Graycap-Damsel*-Turtlehead from Calico Basin

pics by Harlan W. S.
Dec. 12, 2007


15.5 miles, 6000’ accumulated elevation gain.  I started at 9AM, took 7.5 hrs; it would be smarter to start at 7AM to deal with these short days.

The traditional routes to Damsel are now legally closed because of construction; but there are fresh car tracks to 4600’ in Brownstone Basin, so there must be another unofficial access off Rte 159.  Jim E had signed in for Oct 12, 2007, noting that he had taken the E ridge…. after walking from his house!


*Damsel is also called “Pincushion”



GPS trace in red.


As one crests Calico Pass, there is a good view of Turtlehead.  Graycap is to right, out of sight.


The wash forks, and one takes the branch that heads straight for Turtlehead.





This dryfall can be passed on the left (out of view).


1st tinaja near top of Graycap.


2nd tinaja near top.





On top of Graycap.  Ta-da!


I’ve found several of these elaborate chairs near Calico. Perhaps they are meant for a summit bivy?


Damsel as viewed across a tinaja near Brownstone Basin. The sandstone trek, from Graycap to Brownstone Basin, is way cool.





Water behind the weir; partly frozen. La Madre in background.




Heading NW up wash.  Turn R at the red rock.





Mine at 5650’.


Out-of-sequence photo.  This is the 2nd right turn, near a steep slope on the right.






View back at La Madre. This peak offers really good views of La Madre and friends.


Approaching the main summit of Damsel.


On top of Damsel.  There were very few entries in the register (by the way, the peak needs a new register container).

On top of Damsel, I took off my wet poly shirt, dried my body, and put on a sweater.  The temperature was below freezing; there was dry snow on the ground, and the talus chunks were frozen together, making the slope more stable.  When it was time to leave, I picked up my damp, now partly frozen shirt, and made a decision: I’ll go bare-chested until I absolutely have to put something back on.  And that time occurred  3.5 hours later, when I was back at my car.  There was no wind, and I was astoundingly comfortable, as long as I was burning calories.


My next goal: Turtlehead, from an unusual approach.


At 6000’ on Turtlehead, I look out E over Graycap.


My car is down there on the far side of Calico Basin!



I kept warm by burning calories.  Temps were below freezing.


View back NNE to Damsel Peak. I left Turtlehead, and descended on the trail.  Here I met the only people I saw all day; a couple heading for the peak at 3:10 PM, 1:20 before sunset. By this time I had forgotten I was shirtless, and definitely startled them, not in a good way.


After I had descended to about 4800’ on the W side of Turtlehead, I left the official trail and headed toward “Redcap” (Turtlehead Jr.) via this pleasant use trail.





Next I climbed over a pass by “New Peak” (named by Eva Pollan) and cut left down a wash, again on a use trail.


The use trail was cut by deep channels from recent rains.


As I climbed out of Gateway Canyon and approached Calico Pass, I turned around.  I could see the sun lighting up Turtlehead.