Sunday, November 30, 2014

Southern Calico Traverse - 11/30/14

View North from Red Springs Peak

Colorful Section Near Grand Staircase Summit

Red Springs from Cairned Route to Ascent

 It was a very exciting day for six scramblers as we followed Steve and Larry across the southern Calico Hills of Red Rock Canyon NCA from the southern ridge tip almost all the way over to Angel Pass. The last section to Angel Pass would have been more exposure than a couple of the hikers cared to deal with. Steve and Larry have been working on this route for quite some time now and most of what we did today was pre-determined. There was, however, a couple of sections that Steve and Larry "winged."

Tough Crack Climb
 The hike began at the Red Springs picnic area parking lot. We started up to the right of the boardwalk fence and circled around to the back of it. A cairned trail led us on a traverse over to the end of the southern ridge of the Calico Hills.

Scrambling Up the Southern Ridge
 Our first obstacle was a crack climb of around thirty feet. The first step was a doozy but we all managed quite well in our fresh state.

Escarpment View from Southern Ridge

 From there, we began systematically climbing up the ridge taking each scramble at a time. (This mantra of "one step at a time" would be with us throughout the morning!) The views of the escarpment to the west and the North Blue Diamond Hills to the south were fantastic. Up and up we went looking for the high point which would be Red Springs Peak. Even though the scramble was a good workout, there weren't any obstacles that seemed impossible to overcome.

Red Springs Peak Summit
 We found Red Springs Peak and Jon was a happy guy! Clouds were coming in from the west that put Turtlehead Peak in the shadows (as seen in the first photo of this entry).

Red Springs Peak Eastern View Below
 We stayed on top of the ridge for as much of the traverse as possible so, next we found ourselves climbing and dropping steeply in the vicinity of the Grand Staircase summit.

Traversing by the Grand Staircase

 Since we were passing through the area, we decided to include a look at the famous "Slab Rift" on our way by. First, we ducked through a small tunnel (seen in the photo to the left) then dropped into an area below. Some of us explored both sides of the humongous slab that had disengaged from the rock to its south. This is perhaps the largest slab rift in the Red Rock area. We stopped here for a snack break before continuing.

Slab Rift Visit
 From the rift, we climbed back up over the ridge and dropped slightly on the west side. Here, there was a large crevice that could be easily climbed back up toward the ridge.

Climbing the Crevice on the West Side
 A lot of the zigzags were necessary to continue the traverse. As we rounded the next corner, we came to a particularly difficult drop. Four of the scramblers seemed to enjoy the challenge of dropping their body all the way across the crack from the top. The last two required hands on help as seen in the photo below.

Steve's Bridge Maneuver

 The "possiblity" factor had decreased. There were several places as we neared the end that hands on help was required for the writer since she is lacking in arm and knee strength that the guys seemed to take for granted. But, the help was given freely and it was much appreciated. Another small drop and climb up on the west side and we came to another tunnel. This tunnel has two "outs." Although the out to the left is easier, the out to the right is a better way to go. Coming out from the tunnel, we sat and took in our situation.

Climbing Again
 When we all got to this junction, Steve read it in our eyes. "Okay, Steve, we're done!" The choices facing us were an even more exposed and difficult traverse over to Angel Pass or descend.

Traverse Done!
 Steve, rightly, chose to descend and we all looked at each other and at the east side of the hill. Gee whiz! Really! Descend here?

Now, the Descent! (Dennis was thinking about you, Morgan!)

 Steve started and we all followed ... slowly ... carefully ... and ... did I say slowly and carefully? The first part of the descent was pretty much straight down with a few hand and foot holds and one chimney shimmy as demonstrated by Dennis above. Next came a slightly more tame down scramble. (Only Mike chose the route shown to the left!) And, finally, we hit terra firma. It was still steep but a free fall of ten feet was no longer a threat. Slowly, we all made it to the bottom of the hill and junctioned with the regular trail that circles around the base of the hills and back to the cars.

This traverse route is not for the faint of heart!

Jon Handles Everything Just Fine!
 3 miles; 1050 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Terra Firma Descent

A Look Back at Our Descent Route

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