Saturday, June 17, 2017

Willow Arch (aka Window in the Cliff) - 6/17/17

Willow Arch (aka Window in the Cliff)

View down to Switchbacks from Window

View to Pahrump from below Window

 When the club was first introduced to Willow Arch ten years ago, the name that hikers used for it was Window in the Cliff. Since the window is passed on the way to Willow Peak, a very strenuous hike, the name has morphed to Willow Arch. It is more a "window" than an "arch" ... but I digress. Eight hikers drove up to Cold Creek, NV in high clearance vehicles, saw a small family of wild horses and continued out the dirt road that the paved road runs into. We passed into the Spring Mountains NRA and arrived at the Bonanza Trailhead parking lot. The dirt road was well-graded and passable with a slow sedan.

Bonanza Trailhead and Dirt Road Approach

Starting Up

A Lower Switchback

Small Peak in front of Bonanza Peak
 We exited the cars in 89 degrees and started up the trail. Our strategy was to stop and regather every 10 switchbacks. The switchbacks start when there is an obvious sharp turn to the left. Until then, the trail meanders up gently. Most of us were able to count to ten.... One or two of us were usually one or two switchbacks ahead. We had fun with that! The length of trail between each 10 switchbacks varied but everyone seemed to be okay with the arrangement.

A Mid-Section Switchback

Window View from Switchback #35

Cold Creek, NV from Switchback #35

A Higher Switchback
 On switchback #35, the trail comes close to the ravine that flows down from the window. We walked out into the field a little and photographed the window in the cliff above. After switchback #45, the trail leads on a long climbing traverse over to a neighboring ridge where the switchbacks continue. During this traverse, we had to cross two trees that hung over the trail. Otherwise, the trail is in excellent condition.

Bonanza Saddle

The Upper Scramble Route to the Window

The Window from Below

Window Approach
 Finally, we reached the Bonanza Saddle and sat for a short break. Turning to our right, we began a beeline scramble below the ridge which was now on our right. The scramble involved sharp limestone rock with difficult up and overs of "fins" that ran from the ridge down the hill to our left. We eventually realized that this is probably the best way to go. But, we only saw one cairn the whole way. Finally away from the fins, we connected with a "trail" of footsteps below us. (Horses, elk or humans?)

View from right side of Window

Taking our Break in the Window

Fossil Rock near Window

Starting Back to Connect with the "Trail"
 Not having been here for some years, we were puzzled that we could not find the window right away. We went a little further on the "trail" and, voila! The window is tucked into the cliff just before reaching a wall of limestone that we would have had difficulty getting past. We climbed on up to the window to take our break. There was a cold breeze coming through the window and we got cold on a very warm day. The window was even more beautiful than the last time the writer had visited.

Following the Lower "Trail" Back

Starting down 55 Switchbacks

Two Trees across Trail

Down, down, Down
 We chose to find out what the lower "trail" was like on the return to the saddle. Although the trail took us below the fins, the loss of elevation was very difficult to recover. Back at the saddle, we started down. Two stops were taken on the way down but we stayed together anyway. By the time we got to the bottom, we had seen three other hikers. In the parking lot, there were some ATV folks and it was very warm. So glad to have made another visit to the window! And, it was a new place for 4 out of the 8 hikers in the group! Fun, fun!

8 miles; 2500 feet elevation gain; 5.25 hours

Somewhere around Switchback #20 (counting from bottom)

Break in the Shade (Switchback #18)

Blooming Opuntia nearing Cars

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