Big Bend Chat

Big Bend National Park Q&A => The Backroads => Topic started by: caleythomas on July 19, 2006, 02:13:22 PM

Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: caleythomas on July 19, 2006, 02:13:22 PM
Hello All,

I'm in the formative stage of an expedition for late august, and, be gentle, I'm considering hiking to Elephant Tusk and possibly scaling the peak in august.

The principles concerned are three men (age 24, 22, 20) in excellent physical condition, trained in the not as hot/more humid climate of central texas outdoor summer labor.

Realizing the dangers of overheating and dehydration if not properly equipped, I was inquiring about the possibility of doing this with adequate precautions.

If acted upon, we would be equipped with the appropriate 7.5 topo maps, trail book, and info from you, the experts.

Please respond with your opinions.
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: RichardM on July 19, 2006, 02:38:53 PM
Be sure and check out the SummitPost.org (http://www.summitpost.org/mountain/rock/155058/elephant-tusk.html) info on this, posted by none other than Viper.  He posted a little about it here (http://www.bigbendchat.com/viewtopic.php?p=5221#5221).  Check out the climb.mountains.com (http://www.climb.mountains.com/Classic_Peaks_files/Desert_Classics_files/Elephant_Tusk.htm) site that Oilcan mentioned as well.
Title: Re: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: presidio on July 19, 2006, 03:07:09 PM
Quote from: "caleythomas"
I'm considering hiking to Elephant Tusk and possibly scaling the peak in august.


Sounds like a great adventure, with proper preparation and due respect for the environmental conditions. You will need to be fully self-reliant as help in an emergency would almost certainly arrive too late in such a remote location and extreme conditions as you will experience.

I enjoy hiking the desert in its most harsh setting....summer. Very few folks attempt that and they miss an integral part of the desert experience.

You will need LOTS of water. I would leave camp well before sunrise and get the flats and part of the uphill out of the way before the heat begins to hammer you. No shade out there. Depending on conditions the day you are there, you also might want to consider hunkering down on the mountain in whatever cliff shade you can find and resting until late afternoon before hiking out.

Wear long pants, long sleeves and a boonie hat. Some folks think that wearing long-sleeves in summer is too hot, but it substantially slows the water loss you get from baking unprotected skin (even with sunscreen). I'd also recommend leather gloves for sun, plant and rock protection. Good boots are essential. This is not your typical walk in the park.

You will have bragging rights after doing this one.

Oh, and you MUST take a camera to wow the rest of us.
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: presidio on July 19, 2006, 03:08:14 PM
Quote from: "RichardM"
Be sure and check out the SummitPost.org (http://www.summitpost.org/mountain/rock/155058/elephant-tusk.html) info on this, posted by none other than Viper.


I'm impressed. This is one hike that is a must-do, whatever the season.
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: Robert on July 19, 2006, 06:05:50 PM
As Presidio says if you are doing this as a day hike I would also recommend getting started well before the sun is up. The lower part of the trail is easy walking so you should be able to follow it without much light. It will get a little trickier as you approach the Tusk.

If you do this as an overnighter you can get a late afternoon or early evening start and get up to the Tusk and camp and then scale the peak in the morning. There's some ok camping up at the second spring. Not such how reliable that spring is but I think the one at the base of the Tusk is more reliable. At any rate, you need to pack enough water for the whole trip.

Don't underestimate the heat. There is no shade until you get up to the base of the Tusk. It will be hot.
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: TheWildWestGuy on July 19, 2006, 06:47:59 PM
I have been to the Tusk several times but never tried to scale it.  Read Parent's Hiking Big Bend Book on this trip and the other posts.  The springs near the Tusk are normally always reliable so if you bring a filter you should be able to resupply but don't count on it 100%.  The drive in on the River Road from Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive can be done with any high-clearance vehicle and you don't need 4WD even though a short section of the road is on the Black Gap cutoff.   Count on 70-90 minutes to get to the trailhead once you leave Ross Maxwell.   Don't be in a hurry or you will not enjoy the ride or have as much fun.  

I would recommend hiking up near the Tusk the first day, making a basecamp, exploring around the perimeter of the tusk for the rest of the day, and then scaling the Tusk and returning to your vehicle the next afternoon.  Otherwise you will have to drive in the night before and sleep at the ET Primitive Campsite and attempt the entire trip as a dayhike.  Driving in and hiking roundtrip in a single day is do-able but you better get an early start.  

