Sunday, April 9, 2017

Gray Cap (O&B v 5 Stop Hill) - 4/9/17

Gray Cap View

Turtlehead from Climb

Gathering at the Picnic Table

Group Climbs 5 Stop Hill
 Gray Cap Peak is one of those hikes that can be done several different ways. It is located on the ridge that extends east/west between Gateway Canyon and Brownstone Canyon in the Red Rock Canyon NCA. The easiest way to do the peak is by hiking an out and back from Sandstone Quarry on the scenic loop. However, the overcrowding on the loop during the Spring Break season led us to do the hike from the dirt parking area at the end of Sandstone Drive in Calico Basin. Sixteen hikers arrived here for a 7:30am start time as the parking area started to fill up.

Up the Gravel of Gateway Canyon
 After hobnobbing with a group of young people that had just finished an overnight music video taping session on the trail nearby, we started climbing 5 Stop Hill.

Starting up Upper Gateway
 At the saddle, we met up with another couple of young men who wanted to know more about our hike. It was a great start to a cold morning.

Starting the Scramble

Scrambling up Upper Gateway Canyon
Our route followed the trail down into Gateway Canyon and we turned up in the gravel. Our cadence allowed us to do sections of the hike at our own pace. We met up at specific locations that were spaced close together. We had a few newbies on our hike today and they all learned why Gray Cap is labeled "strenuous." The scrambling is relentless and the hardest part isn't until the descent. We gathered at the top of each of the really big dry falls.

Waiting at the Top of a Big Dry Fall
 It was a lot of fun picking our way among the boulders. We were trying to find the easiest routes for the newbies.

Jackie, Setsuko and a Redbud
 The up and around trails were used by a few of the hikers.

Terrace Section

Scaling the Sandstone Wall
 When the sandstone wall obstacle arrived, we paused to take our breath. Then, up we went, trying to spread out so that if any loose rocks were dislodged, the person behind would not get clobbered. We did a pretty good job at getting up to the top of the wall within the same five minutes. Next, we wandered over to the big sunken tinaja. Wow! There is more water in it than the writer has ever seen! Anyone ready for a swim?

Red Sandstone & Turtlehead

Waiting at the Top
 Next, we crossed the bridge that spans high above the water on the left side. Everyone was being very careful. The route then climbs up to the wall ahead and veers around to the right. Hugging the wall, we traversed around to a small drop down to a flat area. The final ascent was all that was remaining. An obvious left turn up into the cream colored sandstone started us on our way. By following somewhat of a dip in the hill, our next stop was the "Picnic Table." This is where we took our photo seen in the the third photo from the top of this entry.

Large Tinaja full of Water
 Next, the route turns up at a one or two o'clock angle. Eventually, we found the trail.

Turtlehead with Tinaja from Bridge
 The trail traverses below the top of the sandstone. We noticed that there are a lot of cairns showing the way right now.

The Final Ascent to Gray Cap
Calico Basin and North Blue Diamond Hills
 The trail takes you to the limestone and on up to the peak. Don't forget to turn around on the way up! The views on this hike are some of the best views in Red Rock. Red Cap, the escarpment, Kraft Mountain, and Turtlehead Peak show a very colorful landscape. When you get high enough on the ridge, you can also see down into Brownstone Canyon. Today, we could see that there were two cars parked down in that canyon. Everyone arrived at the peak for a well-deserved snack break. The log book was passed around.

Gray Cap Summit Views
 When it came time for the descent, we were all business. Much concentration is needed in the steep rocky terrain.

Starting Descent from Gray Cap (peak seen at top)
 We adhered to the intermittent stops. It was a fantastic group of hikers today. Lots of patience. Thanks.

Crossing back over the Bridge

Tent Caterpillars Opening
The group stopped at the Rattlesnake Trail junction then were released to continue back to the cars while a few hikers remained behind to wait for the stragglers. All in all, it was a good day. No one got hurt and everyone got back to the trailhead. On top of that, it was a beautiful day at Red Rock!

6 miles; 2200 feet elevation gain; 5.5 hours (without counting the extra wait time)

The Sandstone Wall Descent

Descending Upper Gateway Canyon

Smiling for the Camera

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