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The main event for the day was a hike to Fork/Sandstone Peaks in Red Rock NCA, supposedly one of the most difficult of the sandstone peaks to reach by scrambling via the easiest route. In his guidebook, Rambles & Scrambles, Courtney suggests that to avoid private property, one should start from the Spring Mtn Ranch State Park. The problem with that, we found the previous day, is that the ranch doesn't open until 8a - not exactly conducive to a sunrise start. To avoid sitting around for an hour or more, we hit upon climbing Boot Boulder first, an easy exercise from the Scenic Loop Rd (which opens at 6a) that would take us an hour and a half or so. Later in the afternoon, after finishing with the first three, we gave Tom's Jeep some exercise in the Bird Spring Range south of SR160. All in all, a very satisfying day.
Our route was roughly modeled on a map grabbed from Harlan Stockman's site a day earlier. The scrambling up the creek is an enjoyable mix of boulder hopping and scrambling, the creek delightfully bubbling along all the while, high enough to keep the route-finding challenging without being annoying. We kept left at several forks until we were somewhere on the west side of Fork Peak after about 2/3mi of creek navigating. We noted that Harlan's map showed he took somewhat different routes going up and down at the base of the West Face. Without knowing which was preferred, we started up early to match one of his options, only to find this probably wasn't the better route. We guessed Harlan had done likewise to use this (or similar) for the ascent, but found a better way down later. Our guidebook was only marginally helpful on this one - Good luck; I failed on my first attempt too, the only real help coming by mentioning the West Face. We could have read other reports but we didn't want things to be too easy - just enough to make sure we don't fail. Our start was a little stiff at class 3+ and at one point moved to class 4 on an exposed, 15-foot wall. After surmounting this difficulty I provided Tom with a sketchy-looking cheater foot, basically jamming an arm in a crack and lowering my foot for him to use as a handhold. The foot grab became a knee grap which became a leg grap, Tom not liking the wavering motion of the holds while struggling up this section. Pretty certain we weren't on the usual route, we traversed south along the face until we came to something that looked more reasonable.
We'd found what turned out to be the key slabs which rise to a notch on the north side of Fork Peak, providing what appears to be the only reasonable scrambling route from this side, with big cliffs to the right of these slabs. The slabs were steep sandstone with decent grip that make for a pretty direct ascent. One can favor a modestly brushy groove to the right down which a small trickle of water was flowing. We moved from one to the other as seemed best, eventually finding the first duck of the route at the notch around the 5,400-foot level. Upon reaching the notch, things get quite a bit easier as the slopes become less severe. One can continue upwards on an easterly traverse to the saddle between the two summits, probably the easiest route. We chose to start upwards to the south immediately after the notch in order to reach Fork more directly. This involves more steep slabs, but it worked nicely and got us there in quick fashion, just before 11:15a. The Fork register attests to the low popularity (for a Red Rock summit), placed in 2004 but having only 8 pages of entries.
Traversing to Sandstone is a fairly non-technical endeavor from Fork, taking about 20min over mostly class 2 terrain. Sandstone Peak affords better views overlooking Las Vegas and the desert plains to the east. Sandstone's register, also found in the usual green ammo box, had entries almost identical to those on Fork - not surprising considering the 2-for-1 nature of this outing. After a brief snack break, we headed back down through the notch and down the slabs, this time following them most of the way down to the creek. There were more ducks encountered lower, below the slabs, but not in sufficient numbers to actually help with the descent. We found things pretty brushy near the bank of the creek, eventually emerging onto easier sections of creek that led back down to where we joined our ascent route from a few hours earlier. It would be just after 1:45p by the time we returned to the parking lot at the state park, making for a 4hr45min effort.
This page last updated: Wed Mar 1 20:29:39 2017
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