Sunday, February 28, 2016

River Mountain via Inner Caldera Loop - 2/28/16

River Mountain from the Caldera Trail Approach

Inner Caldera Loop Trail

Starting Out Clockwise on the Inner Caldera Loop Trail

Steep Bicycle Hill
Thinking outside the box, fifteen hikers arrived at the upper Bootleg Canyon trailhead, a new trailhead for the club. To get there, go to the base of the zip line parking and continue up the well-maintained dirt road from there until you arrive at the large saddle trail junction area half way up to the top of Red Mountain. There is a large dirt parking area just below the road accessed by a dirt road ramp down on the left side. There are several trails that can be taken from this point.

The Stratosphere from Inner Caldera
 River Mountain is the highest peak in the River Mountains and sits beside a canyon strung with powerlines. Our traditional route to the peak involves an 8 mile endeavor starting from the River Mountains Trail parking lot next to St. Jude's Ranch.

Another Steep Bicycle Hill
 Today, the route would be only 6 miles, perhaps the shortest route possible to River Mountain Peak without bushwhacking straight across the open desert.

Las Vegas Skyline from Inner Caldera

Passing Holey Rock Outcroppings
 We connected with the Inner Caldera by taking a small trail on the west side of the parking lot. We would be traveling the loop in a clockwise direction. The loop started out with beautiful views toward Las Vegas. But, it quickly demanded our attention when we met a series of very steep hills going down and back up. We call these types of hills "bicycle hills." The two wheelers seem to love this sort of challenge. For us, well, we learn to tolerate them!

Route Heads toward River Mountain on Gravel Road
 One bicyclist passed us all morning. The trail did a couple of switchbacks down and junctioned with the Caldera Trail. We decided to continue around the Inner Caldera even though we would be hiking on the Caldera later.

Climbing the Powerline Road Canyon
 When the Inner Caldera junctioned with the Red Mountain Road (dirt), we left the trail and started our ascent on a series of old gravel roads. At one point, we followed the Caldera Trail for a short distance.

At the Powerline Pole Saddle

Muddy Mountains from Saddle
Finally, we arrived at the bottom of the Powerline Road Canyon. It was interesting to see that the power company had reinforced the road with a thick new layer of gravel. The bedrock that we used to hike is no longer visible. Better for the power trucks, not better for us! Anyway, we climbed up the road at our own speed but did not get too far apart. At the Power Pole Saddle, we gathered again and discussed the peak trail approach. It was quickly decided to ask Chris to do the honors and lead the group up.

Climbing the Peak Trail
 The beautiful view of Lake Mead at our right shoulder continued all the way up to the upper saddle but we were too busy climbing to stop and notice. The trail is filled with loose rocks and the slope is very steep.

Red Mountain and Trailhead from Trail
 After two or three breathers, we reached the upper saddle and waited for the remaining hikers to arrive. From there, the trail takes a left turn onto a contour of the intermediate peak above.

River Mountain from Upper Saddle

Peak View from Last Saddle
 The trail leads over to the last saddle of the climb as seen in the photo to the right. Lastly, the trail begins climbing just to the right of the rocky spine of the peak. One by one, we arrived on the top and signed into the log book. At this point, it was very clear to the writer that the shorter approach to the final climb by use of the Inner Caldera was beneficial. The views from the peak were so beautiful and the trip back to the cars was not hanging heavy in her mind. Conversation was lively. (Have you ever descended in this or that direction?)

Peak Shot
 In other words, the writer enjoyed being on River Mountain Peak today. Stronger hikers might would have preferred a longer approach.

Lava Butte from River Mountain Peak
 There was a 360 degree view from the peak that included Lava Butte, Las Vegas & the Spring Mountains, Red Mountain & Bootleg Canyon, Lake Mead Boulder Basin, and the Black Mountain (Henderson) escarpment.

Las Vegas from River Mountain Peak

Starting Down off of the Peak
 Too soon, it was time to descend. Carefully, we each took to the rocks. A bit of scrambling, the contour trail and the loose descent between the upper saddle and the Power Pole Saddle. After gathering there, we descended the gravel road through the canyon. The gravel was much easier to descend than ascend. From the bottom, we retraced our steps back to the Inner Caldera Loop Trail. (i.e. gravel road, Caldera Trail and old gravel road) At the road / trail junction of the Inner Caldera, we turned to the left and found the trail routing around the corner of the hill.

Returning to the Upper Saddle
 This second half of the Inner Caldera winds around a lot giving us great views in every direction.

Descending the Trail (Most Difficult Part of the Hike)
 There was a slow ascent all the way back to the cars.

Back on the Caldera Trail

Returning Down the Old Gravel Road
 Sometimes we could see our trail across a gully and sometimes we could see the Caldera Trail paralleling us on a higher contour. Near the end, we bypassed another one of those steep bicycle hills and crossed a dirt road to continue on the trail. A few more twists and turns then the trail led us right into the parking lot where our cars were parked. Something new and different. A very pleasant outing to a beautiful peak.

6 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Undulating Inner Caldera Loop Trail

Winding Around on the Inner Caldera

Last View of River Mountain from the Inner Caldera

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