Monday, February 24, 2014

Turtlehead Jr. - Double Slot Route - February 22 - 2 of Diamonds

On February 22, the Saturday following our Grand Canyon grand adventure, a few friends went on a hike for a very special occasion:  it was someone's birthday! (not mine....yet) 

We wanted to do something short, so we settled on Turtlehead Jr. in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.  This way, we could do a short hike with fun scrambling AND check off another card hike with the 52 Peak Club.  Although hiking Turtlehead Jr. (often called Red Cap for obvious reasons) earned us the  2 of Diamonds, we didn't take the normal route for which this peak earns its place at the easy end of the deck.  Instead, we opted for the Double Slot Route.

The route starts out at the Kraft Mountain Trailhead, or Sandstone Road Trailhead.  I love this trailhead because it does not require you to drive the scenic loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA.  So, not only do you not have to worry about driving that 13-mile, one-way road, you are also not constrained by the opening and closing times of the scenic loop.  For these reasons, the Kraft Mountain Trailhead is a great place to start any hikes for which you're short on time or when you're starting early in the morning or in the evening.

The route to starts by walking down the gravel road, but quickly turns into boulder hoping up a wash and then some excellent class 3 and 4 scrambling on beautiful red and cream colored sandstone.  I love all the crazy rock formations that you encounter along the way.
This rock always looks to me like it is about to pounce 
Eventually, you find yourself in a couple of beautiful slots in the the sandstone that have been masterfully sculpted by wind and water.
After climbing into the slot, climbing up an awkward climb (that I made look even more awkward than it is), we arrived at the bottom of a ~5 foot rope to climb out of the slot and on to the last bit of the hike.  You can see the climb into the slot in this video at :20, the awkward climb at :32 (although there is a rope in the video that we definitely did not have), and the rope climb at :42.  

After the slot, it's a quick and easy scramble up to the red sandstone of the peak where we ate cookies, celebrated a dear friend's birthday, and collected our 2 of Diamonds cards (my 25th card!!!). 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ice Box Peak - February 23 - Jack of Clubs

For my 26th card, we chose a peak that has intimidated me since I first started.  Ice Box Peak...I hear that name still makes me a little nervous (ala "Mufasa" and the hyenas in Lion King).  Now, of course, I've hiked to the back of Ice Box Canyon more times than I can count (most recently with my family at Thanksgiving), but this hike is considerably more serious.

It isn't necessarily a long hike (5 miles) and it doesn't necessarily require a formidable amount of elevation gain (1800 ft). What did make this a daunting undertaking were the stories of class 4 scrambling with exposure.  For example:
The first part of the hike consists of hiking a little over a mile back in to Ice Box Canyon.  Eventually, you look to the left and you see a wall that just looks like a canyon wall that is impossible to climb, just like every other wall around.  This portion of the wall is different from the rest of the canyon wall because we actually did climb up it.
This is a picture of us climbing down what is the first climb on the way up.
We climbed straight up the slot and kept going up and up and up.  Basically just looking for footholds and handholds anywhere in the slot.
Honestly, the whole hike is sort of a blur of terrifying moments involving climbs up nearly straight rock and occasionally using a rope for some assistance.  

Don't get me wrong, completing all of the difficult climbs was so fun!!  But, I was so glad when we got to the top of the slot and up all the ropes.  The scary part was least until it was time to go back down.  Once we got to the top of the [never-ending] slot, it was a long slog up a dry fall with some minor class 3 scrambling and, suddenly, I rounded a corner and I was on the peak with some of my best friends where we earned the Jack of Clubs!!  Wow.  I can't believe that I'm officially half way through the 52 peak club.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Juniper Peak (6 of Diamonds) - February 15, 2014

Yeah!  Here's to staying less than one month behind!!  It is really hard to stay up to date on these hiking summaries when I'm hiking both weekend days and working all week days.  But, I really wouldn't have it any other way.

Anyway, way back on February 15, 2014, a merry band of hikers (a large band that is...more like a symphony orchestra) set out for Juniper Peak to celebrate one of our own reaching each of the 52 peaks in the 52 peak club.  I'd hiked with this gal several times and she is also the aunt of one of my co-workers, so I was not going to miss out on this!  (Plus, I hadn't yet been to Juniper Peak)
Juniper is a fun peak that I would recommend even to people that haven't done a ton of hiking, but are in decent physical shape.  The hike is 6 miles round trip and involves a little over 2100 feet of elevation increase.  The hike begins at either Pine Creek Trailhead or Oak Creek Trailhead and heads back into a canyon that is just to the right/north of rainbow mountain.  As you head back into this canyon, Juniper Peak is the peak that forms the north wall of this canyon.  After hiking along a trail and a wash, you eventually arrive at a creamy, sandstone slab.  It is steep, and it is quite long.
You gain quite a bit of elevation here and you gain it quickly.  Once up the slab, we had some fun scrambling and then started heading up the red sandstone ramp to the peak.
The only part of this hike that I didn't really care for was the final ascent portion up this loose gully.  I hate the feeling that each rock on which you put your weight might move under you and slide down the hill, taking you down and, possibly, anyone behind you. 
in reality, I mostly didn't care for descending the loose gully
Because this was Cory's 52nd peak, this was a BIG group of hikers (actually, it was about four, medium-sized groups of hikers) and a BIG celebration.  
via Gonsalves Photography
This is probably one of my favorite group pictures from all of the hikes I'd done up to this point.  I love the variety of colors and the excitement of everyone on the summit.  

Adam and I were very excited to get back to the trailhead and get home because we needed to pack for a pretty exciting trip to Flagstaff, AZ and the Grand Canyon!! (more on that soon =))

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Indecision Peak (6 of Clubs) - February 8, 2014

Oh, Indecision Peak, what do I have to say about you?  I just can't decide...he he...see what I did there?  Okay, yeah, that was pretty bad.  Which is actually similar to my feelings about this hike, to be honest.

