Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hiking Kraft Mountain & Calico Basin

I hope everyone reading this had a fantastic holiday!!  We're currently visiting Adam's family up in Seattle.  Today, we're exploring a fantastic outlet mall and taking a peak at downtown Seattle.

While we're doing that, I wanted to recap our most recent hiking experience back in Vegas.  Recently, I vented my frustration with certain elements of the hiking group with which I normally hike here in Las Vegas.  Nevertheless, on Sunday, I decided to put on a smile, set my concerns aside, and head out for an afternoon hike to Kraft Mountain.

image via
I previously did this hike back in April to earn the 2 of Hearts with Hiking Las Vegas, but Adam didn’t have this card and I just wanted to get out there to work on getting in better hiking shape.

The hike starts out in the Calico Basin area, which is NOT inside the Red Rock Canyon NCA Scenic Loop.  That means this is a GREAT place from which to hike if you don’t have a National Parks pass because you don’t have to pay an entrance fee to get here.
via Google Maps
There are several routes up to and down from the peak.  Our fearless leader Kelly took us up the West route.  This route involved a somewhat short approach hike to the western base of the mountain and then we just followed the cairns up, up, up until we reached the top.  The route up was reasonably steep in places and required a good bit of scrambling.  
Not only was it a really fun route, but it was also a really fantastic workout!! (I definitely had a nice sweat going on)
After a quick snack break at the top, we headed down the back side of the mountain, which was also very well cairned.  Eventually, we came around the east side of the mountain through a wash/dry creek bed and onto an obvious trail that led us back to the parking lot.  I hadn’t been down this way and I LOVED it!! (and not just because the rocks looked like bacon)
My favorite part was probably shimmying down this little slot.  I always get SUPER nervous (and correspondingly annoying, I’m sure) when in the midst of something like this.  But once my feet are both solidly on the ground, I am all smiles.
Yes, that's me still at the top looking at what I was about to shimmy down.
By way of warning, as I’m sure you can tell from the pictures, the route down was mostly in the shade, so if you head out to explore, be aware that this time of year, you could encounter ice and/or snow.
Although the route to the peak is fairly well cairned, I wouldn’t recommend doing this one without someone who has been there before because there are a few tricky spots, especially if you aren’t familiar/comfortable with class 3-4 scrambling.  However, don’t let that discourage you from checking out this area.  There are lots of obvious trails (that don’t require scrambling) that are just desperately asking you to explore them. 

You could take the dirt trail out of the parking lot and head to the west.  This trail is a nice workout because it takes you up a decent hill to a saddle.  From this saddle there is an excellent view of Gray Cap Peak.  It’s a pretty obvious peak because it has a gray limestone cap sticking out of the cream and red sandstone.  Once you reach that saddle, you could turn around and go back, or, if you haven’t burnt enough calories, you could continue descend the trail for a bit, which would give you the opportunity to boogie up the hill on your way back for maximum calorie burnage! 

Alternatively, you could take the dirt trail out of the parking lot and head to the east around the base of Kraft Mountain.  This route will take you by some spectacularly large boulders.  They really are a sight to see!  Every time I’ve been out to Calico Basin, I’ve seen people out there with crash pads doing some free climbing on the boulders.  I don’t think you’ll ever find me doing that, but it is interesting to watch.  I’m looking forward to taking Maggie the Mountain Dog out to Calico Basin sometime soon for a little hike around the eastern side of Kraft Mountain.
Our afternoon at Kraft Mountain was really fantastic.  But, it did make me appreciate how important specificity is in training.  I may have the running endurance to run a half marathon, but that doesn’t 100% correspond to hiking endurance.  I’m looking forward to really focusing on my hiking endurance during the coming weekends and, especially, into the new year.

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