Tue, Apr 14, 2009
Compared to the previous day, today would be a relatively tame affair, only one DPS peak, about 10 miles RT and a little over 4,000ft of gain with a bit of technical climbing for good measure. Baboquivari is an impressive peak viewed from a distance, the highest rocky formation in a setting of several such cliff-lined forms in the north-south trending range. Getting to camp late the previous night, we were not early in rising. I was up at 6a, and finding the others still asleep in their sleeping bags, I went out to hunt down the trail and explore the first quarter mile of it. Rick and Matthew were up around 6:30a with some goading from the author. Some breakfasting and gear sorting followed and by 7a we were on our way.
Approaching the peak from the west side, our plan was to ascend the SE Arete and descend via the standard Forbes Route on the northwest side. We found the trail well-marked and easy to follow, and we spent the first few hours of the morning plying our way to the base of the peak. By the time we reached Lions Ledge the wind had picked up to small gale blowing in from the south. We briefly discussed the wisdom of continuing to the SE Arete, but the wind had sapped all interest in doing that route. We turned left and found our way to the start of the regular route described in the DPS guide.
After a short break we started up the Great Ramp, and interesting affair on generally good rock. As its name suggests, it is a giant ramp undercutting the cliff in a curving direction from right to left. We found it mostly class 2, with enough class 3 to keep it interesting. Implanted in the rock at intervals were rusted metal rods bent in twisty shapes as a result of rockfall or avalanche over the years. We guessed that someone had put up a handrail at some time in the distant past, but it has long since been neglected. At the top of the ramp we found a small clearing and were not sure which way to go next. We hadn't really studied the route beta beforehand carefully, but we did have a copy in one of our pockets somewhere. Matthew pointed out more iron bars in the wall above to the right, and upon glancing up it suddenly looked quite familiar - I recognized the Ladder Pitch from a photo I had seen. I soon had the others convinced as well and we went about figuring out how to get up it.
The Ladder Pitch is where most parties start with a rope. There is more rusty hardware embedded in the rock that is of little use, but in addition there are several hangers that can come in handy if one can find them. We had little luck at first, but soon discovered the lower one and found a second one later during the climb. The third one we never discovered, but didn't look all that hard for. We found a bit of snow at the base of the pitch and some of the rock was damp or wet to keep things a little spicy. There were more patches of snow higher up. I scrambled up the first ten feet or so before backing down. Rick did likewise. While he and Matthew paused to get out the rope and gear, I took a second crack at it, this time with more success. I managed my way up, first on the left side but then moving right where the holds seemed better and a groove cut in the rock seemed to offer better handholds even though there was more water present. At the top of the pitch I took off my pack and turned to watch the others come up on the rope. Rick led the pitch, then belayed Matthew from a pair of nice bolt hangers found at the top. We were about 45 minutes getting the three of us to the top of the pitch.
After packing the rope and gear away we continued up the series of ledges following ducks that weren't all that necessary since there were few route options. A short 12-foot class 4 section was encountered, overcome (a loose 400-lb rock that I almost dropped on Matthew was then trundled off the cliffside for safety), and the rest was mostly a class 2 scramble to the top where we arrived about 20 minutes following the Ladder Pitch. It was just before 11a, and at the summit we found a large cairn impregnated with various offerings to the rock gods - sticks, prayer flags, an abalone shell, a ceramic pot, various knick-knacks, and two ammo boxes to hold the registers. We posed our own mascot, Dangles the Monkey, on the monument but did not leave him there - my kids would have been gravely distressed if Dangles didn't return home safely with me. The winds seemed fairly tame, making us begin to regret our change of route, but a short stroll over to the south side of the mountain reintroduced us to the howling winds blowing up from that side. It was a good decision after all. In several books we found many names including a large sampling of DPS folks and other Californians. We added more names to the book before replacing it, then lunched and lounged while we took in the somewhat hazy views from the summit.
We descended via the same route, rapping off the bolt anchor at the top of the Ladder Pitch. I would have liked to have been able to downclimb the route, but was too chicken, that is, not skilled enough. Cruising back down the trail I got dusted behind the other two (fairly common occurrence these days) as they kept up a more formidable pace. We got back to the campground before 2p where I doled out a few Mikes that had been icing in the cooler during the day. We still saw no signs of a caretaker (maybe not present during the weekdays?) and ended up leaving without seeing another soul the whole time we were there.
As there was still a good deal of daylight remaining, I tried to talk the others into driving up to nearby Kitt Peak once we were out on the main highway. They had no interest in a silly drive-up so I ended up going by myself. Though the road to the summit is quite nice (one can drive 40mph most of the way), it was quite silly in the end. A sign at the bottom of the peak warned that the road closes at 4p and it was already 3:40p when I got there. I raced the 10 miles up the road to find the observatory was closed and most everyone that was leaving had already left the mountain. I took a few pictures and raced back down the road to find that they don't really close the gate at 4p as threatened. I'll have to come back another day to take a proper tour of the place. It had nice views overlooking the Tuscon area and the surrounding desert regions.
I joined Matthew and Rick in the small town of Ajo north of Organ Pipe NP. They had taken a room in a motel there before our climb of Kino Peak the next day. I joined them for the night, sleeping on the floor of the room after a decent dinner at a diner in town - the only place we found open after 5p. It was the only night of the trip that I didn't sleep in the van and the only night I recall not sleeping well. The van has done a good job of luring me away from the motel habit I had acquired. Probably won't work so well in the summer when it's too warm to sleep outside comfortably.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Baboquivari Peak - Kitt Peak
This page last updated: Mon May 11 15:32:52 2009
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