Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Windy Peak via Grapevine Canyon (East Side) - 10/15/13

View Southeast from Windy Peak

Grapevine Springs

On Tuesday, our advanced hikers climbed Windy Peak from the Cottonwood Valley side. This group is really good at writing their own blogs and taking their own photos. In fact, today we had two narratives with photos offered by hikers Larry D. and Jerry T. Coordinator, Mike OC also gave us one photo from the descent. So, without further ado, here are both renditions of this advanced hike. Take it away Larry and Jerry!

 Narrative I: Today, on a strenuous Tuesday hike, fourteen avid Friends completed an out-and-back trip from a high-clearance road trailhead in the Cottonwood Valley to the summit of Windy Peak in the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness.  The weather was sunny, cool, clear, and breezy from time to time – a perfect day for a fall hike!  

Climbing the Dirt & Rock Trail to the "Football Field"
 The hike – about 3.7 miles round trip, but with about 2,500 feet of gross elevation gain – was an alternate to the Club’s regular route to Windy from Highway 160 across the limestone ridge to the sandstone escarpment.

Checking the GPS at the "Football Field"

   From the Cottonwood Valley, the route gains the summit via a route that approaches the sandstone escarpment from a trailhead at about 4,100 feet on the Cottonwood Valley floor, rising generally northwest directly up the major canyon that lies southwest of Windy Peak.  

 The first segment crossed a large wash and typical Red Rock desert.  It then climbed a loose, Class II gravel-and-rock “trail” to an interim saddle at about 5,000 feet. 

 From the saddle, the route dropped about a hundred feet, then became a mostly Class III scramble -- first, up through boulders and a little brush in the canyon bottom; then, on sandstone slabs and ledges, west up the right-hand side of the canyon wall; and, finally, after a switchback, a climbing traverse east across more ledges and steep slab to the summit at about 6,250 feet.  

Approaching the Ramp
 By the time the hikers reached the summit, there was sweat on most brows in spite of the cool morning, but smiles on the hikers’ faces! 

Contemplating Different Routes

  Returning to the cars, we essentially retraced our route up, walking gingerly down the steep slabs and, later, loose gravel and rock.  Coordinator Michael O’Connor made a special detour so that we’d pass right by a fenced-in spring! ~ Larry
Narrative II: Fifteen very fit hikers met at Dunkin Donuts for our "crazy" Tuesday hike.  Today we would try going up the east face of the escarpment instead of the easier albeit longer route from Mountain Springs to Windy Peak.  We managed to find the correct dirt road off of state route 160 and started driving towards our parking area.  We started off down a very visible and cairned trail which wound its way near Grapevine Springs. 

Are we there yet?
 We reached the ridge where the path switchbacked steeply up through loose rocks and dirt noting it would be hard coming down.  Next came the large flat area near the steep cliff faces which has been named the Football Field. 

Yep! We're there!

 Instead of following the track from two years ago we followed a well marked route which went up close to the cliffs.  This route avoided a lot of bushwhacking and also has a section of steep sandstone slabs which were easy and fun to scramble up.  At this point we spied two sets of rock climbers climbing in a well known area.  We continued up the route and were surprised at how well marked the route was with cairns.

 We reached a wash and at this point the group decided to break up into three smaller groups each one wanting to do something different.  Our small group followed the path of least resistance (and the most cairns) as we reached the summit.  The weather and views were beautiful at the top, a stark contrast to last Thursday at the same summit when it was cold windy and so foggy you couldn't see anything. 

 On the way down the conversation turned towards bears and the story of the bear encounter in Glacier National Park was once again told.  The bears seem to get bigger and scarier as time goes by. ~ Jerry

Reaching the Floor

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