Friday, April 27, 2018

Virgin Peak

The sun set and the sun rise over Gold Butte from Virgin Peak

One of the greatest things about the Gold Butte country is that it offers a wide array of geographic features and environments. You can explore red sandstone cliffs and canyons, access the Colorado river down through Hells Kitchen, explore old copper mines or head up Virgin Mountain and be in the pine trees.

I have spent a lot of time on Virgin Mountain growing up. I love jumping on the wheelers, heading up through Nickel Creek, driving up the mountain and exploring mines and relaxing while drinking from Wire Grass Spring. I have hiked quite a bit on the mountain as well but have never hiked to Virgin Peak…until now.

Virgin Peak sits at 8,087 and is the highest peak on the Virgin Mountain Range, (growing up I always called Bunkerville Mountain but maybe that's just us Logandale folk?). To hike the Virgin Peak the best route, if not the only route, is from the south side, base camping near Whitney Pockets. From the Corral at Lower Camp to the Peak the hike is 5.38 miles. I wanted to hike the entire ridge so I took a little different route but next time I will hike up through the canyon a ways and then hit the ridge a little higher up as shown on the map below in blue. The route I went was pretty rough and there were a few parts that were a little sketchy. I don’t recommend taking the yellow line on the map below.

I did took the Yellow line but next time I would take the Blue line through the Canyon

 This little section across the hogs back was a little sketchy

This is where I started my hike from. If you look just above the .com part there is a chucker or sage hen

I was able to do the hike in 3 hours but the last 45 minutes was in the dark with a headlamp so I think you could do it a little faster if you wanted. If you want to train for this hike go run 491 flights of stairs.

The hike was most excellent. The Birds eye view it offers of the Gold Butte country is amazing. For anyone who is familiar with the surrounding areas of Moapa Valley and Virgin Valley it offers a great vantage point of these areas as well. On a somewhat clear day you can even see the lights of Las Vegas and Henderson.

I had a hard time narrowing down my favorite pictures so here are quite a few of them on the way up to the Virgin Peak.

My plan was to come down to the east and hit the Virgin Range Peak but getting off Virgin Peak to the east was treacherous at best and I was hammered by the time I hit the saddle between the peaks so I just ended up going down Upper Camp Canyon. It would be my advice to get off the peak the same way you came up. 

I made camp right at 8,000 feet. It was a little rocky but to camp on the peak and watch the sun come up was worth it.

my pack list:

sleeping bag

watch cord
battery pack

toilet paper

extra socks
long sleeve shirt
tank top

8 oz jerky
laura bar
pop tarts
90 oz water

for the truck:
ice chest
frozen water bottles

Note: pack weighed in at 27.4 lbs
next time I will take half the food and an extra liter of water

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Willis Creek - Grand Staircase National Monument

There is something about a slot canyon that reminds us of our insignificance upon the landscape.  Some hide from that feeling of in-consequence while others seek with wanderlust to find it.  Willis Creek is a great, nontechnical hike, where a back country rambler can easily satisfy the wild wanderlust.

Willis Creek is found within the Grand Staircase Escalante Nation Monument along the Skutumpah road. Take of Highway 12 in Cannonville Utah towards Kodachrome State Park. A few miles below Cannonville, before you cross the Paria River, turn off the oiled road at the Sign that marks Skutumpah road.

It is dirt road from here. In dry conditions you can most likely make it in a two-wheeled vehicle, however I recommend it be a high clearance vehicle and that you have some experience driving in off highway conditions. If there has been rain or if it is raining be advised this road can be treacherous. This is a county road but sometimes it doesn’t get maintained for quite some time, so the conditions can really vary. If it’s raining I really don’t advise you taking this ramble, especially since you are heading to a slot canyon which was created by runoff from storms.

Willis Creek collects all the water pretty much from Bryce Canyon Rainbow & Yovimpa Points to Natural Arch. Willis Creek really collects a lot of water and drains a lot of country. Knowing current weather conditions is a must. If there has been recent rains or there is rain in the forecast for the day recalculate your trip plans.

Willis Creek is a Family favorite for us. Its an easy hike and provides amazing views. You don’t need any ropes or hiking\ technical experience to enjoy these slot canyons. From the trailhead to the Paria is 2.35 miles one way with only about 250 feet of elevation drop.

In the summers the temperatures can reach into the high 80s and this hike can provide some shadowy canyons to hide within as well as running water to cool off in. There is water in the creek so wear appropriate shoes to hike in.

Willis Creek can also be a great Winter back country ramble with the added element of ice flows within the canyon walls.  To experience the freeze and thaw of the ages, grinding down the canyon walls is worth the freezing temperatures.

I would strongly suggest getting ice cleats or crampons if you plan to hike very far. It will greatly enhance your adventure and save your hind-end from repeated slips on the ice.

As with any good back country ramble a good map is essential. I recommend the National Geographic Grand Staircase map. It shows all the major trail-heads and main roads you will need for a good adventure in these parts.