Below Sea Level Peakbagging

Hanging out below sea level leaves few opportunities to grab a summit or two. However, F and I decided it would be a good idea to end 2013 with a bang and head out to Red Hill Marina for a couple of “summits” after we checked out the mud pots: Red Island (-137′) and Red Hill (-127′).

Red Hill Marina County Park

Sprocket was a big fan of the mud near the Alamo River:

Dirty Sprocket

From the park, we ambled down toward the beach, past some cool looking rock formations. The Salton Sea is down from it’s highest levels leaving a salt encrusted perimeter. The air smelled salty like being at the ocean but yet I could see mountains across the Sea.

Rock formations

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

After poking around on the beach, I headed over to Red Hill (on the right) and then over to Red Island (on the left).

Red Island and Red Hill

We loved exploring the park and I really got a kick out of grabbing another couple of below-sea-level summits for 2013. It made for a really nice adventure for the three of us!

Cunningham Mountain

Last week, Sprocket and I set out to climb Cunningham Mountain. Cunningham Mountain (3,316′) is the high point of the Dome Rock Mountains which trend north-south between Ehrenburg and Quartzsite. Towering above our camp, the summit just seemed to call to me.

Cunningham Peak from quad trail

We cheated a bit and used the quad to get to Tule Springs canyon. I wasn’t sure how far the old jeep road on some of the maps extended (or if it was even still there at all) but I figured it would be a good place to start. Sprocket was just happy to be out on his quad.

Sprocket with quad

Sprocket on the trail

The road ended about a third of the way up the canyon and turned into a trail. Someone had fairly recently flagged the trail with pink tape which made for nice walking. Sprocket always likes having a trail to follow so he can be the “leader.”

Cunningham Peak

Sprocket and Beth

The trail lead right to this big block of petroglyphs. I kept my eyes open for petroglyphs on other rocks around the area but I never saw any. By the time we arrived here, it was starting to get nice and warm…just in time to start climbing up to the summit!



Tule Springs Canyon

We climbed up to the low saddle to the southeast of the summit and met up with the jeep road from the Quartzsite side. That road doesn’t mess around! I couldn’t believe how steep it was! I should have taken more pictures while climbing the road because that’s where the best views of Quartzsite were but I was more focused on making the last steep quarter mile! Our views from the top weren’t too shabby thought!

Looking west towards Blythe:

Looking west (Blythe)

Looking east, just south of Quartzsite:

Looking east

Signal Peak:

Signal Peak

Kings Crown Peak

Forrest had so much fun on the post-Thanksgiving Coke Ovens ride last year that he decided to do it again. Although Rodger invited me to ride along in the Razor again this year I demurred in favor of doing some more hiking. I hadn’t been out since my experience in the Sierra Estrella and it was time to get back on the wagon!

Kings Crown Peak Hike

It had also been awhile since Sprocket had been out hiking so I tried to pick a hike that was within his abilities and settled on Kings Crown Peak. My research online didn’t turn up much other than a bunch of people complaining about having to bushwack up but I’m a bit skeptical of internet beta sometimes and decided to go for it anyway.

Right away I was so happy that I brought Sprocket. He ran back and forth on the broad white quartz mining road looking so happy to be out hiking. It only got better when we dropped down to cross Queen Creek and he got to do some wading. After a brief stop to play in the creek, we started climbing. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to attain the peak but I figured that we’d climb a sub-peak, get a lay of the land and make a plan.

Sprocket swimming in Queens creek

Flowing water

As we climbed, our views out over the plateau began to open up; we certainly have some exploring to do in the area just to the east of Superior in the future!

Desert hiking near Superior, AZ

See the cows? I saw them moving out of the corner of my eye and they kinda surprised me!

Desert hiking

Rock Formations

Here’s our first good view of Kings Crown Peak (5,541′):

Kings Crown Peak

These cows weren’t really pleased to see Sprocket:


Near Kings Crown Peak

The summit area was steep but Sprocket handled the scrambling around like a champ.

