Sun, Jan 20, 2019
It's pretty well-known among those I climb with that I'm not a fan of repeats. With so many climbing objectives to choose from, I'd rather find something new to explore than repeat old favorites. Tom has been slowly trying to play catch-up on the 52PC list and was hoping to have a go at Graffiti Ledges, a route I had done two years earlier that provides access to three of the peaks on this list that he had yet to do. Originally, I was mulling doing something tamer with Karl (who had attempted the route with Patrick and I on the first effort in 2016, but had bailed), but in the end decided it would be more fun to do something with the whole group and make it a goal to see Karl successfully through the route. Though the skies were clear for most of the day, it was cold and windy in the morning, forcing us to bundle up for the early morning start. Despite a government shutdown that had the Visitor Center and bathrooms in the park locked shut, the concessionaire that collects fees was still there at the park entrance on Scenic Loop Rd as we drove in just before 7a. At least the road wasn't closed.
We parked at the Willow Springs Picnic Area on a spur road and started from there soon after 7:30a. The unsigned route heads west, first crossing Red Rock Wash before starting up Lost Creek Canyon. There are various use trails that can be used to cross the wash and enter the canyon, after which the choices narrow to following ducks and the clipped route that takes one about half a mile up the canyon to a fork. There was water flowing in the canyon, forming pools and making some sections a bit tricky, but I was the only one that suffered a soaked boot here from our party. At the fork the route turns left to head southwest and begin climbing more steeply. There is less water flow but the canyon is shaded, wet and cold. There is a good deal of slab climbing and some sections require short climbs out of the drainage to find ways around obstacles. On our first visit we had some trouble identifying the start of ledges portion and we had left the drainage too early and ended up on steep, loose terrain just below the ledges. This had caused Karl to lose confidence and turn around, Patrick and I eventually figuring the route out. This time I knew better and kept us on the correct general route even if I couldn't remember the more specific details. Though the distance was little more than a mile, we spent almost two and a half hours climbing up through Lost Canyon gaining a great deal of elevation. It wasn't until 10a that we had reached the start of the ledges for which the route is named.
My recall had the ledges as fairly tame, but it was quite dry on that first visit. Water seeping down the rocks had brought life to the moss and made things a bit more slippery today. The first part of the ledges are quite narrow and require care. Some chose to scoot on their butt or crawling, others more gingerly on the feet, all with extra caution. I took Karl's pack from him to help him gather the courage to get across the ledges, perhaps 100yds in length. The other three had gone first and offered guidance and encouragment for the final bit of scrambling through the wetter section. Karl had a few choice words during this that let us know he was not feeling the least bit comfortable, but he managed to work through his anxieties and we all landed safely on the far side after less than 15min's time. Once across, the route opens up onto a wide, sunny slab area, the first sunshine we'd seen all morning. We explored the area for views, Iris climbed a dead tree (which caused the rest of us to express various degrees of concern), and we generally rested mentally before continuing on.
Though still not trivial, the route gets easier from here as the ledges become wide and class 1-2 as they led us south into the next drainage. We considered taking the shortcut to Lost Creek Peak that Patrick and I had discovered on the first visit, but with water dribbling down a key crux section, we decided against it. On the plus side, it would allow me to explore a section of the route I had previously missed. After the ledges gave out, we countinued south up the somewhat brushy drainage as it climbs steeply up towards North Peak. We probably could have gone directly to this second summit, but we wanted to visit Lost Creek Peak first. To this end, I was looking for an exit to the right that would take us out of the drainage and into another to the west above some cliffs. We spotted a bighorn ewe above us near the exit point I was aiming for and we paused to get pictures while listening to Iris "Ooo" and "Ahhh" over it. Matt, who had been forging his own route up the drainage further east, missed out on this bit of bonus wildlife. After the ewe had left we called Matt to come over and join us as we headed up the exit route and out onto the flatter, more forested portion above us. We hiked down 100ft to cross a dribbling creek, then made our way north over the next 20min to reach the non-obvious summit of Lost Creek Peak. It is not located at the higher, rounded summit one needs to cross over first, but at the end of a rocky spit that sits above the Graffiti Ledges (though they are not visible) below. The wind was blowing cold when we arrived just before noon, Tom grabbing the ammo box holding the register as we ducked over the leeward side of the peak to avoid the brunt of the chill. As with most of the Red Rocks registers, this one was busy and messy which prompted me to sign in as something else out of indifference. The others mostly followed suit and it would become a game with each successive register we encountered. There were too many pages to photograph or, frankly, care about, so I took to only capturing the last page we'd just signed.
