Calico Peaks Rock Climbing
|GPS:||36.158, -115.434 Google Map · Climbing Area Map|
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|Shared By:||kenr on Feb 10, 2017|
|Admins:||Larry DeAngelo, Justin Johnsen|
DescriptionThough climbers think of the Calico area mainly for sport crags and bouldering, there's also lots of scrambling and hiking in dramatic situations and with interesting moves.
Indeed there's so much interesting scrambling in half-day range of some trailhead, lots of people just head up and out with no specific objective or route description and start exploring -- making up their own adventure.
. . (but keep in mind that the Calico terrain is complicated and serious, and sometimes it's much more difficult to get back down a steep section than it is to climb up it).
Visitors with limited time might appreciate some clues about which routes are have interesting climbing of which kinds and what difficulty, and the descriptions linked from this page should be helpful for that. Anyway there's no danger of public descriptions "taming" the Calicos, since there are hundreds of possible 3rd and 4th and low-5th class scramblng variations.
Some of the interesting peaks include - - > see on Map
. . . (South to North) . . .
- Tank Peak (or "Calico Tank Peak") . (4880 ft) . (N36.16202 W115.43738)
. . . (see on SummitPost).
- Point 4708 ft . (N36.16212 W115.44704)
. . . (There are two other summits of similar elevation nearby roughly east and west from this).
- Red Cap (or "Turtlehead Junior") (4925 ft) . (N36.16612 W115.44258)
Mostly white sandstone -- except for its summit cap which is red sandstone (and not so easy to get up on top of).
. . . (see on SummitPost, and detailed description in Courtney Purcell book page 70
. . . . also with photos + GPS in Branch Whitney book pages 69-73).
nearby peaks not in the Calico Hills "proper":
. . . mostly different rock type . . .
. . . but accessed from the same trailheads . . .
. . . so often included under the "Calico Hills" name.
- Kraft Mt (elevation 4715 ft) . (lat long approx N36.16412 W115.42168)
. . . . and with photos + GPS in Branch Whitney book pages 29-35).
- "New Peak" (4990 ft) . (N36.16532 W115.43259)
- "Tinaja Peak" (4765 ft) . (N36.16961 W115.45149)
- "Goat Bed Peak" (5200 ft) . (N36.16982 W115.41378)
. . . (? perhaps reach it by a traverse from Greycap ?)
- Greycap (or Gray Cap) (5443 ft) . (N36.17881 W115.42769)
. . . (see on BirdAndHike).
. . . (see detailed description in Courtney Purcell book page 73,
. . . . also with photos + GPS in Branch Whitney book pages 42-48).
- Turtlehead Mt (6325 ft) . (N36.18022 W115.44588) - (more for its size and views than the climbing quality).
. . . (see on SummitPost, also with photos + GPS in Branch Whitney book pages 74-76).
Three lower points that might enable crossing over the hills might be:
South Pass (GPS lat long approx N36.1534 W115.4323).-.(elevation 4295 ft /1310m) .
- - > "so" on the map.
Located between the South Ridge and Red Book Point. Might(?) enable crossing West->East from the Second Pullout on the Scenic Loop road to any of the East side parking areas - (but that crossing not checked by us).
East access by Calico Basin ...
- from Assisi Rd parking (N36.1495 W115.4199) : Hike WNW about +630 vertical feet over 0.75 mile distance, at first on rough gravel road, gets much steeper with some scrambing sections near the end.
- from Red Springs parking (N36.1466 W115.4186) : Hike NorthWest about +650 vertical feet over 0.85 mile distance, gets much steeper with some scrambing sections near the end.
- ? approach from First or Second Pull-out? We've seen a hint that this might be possible -- but Not checked by us.
Middle Pass (N36.1581 W115.4369).-.(4380 ft /1335m) .
- - > "mid" on the map.
Located between Red Book Point and Calico Peak. Enables crossing from the Second Pullout on the Scenic Loop road on the West side, to the Sandstone Rd or Assisi Rd parking areas on the SouthEast side.
