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Trip report: 2/17 to 2/21 - MDA & Plan-B

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Offline JRD

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Trip report: 2/17 to 2/21 - MDA & Plan-B
« on: February 22, 2011, 12:34:09 PM »
Our group of 3 headed West from Dallas early the morning of Thursday 2/17, got to Panther Junction with plenty of time to get our permit to spend the following two nights on the Mesa de Anguila.

We had planned on staying in the Basin the first night since we weren’t sure we would make it to the park in time to get our permit, that would make it easier if we had to get it in the morning. On the one hand it was a bad move because it cost us valuable cool morning hours on the trail; on the other hand a night in the basin is never a bad thing. We cooked some cowboy burgers and watched a spectacular moon-rise.

Moon foreshadowing Casa Grande:




Next morning we got a late start hitting the trail with 2+ gallons of water each, and made good time up to the top of the saddle. Our plan was to camp past Canyon Flag and then day-hike to the rim the next day, if not the point. We knew there was little chance of finding any water on the mesa, but we were counting on moderate winter temperatures to make our water last and speed our progress. By the end of the day my thermometer read 106. A “proper” reading is taken in the shade, so I know this reading was high (even though it felt accurate) because there is no such thing as shade on the mesa.

View into Mexico from the Mesa:



Tinija Rana and Blanca were both bone dry. There was little sign of life on the mesa at all, we saw no animals and only three birds. Even the lechugilla looked scorched. Near Tinija Rana we ran into a 3-some that was practically home-steading on the mesa, I think they were on day 3 of a 5 day trip. They said the only water was in Tinija Grande.

We were beat by the time we set up camp near Tinija Blanca. A side trip the following day to Tinija Grande or the Entrance camp were now almost mandatory; whatever we did on the Mesa the next day was going to be difficult at best. We elected to break camp and head back to the trail-head the next morning. I think I better understand the expression “discretion is the better part of valor” now.

View east from near la Mariposa:




The trip back to the trail-head was no problem since we knocked it out before noon and no longer had a need to conserve water. We ran into a solo hiker from Abilene near the top of the saddle who had gotten an even later start then we had the previous day. He had a gallon of water and was making his second assault on the point; hopefully he made it.

We were on the porch by about 1 and spent the rest of the day and into the night getting hydrated. Had a splendid dinner at the Starlight (tip: substitute chili & queso for the gravy on the chicken fried antelope!) followed by a night-cap at La Kiva on the way back to the Basin. Both nights we were in the basin it never got below 50, I’ve spent cooler nights in the Chisos in June.

We had a plan-B in mind before even leaving Dallas in case the Mesa didn’t work out. So we hit the Lost Mine trail in the morning and made a right turn at the Juniper Canyon over-look to head up to the top of the #2 rock in Texas; Casa Grande. Thanks to the info from this forum we caught the right turn and avoided getting stuck on the false summit. The round trip is only about 3.5 miles but don’t let the distance fool you. By my calculation the average gradient from the over-look was 40%. There were places where we had to crawl up insanely steep slopes of scree (tip - wear gloves). We took our time and paused often to wonder out loud what the hell had we gotten ourselves into.

Even though it was hazy (as it was our whole trip) the view from the summit was spectacular, well worth the effort, I think I prefer it to Emory Peak. We ran into two gents from Houston on the summit and had a relaxing lunch in the shade, but never were able to find the register.

South summit view:



North Summit view:



Basin campground from above:



We departed the park directly from the Lost Mine trail-head and about two hours later were swimming in the sacred waters of Balmorhea. We then enjoyed a victory feast of buffalo rib-eye, skillet potatoes, and Texas toast under the first real stars we had seen the whole trip. Drove our aching calves back to Dallas on Monday.

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Offline Reece

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Re: Trip report: 2/17 to 2/21 - MDA & Plan-B
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2011, 02:30:52 PM »
Very helpful! I had a trip planned for the 16th-18th but the 90 degree "forecast" temps. made it easy to accept my granddaughter's request for a Lost Maples trip. Hearing about the 100 degree "actual" temps. assures the old man that he made the right decision.

The desert season is November - February for me but even that is subject to discretion. The difficulty in planning stems from the near impossibility of any weather service to accurately predict the weather more than 2 days in advance. So much for trusting in computer models or perhaps this is just some of that so-called "climate change" in action, eh?

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Trip report: 2/17 to 2/21 - MDA & Plan-B
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2011, 07:01:27 AM »
Just in case you ever need it, there is water at Tinaja Rana but it's not near the trail and you will need a water bottle tied to a 25' cord.  Take the trail to the river at La Mariposa and go about 1/3 mile down, go offtrail down the steep scree to the downstream mouth of Tinaja Rana and climb up ~20' to the rim of the large tinaja.  This is a big tinaja and easily holds water when others are dry.  Don't climb into the tinaja or you won't be able to get back out again but use your water-bottle tied to the cord to bail water out.   I have done this on 3 different trips and it works well as long as you are careful and don't have a fear of heights.
It's precarious and time-consuming compared to getting water closer to the trail but when all else fails it would save your trip/life.  I doubt the hiker going to the Point with only 1 gallon even made it halfway there.  2 Gallons/person/day is a realistic amount in warm conditions and the only resupply during dry conditions is lower Tinaja Rana and Tinaja Grande.  Ask at PJ for the MDA map - a free 8x11" map with lots of useful information on it but you have to ask for it.   TWWG

