Thursday, March 21, 2019

Bridge Mountain Via Dragon Rock - 3/19/19

2013 Archive Photo of Bridge Mountain from Escarpment (Kay's Photo)

Fifteen Hikers under the Bridge of Bridge Mountain, Red Rock Canyon
(Count the Crocodile!)

Initial Climb up the North Peak Trail

Fern Canyon Overlook
The Around the Bend Friends climbed Bridge Mountain on Tuesday. They used the North Peak (Sandstone) Trail to gain the ridge. Then they circled around to Fern Canyon Overlook. From there they dropped onto the bench that led out to Bridge Mountain Peak. Bridge Mountain is the dome-like sandstone peak that hides behind Bridge Point Peak. Bridge Point is located to the north of Pine Creek Canyon. Laszlo took all of the photos in this entry except the first. It was taken by Kay back in 2013 from just above Fern Canyon Overlook. In addition, Jerry T. and Mike OC have contributed some narration as follows:

For many on the Bridge Mountain hike, it was terra incognita, as 36% of the group (5 of 14) were newbies. One of the quintessential Class III hikes in the Red Rocks, Bridge never disappoints. Our trailhead was the halfway spot on Rocky Gap Road. It’s immediately in-your-face as you tackle the one-mile climb to the Dragon on a 30% incline. Next stop: Fern Canyon Overlook across roller coaster topography. Twice cancelled due to inclement weather, Fern Canyon is now in the books. Been there, done that.
The Crack Step
A 45-minute descent with some mild Class III puts you at the base of Bridge Mountain. Above you is the crux of the hike, the intimidating sandstone wall. Lots of exposure here. Two options: Stay in the crack or get out on the face. Most opted for the former, but a few headed for the exposed rock.

Descent onto the Sandstone Bench
After the requisite photo-op at the arch, it’s a short climb to the huge tinaja above the span. On this final day of winter, it looked more like Lake Tahoe.

Still Descending Bench

Big smiles all around as many of the neophytes assumed, incorrectly, that it was the top. Nah, false summit. The true apex still lies 400 vertical feet away on the steepest terrain of the hike. We pay good money for those Vibram soles. Now is the time to put your trust in them. 
Climbing the Famous Crack
A couple had trepidations about continuing on, but 30 minutes later, all 14 hikers took in the view from the 7003’ summit. Even bigger smiles now.

It’s an old mountaineering adage: Getting up is optional; getting down is not. On the descent route, Jerry & Cheryl took a slightly different tack, actually crossing over the arch via a somewhat tricky section. And then the steep sandstone comes back into play. It always looks more daunting going down. Once again, most stayed in the crack, but either way it’s no bargain. Both are precarious. Nice and easy does it. 

With the technical portion behind you, there still remains a tough, undulating, one-thousand foot ascent back to the Dragon. No piece of cake here. Lots of goo, shot blocks and electrolytes to negotiate the taxing climb. And then…1500 vertical feet below you is a barely discernible glint of metal. That would be our three vehicles. Onward. 

Mike hikes over to Cross the Bridge on Descent

That was Mike's take on the hike. And, below, we get a different take from Jerry! Jerry was the coordinator and things look a bit more logistical behind the clip board!

Tricky Step Down on Bridge
Luckily we had three high clearance 4WD vehicles show up at the Red Rock Casino Tuesday morning for our epic adventure to summit Bridge Mountain in Red Rock NCA. Fourteen hikers jumped into the three vehicles and we headed off up Rocky Gap Road.

Crossing the Bridge on Bridge Mountain
  We noted that some spots in Rocky Gap Road had improved while the general overall condition had gotten worse.  Probably because BLM does absolutely no maintenance on the road. There was evidence of the much higher than normal rainfall that had washed out a lot of the road.  We made our way to the North Peak trailhead where there is a small parking area. 

Crack Descent

Another Steep Exposed Crack
    We planned to take the North Peak trail to avoid damage to vehicles by attempting to go all the way up to the Bridge Mountain trailhead at the pass. 

 We started hiking about 8:30 up to Dragon Rock by 9:30; that’s 1,700 ft of elevation gain in 1.3 miles!  Once we reached Dragon Rock we started the beautiful traverse to Fern Canyon Overlook. 

 There were five newbies in the group that had never done the hike so they got the treatment as we approached the crack.  That is, we pointed at it and said “We’re going up that”.  The usual response is “No way!”.  

We reached the summit at around noon and had our snack break.  The temperature was just about right.  Not too hot and not too cold with an intermittent mild breeze.  

We made our way back with seven hikers in a fast group and a slower group wanting to take it all in as the traverse has some beautiful scenery.  The slow group reached the vehicles about 3pm.  We started back down Rocky Gap and had almost reached Willow Springs when we had to stop and move a large boulder that somebody had moved into the center of the road.  It was a beautiful day and a great group.  Everyone cheered when we got back to the cars. ~ Jerry

6.7 miles; 3460 feet elevation gain; 6.5 hours; average moving speed 1 mph

Climbing back around to Dragon Rock

Last Close-Up of Bridge Mountain and Bridge (Tiny Hole in Upper Right Quadrant)

Car Fun on Rocky Gap Road

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