View of Kings Crown Peak Summit

Looking down towards Superior from the summit:

Summit of Kings Crown Peak

I think Sprocket was rather proud of himself:

Sprocket on Kings Crown Peak

From the summit, we pushed north and dropped down to the mining road and walked it back the car. Sprocket enjoyed splashing through the creek crossings. In the end, we did about 6 ½ miles with about 3500′ of elevation gain; not too bad for a morning’s hike! I was totally ready for another delicious lunch at Los Hermanos with the guys!

Desert hiking


Sierra Estrella Highpoint, Part 1: Desert Mountain Happiness

After my hike through Sycamore Canyon, I was ready to do a bit of highpointing. I spent some time browsing and settled on tagging the summit of the Sierra Estrella mountains. Visible from throughout Phoenix, the Sierra Estrellas are a northwest-southeast trending range between Avondale and Maricopa.

To reach the beginning of the hike I had to drive all the way round to the southern flanks of the mountains. The roads weren’t in really good shape but the going wasn’t too bad (follow the directions on not your GPS…) Although it sounded like I could drive right up to the base of the mountains, I reached a wash with deep sand about 4 ½ miles from where I expected to start my hike. The van was definitely not capable of this and I knew it was as far as I could drive. I pondered the situation for a minute and decided that it was a lot of extra hiking but it was flat and along a road so I shouldered my pack and headed out.

Sierra Estrella ridgeline

For a long time, it seemed like the mountains just wouldn’t get any closer. Finally, I reached the powerlines that I’d hoped to begin my hike from. I headed up into the basin hopping along big boulders in the wash. As directed by my beta, I headed up the rightmost drainage to attain the ridge. It was a pretty stiff climb but it was a lot of fun with picking a route and scrambling up boulders.

Sierra Estrella

Rainbow Valley

Assent route

On the ridge, I got a good look at the summit (with the radio towers). What really attracted my attention was the summit on the left: Peak 4232. I decided that I had plenty of daylight, water, food, and energy to add it to the plan for the day and set off for the Sierra Estrella summit (4,512′) with new energy. The whole ridge hike, I kept my eye on the drainage coming down from the saddle between the two peaks to determine if it was passable as it would be a much quicker descent route.

Sierra Estrella HP and Peak 4232

From Sierra Estrella HP, I had great views north towards Phoenix and south towards Rainbow Valley and the Maricopa Mountains. It was hard to believe that four million people were just to my north. I’d worked hard to get to that perch and was feeling pretty relaxed and pleased with myself and dreaming about future hikes. More than nine miles in, my legs felt good and I was starting to mark this down as one of my Best Hikes Ever.

Sierra Estrella

Phoenix Valley

Northwestern Sierra Estrella

Down at the saddle between my two objectives, I tried to figure out my route up Peak 4232. It was a fun assent with some 4th (perhaps low 5th) class moves. I was confident and moved quickly up the north side of the peak. Peaks like this with just a couple of easy but heady moves are my favorite (Thielson was another).

Peak 4232

Southeastern Sierra Estrellas

There was one move that I didn’t really want to down climb so I checked out a descent from the south side of the mountain. I scrambled around and reached a point where I thought I could make the move. I thought about it. And then I thought about it some more. This mountain was definitely not worth dying on so I headed back up to the summit a little unnerved that I would have even considered doing something that dangerous.

More on the hike tomorrow!

14ers: El Diente & Mount Wilson

Thursday at 2am, we got up and headed out for another try at El Diente (and Mt. Wilson). This time we headed up via the Kilpacker trail and started our hike at about 3:45am. We arrived in Kilpacker basin just as the sun was coming up and were treated to this view of “The Tooth” catching the first rays of light:

El Diente at sunrise

Kilpacker Basin

Our timing was great. We did the easy trail hiking in the dark and started our scramble up the south slopes of El Diente while watching the sun creep along the ridges and valley floors.


