Gibraltar Wilderness HP P500
The Mesa P900
Peak 1,940ft P300
Peak 1,900ft P300
Peak 1,262ft P300
Gibraltar Mountain P300

Wed, Feb 24, 2021

With: Eric Smith

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX


I had asked Eric before this desert roadtrip if he had any peaks in mind that we could incorporate in my Schedule of the Obscure. Normally he just goes with whatever I pick out and seems happy to be along for the ride. So when he mentioned an interest in Wilderness highpoints I sort of winced to myself - not because I don't like them, but because I had done almost all of the ones in the California desert. Not so in Arizona however, so I found the nearest Wilderness around Parker, AZ where we were centered, and put the Gibraltar Wilderness HP on the agenda for today. It is located in the Buckskin Mtns, a large range stretching west from Park for more than 30mi. The Wilderness takes up only a small part of the range, but it would do. I had other summits planned for the day as well, but we didn't get to most of them because I called an audible and changed things up once we were out in the field. It worked out to be a fine day with plenty of fun Jeeping between summits.

Gibraltar Wilderness HP

As Wilderness HPs go, this is one of the lamest. Not as bad as Wee Thump or Milpitas Wash, but lacking in prominence, and not very memorable. I enjoyed the driving on Shea Rd around the south and east sides of the Wilderness, more than 12mi that any vehicle can negotiate. The last four miles headed northwest from Shea Rd on a powerline road, high-clearance required. We ended up at a saddle called The Jumpoff on the topo map, less than a mile northeast of our Wilderness HP. Having taken us an hour for the drive from our campsite, it was now 7:30a. Parking under a transmission tower, we headed southwest up a small valley towards the summit, just visible from our start. With numerous ways to tackle it, we aimed for the NE Ridge (bypassing a point on the lower half of it), as a more challenging route over the East Slopes. There was some easy class 3 in the upper reaches, but nothing difficult, and we found ourselves at the highpoint in less than 40min. The summit area is large and mesa-like, the highpoint found at the western end. John Vitz left a register here in 2015, Andy Martin visiting a year later. There was one other party from 2020 before our arrival. While sitting at the summit, I noticed there was a prominent peak five miles to the north that had not gotten my attention back when I was researching the area. It turns out to be the highpoint of a large area called The Mesa with more than 900ft of prominence. I could see a dirt road to the east and south of it, thinking it might be a pretty short climb if the road was driveable. It seemed a shame not to do it since we had already driven most of the distance. I asked Eric if he was Ok with me changing plans and he didn't seem to mind - he'd gotten his Wilderness HP and would probably be happy no matter what we did the rest of the day. On the return, we used the easier East Slopes to descend to the small valley, getting back to the Jeep by 8:50a, an hour and twenty minutes for the roundtrip.

The Mesa - Peak 1,940ft

Most of the next hour was spent Jeeping to The Mesa. This is found along a popular Jeep route known as Black Mesa. More information on this and a host of other interesting Jeep routes can be found at A spur road ends at an overlook about half a mile north of The Mesa's HP. The Hayden-Rhodes Aqueduct tunnels through the Buckskin Mtns under this location and there is a view north to Lake Havasu. The highpoint is not visible from our starting point, blocked by an intermediate point that we had to go over enroute. We tried to bypass it on the west side, but cliffs blocked such a traverse, so over the top we went. We spent 30min to reach the summit, including a visit to the slightly lower south summit. There is a nice view looking west to the Colorado River with developments on both the CA and AZ sides. A second summit, Peak 1,940ft, lay about 2/3mi to the northwest. The terrain between them was complicated and would involve losing a lot of elevation. Eric decided to give it a pass. After leaving a register, we returned together about half the distance to the saddle with the intermediate point. While Eric returned to the Jeep, I descended down the west side of the mesa, taking advantage of a series of gullies that cut through the cliff band on this side. Once low enough, I traversed west along the slopes towards Peak 1,940ft, passing through a saddle on its east side. After negotiating a cholla garden, I found a break in a narrow cliff band on the SE side that I could use to get to the south summit by 11:10a. My GPSr with the LoJ location showed I had another 1/10th mile to the north summit, but it was clearly lower - I could see Lake Havasu over the top of the north summit, standing with my eyes at the level of the south summit. I would get LoJ to correct this later. I could easily see the Jeep atop the bluff at the edge of the mesa about a mile to the east. With the zoom, I could see Eric resting in the shade of the Jeep. A few other Jeeps came up to disturb his solitude, but they left after a quick look-around. I left another register atop the summit before reversing my route back to the saddle on the east side. I then diverted from my ascent route, dropping deeper into the canyon to aim more directly for the Jeep, rather than the other saddle I had descended. This worked out nicely, with a steep finish through the rocks at the end, landing me less than 100ft from the Jeep by noon.