If you decide to backpack in and make an overnight basecamp go about 1/2-3/4 mile north past the 1st spring at the very base of the Tusk and you will come to a second spring with much better views of the Tusk and a great campsite near a large rock on the hill above the spring.   Drop your heavy gear, make camp, filter water, and head out for the rest of the day around the NW flank of the Tusk.   There are several scenic canyons with springs on the West and NW flanks of the Tusk and a very nice slot canyon at the base of the Tusk below Spring #1.   That is why I recommend making an overnight basecamp before summiting the next day.  Lots to do and see in this area and it would be a shame to rush up to the summit and rush down again as a dayhike, just to say you made the summit but never had any time to enjoy it.  If you overnight from a basecamp first you will be able to start the climb at 8-9am and have plenty of time and daylight.   TWWG
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: Casa Grande on July 19, 2006, 07:25:35 PM
Caley,

All due respect to you and your brothers, you are going to get yourselves in serious trouble. I think you need to reconsider taking it at a different time or take Presidio and TWWG's advice very seriously, as well as the heat!  Your brothers and I nearly killed ourselves just doing the Banta Shut-In in April when we ran out of water long before we were done because we miscalculated the distance AND one didn't even bring any water!

Caley, you need to be in charge of this and if your brothers don't take you seriously about this hike, you will all surely die.
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: presidio on July 19, 2006, 08:24:56 PM
Quote from: "David Locke"
Your brothers and I nearly killed ourselves just doing the Banta Shut-In in April when we ran out of water long before we were done because we mis calculated the distance AND one didn't even bring any water!


Hmmm.....David perhaps has a better take on the group's capabilities. No matter who does this hike, it is one serious endeavor this time of year. Beware.
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: Al on July 19, 2006, 09:02:24 PM
Be sure you are hydrated before you hit the trail.  If you day hike be sure you have at least a gallon and a half of water apiece even then I wouldn't day hike it if you have the gear to camp over night.  If you don't have the gear do the day hike and start buying camping gear.  I'd pack a water purification pump in case you need more water.  The springs are not hard to find and if anyone knows their reliability it's TWWG.  

Making a 2 or 3 day deal out of it will be more enjoyable.  Camping below Elephant Tusk is real nice, great views and sunsets with several day hikes and if you want to be away from it all you are guaranteed to be on your own.  

So if you scew up it will be many hours before you'll have help once you buddies go get it.  I'd be amazed if you see anyone else once you start hiking.  

If you do stay overnight bring a tarp to make some shade.  Follow TWWG's advice, hike in, drop your stuff and set up a camp, then go explore and pump some water.

It's a great area of the park.  Enjoy and be sure and let us know how it went as well as feedback on any bad advice . . .

Is David right about y'all going half ass out into the desert with him?  What's the other side of THAT story?   :-$

Al
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: caleythomas on July 19, 2006, 10:58:05 PM
Well, first of all, allow me to thank you all for your advice.  It's very nice to be able to get such well-informed advice so quickly after posing such a question.  

Before I decide to do the trip with my two younger brothers, it will definitely have to be agreed that it's done right: camping overnight at the base of Elephant Tusk, plenty of protection from the sun, and water filtration devices coupled with camel packs, etc.

As far as the failed desert trek, I wasn't on that trip but the two younger brothers in question were....TBD

 :)

Thanks again for all of the info!

Caley
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: caleythomas on July 19, 2006, 11:31:48 PM
Shea....(The Other Other Brother)

Dave we all know what really happened out there at the Banta Shut-in.  U drank the standing water....went desert crazy....and dumped our water out.   :shock:  I told you one Iodine tablet wasn't enough.  :lol:

*JK*

Anyhow, thanks for the advise guys. Dont worry Dave...you're coming with us.....wouldn't think of dragging butt for miles through open desert in 100+ degrees temperature without our buddy at our side.  :twisted:


We'll make time for NiRvAnA also!
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 19, 2006, 11:45:29 PM
Quote
Be sure you are hydrated before you hit the trail.


Irrespective of any other advice in this thread, I'm a big believer in this piece of advice. I drink water until I think I'm gonna barf, and then I drink another 32 ounces. I hurt a lot less that night, the next morning, and any subsequent time on the trail when I've waterlogged myself before taking off.

