Goat Bed Peak RS
Greycap P300 52PC / RS
Kraft Mountain 2x P300 52PC / RS
Big Bird Peak 2x RS
Wilsons Pimple RS

Sun, Feb 28, 2016

With: Tom Becht
Karl Fieberling

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2
Kraft Mountain previously climbed Mon, Feb 15, 2016
Big Bird Peak previously climbed Mon, Feb 15, 2016


The prior day's outing to Mescalito/Bridge had been a bit more than any of us had been expecting, finishing in the dark after more than a full day. Patrick had gone home to lick his wounds. Karl, who hadn't joined us, reported a lovely outing to Crest and North Peaks via the convenient trail on the backside. In order to draw Karl back into the fold and to give Tom a deserved break, I suggested an easier outing in the Calico Hills, specifically to Greycap, with Goat Bed Peak as an easy bonus. The outing wasn't nearly long enough to satisfy us for the day, so we tacked on a few other summits in the area that I'd done earlier, and finally an almost-embarassing outing to Wilsons Pimple to close out the day.

Goat Bed Peak / Greycap

These summits aren't actually part of the Calico Hills, but found just to the north on their own ridgeline. We started from the end of the road in Calico Basin where a large parking lot, usually filled to overflowing by midday, was all but empty at 7a when we arrived. We followed one of the trails leading north from the end of the road, then east around the base of Kraft and Big Bird. Our path took us past a number of the popular bouldering spots that make this area so popular, empty at the moment save for the tell-tale white chalk marks that make them apparent. Karl told us of his prowess in years gone by where he spent many an afternoon on such boulders back in California. Despite our efforts to coax him to perform once again, none of us were capable of more than an impression of the first moves. Laughing that off, we left the large boulders to the younger crowds that could far better do them justice.

We spent the first 30min getting to the base of Goat Bed (really just a small point on Greycap's SE Ridge) across Gateway Canyon from Big Bird, then climbing nice sandstone slopes to the more straightforward class 2 limestone ridgeline. By 8:10a we'd reached the summit, pausing briefly to peruse a register found there and take in the views overlooking the Calico Hills. A mile to the northwest rises the higher Greycap to which we soon set off for. In his book Rambles & Scrambles, Purcell describes the traverse between the two as "remarkably interesting", the inspiration for the day's outing. Upon actually doing it over the next hour and a quarter, none of us were to find this suitably descriptive. The ridge becomes more challenging than the section we had just done to reach Goat Bed, but aside from a few towers that needed circumventing and a very nice (but short) sandstone section, it was mostly nothing special.

Greycap's summit does have a fine view of Turtlehead to the west and its register had some remarkably interesting original art. The scrambling got a lot more interesting as we headed off the south side, following a series of ducks that led down the colorful sandstone bluffs that characterize this side of Greycap. This was the stuff we'd come to Red Rocks for, and over the next hour we got to enjoy the wonderfully accomodating sandstone features as we dropped 1,400ft into Gateway Canyon whose dry gravel wash forms the Lower Gateway Canyon Trail. We had originally planned to return over Hell Hill Trail (between New Peak and Kraft Mtn) back into Calico Basin, but as it was barely 10:30a we decided to add Kraft and Big Bird to the morning's agenda.

Kraft Mtn / Big Bird Peak

From Gateway Canyon we followed a line to Kraft Mtn from the northwest that followed no ducks, more of a free-form exploration of the Calico Hills and the fine sandstone rock that never seems to disappoint. I got ahead of the others and was on my own for the upper half of the scramble. At one point I looked back to see Karl, Tom and a third person standing atop an intermediate formation - seems we'd picked up a friend. In fact, we'd picked up two friends as I found later it wasn't Tom on the very top. These two were randomly scrambling the same side of Kraft at the same time as us - the Calico Hills are quite popular, indeed. We reached the highpoint not long after 11a, having no better luck in finding a register than I had during my first visit two weeks earlier. We spent the next 35min traversing southeast to Big Bird over more enjoyable sandstone. The most interesting part was the large summit block which gives one pause. The easiest route appears to be some face climbing on its east side. It looks to be nearly vertical from a distance, but not so harrowing closer up. Horizontal ribs stretch across the face to provide good footing and decent handholds that I would as class 3-4. Tom followed me to the top, though not without hesitation, and Karl, who was looking on, decided it was too rich for his liking. After coming back down to join Karl, we watched Tom descend while Karl explained his dislike for such exposure. I commented that Tom's line along a crack to the right was far more exposed than the line I'd taken and the splat he'd make at the bottom would be far more serious. Unappreciatively, and perhaps a bit nervously, Tom replied, "Not helping..."

Safely off, we regrouped and headed down. We found a ducked line off the south side that was more interesting than the ridgeline I'd followed up from the SE on my first visit. It was after noon by the time we got down to easier ground. There were a number of bouldering parties spread out over the area by this time. Conversation mixed with the barking of dogs and other noises to liven the scene as we passed through. There was far more talk than actual action, but that often seems to be the case for bouldering in general. We joined other folks hiking and jogging on the trail network as we made our way back to the parking lot by 12:30p.

Wilsons Pimple

A check of our watches showed it was still a bit early to call it quits, but a bit too late to chew off anything big. I suggested Wilsons Pimple, a small hill at the foot of the more impressive Mt. Wilson. It was the sort of thing one might do to work off a hangover or as a leg-stretcher on a long drive, but not really a destination peak one drives all the way to Red Rocks for. The others were game, and off we went down SR159. There are several Oak Creek THs located along the west side of the highway. We picked the one further south which is probably not the shortest route to Wilsons Pimple, but it is the most straightforward without the need to cross the seasonal Oak Creek or find one of the lesser-used trails. Our route followed an old dirt road, now closed to vehicles, heading northwest around the south and west side of Wilson's Pimple before blending into the network of trails found at the base of the sandstone bluffs that rise 2,000-3,000ft up from the valley floor. The trail is very popular, particularly on weekends and in the afternoon, with all manner of visitors, young and old, in-shape and out, couples, loners and families. A use trail can be used to reach the summit from the west (I found later), or one can simply climb up cross-country from any side. The hill rises about 280ft from the western saddle or about 400ft from the south, the side we climbed it from. For such a small hill it packs a bigger punch than one might expect, a tough little climb up mildly brushy slopes to its rocky summit. There was a busy register as one might expect from an easy objective. We found an easier slope down the northeast side where we picked up a trail we could follow SE towards our parking area. We actually liked this better as the trail was less rocky and easier to walk than the main one we had taken on the way in. It reconnected with the original trail about 1/3mi from the TH, getting us back to before 3p, a total time of less than two hours.

We drove back to Moenkopi Rd where we showered and consumed a few adult beverages and snacks to while away some time before heading back into Summerlin for dinner. We ended up eating burgers at Islands off Charleston Rd, a decent enough choice where we had our fill before heading back to camp. A Civil War drama that we watched turned out to be somewhat of a dud (Gods and Generals) as one by one we lost interest. Possibly, that had more to do with us being tired and over-satiated at that point...


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