Growler Peak

Yesterday, F and I headed out on the Cabeza Prieta to hike Growler Peak. We’d already obtained our permits for both the Cabeza and the Barry Goldwater so we headed out to Charlie Bell Pass. We’d been out that way last year with Sylvia to check out the petroglyphs just beyond the end of the road but this time, our sights were set about 1,500′ higher: on the summit of Growler Peak.

The ride through the western part of the Cabeza is always really pretty but this year it is so green!

I couldn’t find many reports of people hiking up Growler Peak but the consensus seemed to be hiking up the ridge that starts near the parking area at the end of the road. We were a little curious how it would go because it looked like there were some pretty significant interruptions to the ridge but decided we’d have to figure it out as we went along.

As it turned out, the lower slopes had some fun scrambling. The rock was a little crumbly but not too bad. As we got up higher, we traversed around a cliff face to the east and then regained the ridge with some pretty easy scrambling.

Several times we thought we were approaching the summit but Growler Peak has a large broad summit ridge. It was a really pleasant walk along the ridge, however. We were treated to a birds eye view of A10s out on the Barry Goldwater and huge vistas of the surrounding desert.

When we finally reached the summit, we relaxed, ate, and enjoyed the view. A car battery atop the remote mountain was also a unique, if puzzling, find…

From the peak, we were able to pick out Signal Peak in the distance:

The Growler Mountains stretched south of us:

On the way down, we decided to investigate the ridge to the northeast of our ascent path. It was cool to get this view of our route to the summit:

Our downward route was a pretty narrow ridge with several sections of really loose rock. There was one section that required some sketchy down-climbing but it “went” and we were able to turn our summit bid into a pleasant loop hike.

The cholla were intense throughout the hike but our last stretch back to the quad was particularly impressive:

Ajo, Arizona: New Cornelia Mine

After spending almost two weeks in the Yuma area, we needed to make a move! It’s still a little early to be headed anywhere north so we drove down to Ajo to spend some time catching up with old friends and exploring the desert.

We spent a lot of time in Ajo last year working, hiking, climbing mountains, jeeping, and exploring town.

Ajo was founded in 1847 by Tom Childs when he passed through the area en route to mining interests in Mexico. Childs and his party were intrigued by the ore they found. Child’s friend, Peter M. Brady, founded the Arizona Mining & Trading Company which mined surface ores in the area until a ship carrying a load to the smelter in Wales sank off the coast of Patagonia. With transportation costs leading to tiny profit margins, this disaster crippled the small mining company.

New Cornelia Mine from the slopes of Camelback Mountain

In 1900, the Cornelia Copper Company was formed by a group of St. Louis businessmen. The company was unable to find a method to concentrate ores on site—a requirement to compensate for added transportation costs from the remote location of the mine. The company reorganized under the name New Cornelia Mining Company after several disastrous experiments with copper processing.

In 1911, the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company took an option on 70% of the New Cornelia Mining Company stock. John Campbell Greenway headed the subsequent Calumet investigation into the Ajo area copper ore body. More than 25,000′ of drilling showed that there was a substantial copper ore body totaling approximately 30 million tons of ore. Calumet and Greenway exercised their option on the New Cornelia.

Calumet located a suitable water source just north of Ajo and was able to develop a practical way to process the ore. A pilot processing plant was completed in 1915 and a rail connection to Gila Bend was completed in 1916. The main processing plant capable of handling 5,000 tons of ore per day was completed in 1917.

Copper mineral “Ajoite,” first identified in the New Cornelia mine.

In 1917, steam shovels began operation at the New Cornelia, making it the first open pit mine in Arizona. By 1924, the mine had reached lower grade copper-sulfide but continued operation and a concentrator was built to handle the ore.

Calumet and Arizona merged with the Phelps Dodge company in 1931. Under Phelps Dodge, Ajo continued to develop as a company town. The finger print of Phelps Dodge can be seen in the “PD houses” and “PD garages” built to house workers at the New Cornelia. Sometime after taking over, Phelps Dodge built a smelter in Ajo to handle the ore and prepare it for shipment adding additional jobs in Ajo.

In 1982, as a result of declining copper prices, Phelps Dodge laid off most of their workers in Arizona and New Mexico. The New Cornelia reopened and then closed again as a result of a worker strike in 1983. The strike lasted for three years when Phelps Dodge decided it could not afford to add the necessary pollution control measures to the smelter and the mine closed permanently.

Azcarza, William. “Mine Tales: Remote Ajo yielded much valuable copper.” Arizona Daily Star. 18 November 2013. Web. 8 February 2014.
Azcarza, William. “High copper prices drove demand at Ajo mining district.” Arizona Daily Star. 25 November 2013. Web. 8 February 2014.
Wikipedia: “New Cornelia Mine”

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!

Ajo, Arizona: Mill Tailings

Somehow, I have these pictures on my camera. I’m not quite sure how they got there but they look like glimpses of the mill tailings from the New Cornelia mine in Ajo, Arizona. I have no idea who would have managed to get them from behind the fences. …or do I?

The tailings have eroded in some fantastic ways. They look like mini-canyons and cliffs.

Happy 3rd Birthday Sprocket!

Sprocket is a slightly spoiled dog. Last Monday, we had a BBQ to celebrate his 3rd birthday. He even had three doggie guests there to help him eat his dog birthday cake. I wasn’t super successful in taking pictures with all the action going on but here’s the birthday boy before his guests arrived:

Here’s what was happening once they showed up:

A Walk Up An Arroyo

Sometimes we don’t set off with a destination in mind. We get in the Jeep with the dog, some water, the camera and go. Somewhere along the line we’re bound to see a cool old car, a mine shaft, a new road, or a mountain. On a beautiful desert January day, we spotted an arroyo that needed some exploring, so we went.

Sprocket loved having his Ruffwear boots to protect him from the cacti spines! He’s a trooper when we have to help him but it’s nice to have a little bit of protection.

Sprocket’s Grip Trex boots were provided by Ruffwear.

Desert Car

One of the things I find really amazing about the desert having grown up in the wet Pacific Northwest is how long things are preserved out here. When you stumble upon something in the wet woods, there’s often nothing much left. Here, there’s often enough left for some awesome pictures.

On one of our latest adventures, we found this old car parked off of a BLM road. The interior had been burnt out but I still found plenty to take pictures of.