I also won't EVER hike more than 3 miles again without a hydration bladder and a tube connected to the front of my pack. It makes all the difference in the world.

I hope this is helpful, jb
Title: hyponatremia
Post by: Joe on July 20, 2006, 12:26:22 AM
Quote from: "jeffblaylock"
I drink water until I think I'm gonna barf, and then I drink another 32 ounces.


I'm also a big believer in hydrating before, during, and after a hike, but be aware of hyponatremia (http://www.geo-outdoors.info/hyponatremia.htm).

It became a big problem at the Grand Canyon.  The rangers were telling everyone hiking the Canyon to drink lots of water, and the message was getting through.  However, some people were drinking massive amounts of water and not eating.  This diluted the sodium and other electrolytes in their systems, and resulted in hyponatremia.

Now along with telling hikers to drink lots of water, they are also told to eat salty snacks, use an electrolyte-replacing mix, or drink a sports drink like Gatorade in addition to plain water.
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: Casa Grande on July 20, 2006, 07:37:08 AM
Quote from: "caleythomas"
Shea....(The Other Other Brother)

Dave we all know what really happened out there at the Banta Shut-in.  U drank the standing water....went desert crazy....and dumped our water out.   :shock:  I told you one Iodine tablet wasn't enough.  :lol:

*JK*

Anyhow, thanks for the advise guys. Dont worry Dave...you're coming with us.....wouldn't think of dragging butt for miles through open desert in 100+ degrees temperature without our buddy at our side.  :twisted:


We'll make time for NiRvAnA also!



yeah, yeah, yeah
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 20, 2006, 09:34:24 AM
Quote
However, some people were drinking massive amounts of water and not eating.


Good advice: be sure to eat while you're filling up with water.
Title: Re: hyponatremia
Post by: Robert on July 20, 2006, 10:01:34 AM
Quote from: "Joe"
Quote from: "jeffblaylock"
I drink water until I think I'm gonna barf, and then I drink another 32 ounces.


I'm also a big believer in hydrating before, during, and after a hike, but be aware of


The typical marathon hydration advice is to start hydrating the day prior to the event (stay away from caffeine, alcohol) and then in the morning start drinking 6-8 oz. every 20 minutes or so a couple of hours prior to starting. Your body can't process much more than this so anything more than this doesn't help. Then try to keep this schedule of drinking while hiking.

The problem is that once you get too dehydrated you can't rehydrate effectively without stopping and getting out of the sun.
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: TheWildWestGuy on July 20, 2006, 06:08:35 PM
I am 95% sure the Springs at the base of the Tusk and ~2/3 mile up-trail from the Tusk will be flowing.   I would still carry a bare minimum to get me back to the vehicle if they are not but they probably will be.  I have been there during some very dry periods and they always seem to have a little baseline (fossil groundwater) flow.  I usually drink lots of water near the springs, eat salty snacks, and tank-up everything I have to put water in, and then I carry my filter on day-hikes because there are a surprising number of springs and tinaja's in the Sierra Quemada's including the Tusk area.  I much prefer filters to Iodine tablets, I hate Iodine tablets and they seem to make me sweat even more profusely (Iodine poisioning?).
The canyons and drainages on the NW and West sides of the Tusk are very interesting and scenic places that probably only rarely see a human boot print.  Just look at your topo maps or Google Earth and go cross country around the base of the Tusk - it's a relatively quick route from a basecamp near the springs and shade is usually present in rock overhangs and small slot canyons in this area.   Don't count on any cell phone coverage at all and be prepared to be your own "first responder".
Even in August I think you will have a great trip if you are properly prepared and this is one of the most wild and scenic areas of the Park that is rarely visited and sparsely explored.   For the most part this entire section of the Park belongs largely to the wildlife with very little human impact/influence.   If you camp at Spring #2 you will enjoy the alpenglow off the Tusk and feel the cool evening breezes flowing up the canyon north of the Tusk.  It's a great area - makes me want to go right now... TWWG
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: Vince T on July 20, 2006, 06:38:19 PM
Quote from: "TheWildWestGuy"
It's a great area - makes me want to go right now... TWWG


