Friday, February 25, 2022

Callville Ridge Plane Crash Loop - 2/24/22

Callville Ridge (western view)

View from Break Spot of Ejection Seat Ridge and Murphy Peak

Callville Bay Marina from Break Spot

Hiking up Ridge
It has been many years since most of us have hiked Callville Ridge to the plane crash that happened in 1950. Web research has produced nothing else on the crash but it happened! There is sufficient parts and metal lying about the site to be proof of that. Seven hikers started from the Callville Bay Road Trailhead not far from Northshore Road mile marker 11. We crossed the road and the tortoise fence and started climbing the end of Callville Ridge (aka Callville Mesa) to the right. About halfway up, we connected with a game trail that helped us get to the top. Right away, the omnipresence of medium sized rocks became apparent. This hike could also be called Rocks, Rocks and More Rocks. Or, Lots of Rocks. Or, just Rocks Trail! (You get the drift.) 

Panorama from beginning of Ridge (Trailhead - Left)

Chuck taking in the View

Lake Mead from Callville Ridge

Hiking Ridge to black rocky Peak (Onyx II)
These rocks are late Miocene Age (10 to 8 myo) and are called the volcanic rocks of Callville Mesa. This area is known as the Callville Bay Quadrangle by scientists. And, as is most of the Lake Mead NRA and surrounding areas, its geology is quite complex. The larger area of the Callville Bay Quadrangle stretching from the River Mountains east to the Bowl of Fire and Bitterspring Valley is called the Mississippian Callville Formation. After much volcanic activity, stretching of earth and slipping of faults, the last of the magma covered the land and eventually broke apart to leave the mesas covered with these black igneous rocks ... everywhere! The imagination runs wild and our heads explode! 🤯 Fascinating.

Climbing Onyx II Peak

Charlie leads the way on the Game Trail

Posing with Plane Crash Pieces

Callville Bay & Marina
We hiked from our cars along the ridge up to a black rock peak we called Onyx II Peak. (Onyx Peak is in the Spring Mountains.) From there, the route heads downhill and around to the next rise on a trail of sorts. On the next hill, we started up an old dirt road that was built in 1950 to service the plane crash. Reaching the point where the road was crossed perpendicularly by another bit of dirt road, we began seeing parts of the plane crash. (Somehow, I missed the major part of the crash site on our first trip out here in 2013.) We posed with a few of the old pieces of junk then continued up the hill to sit with the big cairn and have our break. From here, the views continued to be extraordinary. West End Wash flowed by us 600' below.

Seven on Break at Ridge Terminus Cairn

Rough Terrain in Lava Rock Canyon flowing into West End Wash below Ridge

Onyx II Peak from Below

Treacherous possible Down Climb from Overlook
The original route required hikers to return down the dirt service road and descend into the canyon that cuts the ridge into two pieces. I'll call it Lava Rock Canyon. However, this group of hikers are no strangers to exploration so we headed down the rocky hill in front of us. We approached the rim of the lower portion of Lava Rock Canyon and found the wash to be still another 200' down. The rocky slope to the bottom was steep and possibly treacherous. However, it was a good overlook with the canyon's black color and deep size. We opted to climb the rim up to the right and found a somewhat less steep slope to descend down to Lava Rock Canyon. We landed just above some really nice dry falls to scramble down. The canyon zigzagged down until we came to a fork where another canyon flowed in from the right. We turned into this canyon and found that the lava rock was interspersed with limestone.

Overlook onto Canyon Wash Fork (Bottom)

Max Down Climbs the Slope to Lava Rock Canyon

Dealing with Interesting Dry Falls

Lava Rock Canyon
This canyon also had a couple of nice dry fall scrambles up. We climbed the canyon and dodged the rocks on a continuous basis until the canyon finally began flattening out. The original route took a right into a wash that headed toward Callville Ridge to our right. At this point, we decided to parallel the ridge on our level. The choice is to climb up to the ridge and return to the cars the same way we came in the beginning, or stay down with the wash climbing over a small saddle and dropping down to the road. Since we were exploring, I chose to do the latter. I knew what the other way would entail. Climbing over the saddle at the end of the wash, we faced a long downhill and a couple of gulleys to cross. Then we had to walk the road for a quarter mile.

Chuck on an Up & Around

Another Dry Fall

Starting up the Limestone / Lava Rock Canyon from Fork

A few nice Dry Falls on Ascent
In the future, I believe the better way would be to climb to the ridge when my trail got the closest to the top. But, either way, there are no problems. In the long run, both the original route and the adventurous route we took today are fun and beautiful. The views from the ridge are, indeed, extraordinary! What a fun group! And, oh my, the rocks!

