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Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 1411 | TRs
Location: Edmonds, WA
|April 8, 2018
Hualapai Peak - 8417’
I decided to do some exploring of Arizona, starting with Hualapai. There was a fee to enter the area. I followed a pleasant trail around the east side of Aspen Peak and then ascended an old road to the base of the summit block. It was clear that most people stop at a viewpoint on the south side. A climbers trail went up through the brush to the north side of the top boulders.
I procrastinated this one for years because various descriptions mention something about class 4 with undertones of hassle. But Richard Hensley told me he took a ledge. There were ladybugs everywhere and I tried my best not to step on them. I could see how the block could be climbed, class 4. But I also saw the exposed ledge Rich mentioned. I took the ledge which was class 2.
summit with upper ledge visible
Despite what other beta says, attaining this summit is feasible with only a minimal amount of class 3.
Hayden Peak - 8390’
Since it was still early in the day, I decided to do Aspen and Hayden as well. I went for Hayden first because it’s the next highest. I descended all the way to the road in the canyon and then cut upslope through the trees to reach another access road. The summit area is loaded with comms towers and has two summits. I did the north summit first and then traversed directly to the south summit. There are some ladders which aren’t really necessary if you scramble.
looking back at Hualapai
Aspen Peak – 8167’
Aspen has a trail to the saddle/viewpoint southeast of the peak. I didn’t make full use of it on the ascent, preferring to go more directly, but when I came to the trail it was a nice alternative to thorn bushes. From the saddle I followed a lesser path to the summit boulder. Class 2 slab and strong wind.
Back near the car something was stinky. It was a dead skunk.
Peacock Peak – 6292’
I ascended the west ridge which goes directly to the summit. This peak is dense with brush and cactus. It’s steep at the end and there is some loose dirt and rock. It doesn’t seem like a tough objective, but it’s definitely not an easy peak.
Near the top I was surprised by some class 3. It was good to look over at Hualapai and know that it’s now done. In the register I saw a 1987 entry by Bob Martin and Dotty Martin. I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s the same Bob and Dotty I met in Saline Valley. I recall them saying they live in Arizona.
Bill Williams Mountain – 9256’
I had hoped to drive the majority of the way up this peak from the east, but the road was closed, so I did the 8 mile hike on the north side trail. There is a lookout tower on the summit. From the stairway of the tower I had a fine view of Humphreys, the highest peak in Arizona. I had been wondering what the snow conditions might be like, since all my snow travel gear is in WA. From what I could see, it looked like the upper west slopes were bare, but there might be snow in the forest.
Back down at the parking lot, there were 3 cars, all Crosstrek.
Humphreys Peak – 12,633’
It was cold when I started, probably below freezing. I wore every layer I had while following the trail in the forest. Above 10,000 feet the snow was mostly continuous. On the trail it had been compacted and refrozen into ice. If my micro-spikes were accessible to me, I would have worn them. Above tree-line the snow was virtually non-existent aside from some patches. I came to the saddle between Humphreys and Agassiz and was torn over which to do first. I went for the higher of the two.
grouse in plumage display mode
Humphreys was much further from the saddle than I had imagined, or maybe I was just moving slow because of the altitude. There is sign at the top and a register, but it’s full of junk and the notebook is full, so I didn’t bother to sign it. The views are far reaching, yet mediocre if compared to an assortment of other summits. Sort of like the views from the top of Rainier are not great when compared to the North Cascades.
Agassiz Peak – 12,356’
So the rule is no ascents without snow. There’s some special moss or lichen or whatnot that they don’t want trampled. I decided to be mindful of this rule. Most of the snow along the ridge was gone, however a strip along the east side of the crest looked like it would go all the way to the summit. Bingo. The view from the top of Agassiz is better than Humphreys and particularly of Humphreys itself.
Humphreys from Agassiz
I had planned to do Kendrick the following day along with Baldy, but a quick check of the forecast threw a brick into that drying machine.
