Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Avalanche Canyon - 5/27/14

Avalanche Canyon

South Loop Ridge from First Cave

 Avalanche Canyon is located between Mary Jane Falls and Big Falls. It emanates from high up the slopes underneath Mt. Charleston Peak. Every year, this canyon gets slaughtered with avalanches of snow and ice bringing down a few trees with it. There is a trail that takes hikers up through the wash and, for the most part, it is decipherable. Seven hikers set out for a moderate adventure up this canyon and later found themselves on a strenuous hike!

Desert Paintbrush Along the Trail
 We started at the Mary Jane Falls trailhead parking lot and hiked up the 0.8 miles of the approach trail.

Finding the Trail up the Canyon

 At the end of the approach, where Mary Jane Falls trail turns off to the right, we continued hiking straight and connected with the trail that leads to Big Falls Canyon on the left. Avalanche Canyon heads straight up toward Mt. Charleston, but finding the correct wash was a little confusing since there is so much debris scattered about. Nevertheless, we eventually found the right trail after taking a small side trip into Big Falls Canyon and up we went. The bouldering was, at best, a moderate effort and we were all very content.

Limestone Slab
 When we reached a limestone slab on the left and a wall on our right, we began noticing fossils in a few of the boulders. Not long after this, we came upon a log pile and decided it was time for us to exit stage right!

Location Where we Left the Canyon!

 We thought we saw a small trail but, as it turned out, the trail may have been used by one person! Anyway, we climbed up on the slope to our right. It was steep. It was filled with scree. And, it was steep. (Oh yeah, I said that.) The climb was very difficult but we were promised that there was a small trail at the base of the rock wall above us. Perhaps there is but to find it easily, hikers need to stay in the wash below longer ... until the wash meets the base of the wall. At any rate, we finally made it to the wall and began circling around.

Rock Fire Pit with View of Mt. Charleston Peak
 The first interesting thing we came to was a fire pit built with stacked rocks. This location has a view of Mt. Charleston on one side and a view of Kyle Canyon on the other.

First Cave Where we Sat for a Snack

 Next, we came to a cave / shelter area. It was around 100 feet in length along the wall base. We sat here for our break and told the story about the last time our club had done this hike. It was the day of the big storm right after the fire in Kyle Canyon last year. Our hikers sat in this cave watching the rain until they realized that it was not going away. Thunder and lightening were fast approaching so the group decided to head straight downhill and to the cars as fast as possible! On the drive back down Kyle Canyon Rd., flooding was already occurring. They were very lucky to get out in time before the water destroyed some of the pavement. They said that the water in Kyle drainage was almost black from the fires' ashes.

Second and Largest Cave Along Rock Base
 So, after our break, we continued around the corner and started losing elevation in the steep scree slopes. We soon found another cave that was even bigger than the first. This one had little stalagtites on the ceiling.

Hiking Along Rock Base

 Next, we dropped below a rock point which meant that we needed to reclaim that elevation after we got around it. The terrain was still very difficult. As we slowly climbed the loose scree, we passed yet another cave. This one, seen to the left, was a small one that fooled us from below, at first, into thinking it was the Mary Jane cave. But, NOOOO! More loose scree climbing and ... finally ... we came to the Mary Jane cave. By this time, the seven of us were pretty spread out.

Nancy Hikes by Mary Jane Cave in Distance
 We waited at Mary Jane Falls until everyone showed up ... minus one hiker that decided to descend straight down to the switchback trail.

Mary Jane Falls

 Our adventure du jour was almost over. All we had to do was descend the switchbacks of the regular Mary Jane Falls trail and continue down to the cars on the approach trail. By this time, there were several recreational hikers making their way up in the pleasantly cool air. Difficult morning? Yes. Did we have fun? Heck yeah!

4.5 miles; 1800 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Hiking Down to Switchbacks

Finishing Hike on the Switchbacks

Today's Elevation Chart

Complete Hike Elevation Chart

Today's Route Indicated with Dotted Line

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