Sunday, March 31, 2019

Pumpkin Parfait Canyon - 3/30/19

Pumpkin Parfait Rocks

Lake Mead from Pumpkin Parfait Rocks

Recently Deceased Bighorn

Rogers Spring Picnic Area - MM 40 Northshore Road
Waaay up on Northshore Road at mile marker 40, there is a beautiful turnout and picnic area. An 80 degree pond sits among the area being fed by a free flowing spring. Palm trees surround the pond and signs warn of the amoeba in the water that could easily get into your brain through your nostril passage and have a feast! Thirteen hikers arrived here for the Pumpkin Parfait Canyon hike that I have not done in a few years. Why did I wait so long? This is the location of the major northeast-trending Rogers Spring fault.

Lake Mead from Trail starting Uphill
The trace of the Rogers Spring fault is marked by a line of discontinuous springs along the cliffs to the left of the Northshore Road. Springs occur here because movement along the fault has placed permeable rocks against impermeable rocks. Groundwater that easily flows through permeable fractures in the limestone and dolomite encounters less permeable basin fill at the fault.

Trail Uphill - Rogers Spring fault line Beyond
The basin fill acts like a dam, and water discharges from low points along the fault trace. The shallow groundwater, which reaches the surface in a few springs, is capable of supporting vegetation. 

 Geologic Tours in the Las Vegas Area (Expanded Edition with GPS Coordinates), Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 16, University of Nevada, Reno, Mackay School of Earth Sciences, 2008, Bear Printing, Sparks, NV; page 76.

Almost to Top

Rest at Top of Hill
The hike starts out by crossing the bridge over the pond outlet and following a trail that goes west before it heads up the hill to the north. This is a gentle but lengthy climb up to the top of a ridge. While climbing, wide views of Rogers Spring fault line and Lake Mead spread out all around. Our pace was palatable by everyone participating. Then, at the top, we took a short breather with a lot of photos. Next, the trail dropped over the other side and eventually into a small wash. This route is considered a shortcut even though I think it's really just a chance to have some scrambling fun and warm-up before all the scrambling that was to come! This route is not as travelled as the longer route and a catclaw acacia covered the entrance of the small wash. We circled around the large bush as seen in the second photo below.

Dropping into the Shortcut Scramble Canyon
After this short but sweet wash, we emerged onto a flat desert terrain where Ralyn spotted a baby horned toad lizard. He was only 2 inches long and he was hiding the best he could while we took photos!

Shortcut Scramble Canyon
The trail led us to the upper half of the Pumpkin Parfait Canyon and we dropped in. It wasn't long before we were fully into a moderate scramble that lasted all the way up to the Pumpkin Parfait Rocks.

Points of Interest throughout Hike

Dropping into Pumpkin Parfait Canyon
On the way up, we went through a small slot, found several seabed fossils and honed our scrambling skills. At one point, the main canyon takes a left turn. This turn, in case you might miss it, is marked by some red sandstone color in the side of the mountain ahead. We made the turn and then the group began spreading out as some hikers began looking for fossils in the wash boulders. The scrambles were interesting and had offerings for hikers that wanted more of a challenge and less of a challenge in several of them. Only the hikers that stepped out in front caught a handful of ticks today. Why are they so bad this year?? 😧

Wardrobe Change on Warm Day
The best - and only - defense against the ticks is to just keep looking for them on your clothes ... and other hikers' clothes. (What are you lookin' at? ... Just a tick crawling up your pants!)

Chuck gains the Scramble
At the top of the canyon, we started to see color. First, red Aztec sandstone then the red faded into an orangey mustard color. Oh, ... pumpkin!

Randy climbs out of the Slot

Landmark Color marking Left Turn in Wash
We bouldered our way all the way up to the Pumpkin Parfait Rock Wall to have our break on the rocks where we could also see Lake Mead in the crosshairs of the canyon. It was a fantastic perch! As we sat comfortably, we noted that the rocks above us where the canyon climbed up to the ridge had probably been climbed by area rock climbers and adventurers. The last of the hikers came climbing up the last hundred yards having marked with cairns, the best of the fossils that they found. There were many! Then, after the break, we started the long scramble down the canyon leaving the colorful area. We noted the fossils when came back to the cairns that Chuck and John W. had placed minutes earlier.

Collage of Fossils from Pumpkin Parfait Canyon (2012)
The scrambles seemed completely different from the top down. For me, there was a lot of sitting and sliding. Or, as some would call it, five-point hiking. (Hey, it saves the knees!)

A View down Canyon in Fossil Area
Each time the group got a little too spread out, a call was made to wait and gather again. Today's wonderful hikers didn't seem to mind as we waited. It was a good time for tick-checks!

