Gunsight Notch Peak 52PC / RS
Juniper Peak 52PC / RS

Mon, Feb 29, 2016

With: Tom Becht

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
Gunsight Notch Peak later climbed Mon, Feb 17, 2020
Juniper Peak later climbed Mon, Feb 17, 2020


Gunsight Notch is a feature in Red Rock Canyon NCA found on the north side of Rainbow Wall that can be used to climb Gunsight Notch Peak, just north of the notch. A descending ridgeline connects it to Juniper Peak with a 40-foot rappel along the way. Both of these summits are on the 52 Peak Club list and both are given 3 stars in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles. The climb of Gunsight Notch is the crux at class 4 which had Karl a little nervous, but with some coaxing we got him agree to give it a try and accompany Tom and I on the drive in along Scenic Drive to the Oak Creek TH. Sadly, the 13-mi drive was a bit too long, allowing the thought of class 4 scrambling to nervously roll around in Karl's head long enough to entertain doubts. As we pulled into the parking lot he abruptly announced he'd changed his mind and would head to Rainbow Wall via the class 3 Oak Creek Canyon route. He'd slipped the hook at the last second, just as we were hauling him onto the boat.

And so around 7:20a, Tom and I headed out to the northwest towards Juniper Canyon while Karl followed the other trail southeast to Oak Creek. The moon was just setting over Mt. Wilson with a bright blue sky backlighting the colorful sandstone as we plied the trail for much of the first hour. Eventually our trail dropped us into Juniper Canyon, a fairly nice creek scramble heading west, narrowing as the steep cliffs begin to crowd it in. We paused at a lovely dry waterfall leading up to the amphitheater below Rainbow Wall. A fixed line ran down the right side of the waterfall, an invitation of sorts to explore yet another unknown area. Little did I know that I would be coming back less than two weeks later and descending this very route. But today we bypassed this, continuing west by following the use trail as it hugs the cliffs that are now only about 10yds apart. Soon this narrows to only a few yards as we got to the most interesting part of the route, the last 30min up to the notch. There was a fixed line lower down to facilitate an awkward class 4 section to surmount a small chockstone. Just above this, a larger chockstone is circumvented by tunneling underneath. More scrambling leads to a narrow, shoulder-width passage just before reaching the notch.

We emerged from the shady notch into the bright sunshine, scrambling the short stretch to Gunsight Notch Peak in another five minutes' time. We signed a register found in an ammo box and took a short break before continuing on the ridge. The traverse to Juniper was almost as much fun as the Gunsight Notch scramble, and though not as challenging perhaps, it was highly scenic with views on all sides and a fun stretch of scrambling. The advertised rappel comes just past the halfway point and is pretty much impossible to miss, the rap location obvious. We used the three existing rap slings along with one of the two 30m ropes we carried to make our way down this modest cliff before continuing on to Juniper Peak, another 15min of easy scrambling. Another ammo box held another busy register, typical for the Red Rocks area and in particular the 52 Peak Club peaks. I sent a text off to Karl to let him know we'd reached the second peak, giving him an idea of where we were should he get reception himself. I looked up to Rainbow Wall to see a lone figure standing at the top for only a brief moment before he was out of sight again. A few minutes later I got a reply text from Karl that he had reached Rainbow Wall - nicely timed! I encouraged him to visit Rainbow Mtn as well while he was up there - I had plans for Tom and I that might delay our return and didn't want to keep Karl waiting. I didn't tell him this last part, nor did I convey it to Tom for that matter, until we were down lower.

We spent the next 30min descending Juniper via the standard route, steeply down the east side, generously marked by ducks. Upon reaching the point where the route turns to the south while continuing down, we started exploring north, looking to see if there was a descent route to take us down to Ramp Peak, another named summit further down to the northeast. I had held out hope we might find a way down to this and two other bonus summits in the same outing. We tried several options but found steep cliffs ringing the entire north and east sides, much too far down to attempt it with any degree of certainty even with the two ropes we carried. It's probably possible, but we would need more gear than what we had with us - my strategy will be to talk Courtney into doing it first, so we can do the easy thing and follow with whatever beta he collects.

Not wanting to leave emptyhanded, I talked Tom into scrambling up to a tower just above us, what turned out to be two towers. The highest was a bit airy on the final class 3-4 stretch that set me atop a wonderful little perch. Tom ended up at the lower tower to the NE where he paused to eat the lunch he'd been carrying around with him. I photographed him atop "Tea Tower" from my vantage atop "Bee Tower" before we descended back down. The rest of the day was fairly benign, following the standard Juniper Peak route down steep slabs to Juniper Canyon and then back down to the TH by 12:45p. We enjoyed a few beers from the cooler while we waited for Karl, only about 15min behind us.

I had originally planned to spend another day in the area with Karl, but in a series of text communications with my daughter, it seemed I might be able to be of service to her in a school project if I could get home a day earlier. So I left the others at their cars off Moenkopi Rd and began the long drive back to San Jose. It would be 10p before I'd get home, tired and in great need of sleep, but already I was plotting a return...

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