Kilpacker El Diente-Mt. Wilson Traverse.

Reaching the summit of El Diente was awesome. There was just the right amount of difficult third class scrambling to make it fun without being intimidating. Since we still wanted to do the traverse to Mt. Wilson, we didn’t spend too long on the summit, taking just enough time to share a Good2Go bar and drink some water.

F on the summit of El Diente

From El Diente, we finally got a glimpse of Mt. Wilson:

Mt. Wilson from El Diente

From the left: Wilson Peak, Mt. Gladstone, and Mt. Wilson:

Wilson Peak, Gladstone from El Diente

We started across the traverse. While parts of it were lots of fun, there was lots of crumbly, tippy, loose rocks with plenty of exposure. It demanded a lot of attention as we moved slowly towards Mt. Wilson.

El Diente from Wilson Peak Traverse

The last pitch up the summit block of Mt. Wilson was quite the climax to the day. The last few moves are definitely class 4 with plenty of exposure. Finally, though, we were on top. It was almost noon so we didn’t linger very long on the summit and started our decent down into Navajo Basin via the northeastern slopes.

Marmot Navajo Basin

Decent route

When we finally reached the basin floor, it was time to get walking. The clouds were gathering and we knew that it wouldn’t be long before we got wet. Fortunately, we got to see Navajo Lake from above before packing the camera away from the rain that was almost upon us. The six mile hike out was really wet but we’d made it!

Navajo Lake

Mushrooms near Navajo Lake

Trail Stats:

Miles hiked: 16
Feet of elevation gain: ~5,200′
Time: 12 hours 45 minutes
14ers summited: TWO (Mt. Wilson and El Diente plus West Wilson)

Mt. Sneffels Climb

Wednesday, F, Ezra and I decided it was time to climb Mt. Sneffels. The climb marked the first 14er for both Ezra and I as well as the first 14er F has climbed (he’s driven up Mt. Evans).

We started our climb in beautiful Yankee Boy Basin. From the last parking area, it’s only about 1 1/2 miles to the summit so we took our time on the way up. We stopped for awhile to photograph this really friendly marmot:


As is normal in the San Juans, the views just get better and better (and my list of mountains to climb gets longer and longer).

F on Mt. Sneffels

F and Ezra on Mt. Sneffels

Views of the San Juans from Mt Sneffels

Views of the San Juans from Sneffels

Mt. Sneffels final chute

North from the summit of sneffels

Blue Lakes




Beth & F on Sneffels

We even found a bunch of fulgurites (is it still a fulgurite if it’s not a tube?):


Before the Dawn

Monday morning, Amanda, Jolleen, F, and I woke up at 3:30 and loaded up in the jeep. We headed up Corkscrew Pass and then headed to Hurricane Pass (12,407′). As we had planned, we arrived in almost total darkness to see the whole progression to sunrise.

As we waited in the dark, it was cold. I glanced around at the high peaks silhouetted against the starry sky and started thinking “up.” With shooting stars from the Perseids all around, I decided to head up the slope to our east. Away I went, picking my way through the scree, pausing now and then to note the lightening of the sky to the east and how the mountains in the distance showed more and more. Steadily, I climbed, worrying that I wouldn’t reach the summit before I had gotten too far away from the group.

Finally, I arrived at a craggy summit standing above the Lake Como basin. I could see the lake, shining darkly, down below. I could pick out Uncompaghre and Wetterhorn Peaks along with hundreds of other peaks that I can’t name. It was quiet and cool with just a slight breeze—the morning brimmed with possibility and excitement.

I returned to the group warm and happy—I had just climbed 13,447′ Hurricane Peak before sunrise. Not a bad way to start a day.