Dang...after reading that, me too!
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: Casa Grande on July 20, 2006, 06:40:07 PM
Quote from: "TheWildWestGuy"
I am 95% sure the Springs at the base of the Tusk and ~2/3 mile up-trail from the Tusk will be flowing.   I would still carry a bare minimum to get me back to the vehicle if they are not but they probably will be.  I have been there during some very dry periods and they always seem to have a little baseline (fossil groundwater) flow.  I usually drink lots of water near the springs, eat salty snacks, and tank-up everything I have to put water in, and then I carry my filter on day-hikes because there are a surprising number of springs and tinaja's in the Sierra Quemada's including the Tusk area.  I much prefer filters to Iodine tablets, I hate Iodine tablets and they seem to make me sweat even more profusely (Iodine poisioning?).
The canyons and drainages on the NW and West sides of the Tusk are very interesting and scenic places that probably only rarely see a human boot print.  Just look at your topo maps or Google Earth and go cross country around the base of the Tusk - it's a relatively quick route from a basecamp near the springs and shade is usually present in rock overhangs and small slot canyons in this area.   Don't count on any cell phone coverage at all and be prepared to be your own "first responder".
Even in August I think you will have a great trip if you are properly prepared and this is one of the most wild and scenic areas of the Park that is rarely visited and sparsely explored.   For the most part this entire section of the Park belongs largely to the wildlife with very little human impact/influence.   If you camp at Spring #2 you will enjoy the alpenglow off the Tusk and feel the cool evening breezes flowing up the canyon north of the Tusk.  It's a great area - makes me want to go right now... TWWG


great advice, TWWG...makes me wanna go with those yahoos
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: homerboy2u on July 20, 2006, 06:42:51 PM
Quote
fossil groundwater
....HUH :?:

 Never heard of that before,please explain....
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: presidio on July 20, 2006, 08:56:41 PM
Quote from: "homerboy2u2"
Quote
fossil groundwater
....HUH :?:
 Never heard of that before,please explain....


Sounds like dinosaur pee. Tee-hee-hee!
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: RichardM on July 20, 2006, 08:58:36 PM
Quote from: "homerboy2u2"
Quote
fossil groundwater
....HUH :?:

 Never heard of that before,please explain....

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_water
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: TexasGirl on July 21, 2006, 11:11:44 AM
Hi, Caley,

I am enjoying your well-written posts.  Thank you!  

I have nothing to offer in the way of advice except a mom's opinion.  Take all the good advice here, especially David's, since he knows you guys, and, if you have any inkling your brothers won't accept your rules for/during this trip, don't do it.  You sound reasonable, but getting siblings in tow can be a different story.  My son's only a few years behind your youngest brother in age, and young adults' not-uncommon sense of invincibility can be a great handicap in situations where there is no margin for error.  Elephant Tusk isn't going anywhere, and we want you and your brothers around for a long time.  

TexasGirl
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: caleythomas on July 21, 2006, 01:13:23 PM
Thanks so much for the further commentary!  You guys make me feel so special.... :wink:

Dave, don't tease me, you have to go with us, as long as your work schedule works out, otherwise we're going to give you hell when we release our first panoramic view of the park a la top of elephant tusk...jk

Can't wait to explore the W and NW canyons around elephant tusk, whenever it happens.  (sooner rather than later I hope).

Cheers
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: Picacho on July 21, 2006, 05:36:39 PM
I went with Viper and climbed Elephant Tusk with him last Thanksgiving.  My advice:

1.  Don't hike in and make it an overnighter.  You would bake in your tent even at night.  The elevation is much lower so it will be much hotter.  Make the drive in to the trailhead and car camp and leave frozen water in your vehicle for consuption in the morning and to bring it with you on the trail.  You can always start your vehicle and turn on the air conditioner.  I never saw a drop of water anywhere on our hike in so you will need to carry it all with you.  I would say take a gallon of water.  Stash some at the base of Elephant Tusk before the loose rock and retrieve it on your way back to save weight.  

2.  Get an early start but I would wait until you get at least some sun.  The trail is easy to follow in most places, but it might be confusing at night.  In the places where the trail is easy to follow, hike as fast as you can before the sun gets too high.  I believe it is about 6 miles to the base so you could do that in about 2.5 hours at a good pace.  

