Mt. Barrow P500
Black Mountain P750 RS
Quartz Peak P1K RS
Buzzards Peak

Fri, Dec 8, 2017

With: Matt Yaussi
Iris Ma
Karl Fieberling
Scott Barnes

Black Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2 3


Having camped at the junction of SR78 and Black Mtn Rd in the SE corner of the state, we had a party of five for the day's activities which were centered around a visit to Quartz Peak, a P1K and the highpoint of the Indian Pass Wilderness.

Mt. Barrow

Our first objective was a named peak on the eastern edge of the Chocolate Mountains. Most of this range is used as a Navy aerial gunnery practice, making excursions into it somewhat risky. Mt. Barrow lies just within the gunnery range, making the ascent not exactly legal, though the risks are lower than a trip deeper into the range. Piled into Matt's Suburu, we headed east on Imperial Gables Rd, leading to the unincorporated community of the same name. There is little left here decades after it was last inhabited. At the end of our road, a mile south of Mt. Barrow, sits a private residence no longer occupied. It appears that someone once spent a great deal of time building and working the property as a hobby, with rock walls, outdoor shower and bath facilities and all manner of improvements, only to see it decay once the work stopped. The property is still signed for No Trespassing, but it doesn't look like anyone has actively looked after the place in a long time.

We started up a wash running adjacent to the property, soon heading uphill to gain a ridge running north. The terrain was quite rocky with some modestly fun scrambling, but overall mostly a class 2 affair. The sparse vegetation includes ocotillo, barrel and cholla cactus, the latter a rather nasty invention that requires great attention to avoid and some skill to remove if not avoided. Scott was the first victim, and since it was his initial encounter, he had the displeasure to find that removal attempts, if not handled properly, can make matters worse. We traversed below the crest of an intermediate false summit before dropping to the saddle and climbing the last part (with the best scrambling and most cholla) to the summit of Mt. Barrow. It took us about an hour and a half to make our way to the highpoint where we found a benchmark and a Gordon/Barbara register from 1982. There were three other parties to have signed in since then, the last in 2002. After our break, we returned back over the false summit before dropping more westward into the drainage which we followed back to the abandoned home. No Navy activity out today and no unexploded ordinances encountered. The whole outing took 3hrs to cover 3mi and 1,400ft of gain.

Black Mountain

We drove back out to SR78 and then east on Black Mtn Rd, following this good road, much of it paved, for almost 7mi to the top of Black Mtn, an elongated ridgeline west of Peter Kane Mtn (whose highpoint is Quartz Peak), its top populated by a number of telecommunication towers. Black Mtn appears in Purcell's guidebook, Rambles & Scrambles, though it involves little in the way of either. The views from the top following the exceedingly short walk are pretty good - one can see the impressive formation of Picacho Peak to the southeast and hundreds of square miles of folded desert terrain in all directions. We had driven most of the road back down Black Mtn when Matt remembered that he had left his spot device on the summit. He didn't want to inconvenience the rest of us by repeating the longish drive, but the rest of us would have none of it, especially since we were passengers in his car. Back up we went and sure enough, the device was right where he'd thought he'd left it.

Quartz Peak

Back down the road for a second time, at the bottom we turned off onto a rough 4WD road in Julian Wash and followed this for a short time before it became unmanageable without risk to Matt's car. We were about 2mi due west of Quartz Peak at this point and would simply hoof it from there. Our route went east across the surprisingly wide Julian Wash system, eventually gaining what looked to be the West Ridge and following this up. The terrain was open and easy to follow, little vegetation and no real scrambling, all class 2. After just over an hour's effort and another false summit, we reached the highpoint where we found the benchmark but no register. Our view southeast to Picacho Peak was better than on Black Mtn, though similar in other directions. To make a loop of things, we descended a drainage to the northwest, dropping us into the wash system much sooner and dutifully following this back to our starting point. Having taken differing return routes, Scott and Karl got a little competitive at the end, running the final distance to "prove" their route was better. It's hard to beat Scott when he gets in his competition mode.

Buzzards Peak

It was getting late in the afternoon and we had to skip the planned visit to the Picacho Peak Wilderness HP and nearby Top BM, two other hikes I'd hoped to squeeze in. Instead, at Scott's urging, we visited nearby Buzzards Peak, a small, standalone summit on the east side of SR78 which we could do in short order. We were able to drive within half a mile of the summit and it took us only 15min to reach the top. Gordon and Barbara had left a register here in 2008 which proved far more popular than Barrow, this one with nearly 20 pages of entries in less than a decade. We finished up the hike before 4:30p, very close to sunset, with a chill in the air and our feet happy to be done for the day. We showered in failing light before heading south on SR78 to Interstate 8, then east to the Arizona border. We met up with Evan at a primitive campsite located off Pichaco Rd, on the north side of the All American Canal. Matt cooked us up a BBQ feast on his portable Weber and we ate until past satiation. Scott had made my favorite cake for the belated birthday occasion - rum cake - which Matt supplemented with a layered vanilla cake of his own. Who knew that peakbaggers could make such excellent chefs?


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