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Trip report: 2/17 to 2/21 - MDA & Plan-B
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2011, 07:28:35 AM »
I can't even imagine being on the Mesa in 100 degree temps.  When we were up there it was pleasantly cool and made the water go further.  No shade at all.   :icon_redface: 

You all made the smart move to retreat to cooler places.   :eusa_clap:
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline 01ACRViper

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Re: Trip report: 2/17 to 2/21 - MDA & Plan-B
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2011, 10:44:19 AM »


the only water we found on our Mesa hike. wasn't a tinaja labelled on a map, found it looking in places where shadows and water might exist

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Trip report: 2/17 to 2/21 - MDA & Plan-B
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2011, 12:04:54 PM »
And I am sure that you climbed down that abyss to get it!
Read this.

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Trip report: 2/17 to 2/21 - MDA & Plan-B
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2011, 06:59:12 PM »
Jeff has a great trip report on that link.  No matter how wet it is on the MDA it is still a long hard hike out to the point and the nearest water (during wet times) is way back at Tinaja Blanca.  The hiking window is also very short ~Nov-March, god help anyone that goes up there after April or before October.  I have made it all the way to the point only once and failed once also.  A basecamp at Tinaja Blanca or Tinaja Rana is the best idea but it makes for a very long dayhike to get to the point and back.  On my failed attempt we got a late start, spent time on sidetrips along the way and made it only to within ~2 miles of the Point ("oh crap canyon") before turning back at 2 PM.  Count on 1 MPH average speed once you leave the flatlands behind the 3 Sisters and loose the trail.  Their are cairned trail fragments leading up to the rim but they disappear after only short distances and its disappointing when they dissipate into rocks and cactus after appearing to be an easy route up.  Probably back in the 1970's this was a real cairned trail but now it is overgrown and seldom used.   TWWG

Moderator note: followups on Ay Chi, Jeff, and Viper's report have been moved to Ay Chi, Jeff and Viper Meet Their Mesa
« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 11:31:14 AM by RichardM »

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Offline jshannon

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Re: Trip report: 2/17 to 2/21 - MDA & Plan-B
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2012, 11:37:11 AM »
Think I was one of the 3 you saw at Rana back on this date. It was hot and so was our last trip last weekend. Alot more water on this last trip though.

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Trip report: 2/17 to 2/21 - MDA & Plan-B
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2012, 06:57:51 PM »
Probably was me, not many people go up there on the MDA and many turn back before they get 1/2 way to the Point.  I have now failed twice and only made it once (solo).  There is no fast way and no easy way and the maps are almost useless because when your on the ground you find it's much more difficult than it looks on the maps and the route to the Point is rough and confusing due to the numerous Burro trails that trick the unwary hiker into believing they have found the trail.    Getting water out of Lower Tinaja Rana with a water bottle and a rope is definately a once-in-a-lifetime experience but takes at least an hour extra from the trail junction and requires you to scramble up to the rim of the large tinaja without falling in either direction because if you fall into the tinaja it will be very difficult to get out of it, it's big and has polished slickrock sides with no handholds or footholds.   It may only be a 6 or 8' ledge but it looked to me that I would have to build a stone ladder to climb out of it,  the rope and waterbottle trick works great though and makes it much safer.   The MDA is not to be taken lightly and is very remote, I plan to go back someday for another attempt at the Point but will basecamp further out and not dabble around on sidetrips.   TWWG

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Offline catz

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Re: Trip report: 2/17 to 2/21 - MDA & Plan-B
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2012, 10:51:34 AM »
I have only been up there once.  We camped at Canyon Flag and then day hiked to the point the next day.   We had no trouble with the trail until shortly (a mile?) after leaving Canyon Flag.  You get to a large, totally smooth section with no cairns and no discernible trail.  What WE did, and I do not recommend this, is we plunged straight to the point that we could see way up ahead of us.  The shortest-distance-between-two-points theory.  The problem with that is that you cross at least a dozen drainages.  Very tough going.  The better way to do it is after crossing the smooth section is head to the left (going out) and get well up.  I don't know of a trail up there, but at least you avoid the worst of the drainages.  This is how we came back to camp from the point and it was much better than the way we went out.  Still not easy, but better than all those ups and downs.

Coming back from the point, as we were approaching the smooth area, I stumbled across an actual trail.  So there is one, but good luck finding it.  Where the trail entered the smooth area, I did set up a small cairn.  Don't know if it is still there. 

We carried all our water (3 gallons each) so we did not have to find or filter any.  I recall seeing water in a couple of the tinajas.  We did this hike in late February three or four years ago.  The weather was cold at night and in the early mornings.  We wound up pouring out probably a half gallon each before we left to go back to the car on day 3.

I think it is one of the best hikes in the park, but it is not for the timid or the unprepared.
Wake me when it's time to go.

 


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