Saturday, November 26, 2016

Windy Peak - 11/26/16

This tree is finally ready for prime time!

Las Vegas view from End of Windy Peak

Lovell Canyon from Windy Peak Trail

Now that's cheating!
 On this Saturday after Thanksgiving Day, the weather on top of the Red Rock Canyon NCA escarpment was gorgeous! Sure, the wind is coming in this evening and rain/snow is coming in tonight and tomorrow but, today, nine hikers soaked in the calm cool temperatures on top of what is ironically called Windy Peak. This familiar favorite hike starts at the trailhead located at the top of Mountain Springs Summit Pass. Turn toward Red Rock on a hidden gravel drive just where Highway 160 west is merging into one lane.

Mt. Potosi behind Sunlit Burnt Ridge
 We waited until the appointed time to start up the trail toward the radio relay tower. When we got there, we saw that 4 high clearance vehicles had driven their lucky hikers up to the gate and parked. (That's cheating!)

Nine on the Saddle
 Although the hike was posted moderately strenuous, no one was in any particular hurry and running was not on the menu.

Climbing the Ridge

Trail View
 We took Heartbreak Hill at a moderate to moderately strenuous pace and arrived at the saddle for a group photo with smiles all around. The next gathering spot was the fork in the trail after a couple of climbs along the ridge. We started our hike over to Windy Peak from here by taking the right fork. Again, the pace was kept simple. The day was so nice and the air was so clear. Even this hike that so many of us have done over and over was worth yet another inspection.

Waiting at the Fork
 We enjoyed the hike down and along the contours of the ridge that leads out to the sandstone outcropping.

Hikers' Arrival at the Fork
 The escarpment was made by old limestone thrusting over the top of newer sandstone that eroded into several peaks along its cliffs. Windy Peak is the third named peak from the south end of the cliffs.

Limestone / Sandstone Line

Las Vegas There, Limestone Here
 The limestone/sandstone line is seen clearly from this trail. A little further and Las Vegas appears with a backdrop of Frenchman Mountain. Our trail is well worn. Occasionally, an extraneous trail is found but it never leaves the main trail for long before it returns. Too soon, the trail crosses into sandstone and drops down to a huge "bubble" of sandstone slab. The first scramble getting onto the bubble is the most difficult and most exposed part of the scramble. If you are a seasoned hiker, this scramble is simple.

Climbing onto the Slab
 Two of our hikers, today, were still becoming "seasoned." Everyone pitched in to help them up onto the slab and try to make them feel safe. The first couple of times you do this, it is a little disconcerting.

Scrambling across the Slab
 We continued the familiar scramble across the slab. There are several cairns that show the way ... at least right now. Once in a while, someone comes along an tears down the cairns. Not helpful if you are new to the hike.

Arriving just below the Peak

Wilson Peak from Landmark Tree
 However, if you ARE new to the hike, the rule is to stay just to the right of the "ridge" as much as you can. You will still have to find your way up or down and around difficult obstacles. The peak is a high point on top of the slab. Nearby to the north, there is a precipitous cliff. Follow the small trail past the peak (after signing the log book) and you can reach the end of the outcropping. Be careful here ... cliffs all around! A few of us went out here for our break. Did I mention that it was a gorgeous day?

Trail out to End of Peak
 There is usually a cairn at the end of the peak above the last cliff. Please don't think this is indicating a trail!

Gorgeous Day to Enjoy
 As we sat, small clouds began blowing in improving the already gorgeous aesthetics of the morning.

Gorgeous Day for Photos

Coming down off the Slab
 After a lengthy break, we turned to go back. Again, we watched each other until we got off the sandstone slab. From there, we climbed back to the high point and dropped down past the fork. Onward, we returned to the saddle then descended Heartbreak Hill. Still smiling, we hiked into the trailhead parking. As we drove back by the entrance to the Red Rock scenic loop ... well, ... crazy, really CRAZY! For today, we were very happy to have a few secret places that only avid Las Vegas hikers know about!!

5 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 3 hours

Climbing back into the Limestone

Trail through Limestone Boulders

Starting back down Heartbreak Hill

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