Ascent of Vulcans Throne on 2017-11-06

Climber: Richard Hensley

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Monday, November 6, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Vulcans Throne
    Elevation:5102 ft / 1555 m

Ascent Trip Report

I attempted to hike down the Lava Falls Trail to the Colorado River, and then back up to the top of Vulcans Throne.

The Lava Falls Trail is not acknowledged by the Park Service, so finding information is difficult. There is only a warning sign at the top. I had found one verbal description online; it was quite brief and lacked many specifics, but I printed it out anyway. Around 3750msl, as I came down out of a narrow gully, I had to choose between a ridge to my right or one to my left. On my left was one (and only one) nice cairn that had no noticeable track past it; it was toward a ridge that went down to a level area of red dirt, then much steeper drops below. It matched the description I had; but it had no signs of any use. To my right were dozens of cairns leading down a different ridge, along with a well-used path I could see all the way down to the final steep section. So I went right. Unfortunately, it led to a very steep ravine lined by a steep overhanging cliff. The rest of the ravine was lined by steep and loose volcanic rock. The way in was a 7-8ft, slightly overhanging drop with several small steps sticking out from underneath, down to a small ledge leading to an easy scramble into the ravine's bottom. I could see a large cairn and footpath going over the opposite side of the ravine. This downclimb was quite nifty; there was absolutely no other way in or out. It was also much more risky than I would take on alone. Any injury below the climb would be a certain and very difficult SAR. So I turned around; I would not make it to the river today. (After getting home, I looked closer on Google Earth at the ridge on the left. I can barely see sections of boot scrapes on the opposite side of that ridge, but out of sight from where I was standing. I now see the route I should have taken. The question now is: do I really want to drive out that road again? BTW, I came in on the "Clayhole Rte" from Colorado City, and out the "Main St Rte" to St. George. The Clayhole Rte is indeed much better; however, they aren't kidding about what happens when it's wet. Long stretches of smooth packed dirt beveled to the sides, and shorter sections of deep silt ready to become deep mud. They also aren't kidding about the sharp rocks. I found dozens of small shallow slices in my relatively new tires. Made it without a flat though. So who's to say if I ever return. Maybe someone else can pull off the Vulcans Throne from Colorado River climb.)

Back at the Vulcans Throne TH, I started up the SW slope, looking for a faint old trail I'd seen on Google Earth. The bottom 300ft has disappeared under the cinder flow. I managed to eventually find it, and followed it around to the drainage that exited the crater. The fading trail is steep and narrow and sometimes a little loose; I didn't think it was helping much, but in hindsight it was probably a lot better than straight up on loose cinder. Once in the crater, I should have stayed in the crater up to the north rim. But I was curious to see if the original trail had gone around the SE side and topped the E rim. But there was nothing up there.

Great views from the top, but not as spectacular as Toroweap.

Coming down, I explored a route on the north side, trying to minimize the loose cinders from the bottom of the rim down to the plain below. Probably the easiest route is to reverse mine. Walk up the road, then off-road to the north side, and up the shortest vertical onto the north rim. Then on return, continue around the west rim and plunge-stepping down the cinders to the road's end. Maybe some day I'll come back and complete this.

Also, about the heat. It was a windy 60F on top; chilly for me. But about a 1000ft down, where the wind calmed, and the sun came out, it warmed up quick. And this was with an early NOV lower sun angle. But the slope faces the sun, and is very dark. Took me by surprise, and I generally tolerate much warmer temperatures than others. I could have made today; but I wouldn't try anything warmer. I can't imagine trying this in summer. I would even rule out much of APR and OCT.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2721 ft / 829 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2714 ft / 826 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.9 mi / 6.3 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Weather:bkn altocu; viz 40mi, sprinkles; windy; cool
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2711 ft / 826 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 921 ft / 281 m; Extra: 1790 ft / 545m
    Loss on way in:1790 ft / 545 m
    Distance:2.8 mi / 4.5 km
    Route:Lava Falls Tr; old trail on S side
    Start Trailhead:Vulcans Throne TH  4181 ft / 1274 m
    Time:3 Hours 41 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:924 ft / 281 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 914 ft / 279 m; Extra: 10 ft / 3m
    Gain on way out:10 ft / 3 m
    Distance:1.1 mi / 1.8 km
    Route:N side; Vulcans Throne Rd
    End Trailhead:Vulcans Throne TH  4188 ft / 1276 m
    Time:51 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Richard Hensley
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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