Approaching the Parfait Area

Taking a Break at the Pumpkin Parfait Rocks
As we passed through the slot, I didn't even realize that we had already passed the landmark color corner. We followed Chuck down past the flatter area of the wash; passing the large cairn marking where we had dropped into the upper Pumpkin Parfait Canyon. Now, we were entering the lower canyon. Immediately, there was a great double drop! Totally doable. Out the other side, we hiked down the wide open wash for a while navigating the loose sand gravel. Up on the right, we passed a loose circle of rocks. Ancient Piautes? No one seems to know but they are still there year after year. Next, the most scrambling of the whole hike ensued!

Gathering after Break
Compacted in just over half a mile, the lower part of Pumpkin Parfait Canyon offered obstacle after obstacle. Some hikers took the scrambles head on. Others found ways around.

Leaving the Colorful Area
The high walls filled with mysterious caves on either side of the canyon provided the right atmosphere. The imagination went wild ... again!

John drops into Slot

Cathy down climbs a Slide
Rita was in the lead with a couple of other hikers. We watched her face as she turned a corner and exclaimed something ... not sure what. Whatever it was, her faced said it was very exciting! I just hoped that whatever it was, it stayed there until I could get there with a camera! Yep. It stayed there! We turned that corner and there was almost a full skeleton of a male bighorn sheep lying in the canyon floor. (And, it definitely wasn't going anywhere!) It was so recently deceased that there was still fur on its skull. (No mutton left, BTW.) A mountain lion, somewhere, was sleeping it off. Circle of life. We took our photos and continued down the canyon.

Entering Lower Pumpkin Parfait Canyon
The scrambles became a little easier and finally, the canyon began to open up. At this point, we focused on the right embankment.

One of Many Obstacles in the lower Canyon
On a rock at the top sat a cairn. A small trail climbed up the embankment to the cairn. This is the climb out. If you miss it, the canyon wash circles around in the opposite direction taking you away from the trailhead.

Taking Obstacles one at a Time

Another Obstacle
We climbed up the trail and found a flattish trail route across the desert terrain. After a few steps, we could see the cars. Watch for interesting plants here as you make your way over. Today, we saw chollas that were in the process of blooming. Very frilly! The hike was very well received today and everyone had a great time. Some of us will be sore tomorrow! Let's not ignore this one for so long again!

6 miles; 1150 feet elevation gain; 4.25 hours; average scrambling/hiking speed 1.3 mph

And, Another

Climb out of Canyon as it Opens Out

Trail across to Trailhead

Friday, March 29, 2019

Northshore Peak / Red Wash Loop - 3/28/19

Northshore Peak on Approach - Spring Mountains in Far Distance

View from Kay's Saddle to Red Wash

From Northshore Peak Ascent to North Bowl of Fire to Muddy Mountains

Climbing past the Landmark Outcropping (Behind Ed & Anne)
Northshore Peak is said to be the highest peak that is close to Northshore Road. Located in the Lake Mead NRA, it rises sharply 3294 feet above sea level; around 2000 feet above the surface of Lake Mead that can be seen in the distance from the climb. Until 2016, the club has made an annual trip up to the top to see the unbelievable views of the Bitter Spring Valley and westward to the Spring Mountains. We skipped a few recent years so, today, seven club members got out there. This time, instead of doing the regularly used 5 mile loop over a steep saddle to end the hike, we drew a new route on the map that uses a much more gentle saddle and colorful area to complete a 6.3 mile adventure.

Starting up Second Tier
As part of the Hamblin Bay Fault, Northshore Peak lies south of Northshore Road at mile marker 20.5. This is the Northshore Summit Trailhead parking area with restroom.

Traverse near the Top of the Ridge
Since none of us had climbed Northshore Peak in recent years, we followed a GPS track from the past. It's fairly straight forward.

Rita arrives at Top of Limestone Slab

Color Galore!
There is a landmark rock outcropping (round & approximately 25 feet high) sitting on a trailing ridge from the mountain about 0.4 miles from the parking area across the road. This landmark will be useful at the end of the hike as well. We crossed the desert terrain making our way down and up a few arroyos until we reached the outcropping then continued straight up the ridge. The first tier of climbing involved a solid rock and brush hillside. At the top, we found our first cairns. I can't promise these cairns will always be there, however, they led us on an obvious circle around a cliff on the right. Next, the second tier of climbing involved a desert and rocky hillside with a few broken cairns on the way.

Northshore Peak Photo
The cairns would lead us on a continuous climb up through the mountain desert terrain but we opted for a slightly left shift over to a long steep sticky limestone slab. We like slabs!

Trailing Knife-Edge from Peak
At the top of the slab, we were nearing the top edge of the ridge. So, we turned to the left and started a long diagonal traverse. The "wow" factor was really kicking in with fascinating views of the desert below the mountain's steep cliffs.

