Polaris Mountain P500 RS
Peak 3,639ft P500
Peak 3,627ft P300
Peak 3,500ft P300

Sat, Dec 10, 2022

With: Matthew Holliman
Chris Kerth

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

Continued...

Day three in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge had three of us doing a tour in the Kofa Mtns that Stav had done earlier in the year. The route covered a little over 8mi with 3,700ft of gain, visiting four summits. Aside from the annoyance of having to dodge so much cholla, we found it an excellent tour, a day we enjoyed very much. It would keep us busy for most of the day, a little over 7hrs.

Starting just after sunrise at 7:30a, the hardest leg of the day was the initial climb to Polaris from the west, a climb of 1,600ft over the course of 1.2mi. After crossing a broad, somewhat brushy wash, we began ascending in earnest. There is much cholla on this peak for which more than one TR has said the peak is not worth the trouble. In his book, Rambles & Scrambles, Purcell begs to differ, but the truth is probably in-between. If climbing just this summit, there would be little to recommend it. Above the cholla band is a talus slope that would be considered very tedious except that there is no cholla growing on it. This made for a nice break. Matthew got slowed on some loose class 3 rock above the talus slope while Chris was busy beating both of us to the summit handily. There was more cholla on the upper slope, but the going was easier as the gradient relaxed, and by 9a we were all on top.

A John Vitz party had beaten everyone to the summit back in 1980, leaving a single sheet of paper. Barbara and Gordon (and an unusually large party with them) left a notepad in 1984, though the pages are very brittle from the desert sun. After a short break, we turned our attention to Peak 3,639ft, a mile to the northeast. We followed the connecting ridgeline, bypassing two intermediate points on one side or the other. This was an enjoyable segment with less cholla and more interesting geology with a variety of rock types and colors. Out in front, I was happily not paying close attention to the GPSr as I started up what I thought was Peak 3,639ft. I was nearing what looked like a class 3 chute when Chris called up that this was a false summit well to the west. Doh. The actual summit was still almost 0.2mi to the east, behind this point. I traversed around the north side of the false summit following the others, then down to a saddle and on to the actual Peak 3,639ft. As before, Chris got well ahead as we worked our way to the left of cliffs on the west and south sides, to approach from the north, an enjoyable class 3 scramble that lasted all of maybe five minutes. By 10:20a, we had reached our second summit.

A register was left in 1982 by a trio including Barbara, but not Gordon. She returned 15yrs later with Gordon and others in tow. Since then, only a handful of other entries, most recently Stav back in January. We were soon heading back down the north side towards our 3rd summit, Peak 3,627ft, only 2/3mi to the northwest. This would be our shortest segment, not particularly memorable. We dropped down to a wash draining to the northeast, then ascended the southeast slopes towards the summit. The summit is hidden behind an intervening ridge that only comes into view in the last five minutes. There are two summits. The eastern one has the spot elevation shown on the topo map, and it is here that LoJ identifies the summit, but the west summit is slightly higher and holds the register. Matthew handily beat both of us to this summit. The register was left by Barbara & Gordon in 1987 with only three other entries until our arrival, the last in 1997. Seems Stav missed this one on his tour, probably taking the east summit for the highpoint.

Our last summit was a mile and a quarter to the west and would be the longest, most involved segment. There are several intermediate points along the ridge we followed west and northwest, bypassing them on the right side by following a convenient sheep trail. Just short of Pt. 3,602ft, we got a bead on Peak 3,500ft still some distance to the west, with a drainage that we would need to descend to first. I was in favor of dropping down immediately for the more direct route, but Chris suggested we follow Stav's more circuitous track that would save us perhaps 200ft of elevation loss. I deferred, and was glad I did, because the sheep trail continued around Pt. 3,602ft and turned out to be the most pleasant part of the whole loop.

When it was eventually time to drop into the drainage, Matthew and I went for a shortcut while Chris continued on the GPX track. Matthew and I got split up just before Chris appeared above me on the slope above the other side of the drainage. He was moving pretty quickly so I don't think his route was more efficient, but he was ahead of us. I followed him for a short while before climbing to a thin ridge that I would have to descend from a few minutes later. Chris was on the much better track and got well ahead. Trying to outwit him is a fool's game, I was finding. I was kept from feeling too bad by the knowledge that Matthew had been waylaid even more and was some distance behind me. Chris arrived at the summit before 1:15p, Matthew and I some minutes afterwards. Yet another Gordon/Barbara register, this from 1997. All six parties to sign it, including ours, fit on the first two pages.

There was some discussion about descending back down. Chris suggested there might be a direct route off the south side, but it was impossible to tell if we'd run into cliffs and dryfalls. I suggested other possibilities, but the others weren't much interested, and in the end we simply followed the known route off the north side that Stav had used. It drops into a drainage descending to the west, then south to join Dick Canyon, and proved an enjoyable descent, at least for the upper half where there was much fun scrambling and brush dodging until we reached the gravelly wash below where the fun ceases for the last mile and a half return to the Jeeps. At least the flatter wash was relatively easy with little brush and just gravel and rocks to navigate. We were back before 3p, and ready to call it a day. Chris had considered climbing Kofa Butte after finishing the loop, but decided to work on getting himself out of Kofa, and his flat tire repaired. Matthew would start the 10hr+ drive for home, probably spending the night somewhere enroute. I would return to our campsite for the last two nights where I would do more hiking the next morning. I've got lots of days left still on this trip...

Continued...


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