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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostThu Feb 15, 2024 3:43 pm 
This is such a cool place. I hiked most of the trails on my last trip, so this visit was mainly off-trail adventures. And it is a little nerve-racking to wander off the beaten path solo in this neighborhood! But I had no issues. A smart person would be sure to have their passport so they could drive 5 minutes south to Mexico and get tacos. Unfortunately I had to send mine in for renewal recently so no tacos for me. waah.gif Peak 4180 & Peak 4220 - 2.3.24 10 mi, ~3000' This is a very fun and very scenic loop out of Alamo Canyon campground with side trips to two peaks in the Ajo Range. An excellent and detailed description of the route with lots of geology info is posted on Debra Van Winegarden's Earthline blog. Summary: follow the Alamo canyon trail to the corral. Turn left and stroll/hop up the gravel/boulders/solid rock of the north fork. After the canyon makes a hard turn to the east, hike NNW up a side drainage to a small saddle east of Peak 4180. About halfway up the side drainage the terrain becomes mostly solid rock and gets really fun. From the saddle, hike west to a broad plateau south of the summit, then north to the summit on a fun ridge. Retrace your steps to the saddle, descend to Grass Pass, and hike northeast up a steep slope to cross a yellow breccia plateau. Scramble ~20' to the summit ridge of 4220. Descend to Grass canyon by crossing a gap at ~3600' in the ridge that runs north from Grass Pass, or go back to Grass Pass and descend from there. Enjoy ~30 minutes of fun scrambling descent, then a short walk to exit the canyon to the bajada. Turn south and walk a couple miles through open desert and across many washes back to the campground. The only unpleasant section of the route was from the 3600' gap to Grass Canyon - loose rock and overgrown vegetation. I also made a slight routefinding error trying to make a loop down from Peak 4220 and ended up having to do some Spiderman-type shenaningans across a little cliff band instead of traversing below it like I intended. Otherwise navigation was straightforward. I wasn't exactly sure where to leave Grass Canyon but I randomly picked an exit route that seemed not too brushy and it worked fine. The bajada is grassy and green now, but I bet it will be glorious when it blooms this year. Just before leaving Grass Canyon, I passed by a big chuparosa bush about 25' long, occupied by a flock? family? charm of hummingbirds. I stopped to watch them, and then a few of them stopped to watch me, and then suddenly they swarmed and flew circles around me! It was so neat!! There were two registers on Peak 4180 but one appeared to be burnt and crumbled to the touch. I couldn't open the other one. Both were last signed in 1998, but I found several cairns so the route seems to be used. No register on peak 4220. Many trash piles and hiding places around the summit though. I hadn't seen any obvious signs of migration on the route until I got to the 4220 summit ridge, though I heard strange noises after turning east in north fork Alamo canyon and nearly bailed. Sounded like rocks dropping, slowly, one at a time. Eventually I decided whatever it was was far enough away, but definitely freaked me out a bit.
Alamo canyon ranch house
Alamo canyon ranch house
Starting up the north fork
Starting up the north fork
North fork alamo
North fork alamo
North fork alamo
North fork alamo
Starting up the side drainage, target saddle left of center
Starting up the side drainage, target saddle left of center
Fun scrambling
Fun scrambling
More fun scrambling
More fun scrambling
More fun scrambling
More fun scrambling
Looking west from the saddle. 4180 summit at far right
Looking west from the saddle. 4180 summit at far right
Easy peasy
Easy peasy
On the ridge (summit not really visible here)
On the ridge (summit not really visible here)
Arch en route
Arch en route
Summit ridge
Summit ridge
4220 from 4180
4220 from 4180
Looking back down the ridge
Looking back down the ridge
reg 1
reg 1
reg 2
reg 2
Descending to grass pass
Descending to grass pass
Route from pass to summit
Route from pass to summit
Approaching the yellow plateau
Approaching the yellow plateau
On the yellow plateau
On the yellow plateau
Final scramble
Final scramble
Summit graffiti
Summit graffiti
zoom of descent route from the saddle to grass pass, and cool pinnacles
zoom of descent route from the saddle to grass pass, and cool pinnacles
Montezuma's head
Montezuma's head
Southern highpoints of the Ajo range and 4180
Southern highpoints of the Ajo range and 4180
hidey hole below the summit
hidey hole below the summit
Spiderman cliffs
Spiderman cliffs
3600' gap
3600' gap
Looking up grass canyon
Looking up grass canyon
Grass canyon
Grass canyon
