Friday, March 22, 2024

Keystone Canyon / La Madre Wash - 3/21/24

View up to the Keystone Thrust Fault Area

White Rock Wash

Keystone Canyon Wash to Cactus Hill to La Madre Mountain Range

Will someone get this girl some clippers!
There were eleven club members who arrived at the lower White Mountain Road Trailhead near mile marker 6 of the Red Rock Canyon NCA Scenic Loop Drive. It was an experienced and fun group but most had never climbed up through Keystone Canyon as the "normal" way is to descend. We started down the Grand Loop Trail across the scenic loop and dropped down to the junction with the Keystone Canyon Wash. A large juniper tree marks this junction among the desert brush. Turning to the left, we hiked up the wash where last year's rains had deepened the walls and made a few more wash ways. Reaching the culvert that runs underneath the scenic loop, we saw that there were still a mess of roots hanging down on the uphill side. 

First Dry Fall in Keystone Canyon

Climbing through Keystone Canyon Wash

Climbing the Narrows

A little bit of Scrambling
Most of us just made our way through the roots with very low bending! An alternative is to climb up to the left and cross over the pavement only to drop down again into the wash. The wash becomes more interesting as it narrows down and meets a few obstacles. These obstacles are usually dealt with on a descent. They are quite different on an ascent but we handled everything just fine as we hiked through the white rock section of the beautiful canyon. The real scramble came as we took on the Keystone Thrust Fault area head on! Straight up the middle! Yes, I suppose the right or left would have been a little more forgiving but this was a group of adventurers. 

Succulents under the Thrust Fault

One of few above ground thrust faults in the World

Climbing out of the fault Area

Sandstone Quarry in the Distance
Finally, we scrambled all the way up to the actual thrust fault where there is an overhang that moves across the base rock slowly over the eons. (Scientists come from all over the world to study the geology here.) We didn't spend a lot of time at the fault continuing along the "normal" trail and climbed up to the ridge above. At the junction of the ridge, we turned to the right and began a long climb up toward the La Madre Mountain Range. We climbed until the trail petered out at an overlook area where we could look down on Pinnacle Canyon and back at Sandstone Quarry and Turtlehead Peak. Here, we picked our way through the brush and dropped down into the large graveled wash to the left, the La Madre Wash.

Dropping into the La Madre Wash from the Ridge Trail

The Sandstone Bluffs from La Madre Wash

Down the Gravel

Around the Dry Fall
We stopped for a break to sit on the large rocks at the side of the wash that leads up toward the La Madre Double Arch. After our rest, we began our return down through the wash meeting several deepened dry falls. The deluge of rains was evident as we followed the deeper routes down toward the White Rock Hills. There was only one dry fall that we had to go around to the right but many chose to go around another dry fall to the left just over half way down. We crossed the White Rock Hills Loop Trail and the wash began to divide into a large delta. Trying to stay with the "main" part of the wash, we continued our journey down to junction with the White Rock Wash in front of us.

Deeply scarred wash Terrain

One of several small scrambles Down

The largest Scramble

One more scramble in the La Madre Wash
Finally, the white rocks greeted us with the hill in front of our noses. We turned left and continued a beautiful scramble down the White Rock Wash to where the White Rock Hills Loop and the Keystone Thrust Trail crosses the wash as it comes down from the White Mountain Road upper trailhead. Here, we elected to continue down the wash instead of climbing up to the trailhead. Following the wash always to the right, we paralleled White Mountain Road until the wash seemed to turn too much to the left. A prudent turn up to the right put us on the dusty road where we hiked down to our cars. Next time, I believe we should continued down the wash some more as it doesn't stray too far from the road and then returns. This would eliminate dealing with passing cars and dusty air. This is a good workout on a route that is easily determined. What a great group! I would hike with this group any day!

Stats: 5.3 miles; 1350' gain; 3.75 hours

Scrambling in White Rock Wash

White Rocks in White Rock Wash

Small drop in White Rock Wash

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