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′).
Sprocket was a big fan of the mud near the Alamo River:
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.
After poking around on the beach, I headed over to Red Hill (on the right) and then over to Red Island (on the left).
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
See the cows? I saw them moving out of the corner of my eye and they kinda surprised me!
Here’s our first good view of Kings Crown Peak (5,541′):
These cows weren’t really pleased to see Sprocket:
The summit area was steep but Sprocket handled the scrambling around like a champ.
Looking down towards Superior from the summit:
I think Sprocket was rather proud of himself:
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!
After my hike through Sycamore Canyon, I was ready to do a bit of highpointing. I spent some time browsing peakbagger.com 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 summitpost.org 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
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.
From El Diente, we finally got a glimpse of Mt. Wilson:
From the left: Wilson Peak, Mt. Gladstone, and Mt. Wilson:
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.
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.
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!
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)
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).
We even found a bunch of fulgurites (is it still a fulgurite if it’s not a tube?):
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.
More from our sunrise adventure to come soon. (Like once I get pictures from Jolleen and Amanda since my camera battery was completely dead…)
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.
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.
Haley spent last year as a Grassroots ambassador for Stonewear Designs and it turns out we were both rocking Stonewear on the trail!
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.
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!
Somehow, Forrest always winds up taking pictures of me in caves, hollow, trees, etc. This trip was no different:
And a cheesy self-portrait:
The rest of the #hikerchat gang on Sunset Peak:
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:
In the end, Forrest and I covered 8.6 miles with about 1,700 feet of elevation gain. Not too shabby. 🙂
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!
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!