Friday, January 12, 2018

Top of the World Arch Long Loop (Valley of Fire SP) - 1/11/18

Valley of Fire (from hill after The Squeeze)

Valley of Fire (from climb up to Top of the World)

Eye of the Iguana Wash

Coming in the Back Door
Q: How do you make a moderately strenuous to strenuous hike a very strenuous hike?

A: Do the hike in Valley of Fire State Park two days after a downpour of rain!

Q: How do you manage to accomplish these 7.5 miles of scrambling with a group of twenty-one hikers without any falls or injuries on the crumbling sandstone, many unrouted go arounds and slippery damp waterfalls?

A: With a fantastic group of careful and experienced hikers working together. (And, beautiful weather helped!)

Morning Colors
The colors in the Valley of Fire SP sandstone were accentuated with the dampness. We arrived in the park as earth movers were cleaning up from the flood they must have had two days prior.

Our First Obstacle
We were told that the White Domes TH was closed but upon arrival, we found no signs. Knowing that the tall slot was probably flooded, we started our hike by starting the White Domes Trail in reverse.

On the Trail

Passing Pointy Mountain
After a short exploration, we found that the tall slot was passable but going our way in the wash had two more impassable puddles. No problem. We went around with some unplanned scrambling. Finally, we connected with the trail leading up to the left. Yea! And, off we went! The trail was good as we hiked up next to the white stone and into the canyon. We passed Pointy Mountain and Chocolate Wall. The wet sandy trail had no traces of hikers since the rain and we made a line of footsteps. Next, we passed the Eye of the Iguana and the fat Monolith. The Monolith marks the junction of our later descent from the Top of the World. There are three ways to descend from the Arch on top of the high point and they all arrive here. Today's route, it was decided, would be the canyon since the other two ways involved cliffy sandstone walls ... not a good risk on this damp day.

The Squeeze
Next came the Squeeze slot. From there, we climbed up to a little high point and took in the wide view to our left seen in the first photo.

Following Cairns
The cairns in the next section have returned! We followed them on a lateral route then took a sharp turn to the left to descend to the floor via a small wash.

The Slab Climb

Valley of Fire (from top of Slab climb)
A sharp turn to the right led us on a winding route over to Salmon Rock. Going around the orange rock to the right put us on a sandy trail through the brush to the bottom of a slanted sandstone slab wall. ... And, up we went! Several newbies in the group wondered ... "What?" Warned of the possible slipperiness of the wall, we were all conscious of every step. The wall climb finally finished at the view in the photo to the left. Although the group stayed together very well, the wall climb separated us a bit and provided a small rest. Next, we proceeded up the sand dunes section. Usually, this is a dreaded part of the hike slogging up through the sand. Today, YEA!, wet sand!

Up the Ramp
Up past the sliced toast formation on the right, the Ramp appears on the left. This is our stairway to the Big Dip.

Climbing to the Top of the World Arch
Up the Ramp, down into the Big Dip, and up the ramp seen in the photo above. Finally, we have arrived at the Top of the World Arch. Twenty-one hikers clamored up, around and over the large substantial arch that may have been a cave at one point.

Climbing to the Top of the World (Virgin Peak in distance)

Top of the World Arch
Few hikers stuck around to sign into the log book and all ended up on top of the high point above to take their snack break. There were a few explorations going on during the break to here and there. Then, we gathered for our treacherous trip down the canyon. Treacherous, yes, death defying, no. Down through the Big Dip and back down the Ramp, cross the sand dunes, drop and turn left. The Canyon Descent! Slippery, crumbly and brushy. Conversation ceased. Concentration was key and we all knew it. This canyon can seem like it never ends even on a dry day!

Tinaja near Arch
The canyon trail begins on the right side dropping down through an open-topped rabbit hole. As you get by the initial steepness (see in a photo on down), the trail becomes apparent and takes you down scrambles, through brush, under a low rock, past the Quad Arch and finally ... finally ... down to the Monolith. A small rest here.

