Monday, April 13, 2015

Gass Peak - 4/13/15

Gass Peak from Approach Ridge

Red Rock Canyon Escarpment from Ridge

New Trailhead Posts

 Eleven club hikers came out for a bit of a climb this morning. We piled in 3 high clearance vehicles and rode out to the Corn Creek Visitor Center in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. The DNWR is the largest wildlife refuge in the continental United States and once you get into the park and start driving on the bumpy dirt roads, the size becomes reality! We stopped at the VC and signed in at the kiosk, then drove to the right on Mormon Well Road. The first road junction, again to the right, is Gass Peak Road. After the right turn, there is still quite a long drive. Total drive time from the Santa Fe Casino to the Gass Peak trailhead is a little over 1 hour. The roads were in good condition today.

One of the Ridge's Intermittent Peaks
 The trailhead parking corral has been updated and is surrounded by posts connected with steel rope. Off roaders can no longer drive up the service road. We got out of our cars, shook off the bumps, and prepared for our climb to the top of the mountain up to our right.

View Back at the Trailhead
 Gass Peak (6950') is the highest peak in the Las Vegas Mountain Range which stretches across the northern boundary of the city. It is also known for its solar array and other equipment paraphernalia. The hike commonly used to reach the summit climbs up from the north along a long approach ridge then turns right (west) onto the main ridge of the range. The peak can be seen for most of the hike.

Spring Mountains from the Hike Up

As we began hiking up the service road, we could feel the desolation. There is nothing within sight here to remind us of civilization. Oh, except the new trailhead posts. At least half of today's hikers were "the BIG dogs!" And, about halfway up the approach ridge, the front and back of the group became more and more separated. BIG dogs have to stretch their legs now and then. Regardless, everyone waited when we reached the main ridge until we were all together again.

The Claret Cups were Blooming
There were several Claret Cup cacti in bloom on the main ridge. The globemallows were blooming everywhere with deep orange color. The hedgehog and beavertail cacti were also there with their deeply pink blooms.

Starting Up the Ridge
The main ridge had its own set of hills to climb and the first hill was the steepest as it took little zigzags up to the top.

One Mean Hill

From there, the trail stayed mostly on the north side of the ridge in an ascending lateral fashion. We came to 3 rocky saddles where the trail was very narrow but still well-worn. By the time the writer got to the third saddle, she was far behind the front group. It really didn't matter since the terrain is such that we could all see each other in the distance. A few more photos and the writer would have a decent blog to publish!

Gass Peak from the Ridge Trail
The trail hangs on the side of the very steep mountainside. The terrain is covered with scrub, cholla and ephedra (Mormon Tea). There is extremely little evidence of wildlife at this elevation.

Southeast View from Ridge
The main ridge curves around so that the first views are of the southeast direction of Nellis AFB. Next, comes a southwest view of the Red Rock Canyon area. The southern view of Las Vegas isn't seen until the hiker is closer to the summit.

The Trail

Perhaps the front group of hikers were racing. Not sure. But the latter group of hikers summited one by one, passing by the large solar panel array and reaching the narrow peak. Among the cell tower and the utility shed, there was a brand new wind sock! Much needed! We sat on whatever rocks we could find and took a break. Everyone was invigorated with the exercise.

Summit Approach
To the north was the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge. To the south was the great little city of Las Vegas, Nevada. To the west were the Spring Mountains. Charleston and Mummy still have a small amount of snow. And, to the east, all we could see was the rest of the Las Vegas Mountain Range.

AtBF on Gass Peak Summit
Gass Peak was named for Octavius Decatur Gass, born in 1827. Usually a day late and a dollar short, this man struggled all over the southwest trying to find his fortune in some way. There is a humorous article that was written by K.J. EVANS in the Las Vegas Review-Journal (2/7/1999) that tells Gass' story.

Starting Down with Las Vegas in Background

After the break, we raced back down the mountain. Yep. It was a fast descent. It's okay. We still got a few good photos!

Notes on the roads: The Corn Creek Road is being paved so construction workers are hard at work. Be prepared to possibly wait a little. Mormon Well Road and Gass Peak Road seem to have just been graded and are good. Still, a little high clearance is advised. Happy hiking!

7 miles; 2200 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Nearing the Bottom of the Approach Ridge

Really Old Joshua Tree

Gass Peak Road (Just Graded)

No comments: