By: Tom Bowman
Brushing with Boy Scouts on Baboquivari
Tina Bowman, Gary Craig, Ken Jones, Jack Miller, Mary Motheral, Patty Rambert, and Linda Roman all scaled Babo smoothly-with their clothes on-the most troublesome circumstance being the chilling rock on the 4th class pitch. While everyone ascended the dry face relatively easily on top rope, only Tina had enough sense to wear gloves. Others in the party were reduced to seeking handholds large enough for numb fingers to grab. The first bolt on the route is missing, by the way, which makes the lead climber is a little more exposed than in the past, but the moves are not especially difficult.
The Boy Scouts of America entered the picture during our descent. We arrived at the rappel point, where our ropes were rigged and ready to go, only to find a handful of kids and one adult workrng their way up the face Incredibly, the Scouts rope was much shorter than the pitch, and the leader was anchored at the third bolt, a little over halfway up the climb. The boys were climbing the rest of the way without protection, so we quickly offered a second belay. The Scout leader accepted our help by asking some astonishing questions: "Are you Al Queda? Are you Taliban?"
Sensing trouble, we started asking questions of our own. A second leader had retreated with sore knees and the kids knew they were proceeding in violation of BSA policy. The leader had last been on Babo eighteen years earlier and he didn't remember it as being so steep. The boys at the top of the pitch were shivering in their T-shirts and they hadn't brought anything else to wear. We were shivering too, but inside fleece, hats, and gloves, so we urged the Scout leader to reconsider his group's situation.
"Are icicles hanging from their noses?" he asked. "If not, we're going to the top!" By the time he reached our location most of the boys were wearing our jackets and polypro, which the adult seemed quite happy to accept. As he accepted an address he said, "You can expect to find a package in the mail or skeletons on the mountain," and off he went without a moment to spare for courtesy, kindness, obedience, or the other Scouting values. The boys were speedy too. By the time our group rappelled, with a fireman's backup, and packed our gear the Scouts were at the rappel point. They appeared to be tying two thin ropes together. We split up, sending everyone but Doug and Tom down with E-leader Tina. The first Scout had the rope wrapped loosely and only once around his waist and the leader was yelling instructions at him, such as, "You're the bottleneck!" and, "Don't listen to them!" when Doug pointed out handholds and footholds. The second boy balked, so the leader lowered him while yelling, "Trust the rope and walk down!" and, again, "Don't listen to them!"
"Why are you guys here?" he asked, looking genuinely puzzled. The time seemed right to withdraw and attend to our own party.
Our hike ended behind schedule of course, more than an hour after sunset. The delay was compounded by a long drive to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that put us in the campground after the quiet hour. Just about everyone shared a potluck dinner anyway, albeit in monastic silence Be prepared indeed!
Morning brought sunshine, a cheerful mood, and a leisurely hike up Mt Ajo A trail runs all the way to the summit now and it passes an interesting window rock along the way, high above the weathered pinnacles at the mouth of the ascent gully. All but Doug, who had a flight to catch, and Jack, who had never seen the Grand Canyon, got Ajo too.
It turns out that access to the Kino Peak trailhead at Bates Well is closed during Pronghorn Sheep mating season (March 15 - July 15), so we cancelled that objective. While hikers are allowed to walk in from the south, the route looks very long. Some might be interested to learn that illegal immigration and INS pursuits are the biggest threats to the mating of sheep. illegal immigration also threatens the desert flora because cars and trucks compress the soil enough to prevent plant growth.
Long delays, missing clothing, and the mating of sheep - even the write-up seems suspicious, especially on a provisional lead. On the other hand, everyone got the peaks, accomplished the goals in high spirits, and enjoyed the holiday weekend in good company and a beautiful desert landscape.
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