A Snack on the High Point behind Arch
Retracing our previous steps up the main alley to the Eye of the Iguana, we turned right into its out flowing wash. This is, perhaps, one of the most beautiful and colorful washes in the park!

Tinaja down the High Point Slab

Looking back at the Group
Warning! A few of our hikers reported a small section of quick sand within the wide wash on the left. Last year, there was quick sand below a damp fall in this wash near the highway. Normally, we look forward to an exciting drop on a particular dry fall in this wash. It is steep but always negotiable. Today, the damp fall was sandy and very slippery. (See the "tricky spot" photo below.) In retrospect, the group should have passed the fall on the right side. Onward, the wash crosses the highway at wash #3. Watch for cars!

Down the Ramp
We stayed in the wash for around 50 yards then began a traverse scramble up to the right keeping the same trajectory. A warning about not stepping on fins in this area is appropriate.

Diving into the Canyon Descent
This imprecise route takes you up on a rise of sandstone and curves slightly to the left up a colorful hill. At the top of this hill, color spreads wide before you. The Rock of Gibraltar rises in the distance.

Starting Canyon Descent

Starting down the Eye of the Iguana Wash
A small temporary tinaja sat in the foreground to add perspective. We passed the tinaja and dropped down beside the wash to the right then poured into the main wash below. A right turn in this gravelly wash then turn left up the third or fourth wash climbing shortly up to the terrain above. This put us at the Fire Wave where a few excited tourists were having their photos taken again and again! Finally, we sneaked in a photo of our own and we returned to the Wave Wall behind us. As we traveled to the wall, we crossed over the giant red and white striped landscape.

A few interesting Formations
Guessing that the small slots coming up were probably flooded, we made the choice to persevere and use go arounds to get by the water.

Yellow Rock
We hiked around the Wave Wall and climbed out to the left. Instead of dropping down to a surely flooded slot, we stayed high all the way over to the highway. (We saw, on the way, that the slot was, indeed, flooded.)

Eye of the Iguana Wash
A Tricky Spot
Descending to the Wash #5 crossing on the road, many of us decided to stay high on the right side to bypass upcoming water. We dropped back in and climbed out two more times avoiding the flooded slots. The last time, we shortcutted up and across to the White Domes Trail where the steps take you up to the cars. Wow! What a workout. All those detours and being extremely careful not to slide on the dampness really made the hike a "wet and wild" experience!

Tinaja and Rock of Gibraltar (Fin Section)
Some interesting geological info taken from a favorite "go to" book, Geologic Tours in the Las Vegas Area (Expanded Edition with GPS Coordinates), Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 16, University of Nevada, Reno, Mackay School of Earth Sciences, 2008, Bear Printing, Sparks, NV; page 84. See below.

Valley of Fire Colors
Differential Weathering and Swiss Cheese: A characteristic of Aztec Sandstone outcrops that is well illustrated in this area is the occurrence of numerous holes in the rock that impart an appearance similar to Swiss cheese. Sandstone is nothing more than sand grains held together by mineral cement, usually calcite or silica.

Fire Wave

Hiking from Fire Wave to Wave Wall
In this natural process, some parts of the rocks are more tightly and completely cemented. These parts are more resistant to weathering and erosion than other parts. The incompletely or poorly cemented areas are more vulnerable to weathering and erosion processes and therefore wear away more readily creating the conspicuous holes in the sandstone. This process is called differential weathering.

7.5 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 4.75 hours

Climbing out of Wave Wall Wash

Flooded Slot

The Last Climb


Las Vegas Cockapoo said...

Love your write-up and photos (especially water reflections) of your hike yesterday in Valley of Fire! Looks like you had a great group!

Susan Murphy

Las Vegas Cockapoo said...

Kay the blog is absolutely terrific! The photos are wonderful - I especially like the sixth one from the top. 🙂 The narrative was very very well written. You should write books!

Cheryl Kostelac