Friday, October 28, 2016

North Peak (Sandstone) - 10/27/16

Las Vegas Skyline from North Peak (Sandstone)

Red Rock Wash

La Madre Mountains from Ridge Trail

Starting Up Red Rock Wash
 It was a perfect day for hiking! Cloudy overcast. A little breeze. And, temperatures in the 60's. Eleven hikers came out for a long day on the trails as today's route would leave Willow Springs, go up the Red Rock Wash for 2 miles, turn to go up and back on the steep ridge trail to North Peak (Sandstone), then take a cool down on Rocky Gap Road for the last 2.5 miles. We parked at the Willow Springs Picnic Area Trailhead on the spur road at mile marker 7 on the Scenic Loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA.

Hikers in the Wash

Sandstone & Limestone Boulders

A Little Autumn Color
 Using the trail constructed for visiting nearby petroglyphs, we dropped into the wash at the end of the pavement. The strategy for finding our way up the wash was to hug the wall to the left as much as possible. We also found that there is somewhat of a trail that has been made in the wash to help decide ways around occasional brush or boulder obstacles. There are even a few cairns. The wash is an easy to moderate scramble and we took a moderately strenuous pace while enjoying some lingering autumn color among the colorful mix of limestone and sandstone rocks.

Interesting Rock Designs

Beautiful Wash Morning

Tackling a Couple of Boulder Scrambles

Snoopy's Nose from Wash
 As we hiked, we kept an eye on the height of Rocky Gap Road up on the right hillside. This indicated where we were located as we hiked deep in the terrain below. The brush got heavy in only one place; below Waterfall Canyon. The water that runs down from above  feeds the foliage very well but there is a trail around the water. Next, we came to the largest dry fall obstacle but it wasn't really much of a challenge. The road above us was getting closer and that meant that we were nearing the trail junction.

The Largest Dry Fall (Moderate Scramble)

Starting Up the Ridge Trail in Limestone

 We found the trail that turns up to the left and began our steep climb starting up through the limestone layer. High elevation was quickly gained. This trail follows atop a ridge that leads all the way up to the top sandstone ridge. We took a few stops along the way. It was quite a challenge after the 2 miles that we did in the wash but we stayed together for the most part. We were lucky today because the dirt was still semi-damp from a recent rain. The slight moistness would help tremendously on the downhill return.

Transitioning into the Sandstone

Take Note of the Return Route (Trees)

Relentlessly Steep

Heading toward Dragon Rock
 About half way up, the limestone met the sandstone layer. We stayed true to the trail until the trail turned into solid rock. Then there were cairns that indicated the general direction of the route. Be careful here! The correct route is up the spine of the ridge. There are a few cairns that have been built for other reasons. They are not all for the correct trail. Take note of your surroundings. Look back several times to see where you need to go down later. The mistake most people make is to start going down on a dead end ridge lying just to the north (toward Willow Springs) of the correct ridge trail. For this reason, there is a bit of pomp and circumstance erected at the top of the trail. (You'll see.)

Rock Formations on Top Ridge

North Peak (Limestone) in Background

Climbing the Approach
 There were a few newbies on the hike today so we first headed over to Dragon Rock. From there, we found the trail, then lost the trail, then found the trail again that led across the ridge to the furthest rocky peak on the top ridge. This required a little scrambling. At the peak, we signed into the log book then took our traditional Halloween photo on North Peak (Sandstone). Since the sky was overcast, the photos were not great but we enjoyed the views anyway. Next, the dreaded descent began.

Calico Hills from North Peak (Sandstone)

2016 AtBF Halloween Photo on North Peak

Bridge Mountain and Escarpment to South

Another View from Top Ridge
 We followed the trail back over to Dragon Rock with a bit more success except we probably should have veered to the right a little sooner. At any rate, we found the grand entrance to the trail and started down the sandstone veering immediately slightly to the left. Once the ridge was visible, we chose our path on an individual basis. After the first drop off the end of the ridge, the trail appeared. Everyone concentrated on not breaking, spraining or falling on the many rocky rocks in our path.

Following a Trail back to Descent Start

Easy Does It on the Sandstone

Concentration on the Limestone
 After a short break at the limestone line, we dove down the limestone part of the trail. No one fell! Unbelievable! At the bottom, we junctioned with Rocky Gap Road and waited for everyone to finish their descent off the ridge. All that remained was the 2.5 miles down the dirt road. Our long road home collected three different wayward tourist hikers that did not know the area. They all turned around to follow us home! Great workout, today! We'll be sore tomorrow!

8 miles; 2500 feet elevation gain; 5.5 hours

Heading to the Rocky Gap Road Junction

Waiting for All the Finish Descent

The Long Road Home

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