Saturday, August 3, 2013

Descanso Wall Hike

On the way home from San Diego, I decided it was well past time to take an exploratory hike of Descanso. It has been on my rock climbing RADAR for a while, but I wasn't sure exactly where it was or what the climbing looked like.

The turn around at the gate also serves as the parking lot.

I half intentionally passed the trail, in order to explore the area a bit more. Which was marked by an unusual large amount of dirt on the road.
"Cliff" at the base of the trail
The hardest part of the hike is the steep "cliff" between the road and the trail. Once I passed the Fire Fighter Memorial,

I wasn't sure which face was which. I took a quick break on the large boulder at the base of the wall.
Bolt on top of the boulder facing the main wall

After that I made my way east along the wall and saw a bunch of bolts along the way. At least four bolted routes, most of them look easy from the bottom. After exploring the bottom I scrambled up the rocks immediately behind where the memorial is to the top. There wasn't much up there until the east end of the face where there were 2 anchors and the easiest path down to the bottom. I look forward to head back here and do some climbing. Because of the easy access, hikeable top rope anchors and variety of difficulty, it should be a good place to take new climbers.
View from the top. Parking center left and I8 across the top


Castle Rock, Big Bear Lake, CA

The weather was threatening so rather than commit to a long adventure, I decided it was a perfect time to visit Castle Rocks. Castle Rocks is a popular hike in Big Bear Lake because it is short, hard and rewards hikers with a great view of the lake from the top. The rocks at the end of the hike offer some large faces to rock climb, but I did not bring my gear on this trip.

Thanks to the weather the trail was not very crowded. Road side parking can get sketchy if it is crowded. The trail starts steep but well maintained and easy unless the altitude gets you. You first meet the rocks from a boulder field at the bottom and see the 100 foot faces for rock climbing. As you make your way around the rock clock wise, you reach the shorter back side that offers a pretty easy scramble up to the top. At the top you have your reward of the lake view. There are also climbing anchors scattered across the top, offering a repel down or top rope for climbing.


Devil's Bridge, Sedona, AZ

Another of the Grand Canyon side trips was Sedona. Devil's Bridge was one of the outdoor activities in Sedona that came highly recommended, I took advantage of my vehicle's clearance and drove to the trailhead, rather than hike from the parking lot. Managed to only bounce my truck off the rocks once along the way.

The trail is a nice gradual mile long slope up to the bridge. The whole trail offers beautiful views of the valley, especially as you get heigher. Maybe because it was noon in July, but the bridge wasn't very crowded. After the obligatory photo op, we turned back as a thunderstorm began to threaten the valley.

North up the Valley
 Devil's Bridge from below
Devil's bridge from above


Lava River Cave, Flagstaff, AZ

Lava River Cave was an unplanned adventure as part of my Grand Canyon visit. I planned to spend the day heading up to Snow Bowl and taking the sky ride, but the weather would not cooperate. The thunderstorms prevented us from going up so we headed underground. I am aware that heading underground during rain can be a bad idea, but there was a ranger at the cave entrance and he never even suggested people not enter.

The below map is just from the parking lot to the cave's entrance. The parking lot was a crowded mess, despite being 3 miles off the paved road. I was lucky enough to arrive right as somebody was leaving and park next to the trail. The trail to the cave entrance is well marked and obvious (along the fire road). It wasn't until we arrived at the entrance that we realized how cold it would be in the cave. The average temp is around 40 fahrenheit, so we returned to the car to get long pants and sleeves.

After signing into the registry we made our way in. The first 50 yards was steep, loose and crowded. Once past that its about a mile of easy flat walking to the caves end. The ceiling height varies from about 4 feet up to about 30, but for the most part it is a comfortable 14 feet. At the end there is a pile of rocks and a hole in the lower right just big enough for an average sized person to crawl through. I wiggled my way in but all I saw was about 50 feet of crawling and graffiti, so I just backed out.

 Looking up at the entrance
Long exposure somewhere near the middle of the cave
The end