4180 from grass canyon
4180 from grass canyon
costa's 1
costa's 1
costa's 2
costa's 2
first of many pants, why??
first of many pants, why??
Looking back from the bajada
Looking back from the bajada
Very green desert
Very green desert
Blooming already!
Blooming already!
Red tank tinaja sunset stroll 2.4.24 I was looking for an easy hike and wanted to go to Senita basin to look for a senita cactus, but the park "advises against" driving on the access road (South Puerto Blanco Road) right now. Apparently, people are crossing the border and then just waiting along the road for Border Patrol to come by so they can request asylum. Tens to hundreds of people at a time. I was curious about this and really wanted to see it for myself, but having met some BP officers in Tucson and hearing how stressful this situation is, I decided to stay out of the way. I asked the rangers for an alternative and this is what they offered. It was very boring, but did have decent views of Pinkley Peak and the Ajo Range. I hiked over a couple different bumps to make a loop.
Pinkley Peak 3145 2.5.24 4 mi, 1550' This was my second attempt at this small but mighty peak. A few years ago I tried it with no beta except for a rambling trip report from someone else who had climbed it with no beta. I couldn't make sense of it and ran out of time. This time I had a gps track from a trusted source (Susan Shih) to help decipher it. My route: From the toilet, walk west and cross a wash. For least brushiness, stay south of the main wash and follow it to the base of the peak. Take the path of least resistance across the wash and work your way around to the right side of a blob of yellow tuff. Climb the ridge in front of you until you get back on another big swath of tuff. At the top of this, ascend southwest on broken rock to about 2800, then work your way south on ledges of varying width and quality - there are a few options. Eventually you will need to climb a broad sloping ramp covered with green lichen to the southeast ridge. On my previous trip I got near the beginning of this ramp but wasn't sure if I was at the right elevation to cross over the southeast ridge. It looks like the next level up could also work but this goes fine. After climbing the green ramp, ascend the southeast ridge as far as possible (not very) and then hike around to the south side of the summit block. You will see a large overhang at the start of the ridge and pass by another one on the south side. Then make an ascending traverse until you are below the second, and less obvious, low point in the summit ridge. A cairn marks this spot. Climb up to the ridge (again, a few options will work). Pass by a whole bunch of trash and turn left to walk up to the summit. It's a short and very fun route. The summit has nice views of the rest of the Puerto Blanco range and the Ajo range, and of course the big beautiful green desert. But ugh, there is so much trash. Water bottles, tuna packets, blankets, several pairs of pants, two pairs of binoculars, a backpack, etc.
Approaching pinkley
Approaching pinkley
This is nice
This is nice
Ledges
Ledges
More ledges
More ledges
Looking back down the green ramp
Looking back down the green ramp
Up the southeast ridge a little ways
Up the southeast ridge a little ways
Summit block from south side
Summit block from south side
I scrambled up this weakness but also possible to traverse 2 min further and just walk uphill
I scrambled up this weakness but also possible to traverse 2 min further and just walk uphill
Near the summit ridge
Near the summit ridge
Summit views
Summit views
Summit views
Summit views
Summit views
Summit views
Summit trash
Summit trash
So many crevices, each filled with trash
So many crevices, each filled with trash
When I got back to the trailhead I ran into a couple of NPS volunteers in their 80s who have been cleaning up the park for the past 8 years. They seemed to get a real kick out of finding sleeping smugglers in the desert. They had been to the summit by at least 4 different routes and said the pass west of Pinkley used to be called trash pass because of how much traffic it got and how much garbage was left behind. They also told me how to identify packages of fentanyl which is apparently "everywhere" because smugglers toss it when they get caught. I didn't find any. Lower Boulder Canyon - Arch Canyon loop 2.9.24 4 mi, 950' This was an afternoon recon mission for a future attempt to climb peak 4740, the second highest mountain in the Ajo range. I'd seen two previous reports approaching the peak from the Arch Canyon side and neither was very appealing. The first one featured extremely complicated navigation, and the second one featured "a horrible bushwhack" and "the remains of a young human female". No thanks. I decided to try approaching from Boulder canyon. The slope