Thursday, January 31, 2013

Virlis Fisher & Bridge Spring Arches - 1/31/13

                                                 Virlis Fisher Arch

It's the magic number in any casino in town--21.  Also the number of participants who turned out for the Thursday hike to Virlis Fischer.  Hard by the time-forgotten town of Nelson, the famous arch would take a bit of determination to attain.  The Fiesta Casino parking lot looked like the staging area for an AARP convention as the merry band of adventurers convened on this final day of January.  Couldn't buy a frown or a cloud.  Half had never been to the famous dome.

It took a half-dozen vehicles to transport the crew 30 miles to the trailhead high above Nelson.  If the Colorado River is in sight, it's a good bet that Chuck Hawkins knows the hike du jour.  And there was never any doubt as Chuck led his serpentine train of trekkers off through the desert.  Thirty minutes into our adventure, however, the train abruptly stopped.  It was a scene right out of a Lewis Carroll tale, as one by one, we dropped into a 'rabbit hole,' then disappeared.  Really.  Single file, down into the abyss we descended, only to emerge on the far side of the tunnel a few hundred feet distant.  Pretty cool.  

After a regroup and an hour's traverse across the desert floor, the stately arch finally appeared above us.  Reaching the window itself would entail a testy scree field and some fairly steep sandstone.  But nothing would deter this exuberant horde of hikers.  After all, lunch awaited under the arch.

Not much for conformity, we opted for three different descent routes back to the valley floor far below us.  After gathering again and doing a cursory head count, it was off across the undulating desert terrain.  Somewhere out there beyond the hills were six sedans, waiting to take us home.

Narration by Mike OC. Photos by Mike and Laszlo.

                                             Bridge Spring Arch

                                Route taken in 2012

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Calico Peak Back Door Loop (Counter-Clockwise) - 1/22/13

                                    Side of Calico Peak from Ascent

                 Calico Peak, New Peak and Turtlehead Peak from Traverse

 Glorious Super Tuesday! The weather was absolutely gorgeous! There were sixteen energetic hikers! The scramble scheduled for the morning was top-notch! And, two coordinators were game even though the route was slightly unknown! (This is always an excellent ingredient for an exciting hike!)

 We began crossing Calico Basin from the Red Springs parking lot with the beautiful view of New Peak ahead of us. We hiked all the way to the base of Ash Canyon. Here, we met our daring ascent of the day! The red crack to the left of the canyon would take us up 1000 feet in elevation over half a mile ending on the top of Calico Peak. The ascent started with steeply sloped sandstone. Above us, we had a view of the white peak.

                            Starting Up Crack Ascent Below Calico Peak

 As we climbed the steep slope, we quickly began finding interesting obstacles. The climb was often third class with fourth class sneaking into the mix once or twice. Nevertheless, hand holds and foot holds were there if you searched for them and search, we did. There were a couple of places where team work was useful and necessary. Route finding was also a useful skill. Although we had done this crack as a descent once before, the experience provided few clues as to how the ascent could be accomplished. It was a whole different nut to crack , rock to split, cat to skin ... so to speak.

After a while of climbing, the "good hike" required shedding of blood was accomplished.

                                     One of Many Sticky Situations

To the left, the photo is not to be misconstrued! (I promised to say that.) In fact, the writer, for one, was very thankful for the sacrifice these great two men made to anchor the rope so that she could pull all of her weight on the rope to surmount this one particular obstacle. We were all having a great time! (Ed's wife persuaded the photographer to take the pic!)

 Mike showed his happiness at reaching the dog leg turn to the right on the ascent. The toughest stuff was behind us and the rest of the ascent was a simple very steep climb. It was here that the red sandstone turned into white sandstone and the view of the dust covered city of Las Vegas came into view over the ridge.

                                White Sandstone After Dog Leg to Right

                             Michael is Thankful That We are Almost There!

At the top of the crack extension, we leveled off then turned to the left to finish the ascent to Calico Peak. We all signed into the log book and took a well deserved break. To the left, there is a photo of one view from the top. Below, there is a photo of the gang on top as taken from the start of the next descent.
 After our break, we descended from the peak a new way. It wasn't the steep ridiculous way we went up on the previous hike and it wasn't the regular way we descend down to the other side of the main tank. This descent brought us fairly gently down to the south side of the frozen over main tank where we were then ready to continue down to what we referred to the "meadow."

                                          Frozen Main Calico Tank

                        Descent from Main Calico Tank Area to Meadow

 The descent to the meadow was a rocky hill with a slight trail. At the meadow, we continue straight gently climbing below the first red peak. One of the coordinators (moi) was trying to find the particular chute that climbed up to the second red peak. She found a climbable chute and, with reservations, climbed up with everyone in tow. Oops! At the top, it was clear that a mistake had been made. There was discussion on how to make lemonade but we decided to go back down to try again.