2 or 3 days of windstorms with gusts of 60 and 70. The temp on Baldy was expected to be below zero degrees. Time to head south…
Mazatzal Peak – 7903’
The Barnhadt Trail north route is at least 14 miles and 4k gain, depending on how you do it. Furthermore, it was going to be hot, so I started early, well before dawn. The trail is nice and scenic. I can see why it is a popular weekend location. I spotted a red velvet ant, which is more commonly known as the "cow killer" because of a powerful sting, but the little fellow didn't live up to it's name because it put it's head under a rock to hide from me and waited there to be left alone. I moved quickly to reach the basin north of the peak and then ascended through brush and tight thickets of saplings to reach the crest of the northwest ridge. I got scratched up pretty good on the legs and arms, but I could have avoided that by going slower and with more care. I tend to get impatient in brush.
"cow killer" red velvet ant
Once on the upper northwest ridge, the remainder of the route was pleasant. It had taken 4 hours to get to the top. I did not tarry on the summit. I did a very slight variation of my ascent route on the way down and this proved to be much worse. I was happy to hit the trail now that the heat was gaining strength. I changed out of my approach shoes into altras. As much as I love altras, they just can’t stand up to brush.
Browns in the distance
Mount Ord – 7128’
I drove up the access road as far as the gate and then hiked up to the summit where there are comms towers and a lookout tower. To the north I had a good view of Mazatzal and to the south Browns Peak, which Phoenix residents know as Four Peaks. Another check of the forecast revealed that the windstorm was chasing me. I would have to go further south and come back to this area later.
Pinal Peak – 7850’
I drove to the town of Globe and made my way up the long access road on Pinal. This one is not a hike unless you make it so. I parked at the top between comms towers and walked behind a building to find the summit boulder. A single move of class 3 and I was on top.
Apache Peaks – 6940’
I had enough time to do Apache and Aztec in the same day, but decided to do only one because of the heat. Who knows, maybe I’m getting old. Eric Kassan had reported two options to get through the west side cliff band and preferred the more direct of the two, so I went that way. The windstorm came as predicted, but I was on the cusp and therfor it did nothing more than serve to cool me down.
Google Maps indicates a road that goes up the wash to Cherry Horizontal Spring, but it’s not there and never actually did existed. Often in the desert, Google Maps automatic analysis technology of satellite imagery mistakenly recognizes natural land features such as a wash, and then indicates the presence of a road. You have to be very careful not to drive or hike in some of those places because you can get into trouble very quickly.
I parked at Cherry Spring and followed the rib east, traversing southeast below the cliff band. It became steep and loose and there were a lot of round rocks, ready to roll under foot. Between 6000 and 6200 feet there is a good animal track which ascends the best way through the cliff band. Above 6400 feet there is a plateau and forest. I aimed for the north ridge of the peak. I found the fragment of an eagle feather there.
Along the north ridge are dense trees and tall cholla. There’s a decent way through, but you have to look for it. At one spot I found what looked like a squeeze entrance to a cave, but in rattlesnake country I decided not to investigate.
Keep climbing mountains and don't slip!
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Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 1411 | TRs
Location: Edmonds, WA
Browns Peak – 7657’
During the night the windstorm reached it’s crescendo, but I found a very pleasant unofficial campground near Point 5105 that offered superior shelter in the form of mature trees. I slept like a baby. If you drive a Subaru, don’t try to access this peak from the west. Everyone says that road is atrocious. The road up from Roosevelt Lake is in great shape.
Browns with standard couloir visible
The standard scramble route for Browns ascends the northwest couloir which is steep and class 4 at the crux. I avoided that by traversing around onto the north side. The route worked well, but it was unpleasant and more brushy.
unpleasant northern bypass
The final ridge crest was still exposed class 3. To the south I could see the other 3 summits of Four Peaks. The nearest one was the second highest and looked like it would be a fun route-finding scramble, but I wouldn’t take the time for that because I had to meet a friend in Globe. For the descent I scrambled down the standard couloir which is a better route.
the other 3 peaks
class 4 crux
On the way to Globe I stopped briefly to hike up to the lower Tonto Cliff Dwellings. I was sorely tempted to sneak over to the upper ruins, but decided against it. Apparently they require reservations and guiding fees for that. In the town of Globe I still had some time before meeting Greg, so I went to the Besh-Ba-Gowah museum to learn about the Salado people. There is a fine collection of pottery there and I can tell it’s the exact same stuff I used to dig up on the banks of the Gila River as a child.
