Monday, February 27, 2017

Black Mountain Peak (Boulder City, NV) - 2/26/17

Arch & Bighorn from top of Wash Climb

Black Mountain (Boulder City, NV)

Las Vegas & Spring Mountains (with an artistic flare!)

Starting up the River Mountains Trail
 Aside from a great hike in Boulder City, it was a "Bighorn Morning!" Eight hikers arrived at the River Mountains Trailhead parking lot on Highway 93 and made their way up the culvert to the official trail. The culvert is a short cut that is often used by the club and others to get to the trail that leads up between the red and black terrain. Today, there appeared to be flags and ribbons along the trail marking a race route. Although we kept our eyes open throughout the hike, we decided near the end that the race must have been the previous day. Today was free of those competitive heroes! (Although we did see one peewee biker in training. He was padded to the hilt and Dad was right behind him. He was doing really well!)

Spotting the Bighorns' Lair
 So, did I mention bighorns? Yes, as we approached the bottom of the switchbacks, we looked up to see a small herd of bighorns on the cliffs above and two or three down below on the hillside.

Climbing the Wash toward Saddle
 The cliff dwellers were either lounging or being lookouts. We thought we could see a few babies up there, too. We saw a couple of impressive cliff jumps, too.

Continuing Wash Climb to Trail

Trail to Black Mountain Overlook
 We took our time viewing the amazing and beautiful wildlife then decided as a group to ascend via the wash to the right instead of the switchbacks to the left. This is a great wash to climb. It isn't real difficult but it does have a few loose boulders that you should watch out for. The jackrabbits got in the lead and headed for the trail to the right above. We had planned to simply go to the saddle on the left but the trail is okay, too. As one of our club members says, "Who needs a stinking trail?!"

Bighorns' Lair from Above
 At the trail, we turned to see one of the bighorns standing lookout next to an arch in the black rock. See photo at the top of this entry.

Blurry but Interesting ("No, you aren't ready for the cliffs!")
 When we gathered again, we headed up the trail and stopped at a place where we were able to see the bighorns from above instead of from below. Wow! They were tucked in everywhere! And, yes, there were several babies!

Lake Mead from Overlook

Side Trip to the Caves
 Again, we took our time viewing. Then, we proceeded to the Overlook and paused for a water break. Next, we dropped down the other side of the overlook and hiked out the sheep trails along the ridge. Very soon, Chuck led us down the other side of the ridge to view two large caves that were there. Not permanently occupied but probably used on occasion. Back on the ridge, we followed one of the sheep trails toward the big black mountain in front of us. These sheep trails seem to have been used more by humans, lately. They aren't as precarious as they used to be.

Following the Sheep Trails along Ridge
 As we hiked along the inside of the ridge, we followed the rule to stay as high next to the top as we could.

Las Vegas from Sheep Trails
 When the intermediary saddle ridge ended, we faced a steep loose climb up to the next level. There are faint trails for this and we each made a choice. Sometimes it is good to spread out in these instances to avoid sending loose rock down on the person behind you.

Red Mountain from Sheep Trails

Ridge to Right / Drop to Left
 This climb led us up to a sharp rock ridge. There is an opening in this rock to climb through and follow a trail below the ridge (and, above a long sloped drop) to the next ridge opening. From there, another trail along the ridge takes you to another shorter loose climb and this ends in the small peak approach. At the top of the mountain, there are 360 degree views with Lake Mead on one side, and Las Vegas and Bootleg Canyon on the other side. We signed into the log book and sat for our break.

Black Mountain Peak Approach
 As we sat, helicopter after helicopter flew by above ... not a lot higher than our heads ... it seemed! These are tourist helicopters. We waved at them and wondered if they waved back!

Peak Break! (Watching Tourist Helicopters)
 The usual route for the return of this hike is to drop down into the canyon immediately to the left. Today, we were trying new stuff. Love it! So, we returned down the treacherous steep loose stuff and followed those sheep trails back to the first ridge past the overlook.

Drop off Peak to Geocache Stash

Steep Drop down to Sheep Trails Ridge
 This ridge has a nice sheep trail of its own and when we were all together again, we turned to follow it down. To our right was Arch Wash. That was our goal so we dropped down the ridge until the descent to the right into the wash was gentle and welcoming. Then, we followed the wash down to the large arch up on the right side. As we passed this area, we noted that the huge cairn that had been standing in the wash for years had been torn down. Perhaps some people become a wee bit self-righteous. This cairn may have been an artifact that should not have been touched. It was certainly a nice point of interest, if nothing else.

