Sunday, March 17, 2013

Red Cap via Ash Canyon - 3/17/13

                                Red Cap from the Top of Dragon Canyon

                                     Red Cap Reflection in Wall Tank

 Ten Sunday Strollers arrived on this beautiful morn' to celebrate St. Patty's Day with the Red Rock leprechauns ... uh ... don't cha know? We parked at the dirt parking lot deep in Calico Basin and hiked out through Ash Meadows. Today's hike was loosely planned and Don took the lead as he pointed the hikers in the direction of a little used canyon that runs parallel to Ash Canyon on its right side.

 We decided to call this canyon Dragon Canyon since it lays within the slopes of New Peak which has also been called Dragon Peak because of its scaley rimmed ridge. The canyon proved to be steep but quite rich with color offering sandstone footing and a slight trail. At the top of the canyon, we found ourselves above the midpoint of the regular Ash Canyon route with a trail that led down to junction with Ash Canyon trails.

                                  Colorful Scenery in Dragon Canyon

                                                     Ash Canyon

 We continued hiking up to the top of Ash Canyon then took a small water break. From here, we continued on a trail to the north corner of the base of Red Cap Peak where we would begin our sandstone ascent to the smaller of the two red peaks above. Don led us confidently up the side of the white sandstone while circling around in a southerly then westerly direction.

 Many parts of this climb consisted of steep slab sandstone. This type of footing is always fun provided the hiker has proper footwear. Soon, we were climbing the last chimney slot to the tank level of this end of the Calico Hills. The first tank we saw was a tank situated next to a wall. If you sit on the rock at the end of the tank, you can get a nice reflection picture of Red Cap in the water as seen in the second photo.

                           Red Cap Double Peaks from Northeast Ascent

                                         Large Splash in Sundial Tank

 After we got the shot, we circled around the wall in a clockwise direction and came to the tank that used to have a large sundial built in it. This is a large tank that offers reflections of Turtlehead Peak in it. After taking formal shots of the tank, a hiker threw in a rock and the photo of the splash is seen above. Very interesting! Edgerton could not have done a better job than the photog's Canon T4i!

 After inspecting the large dry tank below, we turned our attention to scrambling over the top of the area where there is a sunken tank and a top tank. This scramble required a few leaps of faith and a couple of hikers decided to go back down for the easier traverse below. We, then, began our final ascent to the red peak above.

                                     Red Cap Under Turtlehead's Gaze

                                        Ascending to Red Cap Peak

 The climb to the top of the smaller Red Cap Peak is an exciting ascent involving a little bit of exposure. We all made the scramble to the top as seen to the left and took our snack break here. There used to be a sign in book on this peak but we assume that purists removed it since this peak is not the high point of Red Cap. To get to the major peak from the minor peak, hikers either have to make a scary descent and ascent between the two peaks or climb down and go around to the other side.

 After our break, we descended off of the peak a slightly different way than we went up then returned to the tank level. We finished the clockwise circle around to the wall tank where we would begin the descent to Ash Canyon. Taking a little short cut, we arrived at the overlook as soon as we got down.

                                            Hiking Past Wall Tank

                                     Starting Descent from Wall Tank

 With Don still leading the way, we followed the trail down to the Ash Canyon midpoint then dropped down into the wash. Scrambling, bouldering and route finding, we descended Ash Canyon by staying as much as possible in the center wash area. The canyon offered us many chances to choose our "poison." Right might go down four feet between a narrow crevice while left might take the hiker under a humongous boulder.

 We worked hard and enjoyed every minute of it!
When we finally got down near the bottom, we stayed in the wash until there was no wash left. Finding a trail here, we hiked through Ash Meadows and back to the cars. The 4.5 mile hike with 1451 feet of elevation gain had come to an end and the dog we saw in the creek (photo below) said it all without a word!

                                               Ash Canyon Wash

                                          Dog Days Have Arrived!

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