Tonto cliff dwellings
Mount Turnbull – 8282’
There are two cruxes to this peak, approach road and brush. Fortunately for me, Greg has a truck and knows how to use it. Some parts of the road were washed out and required experience and resolve. Other stretches were so steep, loose and exposed that I just couldn’t handle the stress of being in the truck and asked Greg to let me out so I could walk those sections. At times I watched in horror as he had the truck sliding sideways on 3 wheels and I thought he was going to go over the edge, but he didn’t. A jeep would be better suited for this one. We parked at 6200 feet.
We hiked up the remainder of the road. There are some giant trees which are likely well over 1000 years old. We came to a trail which was good at first but quickly became overgrown. Around 7800 feet we left the trail and began traversing through brush on the north slope. Progress was slow. Near the peak it was much thicker. We traversed at the northern base of a rock wall until we came to the proper access gully. I noted the poor quality of the rock. Some large chunks are held in by nothing but sandy soil.
At the top of the northern gully we came to the slabs. Greg walked up the slabs, but I stuck to the crest of the ridge. There are some old poles on the summit and Greg just had to climb them. To the southwest I could see Mount Graham, the most prominent peak in Arizona and also Pinnacle Ridge which I have heard is a true hassle, due to the brush. Overall the higher peaks in Arizona have proven less favorable over those in Nevada or California.
We scrambled down the summit block and down the gully. Greg was leading through the brush. I put my foot on top of a giant ~650 lb boulder and saw how it wiggled slightly. I told Greg to keep going and that I was going to stay back to trundle a dangerous rock which was smack dab in the middle of the route.
When he was far to the left under the protection of a rock wall I told him to stay there and that I was going to send it down. I gave the boulder a little nudge and it rolled out of it’s sand pocket and went rolling down the steep slope, taking out small trees as it went and gaining speed. Greg was astounded by the size of the rock and we listened to it for a long time as it made it’s way down the mountain.
Mount Graham – 10,720’
This road is closed until April 15th. There are famous stories of people getting trapped on Mount Graham in freak snowstorms. I would like to claim credit for good research, but truthfully it was dumb luck. Also, signs on the highway had informed us that access to the Turnbull roads would be closed starting April 17, so we threaded the needle there.
We did the 10 mile road hike to the burned summit area. The road is gated, but tire tracks indicate that it is still used by authorities.
Plain View Peak – 10,370’
On the way back we detoured for Plain View Peak which has a better view and then back at the car we drove to the campground so we could hike up the gated road to Heliograph Peak.
Heliograph Peak – 10,022’
You can choose the trail or the road for this peak. Both are the same distance, but the road is slightly less elevation gain. We stopped at Heliograph Spring and drank of it’s waters without any sort of filtration.
On the summit there is a tall steel lookout tower which reminded me of the one on Moses Mountain in WA. If I had to wager, I would say it’s the exact same design. Greg climbed around the gate and went inside, but the exposure was enough to deter me.
Graham from Heliograph
I was sad to say goodbye to Greg because we only get to hike together a few times a year. He’s a good friend. I clicked the next destination on my phone driving map, but I must have been tired because I found myself at a fire closure sign 1 mile from the start for Bassett Peak. Damn! 50 extra miles of washboard dirt roads which I would pay for in lost sleep time. Tomorrow was going to be a big day, perhaps the hardest of the trip and I had just made the most asinine blunder. Oh well.
I drove to the next range over and Miller Canyon, arriving in the dark, after getting a warning ticket for a burned out headlight. I set my alarm for early because I knew it was going to be nasty hot in the low lands.
Mica Mountain - 8664'
After sleeping a little I got up and started hiking in pitch dark. I crossed a stream several times, but couldn’t shake an eerie feeling, something like an intuition. I couldn’t understand this because I hike in the dark all the time and sort of enjoy it.
