Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bridge Mountain - 10/30/13

Bridge Mountain in Late Afternoon Sun

Bridgepoint Peak from Bridge Mountain Peak

Jim's Tough Little Jeep
 Four Around the Bend Friends hikers finally got the Bridge Mountain expedition underway on Wednesday. This was an expedition specifically for enabling Jim Boone to document the trail for his popular website "Bird and Hike." (There is a link for his website on the right side of this page.) Susan M. led the adventure and Jim Boone drove his trusty little jeep up Rocky Gap Road so this left room for two more hikers, Larry D. and Kay.

Hiking the First Mile to the Trail Junction
 The adventure began, of course, on the one hour drive up the 4WD very high clearance road. The road is not in very good condition but with the short wheel span of Jim's hardy jeep, we made it up to Red Rock Summit pass just fine. Two noted road conditions included very narrow passages and washed out bed rock. We wondered when this road was ever in "good condition!"

First View of Bridge Mountain from Trail

Susan Gazes at the Colorful Landscape
We hiked up the limestone and juniper filled trail in the Rainbow Wilderness that began to the south of the pass where we parked. After one mile of climbing, we junctioned with the North Peak (Limestone) trail at the ridge. The Bridge Mountain trail now went down to the right.

Bridge Peak Trail

Hiking Down the Red Sandstone Switchbacks
 Just past the junction, we got our first view of Bridge Mountain rising up like a big yellow crown. Behind it, we could see the colorful sight of the Calico Hills.

The trail led south before turning to the left and heading down onto a bench that would eventually lead out to the base of the peak. The limestone turned to red sandstone then yellow sandstone. At this geologic line, we hiked directly to a very high cliff that overlooked Fern Canyon below. We could see the ridge that connected Mescalito Peak to the world and beyond that, Rainbow Peak, Rainbow Wall, Gunsight Peak and Juniper Peak.

Hiking Down the Bench
 After a short break, we began the business of descending the sandstone down the bench to reach the base of Bridge Mountain Peak proper. On the sandstone, it was necessary to follow cairns as the "trail" went from tricky descent to twists and turns to more tricky descent. Unfortunately, someone felt the need to paint arrows and path marks on the rock to help in the navigation. Gone are the days of George when the trail simply led from weathered tree to weathered tree.

Cairns Lead the Sandstone Way

Not Quite as Hard as it Looks

Crossing Over to the Base of the Peak
As the descent on the bench became steeper and more tricky, hiking sticks were either stowed or placed aside. The hike had become an absolutely hands on deal.

Above, you see the finale chute down climb. Jim seems perched to attack the tiny hand holds and foot holds that are offered. From here, we crossed the last narrow sandstone passage between Ice Box Canyon and Fern Canyon far below, to the peak base.

Kay Begins the Initial Crack to Beehive Climb

Ascending the Crack Area Above Ice Box and Fern Canyons

The Ledge Mid-Climb
 One more breather and we were climbing straight up the crack and beehive sandstone in front of us. This climb is probably at near a 60 degree pitch, at least. It seems to go on for a long time but it may be only fifty feet long at most. When the climb levels off a tad, hikers must step over the adjacent crack onto a ledge of about 5 or 6 feet in width. The ledge can be seen in the photo to the left. While we gathered on the ledge, we watched a helicopter far below us practicing maneuvers above Mescalito Peak.

Jim Climbs Up from the Ledge
 Again, turning right to go up, there is another bit of beehive climbing until you reach a mere 45 degree pitch on a ramp (seen to the right) that approaches a large bridge. The bridge is the opening of a large "well" inside which stands a large leaning pine tree. Another smaller pine tree is also growing there. We took in the scenery then began our climb up the wall that the old pine tree leans on.

Bridge from Inside Out

Beginning Final Ascent from Hidden Forest

The Last Ramp Up
At the top of this 20 foot wall, we came out to a wide open level. The right side of this level drops down to an area of pine trees that is affectionately called the Hidden Forest.

The trail circles around the near end of the forest of pines and begins climbing again; this time on a diagonal ramp that drops steeply to your left.

The photo to the left was taken by Jim as Kay and Larry climbed the last ramp in front of him.