Okay, let me start with the positive aspects of this hike.  First, the weather was amazing, but it pretty much always is amazing in Vegas this time of year.
Second, we hiked right past a big horn sheep sunbathing on the rocks.  I've seen big horns on a couple of hikes, but I never get tired of seeing these beautiful animals.  This one just watched us walk by and posed for a few of our pictures.
It is also amazing how well they blend in!
Third, there was a rabbit hole on this hike!  I really love hikes with rabbit holes, or small little cave-like things through which you have to crawl to continue the hike.  I'm usually claustrophobic, but apparently not when I'm out in nature.
heading down the rabbit hole...just call me Alice
Finally, I think by now it goes without saying that the other people with whom I was hiking was amazing.
It was a small-ish, but awesome group of people.  These are seriously some of my favorite people ever.
Okay, now for the reason that you'll probably never find me on this hike ever again.  The scrambling was not fun.  I would say that 90% of this hike consisted of loose dirt or loose rock.  I can handle climbing up the loose material.  Descending the mountain is a different story.  I get so nervous that I'm going to fall so I move really slowly.  I much prefer climbing up and down the solid sandstone.
Despite all the loose rock and my snail-like pace descending the mountain, it was a great day and I earned my 24th card!!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Gunsight Notch (4 of Diamonds) - February 1, 2014

So, I'm still very much playing catch-up, but I've been busy enjoying this AWESOME Vegas winter!  So, now that we're finally having a rainy weekend, I'm going to try to write a few blog posts about some awesome hikes with some even more awesome people.

For example, a few weeks ago, we set out to do a lovely little hike called Gunsight Notch for which I would earn the 4 of Diamonds.  I was literally the only person out of our band of five hikers that needed the card, but my friends are such troopers, they came with me anyway!

This hike was really full of a series of treats.  We started out by walking through a bit of Pine Creek Canyon where we saw several beautiful ponds.  The fifth member of our merry band has an amazing eye for beautiful photographs.  I'm pretty sure every image in this blog post came from his lens.
As a result of this pic, I've become quite fond of water reflection images
Also along the way through Pine Creek Canyon we encountered a "wishing wall."  Basically, this wall has a series of shallow holes eroded into it where people place smaller rocks while making a wish.  It's obviously a pretty complicated concept.....and pretty scientific =)
This part of the hike was relatively flat, so I had lots of energy to climb around and goof off.  But, that didn't last long.
Not long after the picture above was taken, we started a long trek up what can only be described as a the long, steep, solid rock of hell.  
Yes, the bottom of this little valley/bowl is where we started and we just walked up and up and up this steep solid rock.  Don't get me wrong, it was beautiful.  However, I was not sad when we finally reached the top and we were a short scramble to the peak.
Of course, once we got to the top, we had to go back down.  I was excited to learn that we did NOT have to walk back down the long, steep, solid rock of hell.  Instead, we descended through the notch that gives this hike its name (I think).
It got a little dicey a couple minutes after this.  If you can believe it, the slot actually got more narrow before we were out of it.
Despite the hellish incline, it was a beautiful hike, especially through Pine Creek Canyon, with some of my favorite hiking pals.  Plus, I earned my 22nd card!!!!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Rainbow Mountain (King of Clubs) - January 26, 2014

I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about whether I should continue posting to my blog.  But, as I was reading past posts about hikes and running races, I realized how nice it is to preserve these adventures and share them with my friends and family.

As a result of my hiatus, I'm obviously a bit behind.  Big picture example of how far behind I am:  This post is about my 21st card with Hiking Las Vegas and, as I'm typing this, I currently have 27 cards!!  Never fear, I will catch up.  

This is probably one of the hikes of which I'm most proud: Rainbow Peak for the King of Clubs
via Summit Post
Rainbow Mountain is one of the most prominent peaks in Red Rock Canyon NCA.  To reach the peak, we hiked, scrambled, and climbed four ropes for several hours.  The peak of Rainbow Mountain sits at an elevation of approximately 6,800 feet, making it the 5th highest point in Red Rock!  After all that, you won't be surprised when I tell you that I get a pretty big smile across my face every time I look out the window at work and smile.

So, I mentioned ropes....  In the picture below, you can see one of my friends climbing the very first rope, while I waited my turn.  It was a serious climb up approximately 50 feet.  I was super nervous when we came back down because I was really tired from hiking all the way up and nearly all the way down.  Fortunately, I have amazingly resourceful friends and one of them rigged a harness type thing out of webbing and I learned to rappel.  It was a little on the terrifying side, but also thrilling.  I am so grateful for the amazing people with whom I hike; I've learned so much and I always have a blast!!
Once we got up that first rope, the fun was just beginning.  At the top of the rope, we had a super steep sandstone slab to walk up.  
Let's just say it wasn't exactly a walk in the park walking up this slab.
After the slab, we scrambled and we scrambled and we scrambled.  Sometimes it was class 2, other times it was class 3, sometimes it even approached class 4.
Oh yeah, and there was a little exposure...
And did I mention ropes?  After the first rope, climbing the remaining ropes was a piece of cake...ish....  It's downclimbing that gets me a bit stressed and required a bit of concentration.
But, once I get on solid footing, I'm always ready to look up and smile for that kodak moment!
It seriously was a beautiful and challenging hike.  The weather was perfect and the day was made even better by an amazing group of people.  I really cannot say enough how much I appreciate these supportive and encouraging people!  I'm in awe of them every day and I am grateful that they let me tag along to experience these journeys and further develop my hiking abilities