Shortly after coming to terms with the feeling, I saw large eyes in the bushes, reflecting the light from my headlamp. I assumed the worst, a mountain lion. I yelled at it and it didn’t budge. I yelled again and it blinked or turned it’s head away briefly. I picked up some rocks and threw them. That got it going. Now it’s entirely possible that this was just a deer. If so I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to the deer for a rude wake up call and scaring it half to death.
Upslope from the encounter I was feeling adrenal empowerment and my pace was progressive. There were boulders to hop over and steep gullies. I only got off route in the dark once. Dawn was coming on slowly and it was nice to look out over the valley in the twilight. I watched the first moments of the sunrise. By the time it was fully light out, I was almost to the saddle between Mica and Rincon.
Mica is 20 miles and over 4k gain by itself. It would be a tremendous undertaking to do Mica and Rincon in a day, something like 26 miles and 7k gain. I would have loved to try it, but I had to meet people the following day for another 20 miles, so it seemed like an unwise choice.
Beyond the saddle I took the “misery ridge” trail up constructed rock stairs. The trail went around the upper west side of Happy Valley Lookout peak and then around another little peak before passing through the next saddle. There is a complex system of trails, some of which are a little hard to see at times. I think I went the shortest way passing under Man Head before coming to Mica Meadow.
Happy Valley and Rincon
The summit has a sign and evidence of the past presence of a fire lookout, but currently no register. There are no views at the summit and I didn’t go looking for any.
Happy Valley Lookout – 7320’
I knew that the trail up this little peak would add some distance, but it seemed worth it. There’s an old decrepit cabin on the summit. The growing heat intimidated me somewhat. A fair amount of distance remained. As I descended it got hotter, somewhere between 85 and 90 degrees in the valley. I had to stop in shade several times to cool down. I was really glad to be done and soaking up the AC by 1pm for a round trip time of 9 hours.
South Flys Peak - 9570’
Heather and I had tried to get to Chiricahua once before. We were stopped by a massive puddle the size of a tarn on the west side road and slippery dangerous mud and ice on the north side. The puddle is still there, encompassing the road, but this time I drove right through it. I think it’s only about a foot deep on the right side. Hard to tell.
Laura Newman and Greg Gerlach had invited me to join them for an ascent of Chiricahua, which is what I planned this whole trip around. To sweeten the deal, Richard Hensley would be joining us. All 3 are seasoned peakbaggers who I really enjoy hiking with, my kind of people. Laura lured us all in with a hypothetical 7 peak loop. She planned to skip some of the ones she had done previously.
We started from Sycamore Campground and went east up the Mormon Canyon trail. After 2500 feet of gain we came to a saddle. The map indicated a traverse trail to the north, but I didn’t see it over on the slope. In any case, we went that way and were soon traversing on crappy slopes and through minor brush and small trees. The trail is gone. There’s a lot of fire damage throughout the whole area, but we didn’t fully know that yet. We fought our way to Junction Saddle where the main trail is still in good shape.
Chiricahua main peak
We traversed around Anita Park and then up to South Flys Peak. Here we parted ways with Laura. She was going to Anita Peak and then some others. We might run into her later in the day. Greg and Richard and I went directly toward Flys Peak. This traverse is unpleasant. Fires have destroyed a lot of mature trees and what is left are thickets of saplings and various types of brush.
Flys Peak – 9667’
On the summit of Flys we planned our next move. We would take the east side traverse trail back south for Chiricahua and then go to Snowshed Peak. The wind was fierce above 9000 feet.
Chiricahua Peak – 9759’
The trail up the north side of Chiricahua is still in good shape, but all 3 trails heading east from there are either totally gone or mostly gone. The summit of Chiricahua has no view. Chiricahua was my 73rd lifetime ultra prominence peak.
Rich, Greg, gimp
Snowshed Peak - 9665’
We made our way down the east side of the main peak. To get to snowshed we had to pass by or over a subsidiary bump. We chose the more direct north side trail indicated on the map. This was a mistake. Once again, the trail is totally gone and we were immersed in thickets. Once we emerged, we encountered Laura who had just finished Snowshed. She told us the summit was the furthest out point. On the way up we passed through more brush and fallen trees. There is a register.
the way to Snowshed
On the way back we used the Eagle Spring trail which is better but somewhat longer. Our next objective was Paint Rock, but it seemed like a long time just getting to it. Along the way we found a dead fox which appeared to have frozen to death. At Chiricahua Saddle we took a break and discussed our options.
