Baboquivari Peak, Cerro Pinacate, Kino Peak, Mount Ajo
By: Bill Gray
This was a grand climbing long weekend, in the style (intentionally) of Randy Bernard's highly enjoyable Weaver's Needle? Superstition Mtn climb over last Dec 31 thru Jan 3. The scheduled trip had to be rearranged from a responsibility viewpoint, as the title indicates, due to the present Sierra Club insurance problems with 4th class and Mexican climbs. Too, several persons wishing to join the trip, but who were not known personally to the leaders, were politely turned down. Still, 39 climbers were accepted and participated. Of these, 23 did Babo on Thanksgiving and 4 on Friday, 10 opted for Ajo on Friday and 7 on Sunday. Bobby Dubeau completed his DPS list with his Friday climb of Pinacate, and Don Cook made his list completion with a solo climb of Superstition on Sunday on his way home after the Kino climb. In summary, you might agree, a pretty successful weekend.
Baboquivari is located near the southern edge of, and about half way across, the State of Arizona and is on the Papago Indian Reservation. Kino and Ajo are to the west of Babo in Organ Pipe Cactus Notional monument, while Cerro Pinacate is southwest of Organ Pipe in Sonora, Mexico. For you historically inclined, Ajo means garlic in Spanish and was so named since it grows wild in the area. Kino was named for the Jesuit priest, who rode thousands of miles on horseback to found missions in northern Sonora and Arizona in the late 1600's. I don't know the derivation of the names of the other two peaks (help anyone?)
Baboquivari went splendidly in spite of the large group. We set up two parallel belays for the 4th cl pitch (of about 100'), and two separate rappel ropes for the descent. Special thanks due to Ted Pinson and Bobby Dubeau for yoeman assistance to the leaders in belay and rappel work. We were back in camp with daylight aplenty in which to prepare the Thanksgiving dinner. We were given the use of the cabin for the evening. The "cabin" is really a house, with a living room large enough to comfortably hold all (approx) 35 of us in front of a warming fire in the great fireplace. We had lots of turkey and gravy, thanks to the Pinsons and Keats, cranberry sauces, a variety of potatoes and other veggies, salads, pies, cakes, etc, etc, and an adequate variety and quantity of libations. In retrospect, the only item missing was our Indian campground host family, which the sleepy leader had neglected to invite to join us for a real traditional Thanksgiving. we were cozy inside eating when the traditional Thanksgiving storm hit with heavy rain, thunder, etc. Future trips might well reserve the cabin in advance (which we did not), since other parties might be there at the same time.
Baboquivari Campground, it should be noted, has now been upgraded to Baboquivari Park. it was exceptionally clean, with several restrooms, tow with flush toilets, tp, and wash basins; and the Papagos even have the trail well signed and maintained (e.g. cat-claw cut back). Did they also put those bucket hand and footholds on the easy cl 4 pitch? Participants on the Babo climb, besides leaders, were: Dorothy Callison, Richard Carey, Donn Cook, Bobby Dubeau, Martha Flores, Paul Freiman, Gail Hanna, Dave Jurasevich, Julie King, Ron Leach, En Lee Lin, Owen Maloy, Rich May, Ken Olson, Dave Petzold, Ted Pinson, Evan Samuels, Don & Ursula Slager, Larry Tidball, and Carolyn West.
Ajo was switched to day 2, from the originally planned day 3, to be a "rest" day between the more time-consuming efforts of Babo & Kino. this required a few more miles of driving, but the respite appeared to be worth the added trouble. We slept late (7am, PST) at the Babo campground, had a leisurely breakfast, and drove to the Ajo trailhead in time for a 10:45 departure up the trail. We were still back at the cars before dark - i.e. all except Owen, who had volunteered to wait for two slow young men who had joined us at the trailhead. Dale lead this climb, Bill assisted, and was accompanied by Martha Flores, Owen Maloy, Rich May, Gary Murta, Dave Petzold, Evan Samuels, Larry Tidball, and Carolyn West. The high point of the evening was still to come, for we then headed up to the quaint little town of Ajo with the Benards and Keats to have dinner in the banquet room of Dago Joe's Restaurant. This helped make the day memorable and should well become a part of every Ajo climb.
Meanwhile five late arrivals for the previous day, George Tucker and Erika, the Bartell's (Ron and Christine), and Bob Sumner went for Babo. The weather was worsening as the cl 4 was reached and Bob elected not to try the very cold rock. The other made it to the top, but in horizontally blowing snow that plastered the upper slopes. Fortunately for everyone else, this was the only bad weather incident during the climbs. Eight other climbers went for Pinacate. These included persons who did not need Ajo, or could not afford the time for the planned 4th day of climbing, or who were unwilling to chance bad weather developing and robbing them of Pinacate on Sunday (e.g. Bobby Dubeau).
