Friday, March 8, 2019

Pinto Ridge Loop - 3/7/19

View Northeast along Pinto Ridge

Bitter Spring Valley

Ridge Cliffs to Redstone View

Leaving the Trailhead
Three years ago, a small group of four club members explored the Pinto Ridge in Lake Mead NRA. We made it a point to point hike from Northshore Road's mile marker 22.5 to mile marker 25 having to stage cars at either end. The years went by as, each year, we played with the idea of making a loop out of this beautiful hike. We didn't know if the culverts were passable or if there were any non-negotiable dry falls we would come upon. Nor did we know if any one way was more difficult than another. Sometimes satellite maps don't tell you everything! Such is the excitement of exploring. Today, we had ten hikers looking for fun!

Starting up a Colorful Wash
As promised, the first climb up to Pinto Ridge Peak is the most difficult part of the hike. It is an elevation gain of 1000' in the first 1.5 miles.

Muddy Mountains beyond our Wash
Leaving the trailhead hiking in a south southeast direction, we had a choice of a couple of abandoned overgrown roads to take us over to the end of a small trailing ridge. Here, we found our way into the deep wash.

Climbing up the Ascent Wash

Pinto Ridge Peak Post Re-Installation
This small canyon wash has high colorful embankments. With Bitter Springs Valley right next door and a gorgeous sky with puffy clouds, the views already promised excellence! We ascended the wash until there was a decent place to exit to the right. Going a short distance overland, we started up the second steep ascending wash up to Pinto Ridge to the right. At the top of this wash, we circled to the right to hike along a canyon. Eventually, we reached the top "bridge" of the canyon and crossed. The last bit of climbing was the steepest so we took it slow and deliberate.

View Southwest from Pinto Ridge Peak
The peak made us wait. The ascent just kept going on a rounded top. Finally, we reached the high point where, 3 years ago, we had propped up the 1"x 2" wooden stick with wire on it. It was laying on the ground.

View of Pinto Valley Below
Understanding that there are a lot of strong winds on this ridge, some of us set about to stand the stick again. We also looked for the benchmark. It wasn't there but, perhaps, it was located further west at the terminus of the ridge.

Steep Descent to First Saddle

Climbing up from Second Saddle
Must remember for next time: Bring a log book! This peak is worthy! So, after a break filled with fun and awing at the views, we turned to the northeast and immediately started our first steep descent to a saddle. The ridge undulates in a sometimes steep and sometimes gentle fashion. Each of the low points are saddles and, TBH, I lost count of the saddles. (I think there were either 5 or 6.) The fun part is that there is a sheep trail that runs almost from beginning to end! Last time we did this ridge, the sheep trail was vague and we lost it several times. This time, with determination, we stayed the course and it made the route easier and smoother.

Rocky Outcrop on Ridge
By staying on the sheep trail, we came upon numerous sheep beds and droppings. But, we didn't see a single bighorn all day!

Gorgeous Day at Pinto Ridge and Bitter Spring Valley
With the route inscribed by the animals, we were free to enjoy the absolutely magnificent day around us. There was a little wind but, most of the time, it was welcome. The wind died down about halfway along the ridge.

Starting to Descend to Third Saddle

Descent to Fourth Saddle
There was a steep descent to the fourth(?) saddle then a bit more of the undulation between there and the last saddle. Today, we took a right fork in the sheep trail and descended a wash to the canyon below. (Not reflected in the maps below.) We should have stayed on the trail going over the last peak. This one would have taken us directly to that fifth saddle. Today, we had to climb back up to that saddle to finally take our long break. (Lesson #1) As we sat, we were noting that the sheep trail that we had been following crossed the saddle and led up the side of the steep mountain of Jean's Peak. The trail crisscrossed the scree! Good thing we were not going that way!

Fifth Saddle - Jean's Peak to Right
We contemplated the canyon wash in front of us that led down to Northshore Road. It appeared to be innocent enough. This was the first unknown for today's route.

Well-Deserved Break on Fifth Saddle
Descending the canyon wash turned out to be uneventful. Although, a word of warning, ticks are out in a big way. When all was said and done, I had removed five ticks from my hair and clothing. (Three on the drive home!) That's what I get for leading! YUK! 😮

Sheep Trails line the Scree next to Descent Canyon Wash

Halfway down Canyon Wash
The bottom of the canyon wash leveled out and entered a large culvert. This was a similar size as the culvert used near mile marker 14; big enough to walk through bent over. One hiker decided to climb up to the road and cross! He said it was no big deal. So, the wash continued zigzagging out into the desert of Bitter Springs Valley. We climbed out to the left as the wash began to open up. This was our desert traverse over to Culvert #2. At this point, we could see our cars in the distance but we discussed it and decided to continue on the planned route to see what we could see. One regret; this desert traverse put us in the throes of squishy dirt ... probably filled with cryptobiotic soil. Next time, a route around this area would be appropriate. Stay in the previous wash a little longer before turning left out of the wash. (Lesson #2)

Emerging from Culvert #1
Curving around a corner, we found our return culvert and ducked through. Same size. This wash led up to the canyons and washes at the base of Pinto Ridge. If all worked out, we would eventually be seeing our tracks from first thing this morning.

Colorful Wash on North Side of Road
There was one dry fall in this wash that was easily climbed on the left side. When we got past that and rounded the corner into the colorful canyon, we saw a lightly colored owl fly by. Beautiful sight!

Desert Traverse to Culvert #2

Emerging from Culvert #2
First, we looked left back to the top of the canyon. The very steep drop down scree was the considered alternative to today's return. Glad we didn't do that! Next, we started up the wash to the right. This was a maze of washes and arroyos. We stayed in the main wash that led up the right (north) side of the canyon until we came to the Y junction. A left fork kept us in the canyon with more maze-like washes. The last elevation gain we had to deal with today was here where all the washes on one side flowed down to the east and all the washes on the other side flowed down to the west. Just after reaching the top of the hill, we dropped back into the main wash and found our footsteps from earlier this morning.

Only Dry Fall Today
Our Pinto Ridge Peak ascent wash was seen to the left and the main wash that we were in began to level out and was easier to follow.

View shows Steep Top of Wash (R)
This last journey through the maze-like canyon was a difficult one at the end of a tough day. (Lesson #3)

Wash Junction Break

Climb up to Last Hilltop
In retrospect, I am glad we made the maze journey and saw what we saw ... but ... a direct route back to the cars in the wide desert wash on the north side of the road will be more closely considered in the future. The maze is rugged at times and seems unwelcoming at other times. We followed our footsteps all the way back to the trailhead using different trails, roads and washes. What a great group of explorers! Enjoyment is being where you haven't been before!

6.5 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 4.75 hours; average moving speed 1.4 mph

Desert Art

Nearing our Morning Footprints

Ahoy! The cars!


Kay Blackwell said...

Kay--Very much enjoyed reading your blog post. Thanks for a great hike! Your preparation and efforts to make sure these things come off smoothly are appreciated. Thanks again--CH

Kay Blackwell said...

Hi Kay,
5 ticks?!! I think I'm tick free. As soon as I got in the garage I stripped and put my clothes on the washer (probably should have closed the garage door first).
Loved the beautiful pics. What a great hike -just what I needed.