angle shading in Caltopo suggests that it might go. After seeing it up close, I think it probably does, but I ran out of daylight. Also, the terrain in the canyon pushes you north, right up to a saddle above the Arch Canyon arches, and below "platform 3760"...which has a trail going right to it. So one could save themself some trouble and time and skip lower boulder canyon altogether. clown.gif However, the lower canyon is not difficult - just requires picking a route though huge boulders at the entrance. Then there is some fun scrambling on solid rock. It seems best to approach the canyon from the northwest to avoid the worst brush (I didn't). Don't skip the side trip to 3760' though. Both the north and south ends of the platform have excellent views. I descended the Arch trail but skipped the Arch since I'd been there before. The trail has a ridiculous number of cairns!
Boulder canyon
Boulder canyon
Fitting
Fitting
Fun scrambling beyond the boulders
Fun scrambling beyond the boulders
Really cool rock formations
Really cool rock formations
Nearing the saddle
Nearing the saddle
I turned around on level 4
I turned around on level 4
Looking back to the saddle
Looking back to the saddle
View from turnaround point
View from turnaround point
Platform 3760 and Peak 4158
Platform 3760 and Peak 4158
Platform 3760 view
Platform 3760 view
Tillotson
Tillotson
SO MANY CAIRNS
SO MANY CAIRNS
Tillotson sunset
Tillotson sunset
Peak 4540 2.10.24 5 mi, 2,040 ft My last day in the Ajo range for awhile, and it was a good one. The route description for this hike on Debra Van Winegarden's blog says "this rugged and difficult five-mile hike easily feels double the distance." I was skeptical. She was not wrong. It is officially the third-highest peak in the range. A big storm came through overnight and the mountains were still socked in, but clearing, when I left Twin Peaks campground at 11am. By 11:45 I was heading up the Arch Canyon trail. I passed the standard warning sign about smuggling, etc. and followed a good trail down into the canyon. The route follows the main canyon for about a mile and half. I was surprised to find tons of water! But should have expected it. It was so pretty, but definitely slowed me down. There were no significant obstacles on the first stretch, just a lot of low hanging branches ready to snag hats and stowed trekking poles. The weather was unsettled. About 30 minutes in I had to duck under a tree to get out of a hail shower. After passing under a big cave (about 0.5 miles after leaving the trail), there is an obvious bypass trail on the left which goes around brush-choked section. A little further along there’s a huge chockstone blocking the canyon, but there's an easy bypass on ledges to the right. Next I came to a large pool that I wasn't sure how to get around. As I considered it, sprinkles turned into a downpour and I ducked into an alcove between boulders on the left to wait out the rain and each lunch. To bypass the pool, I ended up wiggling up through a hole in this alcove. After nearly 2 miles, the main canyon makes a turn to the right, and the route goes left. A trail leads out of the canyon up to a rock shelf. Follow the side canyon on it's north side, then cross over and aim for the north side of a large rock outcrop on the ridge. There is a decent trail leading across the wash, and again alongside the rock outcrop to the ridge. Once you hit the ridge, turn left and it's an easy hike to the summit. Views are excellent!! I found another un-openable register (note: glass jars make terrible registers) and some kind of metal contraption on the summit. I think it was a bed frame? I also got snowed on. Didn't stay too long because I was behind schedule from the rain delay and wanted to get to an overlook on Ajo Mtn Drive for sunset photos. I retraced my steps and made it back to the trailhead in half the time. cool.gif
Little arch, big arch
Little arch, big arch
Lots of water
Lots of water
Chockstone obstacle
Chockstone obstacle
ledge bypass route on right
ledge bypass route on right
Beyond the ledges
Beyond the ledges
Scrambled through a hole between boulder on the left to pass this
Scrambled through a hole between boulder on the left to pass this
Looking south at the last big turn
Looking south at the last big turn
Arch from the side drainage
Arch from the side drainage
Stay south of the pinnacle at center (obscured here) and hug the north wall of the rock outcrop
Stay south of the pinnacle at center (obscured here) and hug the north wall of the rock outcrop
Looking down canyon from the ridge
Looking down canyon from the ridge
Looking south on the ridge
Looking south on the ridge
Summit ahead
Summit ahead
Strolling the summit ridge
Strolling the summit ridge
summit pano
summit pano
4180 and 4220
4180 and 4220
Hmm.
Hmm.
Arch canyon
Arch canyon

