Sunday, December 4, 2016

Cave Canyon / Skull Canyon - 12/4/16

View from Cairn Overlook

Mouth of Cave Canyon

View from Top of Second Dry Fall of Cave Canyon

Horses eat Breakfast at the Upper Corral
 Cave Canyon is, perhaps, the most difficult of the canyons on the North Blue Diamond Hill. At two miles long (using the left fork), the canyon boasts two 3rd class dry fall scrambles. This morning, fifteen hikers invaded the Cowboy Trails parking lot. A few of the hikers knew they would be challenged. Nevertheless, we all headed up to the upper corral where the horses were eating their morning hay. We dropped down behind the corral and climbed up to the mouth of Cave Canyon which gapes open on the left side of Echo Canyon. A steep trail climbs up along the right wall.

First Dry Fall Third Class Scramble
 The climb always wakes you up. It's a tough one first thing in the morning. We finally reached graffiti cave and crossed the wash. A little further up and we were facing the first 3rd class scramble.

Scrambling up above First Dry Fall
 Knowing that we had a few hikers who were challenged by 3rd class stuff, we worked together helping them up the dry fall. It's always a fun place to watch as each hiker climbs over the overhang one by one. There is no go around.

Sun Drenches the Canyon

A little 3 Foot Exposure!
 We passed by the main cave without much of a glance. Not interested today. As we turned the canyon corner, the sun came up over the walls ... right into our eyes. The bright sun came into play as we navigated our way through the obstacles. Pretty sure we chose an unusual route once or twice! Forging ahead, we kept the scrambling up at a constant pace. Finally, we came to the fork in the canyon. The right fork leads to a trail over to Echo Canyon. We took the left fork.

Entering Alcove of Second Dry Fall
 This part of the canyon is slightly less traveled but there is a trail to follow among the rocks and brush. Near the end of this fork, the second dry fall appears in your face as an alcove.

Rita climbs the moderate side of the second dry fall.
 To the left, there is an easiest route up to the top, The moderate route is found on a slanted rock to the right. The "fun" route is straight in front. We divided almost equally into three groups as we took on the twenty foot climb.

Using the Trail to Boneshaker Sign

Following the Three Amigos Trail
 A little further up the wash, we came to a trail crossing our path where we turned to the left. This took us to the Boneshaker sign. We dipped down over the hill and found the Three Amigos Trail and turned right. This trail winds along the contour above Mystery Woman Canyon. We followed it all the way up to the top of the hill. There used to be a large cairn here ... we should build another one. Anyway, we ate our snack while gazing at the wide view of Las Vegas.

Clear view of Las Vegas
 We dropped down to take the Rim Trail down to the Old Las Vegas Overlook. And, from here, we followed the trail up and over to the top of Skull Canyon.

Following the Rim Trail
 The Skull Canyon Trail seems to be in the best shape it's been in for many years. Many of the slippery places have been loosened up. We followed the canyon trail from top to bottom. (Well, a few hikers dipped their toes into the wash a couple of times!)

The Rim Trail

The Old Overlook
 We descended the trail, rounded the corner and merged with the Muffins Trail. From there, switchbacks brought us down to the bottom of the hill. We may have hit 3.3 mph on the hike across the desert to the lower corral. It was a good hike for everyone. Perhaps a long hike for some as well. It should be mentioned that some of the names that we use for these canyons and landmarks are original names that have since been changed by bikers. Skull Canyon will always be Skull Canyon to us. As the story goes, someone once found a burro skull in the canyon ... way back in the day.

7 miles; 1450 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Skull Canyon

Descending on the Skull Canyon Trail

The Last Descent

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