West approach from Second Pull-out parking on the Red Rock Scenic Loop road is quickest.
East access by Calico Basin ...
- from Assisi Rd parking (N36.1495 W115.4199) : Hike NW 0.4 mile (toward the big lower SE ridge of Red Book Point) on rough gravel road to some picnic tables, then NNW 0.3 mile going right along the base of the ridge to the base of a wide gully (N36.1540 W115.4260) ... (this point could also be reached by going 0.4 mile WSW from Sandstone Rd parking) ... The central gully starts narrow and steep, so likely better at first to scramble up right (NNW) onto slabs above its right side and scramble up on those (roughly West) for about 350 feet, then traverse left into the central gully and scramble up that, at first West then curves WNW and finally NorthWest (along the base of the Red Book Point ridge above left) for a total of about 0.5 mile to a higher saddle - somewhere around (N36.1567 W115.4335) - (see the Calico / Tanks Pass ahead above slightly rightward). Continue over this saddle and scramble down 0.15 mile NW to a flat sandy (wet?) area - the "Middle Sand Flat" (N36.1577 W115.4354). Then continue farther left (WNW) about 400 ft in a narrow gully (somewhat difficult) which goes over a small pass, to reach Middle Pass . . . (Total about +600 vertical feet over 1.4 mile distance from Assisi Rd).
- return to Assisi Rd parking from Middle Pass : Head roughly SE about 0.15 mile parallel alongside below the NW ridge of Red Book Point (first to the the "Middle Sand Flat" (N36.1577 W115.4354) and scramble up onto a rise - (somewhere around N36.1567 W115.4335) - (with big view to S + E). Scramble over this rise down into a broad gully. Go a long ways SSE then SE down in this gully, with some interesting scrambling sections. Just before the central gully drops down steeper and narrower - (? somewhere around (N36.1542 W115.4274 ?) - exit Left (NE) onto slabs. Find the easiest way wandering down those slabs until reach unsigned trail on gentle ground (N36.1540 W115.4260). Next hike SSE for 0.3 mile along base of big rock ridge to some picnic tables, then down a rough gravel road SE 0.4 mile to Assisi Rd parking.
Calico / Tank Pass (N36.1610 W115.4381).-.(4750 ft /1450m) - [ photo1 | photo2 ] .
- - > "ct" on the map.
Located between Calico Peak and Tank Peak. Enables crossing from the Sandstone Quarry parking on the Scenic Loop road on the NorthWest side to the Sandstone Rd or Assisi Rd parking areas on the SouthEast side.
NorthWest access by Scenic Loop road is quickest ...
- approach from Sandstone Quarry parking using the Calico Tanks trail.
SouthEast access by Calico Basin ...
- approach from Sandstone Rd or Assisi Rd parking to the Middle Sand Flat (N36.1577 W115.4354), then scramble up from there - [ see Photo of S side of pass ].
There are some nice traverse loops, and there's the "grand traverse".
Grand traverse ... going in the South-to-North direction has easier navigation and takes more of its difficult climbing in the (more fun) uphill direction ... crossing the summits in order of South Ridge, Red Book Point, Calico Peak, Tank Peak, Red Cap. Start at Red Springs (or 1st Pull-Out) parking and finish at Sandstone Quarry parking.
. . . (Disadvantage of this direction is that it makes car-bike shuttle or two-car shuttle more difficult).
Directions -- link up these routes:
- Calico Peak NorthEast Ramp (in descent)
+2250 vertical feet uphill over 3.8 miles distance.
. . . (+675 vertical meters over 6.1 km distance).
But more important is the length of 5th + 4th + 3rd class climbing and scrambling: about
12100 ft total length of climbing+scrambling (or 3700 meters).
Which says that more than half the total distance is climbing and scrambing (rather than hiking or running).
