Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Stepladder Peak - 10/7/15

Step Ladder Peak (L) from Approach

Griffith Peak (center) from Step Ladder Peak Approach

La Madre Range from Step Ladder Peak

Snow Covered Charleston Peak (in Distance) from Shady Hollow Trail
Across from the new Spring Mountains Gateway Visitor Center on Kyle Canyon Road, there is a large parking lot complete with pit toilets. This is the trailhead for the Step Ladder and Shady Hollow Trails where eleven AtBF hikers began their hike today. Although the target of the exploratory hike was the small peak that rises very near the trailhead, we started our hike as if we were doing the Shady Hollow / Step Ladder Loop Extended by heading out the trail found at the far end of the parking lot.

Telephone Canyon Road
 At the junction, we turned to the right to access the Shady Hollow Trail. At the next junction, we continued straight taking us off of the Shady Hollow and connected with the Telephone Canyon Road. Here, we turned to the left and followed the road just a few yards.

Starting Out Tin Can Alley Trail

A Very Washed Out Tin Can Alley Trail
 At the next trail turn to the left, we accessed the Tin Can Alley Trail and proceeded up on a parallel course to the Telephone Canyon Road. Recent rains have destroyed the nice bike trail that this was. Future bikers will have to use alternate routes for a while since the trail has washed out with gulleys and ruts along the path. Nevertheless, we were able to hike through being knowledgeable of the route. When we passed the turn off for the Trough Trail, we began climbing up to our left using the Telephone Canyon system of bike trails.

Fork Turn (High Point)
 Our long gradual climb that began on the Shady Hollow Trail culminated at a trail junction that would appear as a fork when traveling in the opposite direction. Here, we made the sharp left turn.

Trail No Longer Falling Off Side of Hill
 This part of today's route brought us to sections of the old Deer Creek Road. There is even one part where the old asphalt still lays. Also in this segment, there are a couple of places where the trail almost falls off the edge of the hill. However, these obstacles seem to be in much better condition now.

Break at Saddle

Following Small Old Trail to Step Ladder Peak
 At the saddle junction, we took our snack break. There are about five different trails that come together at this saddle. They include our trail that commences at Robbers' Roost above, Shady Hollow, Step Ladder Loop (bottom and top segments) and the Step Ladder Peak Trail. After our break, we started up the peak trail finding a small trail that was very clear for a short distance. The trail took us up and over the first rise of the ridge in front of us. We lost the old trail now and then but always found it again as it followed along the ridge climbing up to the high point, Step Ladder Peak.

New Visitor Center from Step Ladder Peak Trail
 As we began the last part of the climb, we were obliged to scramble a little to gain the limestone rimrock that surrounds the peak. The scrambling was not particularly difficult but did add a pleasant element to the hike.

Arriving at the Rimrock Area

View Back toward Saddle and Deer Creek Road
 At this point, the views became beautiful enough to require a stop here and there to take it in. In the past three days, the first snow of the season has covered the first 1000 elevation feet of the Charleston Peak summit. The snow has also dusted the South Loop and one side of Griffith Peak. We could not see Charleston Peak from our hike today but we had a nice view of Griffith and the South Loop as seen in the second photo of this entry. When we looked back, we could see all the way up to Robbers' Roost.

Just a Little Scrambling
 Angel Peak, AtBF Canyon and the Showgirl Ridge were laid out across Telephone Canyon. And, the La Madre mountain range could be seen across Kyle Canyon Road as seen in the third photo of this entry.

View of Angel Peak from Step Ladder Peak
 We took a minute on the peak to take in the new views and to take the photo below. Looking around, we saw that there were several small peaks in this immediate vicinity.

First Eleven AtBF Hikers on Step Ladder Peak

Heading to the Secondary Rise
 Continuing along the original ridge, we sloped down, up and over a secondary rise. On the other side of this rise, the trail started its descent among limestone rocks and scree. At first, the slope was generally average as we zigzagged around the rocks following the ridge down. But, as we crested at the edge of the hill, the slope steepened. Nicely, the steep slope was covered with limestone scree that enabled us to walk down fairly comfortably. Someone compared this slope with the Mummy's Tummy scree slope as the favorable choice.

Descending Over the Secondary Rise
 Just to the right of us, there was rimrock with cliffs below. The views, again, required us to stop and look. After the first scree hill, we took a step over and down a portion of the rimrock and continued down some more scree and rock.

View into Kyle Canyon from Descent

Stepping Down over the Rimrock in the Scree
 We could see the trailhead parking lot clearly far below us and we knew it was time to start closing that distance. Even though the old trail seemed to continue out to the end of the ridge, we decided to take a turn to our right ... down. The bushwhack was not bad and involved more scree. We zigzagged our way so that the slope was pretty easy. Soon, we junctioned with the upper side of the Step Ladder Loop. We took a left on the trail, turned right at the feeder trail and found the cars. Fun, fun, fun! Excellent hike with new views and moderate climbs.

7 miles; 1450 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Bushwhack Junction - Old Trail Continued

Bushwhack / Step Ladder Loop Junction

Landmark at Bushwhack Junction

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