Stats: 5.3 miles; 1300' gain; 4.25 hours

Interesting Geology

Canyon Wash flattens Out

Hiking above the Wash back to Trailhead

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Cholla Forest via Seven Falls Canyon CCW - 2/19/22

Cholla Forest

"Bacon" Vein

Group of Ewes

Ralyn on the first Scramble
The Fearsome Foursome invited a couple of friends to do Cholla Forest via Seven Falls; perhaps one of the most well known strenuous hikes in the Lake Mead NRA. The hike starts at a water tank found at the top of the Cottonwood Tree Road hill. This unmarked dirt road turns off of Lakeshore Road near the Boulder City fee booth. We started up the wide wash next to the trailhead and came to the canyon narrows while searching for bighorns in the cliffs around us. Before we started in, we saw a couple of the critters up on the ridge to the left. Seven Falls Canyon is the ascent route and it immediately forks to the right. Right away, there are a couple of serious scrambles on the first two falls. The second one is a somewhat difficult rabbit hole.

Lone Bighorn just passing Through

Hiking up Seven Falls Canyon

One of the Seven Falls

Janet and Charlie 
After getting up through the rabbit hole and back to the wash, we saw a single bighorn come down off the hill on the right, cross the wash and continue on her way. We watched in awe as she ambled, not in any particular hurry. From there, the wash stair-stepped up medium scrambles until we reached a major dry fall that is created on sharp turns to the left and the right. This one requires the hiker to climb up on the wall, traverse the wall about 8 feet off the ground then round an awkward corner. Onward, we climbed several dry falls of differing heights and difficulty. There are only a few of the scrambles where there is the choice of an up and around. However, these scrambles are the reason hikers love this hike.

Janet and Rita on an Up & Around

This is a slippery one!

Nearing the 4 Way Junction

Arriving at the Saddle
The canyon begins to flatten a little just before we arrived at a wash junction that resembles a 4-way stop. Turn left here. Continue climbing a couple more big dry falls and hike up the gentle winding wash that follows. The traditional route follows this wash all the way up to a saddle where a game trail runs along the ridge. (We noticed that there is now a previous route that leads hikers up to the ridge and the same game trail leading off of this last wash.) On the saddle, we took the trail that leads diagonally down to the left, following it into the wide wash below. There is somewhat of a trail through the wide power line road wash going upward and across the gravel and brush.

The Big Scramble

Break in the Shade

Big Break at Cholla Forest

Cholla Forest
Hiking past a small hill on its left, we funneled into a winding narrow canyon and came to another big scramble. Past the scramble, there are a couple more zigzags then we came to the steep dirt road up a sharp left. We crested the hill and followed the road down to the hillside filled with teddy bear chollas. They appear a little healthier than last time we were here. We took our break and continued down the road that led back into the wide power line road wash. With our eyes down the hill, we headed toward a squarish black outcrop on top of the ridge and a red outcrop just before that. This is where we turned out of the wide wash and back up into the ridges that held the game trail. Eventually, we descended a ridge down into the top of Bacon Canyon.

Following the Game Trail to Bacon Canyon

Starting down Bacon Canyon

Multi-Level Drop

A Cliff Hanger
Bacon Canyon has almost as many dry fall scrambles as Seven Falls Canyon. And, they are just as interesting! The first one is a high drop on several narrow levels down to land on the remains of a grassy bush. When that bush gets washed away, I don't know how we will cope! Another dry fall, requires a turn up to the left to circumvent the high drop. The cliff hanger can be seen in the photo to the left. Yet another dry fall, seems to have also been washed out at the bottom as seen in the second photo below. At this point, we looked up to the ridges on the right and saw one, then six, then one more female bighorn sheep. A couple of the group of six appeared to be possibly preggers. It's this time of year when the females will drop their lambs.

More Gentle Stuff

Rock Slide

They seem to be muttering about us.

Bacon Vein
There is one more dry fall, and it is the scariest! Just as you start into the colorful bacon-y vein of rock, you come to a high drop that requires a step down and to the side on very narrow ledges. There is a go around for this one but we were all game to try it, so we did! We survived and headed on down through the final bacon scrambles. At the bottom, we closed the loop and hiked back down the wash to the cars. Fantastic day! So fun to see Janet and Charlie today! This hike is and will remain iconic.

Stats: 6.1 miles; 1300' gain; 4.75 hours

Down / Sideways Scramble

Bacon Vein

Last Drop to close the Loop