Fri, Feb 26, 2016
Back in Red Rocks, NV for the second time this month, I was eager to get into some of the more challenging routes described in Courtney Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles. One that had caught my attention was Graffiti Ledges - the guidebook has a picture of a fairy thin ledge with rope stretched across it - interesting! Karl had arrived the previous evening while Patrick arrived sometime in the night after we'd gone to bed, but we were all ready to head out before 7a. We piled into the van to carpool around the Scenic Loop Drive to the Willow Springs TH about halfway along the 13-mile circuit. The canyon we were interested in was obvious to the west and it was not hard to find one of several use trails that would take us across the wash and into the canyon starting around 7:20a.
The first 15-20min were tame, but the class 3 soon started the fun, up large boulders and dry waterfalls, skirting under clipped pines and oaks that grow heartily in the shady canyons. Periodic ducks reassured us we were on the right track which we also had loaded in the GPS. After moving left up the main Graffiti Canyon as described, we moved left in search of the ledges a little too soon that ended up costing us about 45min time while I scouted around before discovering our (my) error. It also cost us Karl's companionship as he decided to turn around, not comfortable with the exposure he'd already been subjected to and wishing for a mellower outing. Patrick and I continued up, finding the ledges about 5min above where we'd gotten off-track. It was pretty easy to find the ledges in the end because the main canyon goes class 5 in quick order and the only reasonable option was to the left and the start of the ledges. The narrow part that I'd seen in the guidebook turns out to be in the very beginning after rounding a first corner. Though imposing in the picture and from a distance, the ledges turned out to be rather tame when the rock is dry (not sure it would be so easy in wet/icy conditions). This first traverse (above the area we'd gotten off-route on) leads to a wide area at a second corner where the route turned into bright, morning sunshine. This part of the traverse is across the second major canyon described in Courtney's text and is very easy across wide ledges. We were nearing the watercourse in this second canyon when a ramp system backtracking up to the north caught my attention - it looked like some really fun scrambling and it didn't take much to talk Patrick into giving it a try. The result was an interesting shortcut to Lost Creek Peak, taking us but 20min from where we left Graffiti Ledges (no graffiti found anywhere on the ledges, btw). Though the route across Graffiti Ledges is rated class 4, I didn't think there was anything on the route exceeding class 3, with some of the parts we managed while off-route harder than the on-route portions. We spent almost half an hour at the summit perusing the register, refueling and taking in the views before packing up to leave.
Our next section, Lost Creek Peak to North Peak is far tamer, really no more than class 2 along a more gentle ridgeline. As we were heading south along the ridge, I noticed there was another peak we hadn't planned on only about 3/4mi from our route. Patrick was game to add another bonus peak so we continued south to Crest Peak, made easier by a regular trail that seemed to magically appear (this is the North Peak Trail that comes from Rocky Gap Rd to the west). The sandstone gives way to limestone along the way, the latter dominating the higher reaches west of Red Rock Canyon NCA. There are terrific views of Bridge Mtn and Icebox Canyon on the route, along with the long, fantastically exposed ridgeline of Icebox Peak. We took an hour to reach the 7,244-foot summit of Crest Peak, the highest point on the day's outing. Another busy register can be found here. While thumbing quickly through the many pages I noted the easily recognized entry of Brian French, more commonly found wandering through the Sierra backcountry. We signed our own names before turning to head back the way we came.
We followed the eastern fork on the ridge where it branches from Lost Creek Peak, following another 1/3mi to North Peak from the southwest, standard class 2 fare. Like Lost Creek Peak, North Peak's register was housed in an ammo box which we would find is quite common in the area. The summit offers a superb viewpoint as the second highest summit in Red Rocks and we spent more time here to appreciate them. The easy stuff was done at this point and the next section, getting down to Goodman Peak to the northeast would take more serious scrambling. The first part is mild, low gradient on large sandstone slabs, leading to a point at the end of North Peak's NE arm where we found - another register. This was a little too many for me so I let Patrick sign this one while I looked around for a way down. The route had ducks starting from North Peak so there was little worry about getting off-route and Courtney's description of a delightful class 3 scramble proved accurate. There were some steep downclimbs that took some caution, but nothing I would describe as scary. Patrick was not fond of the steep slabs though the friction was quite good. The crux for him was near the bottom of this descent where it was necessary to drop 50-60ft over such terrain that had him perfecting the crab walk technique. Once down this, the going gets be much easier and another ten minutes' effort saw us to the summit of Goodman. Another 52 Peaks Club peak reached, another ammo register box.
Goodman has very little prominence, less than 70ft, but the last two summits had even less. We followed more ducks through more downclimbing to easier ground below where the GPS indicated we should find Deception Peak. We tried three different outcrops, finding no register anywhere. We called it done when we were atop the point indicated by the GPS but there was no satisfaction in this peak. An improbably crack leads diagonally down through a cliff face on the east side of Goodman, through a narrow passage and eventually to the vicinity of Willow Springs Overlook. The first candidate we came to, matching the GPS (and Courtney's coordinates in his guidebook), held little satisifaction as an overlook. We spied a tall duck further east and made our way to that point 10 minutes later, finding it far more fitting of the "overlook" description. It had a small register with the name that we were looking for, but held only a single entry - not so satisfying, but better than the first option that held only a lonely duck.
We backtracked from Willow Springs Overlook to follow a series of ducks down a gully and the East Slopes of the mountain, dropping down to the valley below. This last part took well over an hour's time, constantly challenging us on varied class 3 terrain. I think Patrick was wishing for it to be over when we were only about halfway down but he perservered in fine fashion. Eventually the ducks led us north across the lower part of the face and back towards Willow Springs. The ducks gave out before we reached the bottom (or perhaps we lost track of them) and we ended up missing the main exit point. We followed trail threads that grew thinner and brushier until we were down in the main wash, meandering back and forth to avoid brush but eventually finding our way to the Willow Springs TH sometime after 3:30p.
Our day should have been mostly done at this point, but we still hadn't reconnected with Karl. We'd given him the keys which he used to take a nap inside the warm car while we were still out, but had since decided to take a walk down the road as indicated on a note he'd left us. He didn't leave us a time, or whether he expected us to wait or come look for him, and we collaborated on how best to admonish him this oversight. We decided to go look for him in the van. We kept an eye out for him on our way down the remaining half of the Scenic Loop, past Icebox Canyon TH and Pine Creek TH before concluding we'd missed him. And so we had. Somewhere around the Icebox Canyon TH Karl had left the road briefly to take in the views of Bridge Mtn and North Peak in the afternoon lighting. He saw us drive by, but his running and shouting were to no avail. We eventually got back in cell phone range to exchange a few terse texts with each other but the upshot was we got to make another full tour of the Scenic Loop before we picked Karl up about an hour later than we might otherwise have. Sigh. Oh well, we could have had much bigger issues than a missed ride. By the time we got back to Moenkopi Rd it was almost 6p. Patrick reported that the somewhat busy road had made it difficult for him to sleep the night before. Would the nearby campground be better? I was skeptical but ok with the idea. Tom texted us he was close to Las Vegas, so I waited for him to show up while the others went off to see about the campground. The bulletin board showed the grounds full, but they'd just opened a more primitive loop of about 4 sites at the end of a gravel road. It was away from the bustle of the main campground and almost perfect, really. We took sites 107 & 108 before heading off for margaritas and dinner at El Toro on the edge of town in Summerlin. A bit overpriced perhaps, but we ate more than our fill that night...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Crest Peak - North Peak
This page last updated: Mon Apr 11 08:50:37 2016
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