Using Sheep Trails to Return to Descent Ridge
 Anyways, two hikers climbed up to go through the arch and get their photo taken. The arch is still a nice destination.

Descent Ridge Sheep Trail
 We scrambled down through the wash below and came out at the Caldera bike trail. Turning left brought us around to a wash climb up to the Bootleg Washington Trail above.

Into Arch Wash

Arch Visit
 We gathered again at the Red/Black Saddle (see photo below!) then proceeded down the switchbacks of the River Mountains Trail. As we got lower, we saw that the bighorns were still on the cliffs and there were, at least, eight sheep on the slopes below grazing. We took our time viewing the sheep one last time before continuing our descent back down through the culvert. An absolutely great morning in Boulder City. Fun with a great group of hikers.

6 miles; 1800 feet elevation gain; 4.25 bighorn hours

Gathering at the Red / Black Saddle

Red and Black

Watching the Bighorns on the way Down

Friday, February 24, 2017

Turtlehead Peak - 2/24/17

Archive Photo: Turtlehead from Side

Bridgepoint & Bridge Mountains from Turtlehead Peak

Las Vegas Strip from Turtlehead Peak

Trail Junction
 A lucky seven hikers showed up for a good climb up to Turtlehead Peak. The trailhead is located at the Sandstone Quarry pullout from the scenic loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA. We arrived early so there was a lot of parking. These days, an early arrival is the only way to guarantee a spot! We started out the trail, passed through the quarry informational area and came to one of the new trail signs that told us to turn left for Turtlehead. We did.

Hiking up Turtlehead / Limestone Trail
 These new brown signs are very nice. We have needed them for a long time. The signs for Turtlehead take hikers all the way over to the bottom of the ascent ridge. ... Then you are on your own!

Red Rock Escarpment from Trail
 There are several ways to skin this cat! Sorry cat lovers. The writer has done Turtlehead 4 times ... not one of her favorites ... and every time, a different route was taken.

Ascent Slope

Paralleling Wash to Saddle
 The first time was many years ago. With the absence of a "good" trail, we climbed a very steep and slippery slope that was used by most everyone else at that time, ... ten years ago. Many years went by before I climbed the peak again. The next time, we followed a "Turtlehead Expert!" This leader had run up the mountain daily for a long time and he knew the best route. We climbed up through the wash finding easy ways to get up and around all the scrambles.

La Madre above Turtlehead Saddle
 The third time, another leader decided to take the group straight up below the cliff of the "turtle's head." Interesting but quite a challenge.

Hikers waiting on Lower Saddle
 Then, today! Our demure and conservative leader, Barb, wanted to take us up the easiest way she knew and that was via the trail ... the new trail that had metamorphosed from the old trail.

Brownstone Canyon, Damsel Peaks and Las Vegas

View from Upper Saddle at Side of Turtlehead Peak
 In the last ten years, hiking has become a very popular sport. The many trails up Turtlehead that have appeared are difficult to choose from. However, there is one ... or two ... trails that we deemed as "main" trails that climbed up on the left side of the wash. Although still a formidable climb, the trails make the climb as easy as possible. Our group of seven still managed to find about seven different ways to get to the saddle!

Climbing the "Head"
 We gathered at the saddle then proceeded to begin climbing the "head" of the turtle.

View from Ridge Approach
 Once again, there were about seven different routes being taken. We could all see each other and we were all veteran hikers so it was all good.

Arriving at Peak (Griffith Peak in Background)

Calico Hills below Peak
 The writer decided to take a route that she had not taken before. A clear trail took her diagonally across to the other side of the head and then a right turn led her up along the ridge of the cliff. The views were magnificent! And, the climbing was a little less steep than that normal "straight up" stuff that she has done in the past. Everyone was already at the peak when I arrived. (BTW, a new sign in book is needed. There wasn't one in the ammo box.)

Starting down from Turtlehead Peak
 It was a very cold day and the breeze at the peak cooled us off quickly. So, we started down after only a few minutes.

Saddle Scenery
 We all took the same route down and stayed together a lot better.

Trail View

Mike calls this, "Three Damsels."
 As we descended, we passed many recreational hikers that were going up. Why not! It was a beautiful day! We tried to descend the same route we came up but our route changed just a little in a couple of places. When we got back to the trailhead parking lot, it was full to capacity. Just a note to the locals: The scenic loop will be going down to one lane from this Sunday evening to "the summer." Bring your "patience hat" to the hike! Lovely day!

5 miles; 2000 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Descent View

Arriving back at the Sandstone

Reaching Turtlehead / Limestone Trail