 The second chute did the trick and everyone made it up to the top of the second red peak where we stopped for a moment to take in the view ... and some water. The descent down to Angel Pass, was another fun interesting crack. We met two young people at the pass that were staring at us like we were a little off our rocker! Nevertheless, we left them in our dust and continued down to Calico Basin where we returned to the cars. (4.5 miles; 4 hours; 1750 feet gross gain)

                   View of Southern Calico Ridge from Above Angel Pass

                             George Hopes There aren't Any Earthquakes!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mystery Woman Canyon / Boneshaker Hill - 1/21/13

                   Unassuming and Unpretentious Mystery Woman Canyon

                                   Cave Canyon from Boneshaker Trail

 Twenty-five hikers showed up on this holiday for a new hike Chris calls Mystery Woman Canyon. This canyon pours into Skull Canyon on the North Blue Diamond Hills and climbs evenly up to the top of the ridge near the relay station. This would be our discovery hike of the canyon that presents itself as a plain Jane of canyons.

                                 Burros Near Mouth of Skull Canyon

We parked at the Cowboy Trails parking area and hiked out to the mouth of Skull Canyon where we saw a small group of burros watching us in the grass not far away. Our main climb of the day was before us. We switchbacked up the other side of the canyon and circled around to go within the walls. Skull Canyon has boulders strewn all over its limestone floor. There is a trail that takes the hiker up beside the middle of the wash.

                                          Hiking Up Skull Canyon

After hiking for around 1.7 miles, we came to the entrance of Mystery Woman Canyon and hung a right into the brush. After fighting off the scratchy bushes for a short while, we entered into a part of the canyon that had nice easy scrambling over rocks and boulders. Many of these boulders held brachiopod fossils from the Permian Kaibab Era of 275 million years ago. (In layman terms, these were shell fossils from a time before the dinosaurs walked the Earth.)

                                       A Few of the Fossils We Found

 Mystery Woman Canyon went gently up for around a mile over very enjoyable terrain. Then we were laid out on a gentle slope of the hill. Chris led us up to the left where we connected with a familiar trail that took us around the rim of the Blue Diamond Hills to the new Las Vegas Overlook. We sat for a break here while we gazed out at a relatively clear day over the Las Vegas Strip and Downtown.

               The Stratosphere Seen Between Rocks on Blue Diamond Hill

 After our break, we began our descent on a gentle slope down past the relay station and to a connecting trail junction. We passed the Boneshaker Trail sign that is, at this time, unreadable. Someday, we should bring a few paints and brushes with us so that we can refurbish the sign for the trail bikers who named it and put up the sign in the first place. At any rate, it used to say, "Danger! Boneshaker!" and included a skull and crossbones. Yes, we were entering a particularly rough area for bikers to ride.

                             The Calico Hills Seen from Boneshaker Trail

The Boneshaker ridge leads narrowly down between Cave Canyon and Skull Canyon. The trail that we came up on could be seen on our right. (Photo to left.) Then, most conversation ceased as we negotiated the steep slippery terrain of Boneshaker Hill itself. Breathing a sigh of relief at the bottom of the hill, we watched as two groups of horse riders went by. When we returned to the cars, we had hiked about 6.25 miles with around 1400 feet of elevation gain.

                                       Descending Boneshaker Hill

                                          Hiking Back to the Cars

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cholla Forest & Seven Falls - 1/19/13

                                                   Cholla Forest


Mike OC and Jim Boone contributed photos and narration for the Cholla Forest hike on Saturday. Mike's comments are as follows:

Weather-wise, it was a tough week, as a biting wind and overnight temps in the mid-twenties plagued the valley.  Brrr.  But the deep freeze pushed eastward and Saturday dawned balmy, with afternoon highs reaching the sixties.  Reason to celebrate.  Reason to hike.

And hike we did, as 44 ABF members turned out for the two Saturday offerings, 21 driving to the Valley of Fire and 23 more making the journey to Lake Mead.  

Chuck & Joan Hawkins chaired the Lake outing with a spirited trek to the picturesque Cholla Forest.  Also called "Seven Falls," their route took us up a dry wash hard by the shores of Lake Mead.  Bottlenecks were inevitable as we encountered the seven obstacles, but onward and upward we trudged.  Chuck always managed to lead us around and over the impediments that stood in our path.  

The lunch stop was not only the end of our uphill trek, it was smack dab at the base of a field of Teddy Bear Cholla.  As magnificent as the setting was, Joan cautioned us to avoid the lethal succulents that towered above us.  A chance encounter with these guys meant instant discomfort.  All cacti are nasty, but cholla rank at the top of the scale for pain infliction. 

So as not to backtrack on the same route to the trailhead, we made a loop of the day's outing, finding a different wash for the descent.  But it was no less difficult going down, as more dry falls would hamper our downward climb.  And then, rounding a bend in the wash, Lake Mead suddenly appeared before us.  What a splendid sight!  It was time to close the door on Cholla Forest.  Seven miles and some five hours later, we did just that.  
                                            Whoa! Easy Does It!