Greg was ready to go back. It was almost 5pm. Richard and I talked about pushing on, but we knew that would involve descending an unknown trail, probably in the dark. What if that trail was also gone? We already had the 4 highest peaks out of the 7 completed. Flys and Chiricahua were the only two I cared about, so ultimately it was up to Rich, but I told him if we went any further, I would be compelled to get all 3 remaining. We agreed to descend.
Mount Ballard – 7370’
At one time Ballard was thought to be the higher of two peaks, Fissure and Ballard. More recently the consensus is that Fissure is higher. I don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter because we did both. There’s a good use trail which helps in avoiding cholla taller than a human.
Fissure from Ballard
Fissure Peak – 7375’
The traverse trail down through the saddle is less established than the main trail, but again very helpful. We did a single move of class 3 getting down Ballard. Near the summit a natural dike feature reveals the namesake of the peak.
Peak 7161 – 7161’
Just north of Fissure and Ballard is a peak you can drive up. Afterward I bid the group farewell. A friend of mine was flying into Vegas the following day. But I figured I might be able to squeeze a couple more in, on the way home.
Camelback Mountain – 2704’
Think of this as the Mount Si of Pheonix, but easier. I once had a telemarketer tell me I should do Camelback once I got him talking off-topic. I started well before dawn so as to avoid the heat. There was already a number of people on the mountain. I can see how this peak is dangerous and why people die every year. It’s exposed near the top and easy to slip or get off-route.
There were about 10 people at the summit and we watched the sunrise. One man played a flute and then some drums. As I descended, crowds were coming up even though I was on the less popular east ridge.
Mount Union – 7979’
I drove up Poland Road as directed by Google Maps. I should have read up more on the drive approach. It would have saved me an hour of backtracking. The right way is to start in Prescott and go through Groom Creek on Senator Highway. Eventually I found the gated road with private property on either side. I hiked up to the summit where there is a lookout tower and then ran back down the road. It was time to get to the airport and pick up my friend.
Keep climbing mountains and don't slip!
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Joined: 18 Dec 2001
Posts: 2632 | TRs
|So the rule is no ascents without snow. There’s some special moss or lichen or whatnot that they don’t want trampled.
Shetter and I climbed Agazzi in the winter with snowshoes so we went right up the ridge. The ridge does have fragile plants which would be crushed beneath boots. But Agazzi is also a sacred mountain to most of the First Nations in Arizona. The Hopi believe that Kachinas live beneath the mountain. They will make a walking pilgrimage from their reservation to sacred shrines on Agazzi. Shetter and I walked past one of these shrines located on the ridge from the saddle with Humphreys. The First Nations often place items (feathers, tobacco, photos of loved ones) in the rock walls of the shrines that insensitive hikers might pilfer or desecrate. Making hiking only allowed when snow is covering also keeps a number of people away from these shrines. The link will take those interested to the hot-button topic of Agazzi's sanctity. https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/managing-hopi-sacred-sites-protect-religious-freedom
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Joined: 17 Sep 2015
Posts: 1417 | TRs
Location: there earlier, here now, somewhere later... Bellingham in between
|Interesting about Agazzi. When I hiked it in April 1999 I didn't see a Closed sign until after I descended and was headed over to Humphreys. Whoops. I should have researched it first. As I recall there was snow for some of Agazzi., so hopefully I didn't trample anything rare. Maybe I've forgotten, but I don't think it had been publicized as a sacred mountain.
However, when starting the hike that day from the Arizona Ski Bowl I happened to come upon a couple of area employees, one of whom was the manager. Seeing recent ski tracks on a thin snow pack I casually asked what kind of season they had had, and he replied "10%" [ of normal business].
To which I mindlessly boasted " Well, my local area [Mt. Baker] had a world record snowfall this season!"
That was certainly the most tactless, untimely remark that has ever left my lips!
Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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Joined: 02 Aug 2016
Posts: 398 | TRs
|Wow, you've been busy recently. Good stuff as always |
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