Peak 1,900ft

More driving. Eric had been perusing the peakbagger app and asked if we might climb another "red dot" on our way back. I knew exactly which one he was talking about and was planning to stop there anyway. We managed to drive the Jeep within a quarter mile on the east side. A better driver could get closer, but I decided to stop where the road grows steep and quite rocky - I'd probably lose $10-20 worth of tread in the effort and it would be no quicker in the end. We hiked up the road heading southwest, then west across flatter volcanic terrain to the highpoint. An older road, no longer in use, went out along this trajectory with a parking spot just short of the highpoint. Someone had spent time making a rock-lined path here, a curiosity without much purpose from what we could see. The highpoint was hardly interesting, save for a good view of the Wilderness HP to the west. We returned to the Jeep without leaving a register.

Peak 1,262ft - Gibraltar Mtn

Another hour of driving. We returned to Shea Rd and drove around the other side of the Wilderness, nearly to our campsite. We drove an incredibly dusty road that looks to have been recently graded northeast to the Wilderness boundary near the foot of these two peaks. There is plenty of parking at the boundary near the old Mammon Mine, along with a small structure called the Goat Man Bar. It appears to be the poor man's version of the Desert Bar (also called the Nellie E. Saloon) found elsewhere in the range. This informal structure has several hundred dollars stapled all over the wooden sides and roof, signed by the visitors that left them. Someone must give it regular attention or it would be impossible for it to last more than a season, but today was a non-drinking day in the middle of the week as we had the place to ourselves. Peak 1,262ft lay less than a quarter mile north of where we parked. There are easier class 2 ways to climb the peak from other sides, but I led Eric up the direct route with a cliff band on the southeast side. We followed a gully up and to the right to reach a convenient ramp that offered a way through the narrow section of cliff band on this end. A bit of class 3 with little exposure, and in 15min were at the summit. For such a short approach, the peak appears to see little traffic - Barbara and Gordon had left a register in 2003 and ours was the first additional entry. Less than a mile to the northeast rose the higher Gibralter Mountain, after which the Wilderness was named. It wasn't evident from our vantage that there was any resemblence to the famous British citidel, but we could imagine from the mine site that it looked different. Or perhaps just wistful thinking.

Candace Skalet had left a GPS track on PB that climbed Gibralter from the northwest, a roundabout way that avoided the steep slopes on the West Face. Once again, I went for the direct approach, following a dark rib that I suspected might have decent scrambling. This worked out nicely, not the solid, memorable stuff we'd prefer, but larger rocks with good footing that avoided the smaller, looser crud on either side. The last few hundred feet follow an easier gradient on the summit plateau to the highpoint at the northern end. It took a little under 45min to get between the two summits. Barbara and Gordon had left a register here the day after the one they'd left on the previous summit. At 70yr+ in age, one couldn't fault them for not getting both on the same day. There was an older, loose page from 1998, and another six parties since Lilley/MacLeod. We descended off the same rib on the west side, then made the easy return to our starting point by 3:50p, about 1h35m roundtrip.

It was getting late in the day so we left other peaks for another time, choosing to enjoy a few beers at the Goat Man Bar before heading back to our campsite - a fun day in the Buckskin Mtns...


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