Kino Peak, Mount Ajo
New Year 1989
By: Igor Mamedalin
How much can one pack into a long deserved one week Christmas time vacation? Not enough! Packing skis, camping gear and dog into our truck, we (Suzanne, Tanya and Igor) set out early Monday morning for the beckoning open spaces of the Great Southwest. Zooming north along I-15, we stopped to stretch our legs in an attempt to climb Clark Mtn. Our attempt was thwarted by fresh snow covering the 3rd class ledges near the summit. Passing through the City of Lost Wages we made camp in the Valley of Fire -- a picturesque oasis an hour's drive from one of civilization's arm pits. Tuesday we drove to Zion National Park putting in a few hours of cross country skiing in the vicinity of North Guardian Angel; after an excellent dinner at Flannigan's in Springdale, we spent the night at a campground in the Park as fine snow drifted down completing a perfect wintry landscape set against the great walls of Zion. Wednesday, we slowly traversed snow covered roads north toward Cedar Breaks for more great cross country skiing; that night with snow still falling and the temperature dipping to -7 F degrees we splurged on a motel room in Kanab, Utah. Thursday will remain as a day of infamy in Suzanne's mind as we zipped 600 miles through Marble Canyon, Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson, and Sells to the road end for Baboquivari Peak.
Preparing for the climb of Baboquivari, a private enterprise unencumbered by the liability policies and restrictions of the Sierra Club, I discovered that the phone number listed in the DPS Road and Peak Guide (RAPG) is that of a Papago interior decorator; the correct phone number for requesting access to the Baboquivari camp (road end) is (602) 383-2366 --the permit can be picked up at the Baboquivari District Office in Topowa (not Sells) or by prior arrangement, made by calling the office, from the caretaker at the campground. We made the required reservations but ended up climbing without a permit since we missed the campground caretaker on the way in and out. Bob Henderson joined, us at the campground for the climb. The trail from the campground to the 4th class section is well marked and we made good time. Due to the recent snow/rain fall the 4th class section was cold and a bit icy but after a little bit of chipping and coaxing all of use, except Comet the dog, made it to the summit. On the way down we ran into two climbers who came up the Southeast buttress (5.2-5.4 endeavour) -- something to consider for another day.
From Baboquivari we drove to the town of Ajo for some miserable pizza and then to the slag heap outside of town where we were to meet the official trip participants. Thirty people signed up for the climb of Kino, but, as usual, only about 50% made the long drive to Arizona. Kino was climbed on Saturday uneventfully via route A listed in the DPS RAPG -- cactus is abundant in this area, so, if you choose to bring your dog, leave it at the car. Tanya did a fine job blazing the way from the notch to the top of Kino. In contrast to the cold nights, the day was pleasantly warm -- T-shirt weather, for sure. After climbing Kino we proceeded to our campsite outside of the Organ Pipe National Monument boundary while Bob Greenawalt searched for the muffler missing from his La Bamba vintage Chevy.
The blazing New Year's Eve campfire kept the chilly fingers of the night at bay, thanks to the plentiful fence wood donated by Bob Henderson. The horse'deuver table was overflowing with delectable morsels, champagne, and delicious hot apple cider (brought by Francios). As Leora brought out a stuffed pinnate to celebrate Ron Jones' birthday, Ron proceeded to make a donkey of himself trying to crack open the pinnate by running around the desert blindfolded in the middle of the night waving decrepid sticks vainly at the sky. The coming of the New Year was celebrated in all time zones and those that went to bed early were merrily rousted for each occasion.
Sunday, after loosing a few people to other pursuits, we caravaned through the Organ Pipe National Monument to the Mt. Ajo road end. Following the trail to Bull Pasture and side-hilling around the pasture with a few unnecessary detours we made the peak. The route back was more direct. After getting to Bull Pasture, go directly across (despite the ups and downs) to the obvious black "fins" at the southeast corner of the pasture. From the "fins" you can follow a use trail up and then northeast along the ridge to the peak.
After descending from Ajo, the leaders rushed off across the border to find the road end for Cerro Pinacate only to discover that they had no followers, everyone else has chosen to return home earlier and at a more leisurely pace. Failing to find the road end in the dark we completed the task in the morning. Palo Verde camp is a picturesque setting for anybody to enjoy camping in the desert. From Palo Verde we churned a lot of volcanic ash as we climbed Cerro Pinacate. Along the way Ron showed us some large lava tubes, dormant fumaroles and taught us a bit about the desert plant life that thrives even around such ashen landscapes.
From Cerro Pinacate we made it for Puerto Penasco and a fine shrimp dinner followed by an evening of trivial pursuits at a beach camp. In the morning Ron and Leora continued south on their extended vacation as we drove north taking a 40 mile 4WD "short cut" to Mexicali along the coast. The 40 mile "short cut" turned into a 110 mile 4WD adventure to be recounted around campfires for years to come. And after eight days, four peaks and over 2,000 miles our winter vacation came to an end -- when can we embark on the next one?
We wish to thank everyone throughout the trip for helping make this vacation a memorable one for us. We also wish to thank Ron Jones for assisting with the climbs.
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