Hurricane Peak

More from our sunrise adventure to come soon. (Like once I get pictures from Jolleen and Amanda since my camera battery was completely dead…)

#Hikerchat Hike

OR Show is an interesting experience. You’re surrounded by awesome outdoor gear and pictures of people doing awesome outdoor things but yet you’re (happily) trapped in a twilight zone. (F quipped: “This place is like Vegas, I have no idea what time it is.”) Fortunately, we were able to scratch the outdoor itch with a #hikerchat adventure planned for Saturday sponsored by Teton Sports, Goal Zero, Good2Go Bar, and American Backcountry.

Little Cottonwood Canyon

We met up at Teton Sports and carpooled up Little Cottonwood Canyon to the trailhead. Besides our sponsors, we were joined by Katie and Niko of Simply Adventure, Kristie of An Appetite for Adventure, Haley of Climb Run Lift Mom, Eileen of Rockgrrl, Josh of Experience.Via.Imagination, Paul of The Outdoor Adventure, Kat, Jacalyn, and more that I’m forgetting to mention… (Remind me in the comments and I’ll add you, promise!)

Hiker Chat


It was so much fun to be hiking with a big group of people and just hearing laughter floating through the fresh mountain air. Stories of travel, climbing, and of course hiking were the order of the day.

source: The Morning Fresh
source: The Morning Fresh


Haley spent last year as a Grassroots ambassador for Stonewear Designs and it turns out we were both rocking Stonewear on the trail!

Stonewear Ambassadors

At the saddle above Catherine’s Lake, Shawn laid out he plan for what was to come: the group was going to head for a minor summit followed by Sunset Peak. Forrest and I took a look at the basin and glanced at each other. “I think we can hike around the lake,” he said. “I want that third summit,” I replied. And we were off: on a mission to loop back to the saddle in time to meet the group.

Lake Catherine

Wasatch views

We were about two-thirds of the way up Sunset Peak when we realized that we were really going to have to kick it into gear if we were going to not have anyone waiting on us!

Ridgeline hiking

Somehow, Forrest always winds up taking pictures of me in caves, hollow, trees, etc. This trip was no different:

Beth in cave

And a cheesy self-portrait:

Beth and Forrest, summit of Pinnacle Peak

The rest of the #hikerchat gang on Sunset Peak:

#hikerchat on Sunset Peak

Lake Catherine

Grabbing the summit of Pinnacle Peak was pretty awesome but seeing this beautiful guy (and his friend) was definitely the highlight of the 3Up Adventures route:

Moose in velvet

Moose in velvet

Moose in velvet

In the end, Forrest and I covered 8.6 miles with about 1,700 feet of elevation gain. Not too shabby. 🙂

#hikerchat hike, 3Up Adventures style

Elevation Gain

The #HikerChat Adventure from other views:

Paul: #HikerChat Summer Meetup 2013 – Outdoor Retailer 2013 video

Kristie: OR Show, a successful summit, and self-toasts

Peak 2434

Last weekend Sprocket indulged my peak bagging impulse by summitting Peak 2434 in the Little Ajo Mountains with me. It was a gorgeous day and we both really liked the short (but steep!) hike. The views from the top weren’t too shabby either!

Peak 2434 Pano

Peak 2434




Cardigan Peak

A couple weekends ago, Ezra, Sylvia, and I set out accompanied by Sprocket and Blue for the summit of Cardigan Peak (2,922′) near Ajo. The weather was cool and absolutely perfect for a hiking adventure. Together, we figured out a way to the summit, stopping to relax a few times along the way.

The summit was unexpectedly exciting! There was a nice pile of boulders on the summit. Blue, Sylvia’s dog, wasn’t interested in touching the tip top but since I was going, Sprocket was sure he needed to come too—even if it made me a little bit nervous!

It was so much fun to have friendly hiking partners to enjoy the outdoors (and the post hike ice cream) with!

Beth & Sprocket, summit of Cardigan Peak

Ezra and Sprocket, summit of Cardigan Peak

View from Cardigan Peak

Looking towards the summit of Cardigan Peak