Friday, January 27, 2017

Blue Diamond Canyon #1 Loop - 1/27/17

Blue Diamond Canyon #1

Mt. Potosi from Canyon #1

Starting into Canyon #1

Canyon #1 Narrows
 Canyon #1 is located across Highway 159 from the small community of Blue Diamond, NV. The parking trailhead area is at the junction of Arroyo & Highway 159. Most of this hike is within the Red Rock Canyon NCA boundary, however, the top turnaround route escapes into the gypsum mine property for just a short distance. Five hikers parked at Arroyo and crossed the highway. It was necessary to carefully cross the wild burros' barbed wire fence then we followed a faint trail over a small hill and down into the canyon. The morning was very cold with a very stiff wind so we were very happy to sink within the walls of the deep and narrow canyon. There is somewhat of a trail that travels up the canyon. It led us up and around the many catclaws and acacias that grabbed at us whenever we gave them half a chance. But, for the most part, the fossil filled limestone provided a clear path on either the center or one side or the other of the narrow canyon.

Stair Stepping the Dry Falls
 There was a lot of scrambling to be done as we climbed. All the dry falls were of the "stair stepping" variety. There were no ropes or helping hands to contend with.

Canyon just below Descent Junction
 The floor of the canyon was covered with Precambrian seabed fossils. A few of them are seen in the photos below.

A Few of Many Fossils

Climbing around the Brush
We passed the spot where we would eventually drop back into the canyon after our coming tour up and down the hill. All 1000 feet of elevation gain was accomplished in the canyon and as we climbed out of the canyon at the top. Nearing the top, we turned around to see fantastic views of Mt. Potosi, Blue Diamond, and the Bird Spring Range. The top of the canyon turned into a very narrow stair stepping climb up and out of the "ditch."

View Down Canyon
 Then we had a little further to climb on the hillside. It wasn't long before we crossed paths with a trail on which we turned to the right. The freezing wind hit us face on. Tres brrrr!

Nearing Top
 The trail led us over a small ridge and, le voila(!), we were on the Gypsum Mine property. It was an old corner of the property that the workers no longer use.

Climbing to the Ridge

Snow Dusted Escarpment
 When we curved around a corner, we saw the old ruins of the top of the conveyor belt that can be seen from Highway 159 below. It is no longer in working condition. Nowadays, they use trucks to carry the gypsum down the hill on an improved dirt road. We continued curving around the corner and found a trail that led out along the very high cliffs that the conveyor belt descends. The trail was at a safe distance from the precipice but it still gave the writer the "heebee-geebees." Below, we could see the gypsum wall board plant.

Curving around past the Old Conveyor Belt (Not Working)
 The trail followed all the way down the ridge along the cliffs with a view over our left shoulder of the Las Vegas Strip. Also, on the south facing ridge, were many many cacti. The good news was that the wind no longer hit us in the face and we were somewhat protected by the lay of the land.

Ruins of Gypsum Mine Conveyor Belt
 We continued descending gently, at first, along the trail. When the trail ran out, we began a gradual turn to the right to descend the hill more steeply.

Las Vegas from Ridge above Cliffs

Hiking along Cliffs
Finally, we reached the area above Canyon #1. Winding our way above the cliffs, we found safe ways to scramble down into the canyon and arrived at the appointed junction. The good scramble continued down the canyon and, eventually, over the burro fence and across the road. This is a fun and interesting hike that delves into a corner of the property that is slated to be developed into high end residential housing. Shame, huh? Great hike but very cold morning!

4 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Scramble Descent from Ridge

Traversing to Canyon #1 Junction

Dropping down Canyon #1

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