Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tank Discovery Scramble - 3/5/15

The Long Pool below Calico II Peak from the South End

Pretty Tank

Turtlehead Peak from Quarry

Sandstone Quarry Arch in Setting
 This is as good as it gets! The weather was perfect. The air was clear. And, the tanks were brimming with the rainwater that fell over the course of four days recently. Top all that off with a fun and fabulous seven club hikers and we have a winner! The hike started at the Sandstone Quarry parking lot off of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area's scenic loop drive. We trekked through the old quarry and hiked up the wash using the trail whenever possible.

Sandstone Quarry Arch
 We found the turn off for the arch which was hidden in the branches of a holly oak. Immediately, we climbed up to our right to take a look at the "Refrigerator Tunnel."

Climbing the First Peak
 Next, we returned to the initial alley way and scrambled our way to the end where the arch resides. A short stop here for photos and we were again on our way. This time, our way was UP.

Water on the First Peak

George Checks Out the Cliff
The climb up starts at the arch and follows the alley until a holly oak again crosses the path. We made our way past the scrub on a steep slope and arrived at an overhang crack. Finally, we reached the top of the UP! Taking a sharp right, we made a scramble descent in the still slightly damp sandstone rock. The fabulous seven were experienced hikers and everyone was being extra careful on the brittle and sandy rock. Eventually, we made our way down and around to the left. Then up again. This time, we didn't stop climbing until we were on the First Peak of the day. This is when we realized that it was going to be a fantastic day! Water, water everywhere. Tanks, puddles and streams delighted us!

Gray Fox seen from First Peak
 While we were enjoying the water, one hiker who was peering over the cliff exclaimed, "Two foxes!" And, sure enough, there they were far down on the next level of sandstone.

Pair of Gray Foxes
 We got several photos of the two gray foxes and watched them trot up their alley below us until they disappeared.

Descent Back to Calico Tanks Trail

Tanks Trail River
 We were less than an hour into our hike and, already, we had seen much water and exciting wildlife. So we turned to go back down off of the First Peak taking a short cut down to the Calico Tanks Trail ... ahem ... River. Yes, upon reaching the trail in the sand dune area, we saw that water was actually flowing down the small canyon in the sand. We crossed the water and stepped up on the rock on the other side to continue our climb up the trail. It was very interesting to see how and where the water flows. Although we had to take detours, it was not a problem and no one got wet unless they just wanted to. Our next turn off was to the right at a high point in the trail.

Ascent in Phase II
 We climbed up to the end of the alley where we had seen the foxes. They were gone but there was a lot of standing water up here that we had to avoid. We crossed it and began climbing up to the next level of sandstone.

Tony Rests above Pretty Tank
 This level is high above the floor of the small trail canyon. The first tank we visited was the Large Tank. Although it isn't very pretty, it is very large and deep. There was more water in it than we have seen for over a year.

Pretty Tank, Turtlehead Peak and Red Cap

Our Beautiful Women
 Next came a visit to Pretty Tank. This tank has nice views all around and it, too, was very full of water. From there, we crossed over to the west side of the hill and viewed Secret Tank. This tank usually is dry but, today, was full. We dropped down on this side of the hill into a brushy descent. Back on the sandstone, we climbed up along the side of the hill and reached the Sunken Tank area. All seven hikers decided to go up and view the tank which ... had more water than usual. At this point, the route deviated from the norm by crossing over to the area below Calico II Peak instead of beginning the climb up.

Scrambling below the Sunken Tank
 This area is a little difficult to find your way, especially with the added water obstacles. But, the scramble is well worth the effort when you see the Long Pool stretching out at the base of the peak.

The Long Pool from the North End
 The first view of the pool is on the north end but the best photos can be taken from the south end where reflections can be captured. (See the first photo of this entry.) We skirted two other tanks and scrambled down to the south end.

Scrambling Around the Long Pool

Kraft Mountain and Las Vegas from the Lower Calico II Peak
 After photos, we continued south and arrived on Lower Calico II Peak. There were three large tanks in this area. We stopped for our snack break on this peak and took in views of Las Vegas, the southern portion of the Calico Hills and the Red Rock Escarpment. We also saw the upper Calico II Peak above us to the north. The fun and fabulous seven continued their joking conversations as they had all morning.

Taking our Break on the Lower Calico II Peak
 After fun and photos, we dropped back down to where we had climbed up earlier and began a climb up a deep crevice wash on the opposite side of Calico II Peak.

Calico II Peak from Lower Calico II Peak
 It took a little searching to find a good route and we got up the crevice somewhat ungracefully. Trees hung low and we had a lot of tall men!

Descending off of Lower Calico II Peak

Negotiating the "No Oops Zone"
 When the crevice squeezed out, we headed up the beehive sandstone to our right. This is the first of a couple of "No Oops Zones." The sandstone beehive forms a ridge with steep cliffs on both sides. No tripping allowed! We followed the ridge up to where we could drop down to the familiar wash that we utilize while normally ascending Calico II Peak. All the tanks in the Calico II Peak vicinity were half full.

Steep? Shoot, no!
 After a short survey, the decision was made to follow the leader down the Class 3 descent. This descent is always just an option, however, this "option" is usually chosen due to its thrill.

The Third Class Descent Dance
 We passed the Hot Tub Tank and dropped over the wall. As we did the Class 3 Dance, a few small snow patches came into play.

View from Tank on Shelf above the Calico Tanks Trail

Main Tank looking Full
 All seven accounted for, we connected with the Calico Tanks Trail then made one last turn to the right ... up ... to see the Shelf Tank. Yes, it was full, too. We scrambled down through the back way which runs parallel to the trail and finally connected one last time to the trail. The fun and fabulous seven had finally quieted down! Yep. We were done! Phase III would have to wait for another day. We traveled over the high route parallel to the wet trail and hiked on down to the cars. Great day!

4 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Descending Calico Tanks Trail

Red to White to Limestone

Avoiding Water on the Tanks Trail

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