile scramble with 1746 feet gross elevation gain.

 We parked in the Red Springs Picnic Area parking lot and hiked up past Cannibal Crag to the bottom of the Red Springs Pass which is also called Guardian Angel or Angel Pass. Kay, the hike coordinator du jour, instructed the fifteen excellent and experienced hikers to meet at the top of the pass. ... Go!

                                       View from Climb to Red Peak

                                                 Red Peak View

 The group made quick work of the climb that most everyone had done several times. When we got to the top of the pass, three hikers had already started up the crack to the right. The adventure had begun! Getting up the crack was somewhat of a slow process but we were all anxious to be challenged. Near the top, there were two rabbit holes side by side. Choices were made and we reached the peak which, for convenience, we will call Red Peak.

 We didn't want to stay up there for very long since the wind was cold. The rain clouds that had hung low over the escarpment were almost gone and the day would be clear soon. As we hiked, the temperatures went up. So where do we go from here? Down, over the edge where there is a lone tree standing.

                      Calico Peak and Calico II Overlook Peak from Traverse

                                        Climb to Main Calico Tank

 We dropped down on the back side of the hills where Ash Meadows is located. Then we traversed an area of scrambling that had very little elevation gain or loss. From this area, we could see Calico Peak and Calico II Overlook Peak. We knew that between these two peaks of white sandstone lies the main large Calico Tank.

 We mapped out our targets and began a scrambling climb up to the main tank. This climb was fairly long yet also quite easy. The rocks presented an easy route that appeared to have a trail already embedded into them.

When we reached the top, we could see the main tank and we stopped for a lunch break. While resting, the cliffs to our right were calling to us like a bunch of sirens. We all wondered if there was a way down to Ash Canyon from this spot. Several of us scouted out the overlook up to the right. Hmmm. Straight down ... pretty much. So, it was decided that we may have to cross all the way over to Red Cap and go down to Ash Canyon there. This disappointed more than a few hikers as one of the objectives of the day's hike was to find a way down to Ash Canyon from this area.

                                Lunch Break Area Above Main Tank

                      Shortcut Up to Calico Peak from Main Tank Area

 From the Ash Canyon overlook, we turned to our left and one hiker suggested that we climb up via the shortcut route to Calico Peak. Not all of the hikers wished to take their life into their hands at that moment so four hikers retreated and found a different way up to Red Cap. The eleven hikers that were left began a precarious scramble up the side of the white sandstone. One by one, we accomplished the worst (well, most exciting) part of the climb and got our view of the main tank far below (as seen to the right below).

 Not far from this spot, we ran across a small tinaja filled with water. We looked for tadpole shrimp and actually found three. We also found what looked like a brine shrimp.

The views of everything Red Rock were fantabulous!

                                Climbing the Shortcut to Calico Peak

                                    Tinaja Near Calico Peak Summit

 After all this, we easily attained the Calico Peak and signed into the log book. Still in our exploring mode, we found a different way down off of the peak on the other side still intending to traverse over to Red Cap. As we slid down a crack marked by a cairn, one hiker remembered this area from a hike he did three years ago. Yes! There is a way down to Ash Canyon ... straight down there!

 The crack / wash that we were eyeing was indeed steep, however, it appeared to have plenty of "stairs" to aid in a daring descent. Two hikers scouted out the situation while the rest of us waited. Finally, word was sent up that it was a "go." Down we went ... very slowly and carefully. Today was not the day that anyone was going to break anything!

                                View from Beginning of the Daring Descent

                           Daring Descent at the White to Red Sandstone Line

 The white sandstone descent came first at a parallel path to the line of the hills. Tricky, tricky. Although the route on the right worked if you got by this one spot, most of the hikers chose to descend on the steep sandstone slab to the left as seen in the photo above.

When we reached the red sandstone, the crack / wash took a right angle turn to the left.

 Now, the real work began. The crack was wide enough sometimes to make the hiker choose whether he/she would go left or right. The team of hikers worked well together as suggestions were made from below and helping hands gave assistance. The daring descent was thrilling and challenging. At one point, the crack was only about six inches wide forcing us to travel above the bottom by using the walls for friction.

                            Two Thirds of the Way Down the Daring Descent

                                            Ash Canyon in View

 Some of the trickiest spots were difficult to photograph so readers will have to take our word for it. This descent is certainly doable but we wouldn't have wanted to be doing it alone. What fun is that anyway?

Finally, the bottom of Ash Canyon came into view. There was still a lot of scrambling to do but now we knew we would not get cliffed out. The long slow descent had taken a lot of concentration. Joy was read on everyone's faces as we reached the canyon floor.

 We hiked out on the familiar Ash Canyon approach trail wondering what had happened to the group of four that had detoured over to Red Cap and missed the daring descent. Straining our eyes up Ash Canyon was to no avail. No worries. Twenty minutes after we arrived at the Red Springs parking lot, there they came after having descended from Red Cap to the top of Ash Canyon and then descending from there. Yep, another wonderful day at Red Rock!

                                       Ash Canyon then New Peak

                                     Cooling Down in Ash Meadows


Jerry Thomas said...

Wow, what a great hike today. Beautiful day and great group. Happy Thanksgiving!

John said...

21What a wonderful enthusistic discription you provided. Sorry I took the optional route and missed the exciting descent.