RAW-dad, Prosit, Nancyann, Route Loser, meck, Now I Fly, fffej50, Gimpilator, John Mac, jstern  Anne Elk, awilsondc  fourteen410
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Eric Hansen
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Eric Hansen
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PostFri Feb 16, 2024 11:46 am 
Yep! I'm getting faint memories of a trip there 20 or 25 years ago. Glorious land. We were camping at Alamo and had a route description that we followed hiking north, then east up and over a "pass", descending to a drainage that we followed back to Alamo. Don't have a map here so can't be more precise but I would gladly return. Thanks for the great report, pictures.

Off trail rambler

rubywrangler
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Gimpilator
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Joined: 12 Oct 2006
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Gimpilator
infinity/21M
PostFri Feb 16, 2024 12:52 pm 
Great report and photos. You've given me some ideas for peaks I have not done. Pinkley is fun, but intricate. Ended up descending a different way by mistake, which was interesting.

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Dick B
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Dick B
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PostFri Feb 16, 2024 1:22 pm 
My wife and I were there in 05. We had just spent several days enjoying the wildflowers at Borrego Springs SP. We headed east on I 8 then crossed into Mexico at Yumà and continued east exiting at Sonoyta. Wouldn't do that today. We were towing a small camp trailer and were greeted by a large rattler crossing our camp site. On our first hike we encountered another one on the trail. We could have walked right over it, had not another hiker warned us. My wife hates snakes in all forms. We did have a good time tho and is a beautiful spot.

rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostFri Feb 16, 2024 4:51 pm 
Thanks Eric, sounds like you did a similar loop through grass canyon going the other direction. Adam, yeah I was surprised that you hadn't logged ascents of these Ajo range peaks already! I should have reached out to see if you were free but didn't think about it until too late. All three are worth going back for IMO, and I will definitely be back for 4740. The NPS volunteers said Tillotson is also fun.

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TrumOnTop
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Joined: 02 Feb 2024
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PostFri Feb 16, 2024 9:48 pm 
I really enjoyed your report and photos up.gif up.gif

Beep borp

rubywrangler
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Zloi
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Zloi
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PostSun Mar 24, 2024 5:05 pm 
Thank you for these detailed trip reports. I am planning to be in Organ Pipe in a couple weeks as part of a road trip after hitting Joshua Tree and was ruminating on how to occupy myself there. Will spend only a couple days there as I'm pushing on to Texas to get into the eclipse zone, and I assume it will be hotter than when you were there, so I'm not sure how strenuous a hike I'll be up for. But always better to have more info than not enough, and in my experience, hitting up the park rangers in such places isn't very fruitful. They will steer you to 'safe' routes where they hope not to have to make a rescue. I'm not surprised, I guess, at the amount of trash you encountered, but it is a sad commentary. It sounds like you didn't make it up Mt Ajo, although my Gaia topo shows at least a rudimentary route there from Bull Pasture.

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rubywrangler
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PostSun Mar 24, 2024 6:46 pm 
I hiked up Mt. Ajo on a previous trip a few years ago and there's a good trail the whole way. Enjoy!

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