Peak 4,020ft P300
Black Mesa P500
Peak 4,421ft P750
Negrohead P300 RS

Fri, Dec 6, 2019

With: Eric Smith
Scott Barnes

Black Mesa
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


Our second day in Arizona's Black Mountains saw us on the south side of Sitgreaves Pass. The main effort today was to reach Black Mesa, the highpoint of the Warm Springs Wilderness. It also happen to be my 59th birthday, but that played little part in the day's adventures, though it was the excuse for this long roadtrip to Arizona.

Peak 4,020ft - Black Mesa

Leaving two vehicles at the pass, we drove in the jeep down the east side of the range a few miles to a rough spur road going south and southwest to Cool Spring on the edge of the Wilderness. Suitable only for high-clearance 4WD, the road saved us about a mile of hiking each way from the highway. There are no signs or official trailheads on this road, so you have to know what you're looking for and where you're going. We parked in the (normally) dry wash that the road follows towards Cool spring, picking a place to make a convenient loop of the two summits. We tackled Peak 4,020ft to the southeast first, which would give us more options for later in the morning. At the start, we easily crossed the weakly flowing creek, one of the rare times I've found a creek actually flowing in the desert, then traversed around intervening slopes to approach our peak from the north. From a distance, Peak 4,020ft looks ringed by cliff bands and gave Eric some concern, but Scott and I sort of waved our hands in the general direction and professed that it's weaknesses would become self-evident as we neared it. And so they were, with more than one option through the bands that proved no serious obstacle. It took us a little over an hour to reach the summit, Scott taking a more direct route up the volcanic slopes while Eric and I fished around for a somewhat easier line to the left. Almost as soon as we were atop its open summit, I was looking for an alternate way off, a more direct route to the saddle with Black Mesa to the west. Scott helped in the search, looking off the south and southeast sides while I focused on the steep West Ridge dropping directly to the saddle. After a reasonably short break at the summit, we headed off the west side that looked like it would go with some care. This worked quite nicely with rubbly chutes that kept it to easy class 3 with some caution.

Once at the saddle, it would take us more than an hour to climb about 800ft up the rough slopes of Black Mesa, not quite as easy as it had looked from a distance, but offering nothing technically more difficult than class 2. The mesa is long and flattish, more than a mile in length and it isn't at all obvious where the highest point can be found. I led us to the location given on LoJ which corresponds to the middle of the highest contour shown on the topo map, but it seemed (according to the GPS) the highest point was to the north at the edge of the mesa. This made for a more interesting point to take a break with a nice view off that side looking towards Thimble Mtn and the huge Sacramento Valley. Though we looked about in all the likely places, we were unable to locate a register for the Wilderness HP. Like the previous day, it was time to take Scott off leash and let him wander across the range on his own while Eric and I headed back. The rough plan was for Eric and I to return to the jeep and drive back to Sitgreaves Pass. While Eric took a break, I would climb up to Peak 4,421ft, perhaps meeting Scott at the summit or on the way. This would give him a chance to cover several interesting-looking miles between it and Black Mesa. So while Scott continued west from Black Mesa, Eric and I descended the ridgeline to the northeast, intending to follow it down to the drainage our jeep was parked in. This proved a fine route and we were intrigued to find an old mining trail, badly eroded but still useable, that we followed as best as we could for perhaps half a mile before losing it. There were other finds of interest, including a tattered mining claim in a rusty tobacco tin tucked into one of several rock cairns we found. There was a burro skull and some surprisingly green sprouts that had popped up immediately following the recent rains. We eventually landed on the rough road in the drainage near the Wilderness boundary, returning to the jeep about an hour and a half after leaving Black Mesa's summit.

Peak 4,421ft

We drove back up towards Sitgreaves Pass, pausing at Cold Springs Station, an old Route 66 stop now a kitschy tourist stop for those taking the old sections of road before Interstate 40 made it obsolete. Once back at the pass, Eric went about finding his paperback for a relaxing rest while I headed up to Peak 4,421ft. The summit is about a mile from the pass, with a faint use trail helpful for a short portion of this near the beginning. The climbing is never more than class 2 and I spent about 50min making my way to the top along a fairly direct route. There are two summits discernable from a distance, the western one topped with a telecom installation is the highpoint. Not finding Scott on my way up, I sent him a text to see if he might be in the vicinity. I received a reply a few minutes later, finding that he was nowhere very close. In true Scott fashion, he had diverged from the ridgeline with Black Mesa to climb a few other unnamed summits on the west side of the range. He was currently heading to Elephants Tooth, a very striking feature above the town of Oatman to the southwest. It looked impossible as a scramble from the direction I viewed it, which I relayed to Scott in another text. He would nonetheless explore around its periphery, finding slings as a sign it could be climbed, but not any scrambling route that he would be comfortable with. After about 10min, I left the summit and returned to Sitgreaves Pass where I found Eric uncomfortably reclined in the passenger seat of his car. It seems the pass is an unavoidable stop for those traveling this lonely stretch of highway and he got to listen to all their comments, bickering and whatnot, not really enjoying the peace and quiet he'd hoped for. A leather-clad biker was at that moment flying a drone off the west side of the pass, a grizzled-looking gentleman at his side asking innane questions that were probably bothering the biker even more than Eric. I had to laugh at the comical scene but only offered, "Well, shall we go visit Negrohead?"


This is a fairly easy summit on the north side of Route 66 and the west side of the range. It appears in Courtney Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles, though why isn't exactly clear. The name no doubt derives from the resemblance of the dark & bumpy volcanic rock in the upper part to an afro hair style. Not exactly PC these days, but seems the name is still be used here. A high-clearance vehicle can drive within a half mile of the summit on the east side. We got even closer by driving up a sandy wash on the south side, then climbing it in less than an hour roundtrip from the southeast side. Scott was still investigating Elephants Tooth on the south side of the highway, so it was just Eric and I for this one. We found a MacLeod/Lilley register from 1994 on the summit with another 9 pages of entries, most recently in March by the 82yr-old Bob Packard, the most prolific peakbagger in the entire country. There is a fine view of Battleship Mtn to the northeast and the earlier Peak 4,421ft to the southeast. It would be nearly 3:30p by the time we finished and decided to call it a day. We texted Scott to see if he might like to join us for dinner in Bullhead City, but he declined. So after showering, Eric and I left the Black Mountains to head to town, my brother Jim joining us for dinner that night at the Black Bear Diner (it has become somewhat of a habit for me to visit one of these when I find them). A fine way to end my birthday. Afterwards we drove across the Colorado River into Nevada where we joined Scott off the highway in the Newberry Mtns where we planned to hike the next day. This had the unexpected bonus of extending my birthday for another hour - first time I got to have a 25hr birthday.


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