3.  In Gerry Roach's trip report they brought a rope.  Absolutely no need for one.  We saw the webbing they left for the rappel and I have no idea why they did it, especially since it was loaded with dense skin ripping brush right where the rappel was and it was only 4th class at best.  Here is a pic looking down from the notch into the gully where Roach rappelled.  You can see that it drops you right into the skin ripping brush.  Our route was to the right of this gully (left if going up) above the shrubbery as seen in this pic.

(http://www.summitpost.org/images/original/138512.jpg)

4.  When you approach the notch, you will have two choices, continue on up the gully to the saddle through dense skin ripping brush (this is Roach's route), or climb just to the left of the gully up some harder 4th class stuff on a ramp and avoid most of the brush.  I would do the latter even though it is more difficult.  That said, it isn't bad.

The rest of the climb is mostly 3rd class with a few 4th class moves if you are impatient enough not to look for a better route.  The final ridge run to the summit is spectacular with fantastic views.  Here is a view of Viper on the ridge on the way down with Crown Mountain in the background.

(http://www.summitpost.org/images/original/138497.jpg)

The biggest beating on this climb is the extremely loose rock on the approach to the notch.  Even the larger rocks will move.  You will get frustrated and probably cuss but there is not much you can do about it other than tuff it out.  Going down this stuff was probably worse than going up.  Here is a pic of me probably cussing at the loose rocks.

I wore pants and I would probably recommend them even with the heat.  Viper wore shorts and survived so I guess it all depends on you and your pain tolerance.  

One more thing, there have been reports of burglars at the trailheads around there.  Try not to bring things of value with you in your vehicle except for the ones you are going to take on the trail.  

(http://www.summitpost.org/images/original/138598.jpg)

Good luck and email me if you need any further info.  abovethetimberman@hotmail.com

Any other beta you need on peaks you can email me or Viper.  Most of the big ones we've climbed.
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: presidio on July 21, 2006, 06:13:55 PM
Quote from: "attm"
We saw the webbing they left for the rappel


Rule of Thumb: Never trust a line you didn't bring AND rig. Ropes left exposed to severe environmental conditions may be weakened without showing any indications. You also don't know whether it was used to pull a truck out of the mud or had battery acid spilled on it. Anything used for life support needs a known history.

I've seen a video of some less than bright folks exploring an abandoned mine in Nevada or Arizona. After going down several levels they found a shaft with a cross timber and a rope going down. The first guy to attempt a descent got there far faster than he planned. As the video camera panned, right before the rope went out of the frame, you got to watch the line snap at the knot. Even after watching it several times, you never got over the pucker. The bright boy fell about 40 feet but survived with minor injuries. He was very lucky. The intrepid explorers had no equipment and were doing the rope hand-over-hand, which of course almost insures an accident  or rescue even without the thing breaking.

The video was copied by the SAR group that pulled him out.
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: Casa Grande on July 21, 2006, 07:42:03 PM
those are great pics, ATTM.....nice report

i'm drooling to do this climb  =P~
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: Picacho on July 22, 2006, 07:14:45 PM
I hope you can take a pano from the summit.  There are a few peaks in the area I hope to summit this winter.  Backbone Ridge, Dominguez Mountain, and an unnamed peak that I am going to have to post a picture of to see if anyone knows about it.  I'll post a pic probably tomorrow.
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: caleythomas on July 25, 2006, 12:09:14 PM
You hear that Dave?  

ATTM wants a pano from the summit....this means you MUST go if at all possible....keep me posted man!
Title: And Don't Forget
Post by: SHANEA on July 25, 2006, 12:47:24 PM
Quote from: "Al"
Be sure you are hydrated before you hit the trail.  If you day hike be sure you have at least a gallon and a half of water apiece even then I wouldn't day hike it if you have the gear to camp over night.


Be sure and drink a 12 pack of Fat Tire each the night before to get you good and dehydrated and drunk so that you will sleep in and be hungover forget doing a desert hike at the tail end of the Summer.    :P
Title: Elephant Tusk in August via Black Gap?
Post by: Casa Grande on July 25, 2006, 02:31:20 PM
Quote from: "caleythomas"
You hear that Dave?  

ATTM wants a pano from the summit....this means you MUST go if at all possible....keep me posted man!


I NEED MONEY !! OR I AINT GOIN NOWHERE!