Friday, 28 February 2014

Superstition Climbing

After our hiking trip on the Arizona Trail we took a rest day to get cleaned up and catch up on photos and other computer stuff.

The following day we were right back at it with a morning visit to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum (which had a huge variety of plants and really nice trails) near Superior (see Andrew's photos here) and then afternoon sport climbing at Queen Creek.
These descriptive and decorative tiles were placed throughout the Arboretum.
What a lot of work involved in making them!
This sign was sort of humorous until we actually saw a rattle snake in the trees along on of the trails.
The Queen Creek climbing area is a small area of spires and large boulders. Some of the routes seemed very hard for their grade but it was fun climbing and we pretty much had the place to ourselves (we only saw two other people near the end of the day).

The following day we headed over to Lost Dutchman State Park and the Superstition Mountains to find a route called "The Crying Dinosaur." The guidebook says, essentially, follow the main trail, pass a big outcropping on the right, then you'll be able to see the shape of a dinosaur head in the rock. In this photo below, in the closest part of the rock, the dinosaur head it so clearly visible to me. Two eyes, nose, mouth. That's gotta be it! Ya . . . no . . . that was not it. It didn't match the sketch drawing in the guidebook and it took us FOREVER to figure out the route was on the another wall just out the photo on the right and it took us a full two hours to get there! Very frustrating!
Looks like a crying dinosaur to me!
The top of the first pitch required a squeeze through this little tunnel to get to the belay.
(This was pretty much the only photo we took on the way up.)
Two rappels took us down the other side of the pillar. We decided the
old faded sling that was already there needed some new backup. 
Andrew getting ready to start the second and longer rappel.
On rappel.
The view.
Me rappelling. You can see Andrew and his white helmet below.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Hiking the Arizona Trail

When I used to think of Arizona, I didn't immediately think of mountains. That changed this week.

Doing some research into trails that we could hike while visiting Dad & Elaine in Apache Junction, Andrew came across some information on the Arizona National Scenic Trail, an 800 mile + trail running north/south between the Utah to Mexico borders. Part of the trail is quite close so we asked Dad to see if he could find a copy of the new guidebook before we got there. 

The trail is fairly new and pieced together mostly from existing trails and backcountry roads. We chose the 47 miles (75 km) between Lake Roosevelt and Superior. The first part was classified as "strenuous" which I would have to agree with. Lots of up, not much down, and some very rough and rocky ground to cover. We felt like we were moving pretty slow the first day.
Up the first small hill with Roosevelt Lake in the background.
These trail markers were at most trail/road crossings but, for the most part, the trail was easy to follow. 
There were a few old (and not so old) ranch watering holes along the way.
One of the more elaborate cairns.
Getting higher! This was a short section of fire access road.
Our campsite the first night. Beautiful sunrise in the morning.
The second day gradually took us down to Reavis Ranch which was comparatively lush with some water running in the creek. There are some old apple trees, planted in the 1870's, that are still  producing apples and some other type of berry bushes that we couldn't identify.

We camped here overnight and managed to get washed up a bit and re-fill our water supply but, due to the still quite high altitude and clear night, we nearly froze to death! It took a long time for us to break camp the next morning as we had to keep stopping to warm up our fingers.
Old machinery remnants at Reavis Ranch.
Remnants of an old cattle chute at Reavis Ranch.
A big old tree!
Great views!

There is lots of colour in the desert! One of the really nice things about this trail is the diversity of the landscape. Different types of cactus as you move from area to area; large areas of junipers; cottonwood trees in some of the creek areas; various colours of rock. 

Sunrise just coming up over the hillside.
Another lush canyon. Although even in some of these areas the creek beds were dry. We had to be really careful about keeping water bags/bottles filled when we could.
Near the end of the hike, checking the last section of the route description and seeing if there's cell phone coverage to confirm our pickup plans.
Last views along the trail.
It's very difficult for us to do a hike like this on our own without transportation hassles so many, many thanks to Dad & Elaine for dropping us off and picking us up!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Groom Loop Trail & Desert Botanical Gardens

After (sadly) leaving the climbing in Red Rocks we travelled further south and spent a couple nights in Prescott, Arizona. We'd driven through here on a previous trip and liked what we saw so decided to explore a bit further by hiking the Groom Loop Trail in the Prescott National Forest. The trail is about 15 km and goes to the top of Spruce Mountain.
From the fire lookout on Spruce Mountain.
We found a really nice little restaurant, El Gato Azul, which had a long list of vegetarian tapas. The bonus was a really great jazz band playing the night we were there. I'm guessing the band members were in the 60 - 70 age range. They had cello, drums, piano and a guy playing two different types of flutes, one of which we'd never seen before. The woman playing the piano was fantastic and part way through the first set, a man took her place. We wondered what we were in for as he hobbled over to  the piano, stooped over, wearing old jeans and a ball cap on top of his curly grey dishevelled hair. Well, we were in for more of a treat as his fingers absolutely flew over the keyboard! Never judge a book by its cover!

