Friday, October 21, 2016

Mountains Springs Peak Loop - 10/20/16

Mt. Potosi View from Mountain Springs Trail

Escarpment Rim View

Mt. Potosi from Heartbreak Hill

Starting Up Heartbreak Hill
Mountain Springs Peak rises among the limestone that creeps up behind the sandstone peaks of the Red Rock Canyon NCA escarpment. It is the highest point behind the Black Velvet Peak bench. There is a good trail that leads from the Heartbreak Hill saddle all the way to the peak and thirteen hikers set out from the Mountain Springs Summit Pass Trailhead to hike this trail and make a 7 mile loop back to the cars. We started up that middle dirt road that leads up to the radio relay tower, also known as Heartbreak Hill.

Leaving the Saddle
It was a strong group of hikers and there was no dilly dallying up the hill. It felt great to just go for the workout while grabbing a couple of quick photos of the beautiful day.

Trail View of Mt. Potosi
Mt. Potosi loomed across Highway 160 as we climbed up our ridge running parallel to the burnt ridge that we sometimes use in various descents. A quick perusal showed no bighorn herds grazing on that ridge where they can sometimes be seen.

Black Velvet Peak & Las Vegas Beyond

Climbing on the Mountain Springs Peak Trail
At the saddle, there is a three-way junction of trails. The right trail goes to Hollow Rock Peak. There was the trail we came from and then, the left trail goes to both Windy Peak and Mountain Springs Peak. We turned left. After a couple of short climbs and a quick search for a geocache, we came to a fork. The right fork is Windy Peak's. We took the left fork and got an immediate reprieve from climbing as we traversed over to the escarpment rim. Soon, we could see both Windy Peak and Black Velvet Peak ... and the Las Vegas Strip.

Mountain Springs, NV from Trail
After passing a narrowish ridge section of the trail, another fork appears. The best way to go is the left fork that takes you up the hill. It's better to climb here than wait until later.

Laszlo's View from the Sweep Position
After passing the top of this hill, several hikers in the back half of the line saw a large male bighorn on the trail ahead of us. By the time we got to where he had been seen, he was nowhere around. We have seen bighorns in this area often in the past.

Approach to the Escarpment Rim

Arriving on Mountain Springs Peak
So, only 2.4 miles into the hike, we arrived on top of Mountain Springs Peak and signed into the log book stuffed inside plastic under rocks of a large cairn built next to the survey benchmark. A few minutes later, we started down the trail that runs along the rim of the escarpment where the views are colorful and precipitous. This was a descent down to the cliff area where we enjoyed a snack while dangling our legs. Well, it was windy here today so we mostly opted for a lower and warmer place. Except for Laszlo!

Signing the Log Book on Mountain Springs Peak
Laszlo climbed out on the ledge bench above to dangle his legs! Kind of scary to watch!

Calico Hills from the Escarpment Rim
There is a small window in the rock below the snack cliff where a photo can be taken as seen two photos below. (It was a bit windy today!)

Snack Cliff on the Escarpment Rim

Laszlo chooses the Higher Snack Cliff
After our break, we continued on the trail up to the next little ridge (not far). We turned to our left and began a descent on this ridge while zigzagging around scrub and rocks. Staying on the ridge, we dipped through one saddle, then at the next saddle, turned left to descend into the small wash on the left side of the ridge. This wash is small and offers interesting small obstacles and scenery but, it is totally navigable. The wash section of the hike is somewhat long so it is good to have an interesting wash at your feet!

Stratosphere through Small Window
For future reference, there is a somewhat wider wash on the other side of the descent ridge and it is also navigable. We did that one for many years and still do on occasion.

Starting down the Descent Ridge
By the way, September and October are mating season months for tarantulas! So, we were on the lookout.

Junctioning with the Descent Wash

Small Descent Wash
How do male and female tarantulas find a mate, you asked? Well, the female puts off her pheromone scent and the male follows the scent. ... You know how that goes .... Then, when the male arrives, he taps his feet to let her know he's there. He does his thing then gets the helloutathere before she eats him. Violins, please. And, sure enough, we found a taratula in the wash. Almost stepped on it! Lots of photos were taken and discussion about this or that.

Nice Little Descent Wash Photos
It didn't faze the little critter. It just kept walking down the wash on its way to find love. Procreation is a very very very strong instinct. We also found the backbone connected to hips of someone's cleaned skeleton. Maybe a coyote.

Looking for Love
The wash became a trench when we neared the bottom. It was time to leave the wash to descend the ridge on the left side. Zigzagging around scrub, we headed straight down the ridge until we ran perpendicular into the Mountain Springs Trail. We turned onto the trail to the left.

Junctioning with the Mountain Springs Trail

Hikers on the Trail
This is a great trail to follow as it undulates through the arroyos. Used by horse and riders of the community below, it becomes rugged at points but it takes hikers directly over to the springs. Taking a slightly different route at the springs, we continued across on the trail to the agave roasting pit area then headed straight down to the miniature horses and big white horse corral. Great day on the trails!

7 miles; 1600 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Several Little Ups and Downs

Arriving above Mountain Springs, NV

Bad Hair Day

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