After a longish stay, we set about reversing course to head for North Peak, an easy traverse along the flat, connecting ridgeline that takes less than 30min. This summit (not to be confused with Crest Peak, the higher summit further southwest that the park has signed as "North Peak") affords fine views of Bridge Mtn to the south. The highpoint is an easy class 3 block a bit west of where the register is located. Again, we ducked off the east side to avoid the cold wind. By this time, Karl had decided to take the easier route west to follow the road back down Red Rock Canyon, a good choice considering the difficulties that still lay ahead as the rest of us headed northeast. There were three more summits and a great deal of class 3+ scrambling as we started our way off North Peak. The general route follows the ridgeline to Goodman, but right from the start we found ourselves staring down cliffs we could not descend. This caused us to backtrack some, traversing around the north side of North Peak to get around the cliffs. There was a bit of snow on this side, the most we encountered all day, but still only about 1-3 inches and mostly consolidated and offering us little trouble. Portions of the ridge were steep enough to make us lose confidence in our boots, getting us to crabwalk or butt-scoot down these steeper sections. We spent about 50min getting from North Peak to Goodman where we added new names to the register.
Deception Peak is not far from Goodman, about 1/10mi to the north, but getting between the two can be tricky. Again, the direct route results in cliffs, but a little backtracking and some class 3-4 scrambling had us there in about 10min. We found no register, no surprise since this isn't on the 52PC list. It is described in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles mostly as a stat-padding stop and a decent overlook spot. Following this, we continued down a narrow ramp that leads one to the base of the cliffs on the NE side of Goodman. This is the top of the descent gully we would use, but we first made the short side visit to another minor point, Willow Springs Overlook. This one has a small register left by an LVMC party back in 2015. We signed in at the bottom of the first page, the top of which held my first entry. Following this brief stop, we retraced our steps to the top of the descent gully and began to make our way down. We would spend a bit over an hour making this descent, not the techically most challenging part of the day but lots of sustained class 3 scrambling on fun sandstone rock. There is more than one set of ducks one can follow, but the general idea is to follow the drainage down to where it becomes more cliffy, then follow a string of ducks to the left (north) to find a route back down to Red Rock Wash. The last half mile is more tame, finding one's way back up through the wash to return to the picnic area where we'd started many hours earlier. It was 4p before we returned, Karl having arrived about an hour earlier, waiting patiently on the leeward side of the closed bathroom, trying to stay warm as the air temperature slowly decreased with the waning afternoon. A good time was had by all despite the chilly conditions.
After returning to our other vehicles off Moenkopi Rd, Tom, Iris and Matt began the drive back home to Southern California. Karl and I headed off south about 20min's drive away to another portion of the park south of the Late Night TH and SR160. Unsigned dirt Cottonwood Valley Rd can be driven by any vehicle, at least for the first few miles. We drove less than a mile to a short spur road on the left (east) side where I planned to camp the next few nights. My old pals Eric and Steve were arriving shortly for the start of a 5-6 desert visit. The weather did not improve and after we'd all convened at the camp location, we found ourselves huddled in Steve's rented van - indoor camp when it was far too cold to sit outside. This was Steve's first desert visit, something I've been promoting for years now, and it was turning out to be one of my coldest desert romps yet. So it goes...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: North Peak
This page last updated: Sat Feb 2 16:30:11 2019
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