Calico Peak RS
Ice Box Peak 52PC / RS
Mesa Mesa RS
Cheyenne Mountain P300 RS

Thu, Mar 10, 2016

With: Patrick O'Neill

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2 3 4


Patrick had driven all the way to Red Rocks from the LA area to join me for a single day. He had debated the day before whether to make the drive, asking me what I had planned to help with his decision. I really couldn't say since I was making plans on the fly - in fact, I had just done what I was going to do with Patrick the day prior and needed a new plan for today. Without any useful input from me, he decided to come anyway and was not disappointed. We did a nice warm up in the Calico Hills, I got another shot at Ice Box Peak, and we ended up with a couple of easier summits on the outskirts of Summerlin in the afternoon - all in all, a pretty good roundup of what the area has to offer.

Calico Peak

The name derives for Courtney's Rambles & Scrambles but is also called West Calico Tank Peak elsewhere, to distinguish it from it near neighbor across a gap to the northeast. I had somehow failed to notice this one on my previous roundups of the various unofficial summits in the Calico Hills and it seemed a good one to warm up on. Patrick had arrived sometime after midnight so we didn't get an early start and it was already quite sunny when we started out from an exceedingly small turnout just before the spur road leading to the Sandstone Quarry TH. I had picked this starting point somewhat randomly - the regular TH would have worked just as nicely.

More deliberately, I picked a route to Calico Peak from the west, following no established guidebook or previously downloaded GPSr track. Sometimes it's fun just to make up your own route and in this we were not displeased. An exact or even close description of the route is not important, nor helpful in all likelihood. Suffice to say we had fun following no ducks, up sandstone slabs, through narrow channels, a little brush, some sketchy exposure, chasms to jump across, and non-trivial route-finding. The neatest find was a perfectly smooth section of sandstone under an overhang that revealed the tiny, fossilized footprints of ancient animals walking across an ancient shore. Another cool feature was a giant tenaja just below the summit surrounded by steep walls.

On the way down, we followed a much mellower route down to the canyon between it and Calico Tank Peak, finding a regular trail that I had no idea existed. We came across dozens of folks plying this and other threads of the trail as we wandered downcanyon. At one point we found what Patrick termed a "duck workshop" - more than a hundred stacks of rocks assembled by visitors over some length of time. Perhaps skills were honed here before being applied to the many scrambling routes throughout Red Rocks that are so generously ducked. We returned to the Sandstone Quarry TH from the north not long after 9a, finding a bright pink jeep (from Pink Jeep Tours) that had just unloaded its cache of tourists - all two of them. The truck was kind of over-the-top for a paved TH, but apparently they use these things to get people to rougher places elsewhere around Las Vegas. Our roundtrip time was just under 2hrs, a very nice little summit indeed.

Ice Box Peak

Muscles sufficiently exercised and warmed up, we proceeded to the Ice Box TH where I had started the previous day. It was not so early now, making it necessary but not disagreeable to share it with other parties heading into Ice Box Canyon. I had uploaded three photos from Harlan Stockman's collection on SummitPost to help locate the start of the route inside the canyon that I had been unable to find the previous day. Of note was a large boulder said to mark the right spot. We examined one such rock as the trail entered the creek channel, but it was clearly not the right one. Ten minutes later we found another candidate which proved to match our photo. Directly across from this was the class 4-5 scramble route we were looking for out of the canyon. We dutifully took our own set of photos to mark the location for future adventurers that might be using this trip report. The most difficult scrambling is the lower section of the route that can be described as a class 4-5 crack system running up and right for about 70ft to a wide shelf that leads left into a narrower chimney that runs up several hundred more feet. This second crack is more difficult, having several fixed ropes to facilitate the most troublesome sections. The second rope is shorter but perhaps a bit more awkward and Patrick asked for a belay to offer a little more security than the rope alone.

Above the main crack the route opens up and becomes less technical, more like class 3. The route-finding isn't obvious, but not overly difficult. We followed ducks to the right from the top of the crack, out to a wide amphitheater. Ducks continue to lead one south to where the only realistic exit goes to the left (east), eventually rising to the crest of Ice Box Peak. From there, more ducks lead along the ridgeline to the modest summit not too far away. We arrived just after noon, having taken but 2.5hrs for the ascent - not bad at all, and we both agreed it was a fine route. We spent almost half an hour at the summit, taking in the views from our fine perch between Bridge Mtn to the south and North Peak/Goodman to the north. A register found here dated to 2002 (surprisingly old for Red Rocks), but most of the pages had fallen out of the poorly bound book and were randomly left loose in the ammo box that held them. Our return went back down pretty much via the same route. We managed to make good use of the fixed lines without needing to rappel either of them. As we neared the canyon bottom there was a great amount of shouting and commotion coming up from below, a result of the steady stream of visitors making their way to the end of the trail in Ice Box Canyon. It was just after 2:30p by the time we made it back to the TH, still too early to call it a day though we briefly considered doing so.

