Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bighorn Butte - 1/8/15

View from Bighorn Butte Lower Peak

Lake View from Bighorn Butte Upper Peak

Approach Wash from River Mountains Trail

River Mountains Trail at Exit Wash
 Bighorn Butte is actually made up of three ridges that connect in such a way that, from the air, they appear as the animal's head and two large horns. Most likely, the mountain is the remains of an ancient volcano and our approach, today, was made by using the imagined caldera. We parked at the Long View parking area on Lakeshore Road inside the Lake Mead NRA and crossed the road. Next, we hiked over to the River Mountains Trail and turned right.

Hiking Out the Approach Wash
 Around a quarter mile on the bike path led us to the next wide wash over and we dropped down to our left and began a fast hike up the approach wash.

Happy Morning
 There were eleven hikers this morning. Seven females and four males. A bit unusual for a peak hike. Chuck led a fast pace.

View from Approach

Approaching Bighorn Butte
 Our route took us in the general direction of the large dark rocked mountain ahead. We turned a few times in the wash as it got smaller but it was a basic hike toward the caldera. When we turned around, we could see parts of Lake Mead in the distance. To our right, Lava Butte rose up with shades of zigzagging browns. Now closer to the caldera, we saw a very small window up on the ridge. This was our target for now.

Crossing a Few Small Washes
Once we got to the outside of the caldera, we found a game trail to follow down into the center.

Lava Butte from Entrance to Caldera
 The peak we were climbing today rose up to our right beyond a high shear wall of rock that stretched from one end of the peak to the other. At the end of the wall, Chuck pointed out the saddle.

Caldera - Approach Saddle at Center (Note Small Window left of Center)

Climbing Out of the Caldera to the Saddle
 Between us and that saddle, there was a lot of lava type rock laying loosely in the washes and on the hillside. We were instructed to take our own path and our own speed. We would meet on the saddle in a few minutes. After climbing the hill that got steeper and looser, we found a game trail near the base of the shear cliff. This helped us traverse the rest of the way over to the saddle.

Susan Finishes the Climb to the Saddle
 One by one, we arrived on the saddle and awaited direction. Warily, we took note of the most likely peak approach that was steeply covered with ... loose rock.

Negotiating the Loose Climb to the Peak

Enjoying the Views from the Lower Peak
 We dutifully followed Chuck up the passage and carefully found our way to the top. It was obvious that we were at the top. Notice the size of the cairn in the second photo! The previous time that Chuck and Joan had been on this peak, they had been unable to find the log book so, today, they were delivering a new one. We all signed in and they placed the jar inside the large cairn.

Las Vegas from Bighorn Butte
 While taking our break, we explored down to the lower peak and took photos of the tremendous views all around. We could also see the White Owl Canyon Long Version Snack Corner from the lower peak.

Placement of New Log Book

Descending the Tricky Stuff off the Peak
 The break ended and a tricky descent ensued. Our slow speed and careful footing prevented any blood letting and we gathered again at the saddle. Now, the loop hike dropped down the other side of the saddle through a lot more loose rock that wasn't quite as steep as the previous tricky stuff. At the bottom, we crossed a small wash then dropped into the next wash to follow it out to the wide wash above the White Owl Canyon Long Version corner.

Short Cut Wash
 Soon, we turned left into a small short cut wash that was made of white sedimentary rock. It was actually very pretty.

Lake from Beginning of Descent
 A left turn onto the road and another left turn to continue up a gentle hill and we were rolling our way over to the top of a small fun descent wash.

Starting into the Small Descent Wash

Heading Over to Explore the Dry Fall
 This wash was very colorful with mostly red hues. There were water slides that were easily hiked made of a conglomerate rock. The rocks inside the conglomerate were large, around 5" to 8" in diameter. The wash offered a larger dry fall near the bottom where another wash joined in. Three hikers explored this dry fall. Below the wash junction, we came across a few more dry falls that were more interesting (read "more challenging").

Dry Falls Area
 All of the dry falls were negotiable or they offered a way to go around. Near this section of the wash, we were circling a pointy mountain landmark on our left side.

Colorful Geologic Area
 As the wash got bigger, we came across another interesting feature. A large monolith jutted up on the left side of the wash and underneath it on the lower side, there is a large arch. We stopped here to ponder!

Teresa Slides a Dry Fall

Approaching the Pointy Mountain Landmark
 One more landmark was coming up on our right side and as we approached a left turn in the wash, we watched this interestingly shaped butte morph from shape to shape. Below, there is a photo of the butte from the lower side as we passed the turn in the wash. Finally, the wash got really wide and we swam from side to side finding the shortest route down to a visible road sign. At the road, we exited the wash by climbing out the concrete drain on the right side. We arrived on the River Mountains Trail at the exact same spot that we hit it as we were heading out earlier in the morning. So, we crossed the trail, climbed up the hill, crossed over the tortoise fence, crossed Lakeshore Road and returned to our cars at the parking lot. Beautiful views on this hike but quite noisy due to the flight paths of constant airplanes and helicopters overhead!

7 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 4.5 hours

Pondering at the Low Arch

Looking Back at the Interesting Butte from Exit Wash

Seven Miles Done

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