Gail Hanna and Richard Carey, taking the words "rest day" literally, met friends Ralph & Beth Davis., and drove to the summit of nearby Kitt Peak, site of the National Observatory.
Most of those in the above groups met and camped in the desert north of Organ Pipe, poised to go after Kino on the following day.
Kino Peak, though only class 3, was considered by many to be much more awsome than the higher classed Babo. After all, on Babo one was on belay, so what could possibly happen! But nobody mentioned the knife-edge traverses, the hairy down-climbs to get across the U-notch, the steep slope below, and the too-friendly cholla (it really does jump at one, doesn't it?). We did the peak via route B in Randy Bernard's fine new peak guide. Between the pass due east of the peak and the peak itself is a prominent large buttress, which we skirted on the south side on the climb. This appears to be a good choice. However, on the descent we went around it on the north side which led to an interesting variation including down-climbing or climbing around dry waterfalls. This obviously would not be a safe down-climb for a large group under wet slippery conditions.
All participants who started out made the summit, and all got back to the roadhead to enjoy plenty of daylight and champagne to celebrate Bobby Dubeua's list finishing of the previous day. The participants were the three leaders and: Julie Bernard, Richard Carey, Beth & Ralph Davis, Bobby Dubeau, Martha Flores, Paul Freiman, Gail Hanna, Keats Hayden, Dave Jurasevich, En Lee Lin, Rich May, Gary Murta, Ken Olson, Dave Petzold, and Carolyn West.
Cerro Pinacate on day 4 (Sunday) was only for the few who could afford the fourth climbing day or were the hardy who would spend most of that night driving back to the L.A. area for Monday morning work. only 5 climbers: Bill and Dale, Dave Petzold, Tom Scott, and Carolyn West, plus Keats, on Saturday evening drove down to the border town of Lukeville, at the southern edge of Organ pipe, purchased insurance, took on drinking water, got a recommendation for a good Restaurant in Sonoita. Following the good directions given us by the Mexican Insurance agent, we found the Las Brasas Restaurant down an unlikely dirt road. The place was clean and cheery, the food excellent and very reasonable. Dale brought in his very best Trader Joe's cheap wine, and we feasted on generous helpings of shrimp, etc. for less than $5 per person. We than headed SW on Mexico 8, then onto a fair desert road to about 5 miles from the trailhead, where we camped for the night.
After another late (7 am) rise and breakfast we 4-wheeled it on a less than fair road to the trailhead. The route started out over lavabeads and through lava blocks. However, it soon improved, or rather, changed to cholla splattered slopes, the true route being defined as the way through the least cholla. Keats had thoughtfully loaned the group a pair of needle-nose pliers, which were passed back and forth throughout the climb. About halfway in we met the Bartell's who had gone in earlier than we and were on their way out. the summit slope was pure drudgery on lava scree. On top, when Tom spotted Keats' name in the summit register for a 1984 climb, he cracked: "Now there's one smart woman. No one in his right mind would climb this thing twice". However, in all fairness, the top did present one of the grandest views one could wish for. Below, beyond the hills and dunes, stretched the Sea of Cortez from the SSE all the way over to the west of us. Below us, some 30 miles away, was the coastal town of Puerto Penasco. Beyond it to the south was the mainland coast of Sonora. To the southwest and west, beyond the Sea, was Baja with Picacho del Diablo crowning the Sierra de San Pedro Martir Range.
George Tucker went out of his way to provide interesting campground discussion by clobbering and unhappy Papago open-range cow on the road to the Babo campground. George's vehicle was a little the worse for it too. The Papagos apparently removed the choice meat. We viewed the remains of the carcass on the way out on Friday. We also viewed some few dozen gorged vultures and a bravely competing coyote.
Anna Lou Pinson, walking alone near camp during the Babo climb, spotted a cougar going down the trail in front of her. She did not wait around to enjoy the big cat's progress.
Havelinas were spotted, one by the leader along the roadside and one was startled by, or startled, Dave Petzold on the slopes of pinacate. The leader unknowingly almost stepped on a rattlesnake. The 2nd and 3rd persons in line yelled the alarm. On closer inspection, the snake was seen to have a piece of cholla attached to its cheek by several imbedded needles. The creature was obviously asking for help. The kindly leader obliged by taking a stick and holding down the cholla against the ground while the snake tugged and finally broke free.
Thanks are due, not only and especially to the very able assistant leaders, DALE VAN DALSEM and RANDY BERNARD, but to all who participated and contributed to making this trip enjoyable and successful.
Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the|
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides
|DPS Archives Index | Desert Peaks Section|