By: John Thornton
As 1966 said goodbye, seventeen Desert Peakers gathered in Peralta Campground at the southern end of the Superstition Wilderness Area in anticipation of a 3-day week-end jam-packed with hiking and climbing adventures. The Superstition Mtns, known to the Spanish as the Sierra de la Espuma(Foam) because of a unique geological feature rise as a line of jagged cliffs some forty miles east of Phoenix, Arizona. These towering walls form a fortress some hundreds of feet high that serve to protect the inner edge of the wilderness refuge. This "inner sanctum", which supposedly contains the legendary Lost Dutchman mine, is a country of fantastic shapes wild and secluded canyons, and remote peaks covering an area of some 124,000 acres. Contained within its boundaries is one of the best known of desert pinnacles, the Weaver's Needle, a climb in itself well worth the 900-mile round trip from Los Angeles.
To reach the campground at the foot of the Peralta Canyon trail, which is the southern main approach to the area, one drives SE from Apache Jnctn. towards Florence Jnctn on Hiway 60. About 8 miles from Apache Jnctn, a large sign marks the entrance to the road leading to the Peralta Campground. The Peralta road is wel1-graded dirt and is passable to nearly all standard vehicles(not true for most Superstition Wilderness roads). It is well-marked and the campground easily found. There is no water and very limited firewood, and last minute supplies are available in Apache Juctn.
As for maps, the most reliable appears to be that issued by the District Ranger, Tonto National Forest, Post Office Bldg. Mesa, Arizona, termed the l966 Superstition Wilderness Area. In sharp contrast, the topo sheets here were surveyed as far back as 1910, are out of date, and do not show modern approach roads or trails.
The Weaver's Needle is reached by following the Peralta Canyon Trail to Fremont Pass, two miles distant. This displays the first and most impressive panorama of the Needle, a giant thumb upended. Follow the main trail over the pass and down toward Piper's spring. The steep chute on the west side of the Needle appears about l-1/2 miles down the Canyon. It is not necessary to drop all the way down to Piper's spring, since after passing an outcropping of jumbled rocks just south of the Needle, one may contour up the talus toward the chute. Dec 1966 Summit Magazine has a good picture of the Needle's chute, in addition to a route description. The route is directly up the chute.
The last 150 feet of climbing becomes 4th class and protection of a rope feels good. Though most routes in the chute "will go", the easiest seems to lie 25 feet to the left of the notch. From the notch to the summit is easy third class. A total of eleven climbers, on two different days, enjoyed the spectacular and all-encompassing view from the Needle's loft. In addition, Arky Erb and Ed Lane ascended the eastern side of the notch, which is reported to be "exposed third class".
An additional fun climb, less technical too, can be had by scaling the high point (5057') at the SE end of the range (see map). About three miles SE of Apache Jnctn, turn in at the Apache-Land road and proceed to the housing development at the base of the mountain. A little imagination is required for one must navigate the maze of roads so as to get as close as possible to the mouth of Hieroglyphic Canyon, which can be seen at the base of the wall of Cliffs. A hike of two miles sees Hieroglyphic spring, where a fascinating display of Indian pictographs are to be found. The site is well worth studying for, there are many unusual designs in a state of preservation seldom found elsewhere.
For those who can tear themselves away from this prime example of American prehistory, the route to the peak lies directly up from the spring to the north-south summit ridge. Follow the ridge northward to the summit. At two places, awesome pitches appear, but are navigable by easy third class routes, complete with sharp, spiny, vegetable holds.
In addition to those two trips, these Mtns offer numerous backpacking trips into the "inner sanctum" volcanic peaks, as well as a variety of one-day hikes. Perhaps the best way to familiarize oneself with the area's history is to read several of the many books and magazine articles concerning the Lost Dutchman mine, One good account, now out-of-print, is Sims Ely's "The Lost Dutchman Mine". This is the most comprehensive history available about the mine and the persons who made it famous, and written by a man who spent Twenty-five years searching for the fabled wealth.
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