Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Blue Diamond Canyons 4A / 5A Loop -

Top Down of First & Most Difficult 3rd Class Climb in Canyon 4A

Slot Narrows in Canyon 5A

Old Junk Dump from Mining Operations over the Years

Heading into Canyon 4A
The canyons that dig deeply into the hills across SR 159 from Blue Diamond, Nevada are nothing less than spectacular to scramblers in Las Vegas. Although they are explored often, seeing others while on a visit to the canyons is rare. Rita and I (Double Trouble) parked at the Wheeler Camp Springs Trailhead and prepared for a first time exploration into Blue Diamond Canyons 4A and 5A. Knowing that we could be cliffed out, at the bottom of a pour over or the top of one, we had packed our patience and caution. Still, the prospect of the adventure was very exciting. We hoped our experience would serve us well in our judgement. Since Wheeler Camp Springs TH was located across the road from Canyon 5, our exit route, our first course of action was to find the Canyon 4 entrance.

Tall Walls!

Instead of hiking down the road, we found the old road / trail that parallels SR 159 and it appeared that many hikers have used this way.

Elevation Gain Begins

Passing the truck road that goes up to the mine across the road, we saw where the next wash comes in. This was Canyon 4.

Bottom Up of First & Most Difficult 3rd Class Climb in Canyon 4A

Passing Water-Carved Overhang
We crossed the pavement and found a large gap in the burro fence where we could bend through. Heading up the wash, we came across an old beat up radio. Interesting. Not too far up, the wash curved to the right and came to a fork. The right fork was Canyon 4A. The walls grew tall immediately and the wiggly canyon started its curves. The first climbs were very innocent then the canyon narrows and we came to what we had heard was the 3rd class climb. There are a few rocks piled up at the bottom of the pour over. Rita went to work while I watched and learned. She had no problem but I worked slowly. I found two good hand holds on the left side of the climb and used them to climb up kind of sideways! Anyway, it worked!

More Elevation Gain

There was another level to the climb but it was a lot easier. In the next tenth of a mile, there were a few more really interesting climbs. One was a tri-level pour over!

Three Part Dry Fall Climb (3rd part around corner at top)

As the canyon climbed through the dry falls, it twisted and turned at the base of the tall walls adorned with multiple cacti.

Three-Part Dry Fall Climb

More Climbing
The scrambles continued all the way up the canyon but we never came to another dry fall that was as difficult as the first. Finally, we came to a fork where a long wash ascended up to the left. This was our exit from Canyon 4A. Up we went passing something with a white fluffy tail and an unfortunate dead tortoise. He or she probably fell into a tight space and could not upright itself. I'm naming this wash, Tortoise Memorial Wash. The wash led all the way up to an old mine road passing a survey marker. The dirt road was parallel to the Truck Road not far away. We waited for one big truck to pass by then made our crossing. Once over the other small embankment, we began a gradual descent to Canyon 5A. There was one dry fall but we figured it out.

Rita admires the Gorgeous Canyon 4A

The Canyon 5A wash was at the bottom of the descent and we sat here in a little bit of shade for our break.
To the right, we could see the wall of mine tailings.

Left Fork into Tortoise Memorial Wash

After our break, we headed down to the left wondering what we would find. It started easily enough!

Old Radio, Survey Marker, Recently deceased Tortoise, & Hubcap / Chair Still Life

Nearing Truck Road in Tortoise Memorial Wash
Not too far down, we came to a gulley pouring down from the left side. This gulley was an old trash dump of debris likely remaining from old miners' housing. It was quite the collection of old stuff from tires to furniture to kitchenware to refrigerators (aka ice boxes). A little further and I think we passed part of an old car in the wash. It was so rusted and crumpled that I'm not sure if it was a car or what kind but we did find a hubcap. Next, the canyon twisted into a couple of switchbacks and narrowed into a couple of slot-like features. There were pour overs that were high but not too difficult to negotiate. We didn't go down anything that we didn't think we could go up again, if necessary. One of the slots ended with a rusted barrel stuck in the narrow gap.

Old Mine Road parallel to Truck Road

It was clear that other hikers had used the barrel to get through the gap. This is where we took our "group" photo.

Long Drop into Canyon 5A

Canyon 5A turned out to be a very fun canyon. I liked it better than the beautiful Canyon 5 that we had explored only recently. But, it isn't as long.