Mesa Mesa

It seemed too late to try something more serious, so we settled on an easy visit to this minor summit on the western edge of Las Vegas. The hardest part might be finding a reasonable place to start, as continuing new development in the area keeps access somewhat in flux. We parked northeast of the summit at the appropriately named Mesa Park. As part of a flood control project to protect the homes being built at the base of Mesa Mesa, a high wall runs across the perimeter. From where we parked we were able to walk through new construction to get us onto the flood control footpath on the other side of the wall without having to go over it or the adjacent chain-link fence. Others have found this same workaround, primarily for access to fresh concrete walls with which to practice their graffiti skills. Banksy would be proud. Maybe.

Having little interest in the concrete walls, we proceeded up the limestone escarpment that characterizes the east side of Mesa Mesa. There are several tiers of short cliffs made easy by the sharp limestone rock that provides superb grip. Just before reaching the summit area we crossed over a mountain bike trail that suggests there are other ways to reach the summit, by trail and even by bike. Our route was probably one of the shortest approaches however, starting only 2/3mi from the top. Finding the highpoint was an exercise in disappointment as the top is too flat (what did we expect with name "Mesa"?) to pick out any specific point. We wandered around some, but found no tell-tale cairn or register or anything of that sort, just a jumble of limestone rock pieces scattered over a wide area. A Nevada state flag has been planted on the flanks of Mesa Mesa, just below the summit plateau, the location picked to make it more visible from the community below. We returned via a slightly more direct route, the whole outing taking something like an hour.

Cheyenne Mountain

Located in the north part of Summerlin and just west of the 215 freeway, this seemed like a pretty short last summit for the day. Another limestone peak, Courtney devotes an entire page to describing various routes to this minor summit in his guidebook. He rates Cheyenne's South Ridge as class 5 which certainly looks interesting from the equestrian park we started from to the southeast. Patrick wanted nothing to do with that difficult-at-best looking route. I suggested we go up the SE Ridge before us, noting nothing particularly difficult or harder than we'd done earlier in the day. Looks can be deceiving.

We started up, finding some interesting but short class 3 sections along the way, having nothing to slow us down for the first 15min or so. What wasn't so apparent from below but become all too obvious from above was a cliff band encircling the south and southeast sides of Cheyenne Mtn at the top. Standing there, I could see two guys up at the summit about 100yds away, wondering which route they might have taken. Scrambling through the cliffs looked hard, going nearly vertical though I imagine the limestone provided good holds. Still, it didn't look like the sort of thing one would try first. The better option seemed to be a wide ledge at the base of the cliff rising as one travels west towards the South Ridge. I set off in this direction, Patrick some distance behind now, wondering if this would actually get us anywhere. The ledge narrowed before reaching the South Ridge with some sloped, loose talus making it all the more difficult. I slowed and went through this section as Patrick caught up to me but paused, not liking the looks of it. I then went across the South Ridge to see that there appeared to be a way up on the west side of the summit, perhaps class 2-3. I went back to report this to Patrick who had started up through the narrow section, pausing at its diciest spot. We were discussing this from opposite sides, not 10yds apart, but there was little I could do (or wanted to do, considering) to coax Patrick across. He was tired and it was growing late and he just didn't have the mental composure to get across this section. He said he would wait for me to return, but I offered that I'd probably look for another way down. And so Patrick started back while I made a quick dash for the summit, only four minutes away.

Another Las Vegas summit, another flag, this one an American flag with an accompanying orange shirt for some local business (it wasn't the first time I'd seen t-shirts used as flags around the area). The other two had left the summit, descending via the class 2-3 route to the northeast. I followed in their tracks some before veering right to follow the edge of the cliffs until I could find a way down through them. I ended up over on the east side of the mountain before I could find a way down, then traversed back around to the southeast side before descending further. In failing light, I made good time back down the SE slopes, arriving at the equestrian park where we started just behind Patrick. He was a bit frustrated at the last summit, but the successes earlier in the day, particularly on Ice Box Peak, more than made up for it. Rather than spend the night and do an easy morning hike as he had originally planned, Patrick decided to head back now so that he could sleep comfortably in his own bed.

I dropped Patrick off at his car where we'd left it at the West Career & Technology Academy off SR159 before looking for a quiet corner to take a shower. Now near dark, the shower water was quite warm and I enjoyed the rinse up until the point someone approached the van asking, "Can I help you?" He repeated it a second time before I responded with, "No..." which of course meant nothing. I quickly rapped myself in a towel and offered to leave immediately, all the while he was going on about having to call the police and what sort of idiot would get naked at a school and such things. The worst part of course was having my shower interrupted. Patrick would later comment that he thought it was strange that I'd left in such a hurry (it turns out he hadn't left the parking lot yet, but I was too preoccupied to notice) with a guy following behind on foot to lock a gate I'd driven through. I ended up finding some other corner of Summerlin to finish my rinse before dressing and blending in with the rest of the suburban population. Eventually I found my way back to Moenkopi Rd where I once again spent the night...


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