View Southwest from Peak

Dropping back down the Scramble
Just before reaching the peak, there is a drop down (use the lower cairn) to a gulley, a climb through a sheep bed against the wall, a cliffy saddle, and then a scramble (easy) up the other side of the gulley. (See scramble to left.) A few more feet and we were there at the peak taking photos and signing the log. We had taken the climb at a reasonable pace and I found that it wasn't nearly as taxing as it was the first time I did it. We took a short break then headed down. Our target for the descent was the wash saddle at the mountain's south base. We retraced our steps until we reached one of the  "gulleys" where we turned to go down to the top of a large dry fall. Veering to the left put us in a perfect place to complete the descent.

Hiking down wash to Interesting Canyon (3 Caves behind in Northshore Peak)
At the saddle, we turned right and hiked down the small wash filled with rocks and a vague trail. Up to our right shoulder, we noted the three large caves in the side of Northshore Peak ridge.

Starting down Interesting Canyon
These caves and another one nearby have been previously explored by Chuck and friends. They found that the caves have been used as campsites in the recent past.

Interesting Canyon Rock Layers

Slab Down Climb
The small wash comes to a fork where we took a left through a curtain of rock layers. We immediately dove down a very interesting wash decorated with tilted layers of eons of geologic upheaval. A geologist would enjoy spending a day just in this canyon. It is navigable all the way from top to bottom in spite of all the rain we have had this year. A pleasure! Then, we drooled out into the Razorback Wash North as the high walls gave way to a view of the Razorback Ridge. Here, a left turn started us up an easy sand wash that wiggled slightly right and left. At about 3.5 miles into the hike, we stopped for our long break. Next time, it might be nice to stop a little further on so we could sit on the wash saddle and study the surrounding terrain.

Princes Plume near Canyon Mouth
The approach to the wash saddle is haphazard; a little counter-intuitive. The main wash comes to a fork where you must take a left then an immediate right. Here is where it becomes obvious that the Razorback Wash North used to be an old mining road.

Hiking up Razorback Wash North
The previously used loop saddle (Chuck's Saddle) to return back to the cars is seen up to the left (north) from the wash saddle. On the other side of the wash saddle, the road/wash begins a gentle descent.

Northshore Peak from Razorback Wash North

Open Sun Ray
We passed wildflowers, views of Northshore Peak and colorful sand hills covered with cryptobiotic soil. Razorback Ridge rose high above us to the south and over the eras of changes in the earth, erosion, likely, has sent some of the humongous boulders down the ridge and into the wash terrain. The boulders were intimidating as we circled around them. Some hikers found "animals" and such in the form of rocks and boulders of the area. As washes go, this one was easily hiked and beautiful in its offerings. One and a half miles from where we entered the wash at Interesting Canyon, we came to Claim Junction.

Large Boulder that Rolled down from top of Razorback Ridge
We knew we were nearing our turn when we came upon a post on the left side of the wash. Next, we noticed a "dig" and tailings pile in front of it. We can only assume that this was a mine claim and an attempt to hit it big!

Razorback Ridge Above
A peek at the GPS told us that this was also our left turn wash we were expecting. Looking up at the high ridge to the north, we could not see the low saddle we sought. Perhaps it was hiding.

Claim and Old Dig at Junction Left

Starting down from Kay's Saddle into Red Wash
Trusting the GPS and the route I had added to it, we took a sharp turn to the left and started up a small rocky wash that held another mining claim post. Next, we came upon an old tortoise shell. We were excited about seeing the shell and missed the right turn into another wash. It turned out that this was a good thing since climbing up the right side of our small wash to regain the route was easy and painless. Then, lo and behold, a shallow saddle (Kay's Saddle) appeared before us! We traversed over to it and took in the beautiful view as seen in the second photo of this entry. From the saddle, the Red Wash dropped gently in front of us. We followed down into the color.

Gypsum Fins at side of Red Wash
There is only one dry fall in this wash and it can be seen below. It is in a sensitive area with protruding fins and cryptobiotic soil. We had to go around to get down the first part and we were very careful. In retrospect, there was a side wash we could have taken several feet back.

Fun little Step Down among Fins
Red Wash is beautiful in color, plants and soil. Always be careful when hiking through sensitive areas such as this. Finally, when our eyes were filled with color, we came to the junction of the Northshore Wash. This is around 0.6 miles down from the saddle.

A species of Buckwheat, perhaps?

Red Wash / Northshore Wash Junction
A left turn into the Northshore Wash gave us the photo to the left with Northshore Peak rising in the crosshairs. The wash led strongly and soon, the walls began rising higher and higher. Yep, it was an unescapable slot for several yards! Then ... we came to a large (maybe climbable) dry fall. Phew! A perfect escape route appeared to the right and out we climbed! Joy! At the top of the escape, we were in the perfect position to make our way over to the landmark outcropping and back across the arroyos to the cars. This was an exceptionally fun adventure today with hikers ready for the task! Perfect weather, too, BTW!

6.3 miles; 1450 feet elevation gain; 4.5 hours; average moving speed 1.4 mph

Heading into the High Walls of Northshore Wash

Climb Out of Northshore Wash

Return to Trailhead