View down Canyon 5A

Starting Descent
The tall walls and cacti seem to be a theme for these canyons. I saw some mojave yuccas that were bigger than any other that I've seen in Red Rock Canyon NCA. There is a bit of brush here and there but it really isn't bad. I guess both canyons could use a little bit of brush clean-up. Anyway, we flowed into Canyon 5 which is, now, a familiar sight. Turning left, we soon came to the wide bike trail curve junction. It is necessary to get onto the bike trail here because of the very difficult 3rd class drop in the canyon narrows below. We hiked up the rise on the trail that parallels the narrowed canyon on a shelf. Immediately, a biker passed us on this somewhat scary trail. (Not so scary after the 4th time hiking it!)

Huge Mohave Yucca

It was a beautiful day. When we exited the canyon on the trail, a nice breeze hit us to cool us off.

Fun Dry Fall Descent - One of Many

We followed the trail above the canyon wash but didn't pass anymore bikers.

Double Trouble having a Barrel of Fun

Bike Trail Junction in Canyon 5
Over the two bike bridges, zigzag down to the wash onto the trail on the other side, over one more bike bridge and up to the fence crossing. All that remained was crossing SR 159 and hiking into the Wheeler Camp Springs Trailhead that was right there with our cars. This is a great loop route for a day's scramble! (Note: there is an alternate up and over route to that first difficult 3rd class climb. But, it didn't look easy on either side!) Really fun day!

Stats: 5 miles; 1000' gain; 4 hours

Bike Trail above Canyon 5 Narrows

Out through the Desert

That's all folks!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Landmine Loop Variation - 3/28/21

Morning on the Landmine Loop

Backside view from the Landmine Loop

Mt. Potosi and Hollow Rock Peak from Wash Crossing

Connecting from the Trailhead
Sunday morning, the Fearsome Foursome drove to the Wheeler Camp Springs Trailhead just outside of Blue Diamond for a romp around the Landmine Loop. This is an approximately 7.5 mile loop that circles around the tertiary ridge behind the town of Blue Diamond. It is also a very popular bike trail and today was no exception. After about a half hour of hiking, we began seeing the bikers coming by. They were all very polite and considerate about saying "hello" and "thank you" when we moved aside for them to pass. There were also a few joggers. From the trailhead, we hiked through the gates that led us up to the plateau above. Then the trail took us to the Landmine Loop proper. Our loop would be taking a counter-clockwise direction around the ridge in front of us.

Oliver Ranch old Trash Dump Site

All This (and a bag of chips!)

Southern End of Escarpment

Northern End of Escarpment
We passed the old Oliver Ranch trash dump then circled around to pass behind the old ranch that still stands. No burros. The route we took today was a variation on the Landmine Loop, in that, behind the ranch, we turned to the left to follow a trail, Dave's Driveway, that would lead us closer to the hills through a much prettier section of rock and cacti. The regular route for the loop is flat and swings out a bit more. We enjoyed the twists and turns of our chosen route then junctioned again with the Landmine Loop a bit further around. A left turn brought us around the hills and up to a wash crossing that had shelf rock that we sat on for our break. Here, two bikers stopped and talked with us for a minute. Another biker asked us if we were okay as he passed. Such civility!

The Variation (Dave's Driveway)

A Pause with a View

Nearing end of Dave's Driveway

Dave's Driveway / Landmine Loop Junction
After our break, we continued around the hills taking a left turn after crossing a wide wash. Here, there were two bikers catching up on current events. Then five bikers sailed by laughing and having a lot of fun. Soon, a long line of bikers came from the other direction. We happily waited. We circled around the corner and headed toward Blue Diamond. We were on our last third of the loop. More bikers passed by with big smiles and jokes. It just makes you feel like you are where you are supposed to be on a beautiful Sunday in Las Vegas. We hiked into Blue Diamond and turned left to head straight out to the desert again. On the way, there were two dogs that stood like statues in a yard above the street. Well trained. No barking and stayed in their yard without a fence.

Fearsome Foursome on the Trail

Landmine Loop heading toward East Blue Diamond Hill

Hiking into Blue Diamond

Old Trees in Blue Diamond, Nevada
The next section of the Landmine Loop is filled with arroyo dips. Bikers love these things. Us, not so much! Lol! Soon, we came to the gate that let us back into the Bird Sanctuary. This is a gated community (!) so that the burros stay out. Always remember to close and lock the gate behind you. We hiked the trail above the treed wash then dropped back to the trailhead where we left our cars. It was a great Sunday hike. A warm beautiful day with friends everywhere!

Stats: 7.5 miles; 950' gain; 3.75 hours

Entering the Gated Community of the Bird Sanctuary

Passing above the Bird Sanctuary

Still Smiling after 7.8 Miles