Thu, Dec 8, 2022
I had driven down to Kofa NWR with plans to hike with Matthew, Chris and Stav. Today it was just Matthew and I to do a collection of summits in the Castle Dome Mtns that Chris and Stav had done on a previous trip. Our approach was from the west, at the end of an unsigned, 1.5mi road off US95 that got us to the boundary of the NWR. It had been four years since I last hiked with Matthew, so this would give us an opportunity to catch up since before Covid times.
We were up to start from where we camped by 7:30a. We didn't do a whole lot of research since we had a track from Chris that covered the five peaks we had on the agenda. The route starts easily enough, following the old mining road towards Black Tank (the watering hole, not the peak) for a short distance before veering off to follow a major wash heading east. The wash was quite rocky and brushy, too, with catclaw and other scratchers to avoid as best as we could manage. Halfway to Black Tank BM, the route begins to grow steep with cliff faces seemingly surrounding us. Following the GPX track would have been the best course, but we seemed to think we knew better and continued up the obvious wash. Our smugness began to diminish as the wash (now gully) began to veer right (south) away from our target. We followed this to its conclusion on a difficult ridge that offered us no easy escape. The wash/gully we should have followed was now plain to see behind us, and after only a bit of deliberation, we decided to cut our losses and return to the GPX track, costing us maybe 15-20min, no big deal.
Back on Chris' route, we continued east up to the top of the gully where we got a good view of Black Tank BM only a short distance away. Through a cholla garden over otherwise easy ground, we headed for the direct ascent up the west side with a bit of class 3 in the middle reaches, topping out by 9:20a. Matthew had taken off for the last easy part to the summit, easily beating the old man. It was a clear day, cool temps, and views stretching out over most of the Kofa region. A register had been left by Barbara and Gordon in 1988 and had six pages of entries. John Vitz had predated the register by four years with a scrap of paper.
So far so good. We could see the next two summits to the east, and after only a few minutes' rest, we headed off towards Peak 3,050ft. This was a pretty straightforward effort, bypassing an intermediate point along the connecting ridge on its right side, then up to the summit from the north, all class 2, taking 30min. There was an old register found here left by Bob Packard in 2001. All the entries since then fit on a single page. We had a much closer view of Clifty BM now, our primary objective and the next peak to the east. It's class 2 down to the saddle on the connecting ridgeline, Matthew once again handily beating me to the cholla garden found there. He was waiting at the saddle for me to catch up, and the first thing I said was, "Thinking of going up the West Face?" Chris had descended down to traverse the base of the southwest side and climb up from the standard route from the south. Matthew acknowledged that he was giving it some thought. I added that it certainly looked like it ought to go. We'd been burned once by not following his track, and it was not lost on us that this could be the second time. When I suggested it would cost us half an hour at the most, Matthew agreed to try the west side.
It worked like a charm. Swapping leads, we found a very enjoyable route all the way to the summit, no more than class 3. It was now 10:30a, only 45min from Peak 3,050ft. There was another register here, a Barbara/Gordon one from 1989. It had 11 pages of entries, clearly more popular than the previous summits. While taking in the view for a short break, I commented to Matthew that I would probably not join him for the last two summits, wanting to save my leg which was beginning to feel the toll of the last few tough days. Matthew tried to convince me it wasn't too much additional work, but gave up when he saw the futilty of it.
Getting off Clifty BM via the south side route was a bit of a puzzle since we hadn't gone up that way, even with Chris' GPX track. After a few efforts were stymied by cliffs, we found the exit to the east and then down a class 2-3 gully to get us off the upper summit. At a saddle several hundred feet below, we parted ways, Matthew heading east to the next summit, while I dropped to the west into the drainage I hoped would exit me to the south side of the range. This started off well enough, but eventually the terrain grew steeper and I was confronted with a series of dryfalls I couldn't descend. In three cases, I would have to climb up to descend an adjacent drainage, making me wonder if I was getting the shorter outing that I'd planned. It was great fun though, the detours and brushy conditions adding to the challenge. I eventually reached the easier terrain below where things became more relaxed.
I had about two miles or so to get back to our starting point. I had planned to connect with Chris' route on the southwest side of the range, but I found a more direct route that took me across a number of drainages and low saddles that worked quite well. I finally got back just after 1:30p, my left leg happy to be done. I set out my chair and got some snacks while I waited for Matthew to return. With my missteps at the dryfalls, I thought there was a chance he'd beat me back, especially knowing he'd move much faster without me in tow. He showed up about half an hour after myself, expressing a thorough satisfaction with the route. I agreed.
We would spend the rest of the afternoon getting some last text messages out before making the long drive into King Valley in the center of the NWR where we planned to hike the next day. We had dinner and a lovely fire near Kofa Butte where we camped. Chris and Stav were due to arrive around 9p or so, but I would be fast asleep before then...
This page last updated: Tue Dec 27 18:49:46 2022
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