From there we headed to Apache Junction to my dad & step-mom's place (after stopping at REI in Tempe, of course!). We went to the Desert Botanical Gardens where there was a Chihuly glass exhibit. Elaine suggested going late afternoon so that we could see the exhibit during the day and again at night. Great suggestion as the lighted displays were quite beautiful.
Crazy glass and sunshine.
My Dad and the blue starburst.
During the day.
And lit up as night was falling.
A giant tower of glass balloons.
This Teddy Bear Cholla is not one you want to cuddle up with!
Fire in the gardens!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Red Rock Canyon - Part 2

Day 4 - Climbing gear store, Springs Preserve (Andrew took lots of photos!), movie (Gravity starring Sandra Bullock) in Imax 3D, REI and then one of the nicest restaurants we've found in the Summerlin neighbourhood of Vegas, the Vintner Grill.

Day 5 - more sport climbs. We finished the day with this easy two-pitch route at Sandstone Quarry that was half light coloured rock and half red rock. And it had about a 10 minute approach walk from the parking lot. Ideal!

Day 6 - Olive Oil. A 3-star, 5-pitch trad route in Juniper Canyon.
Andrew at the top of pitch 2. Great gear placements but I was cursing him by the time I got up there because I had to use the nut tool to get out nearly every single piece of gear he put in. Very frustrating!
And it was very hot in full sun so the heat was making me a bit cranky as well.  :-(
This was my view from the top of pitch 3 as Andrew led around the corner and up pitch 4.
Not quite so cranky any more.
I led pitch 5, the very long (200 ft) but very fun crack/chimney pitch to the top
(the "obvious" crack just right of centre and left of the highest point in the photo).
Not cranky at all after that! :-)
On the last little uphill back to the car. Great sky pattern and colours.
Day 7 - more sport climbs and despite the fact that we were getting tired and sore from climbing, we did our hardest routes of the week today! 

A sad and lonely looking palm tree. 

Monday, 10 February 2014

Red Rock Canyon

From Zion National Park we headed over to the eastern edge of Las Vegas. It's about a 15 minute drive to Red Rock Canyon from where we're staying. We've been here several times before as it's one of our favourite climbing areas. So much to do and so much variety!

Day 1 - single pitch sport routes on Ultraman Wall. Long, steep, slabby, balancy, trust your feet!

Andrew rappelling from the top of one of the climbs on Ultraman.
Amazingly, even though it was Saturday and the canyon was quite busy with cars, cyclists, runner,
hikers and other climbers, we had this area to ourselves!
Love the red rock. 
Day 2 - single pitch trad routes at Willow Springs. Easy grades but good to get used to putting in gear again.

Bomber gear placement.
Andrew found a unique belay spot at the top of one climb. Not gonna get pulled off that one!
Airplane designs in the sky.
Day 3 - multi-pitch trad route called Cat in the Hat. This is a very popular route which we tried to do the first time we climbed at Red Rocks but there were so many people that it was a total gong show and we bailed off before we ended up in the middle of an accident scene.

This time we thought perhaps a weekday in "winter" and starting early would help. It did to some extent as there was only one other pair of climbers on the route. They started just ahead of us and moved a bit faster as the guy leading was quite a good and confident climber and barely put any gear in. His second was a slower climber and then slowed things further by having a conversation on her cell phone half way up the climb!

The route does deserve its popularity. Great views, mostly gets the sun, interesting rock features, a few challenging spots but really good gear placements.
Heading to Mescalito to climb Cat in the Hat.
Andrew at the top of the crack of Pitch 3.
Andrew nearing the top of the last pitch.
Love the red stripe of rock on this mountain.
Andrew and I both, at different times during the day, caught a glimpse of an animal with a ringed tail. We couldn't tell what it was for sure but when we stopped at the Visitor's Centre we found it was a ringtail cat. They are good climbers!
Day 4 - Rest! Or, as Andrew says, "Tomorrow Shelley is letting me have a rest day."  :-)

Andrew's blog post here.