Each section with a peak between passes has a worthwhile traverse:
- South Ridge from its south end to South Pass
- Red Book Point from South Pass to Middle Pass
- Calico Peak from near Middle Pass to Calico / Tank Pass
- Tank Peak + Red Cap from Calico / Tank Pass to northeast end
Some link-ups of multiple traverse sections to consider:
- South Ridge + Red Book Point from 2nd Pull-Out or Calico Basin parking
- Red Book Point + Calico Peak from 2nd Pull-Out parking
- Calico Peak + Tank Peak + Red Cap from 2nd Pull-Out or Sandstone Quarry
Note that trying to link the northern west side ridges and peaks of the Calicos directly between Calico Peak and Sandstone Quarry is blocked by at least two deep chasms - (but still it's interesting to explore different portions of those northwest ridges and peaks "in and out" from the Calico Tanks trail).
- book: Rambles & Scrambles, by Courtney Purcell (2nd edition 2015).
- book: Hiking Las Vegas, by Branch Whitney (Huntington Press, 2015).
note: Many loose rocks and weak breakable hand- and foot-holds on these routes - (even when they're plenty dry). Two major implications:
(a) Maintain extra energy and time and attention to keep testing lots of holds - (and keep the difficulty of the climbing sequences you attempt well within your capabilities so you can always have a hand you're not currently depending on available for testing);
(b) Parties with multiple persons need to either climb very close together so there's not much vertical distance for a loose or breaking rock to accelerate before hitting one of the following climbers (who presumably is wearing a helmet), or climb potential-loose-rock sequences one a time, with following members staying far off to the side (and sheltered) away from below the current climber -- because loose rocks often bounce in unexpected directions off sideways and far outward from where they start.
note: The warning about wet rock being fragile applies also to scrambling routes around here -- so scrambling on ridges and peaks in the Calico area is not a "safer alternative" to technical sport or trad rock climbing a day or two after substantial rain. Just because you're not on 5th class terrain doesn't mean you won't die or get seriously injured if a hold breaks.
RAIN AND WET ROCK The sandstone in Red Rocks is fragile and is very easily damaged when it is wet. Details
Holds rip off and climbs have been and will continue to be permanently damaged due to climbers not respecting this phenomenon. After a heavy storm the rock will remain wet, sometimes for several days. PLEASE DO NOT CLIMB IN RED ROCKS during or after rain. A good rule of thumb is that if the ground near your climb is at all damp (and not powdery dry sand), then do not climb. There are many alternatives (limestone, granite, basalt, and plastic) nearby. ***** HUMAN WASTE ***** Human waste is one of the major issues plaguing Red Rocks. The Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council identified this problem years ago and has worked to provide "wag bags" free of charge in several locations (Black Velvet, First Pullout, Kraft Mtn/Bouldering, The Gallery, and The Black Corridor). These bags are designed so that you can pack your waste out - consider bringing one to be part of your kit (just like your rope and shoes and lunch) no matter where you go. Once used, please dispose of them properly (do not throw them in the toilets at the parking areas). This project was funded primarily by the American Alpine Club
Getting ThereThere are several trailheads for this area
- - > see on the map . (marked with P circle icons).
East side by Calico Basin Rd ...
- Red Springs (N36.1464 W115.4189).-.(elevation 3600ft /1100m): at west end of Calico Basin Road.
- Assisi Rd (N36.1495 W115.4199) .-.(3620ft /1105m): at its intersection with the south end of Sandstone Rd.
- Sandstone Rd (N36.15679 W115.41995).-.(3700ft /1130m): at north end of Sandstone Rd.
West side by Red Rock Scenic Loop (requires paying entry fee) ...
- First Pull-out (N36.1461 W115.4309).-.(3920ft / 1195m).
- Second Pull-out (N36.1518 W115.4374).-.(4020ft /1225m).
- Sandstone Quarry (N36.1622 W115.4502).-.(4320ft /1317m).
Days w Precip
Prime Climbing Season