White Rock Hills from Near Peak

Three on Bridge Peak
 This final climb that ends on the peak area is challenging but the views at the top make it all worth while. All four of us made it up to the top and found a place to sign into the log book. We had begun the hike at a later start time since there was some chance of snow last night and the air temperature would be in the low 30's at dawn. Our strategy paid off. The air temperature was perfect for the hike and we only passed a small patch of snow in the bridge well.

Two on Peak with Lone Pine Below
 On the peak, we basked in the sun for only a short while since time was no longer on our side. The hike, so far, had lasted three hours since we needed to keep the pace moderate for Jim's documenting job. Therefore, in order to still have daylight for the drive down Rocky Gap, we needed to keep moving albeit very carefully. We reminded ourselves to keep vigilance about our steps and choices and began our hike down the peak.

Susan Passes the Hidden Forest on Way Back

Larry Peers Down at Deep Tinaja

That ledge was way too small, says Kay!
Baby steps were required on the first ramp down. Then after circling the Hidden Forest, we climbed up to take a look at the very deep tinaja. There was perhaps a foot or two of water inside. Other tinajas in the area had a thin covering of ice.

 The next part definitely took Kay out of her comfort zone! That 3 inch ledge that took us around to the top of the bridge is scary! The option is to go over the top and drop down to the bridge. Jim captured the scary ledge traverse in the photo above then performed the traverse like it was nothin'!
Jim and Susan Cross the Top of the Bridge

Next, we dealt with the beehive down climb very slowly and carefully then breathed a huge sigh of relief at the bottom of the peak. Crossing over to the bench climb, we tackled more scrambling and a little more exposure then we grabbed our stowed hiking sticks and took one last look at the cliffs above Fern Canyon. The cairns and paint marks were left behind and we began a tiring climb back up the bench to the limestone ridge.

Happy to be Back at the Fern Canyon Overlook

Fern Canyon Overlook
 Once on the limestone trail, we retraced our steps to the North Peak (Limestone) trail junction. The late afternoon sun lit up Bridge Peak with colorful vibrancy. The clear air gave way to a Las Vegas Strip view in the distance and we continued down to the trailhead. With perfect timing, we drove back into Willow Springs of Red Rock Canyon NCA just as the sun was dying on the eastern part of town.

6.5 miles; 2800 feet elevation gain

Going Home

North Peak (Limestone) from Bridge Mountain Trail

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mescalito Peak - 10/29/13

Mescalito Peak in the Center of Pine Creek Canyon

So Far So Good

  It was a Super Tuesday hike to Mescalito Peak, today. There was some very precarious scrambling going on in the cool but clear day after yesterday's wind storm. The temperature had dropped around twenty degrees from recent hikes but it appears that the effort these hikers put into the climb up the pointy sandstone peak may have leveled off the difference.

Mescalito Peak is a small peak that lies in the middle of Pine Creek Canyon off of the Scenic Loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA. The hike begins at the Pine Creek turnout and follows the trail toward the canyon on the right side of Mescalito called Fern Canyon. After climbing up to the peak, the loop hike drops down into the other fork of Pine Creek Canyon and returns to the starting point.

Okay. Now, we're scrambling!

Steeper and Steeper

Laszlo, Mike, Richard and Patrick sent in photos of the hike and Laszlo offers these words about their adventure. Thanks guys! 

Well, as instructed by our supreme hike scheduler, this peak was to be undertaken by only the most stalwort hikers.

Hang On!

A Beautiful Sight - Approach to Mescalito Peak

And, we all rose to this momentous occasion - we stayed close together, we looked out for each other, and idle chat was minimal along the way!

(According to Steve's GPS, the vitals were 8.7 miles, 2800' and 6 1/4 hours.)

Starting Down

More Crazy Scrambling

 The most noteworthy memory of this great almost nine mile and close to 3000' trek is that this peak is one of the lower elevation outcroppings, yet it is a most challenging accomplishment!

Congrats to our Tuesday stalwart hikers once again, and thank you, Richard for leading the way, and for Paul for dismissing any lingering phobias he may have nutured for the last ten months!!! ~ Laszlo

Safe Zone

Hiking Out of Pine Creek
Today's Loop Hike

Last Year's Out & Back

Last Year's Out & Back