By: Mark Adrian
Located in Arizona's southwestern "comer", the Muggins Mountains offer several interesting desert peaks to attract those desiring adventure beyond the DPS list. Since I had a couple of extra days to spend in that area, and having already done the range highpoint, I was seduced by the dramatic profile of 1,424' Muggins Peak. The peak is situated in the 7,640 acre Muggins Mountains Wilderness, about 25 miles east of Yuma, Arizona. Fortunately, a 4WD cherry stem road conveniently yields access deep into the area as it slithers up rocky Muggins Wash.
The Muggins Mountains, named after a prospecter's mule, offer a variety of scenic values, day hikes and allegedly, rock climbing opportunities. I had seen Muggins Peak numerous times in the past and the locals have dubbed it "cat ears" for the distinctive profile of its two summits, the northern being the named and highest. Although, you can't tell the northern is higher until you're on top, for it must only be a few feet difference. So, being able to drive to within one air mile of the peak was a generous "find". But, that generosity soon ends, for the short distance is more than compensated for by an elusive third class route.
I had my doubts as I walked across the aluvial to the base of the peak. From below, the summit "ears" look like steeples. But, with a beautiful day on hand, I would have been satisfied just exploring the periphery. So, up I went, weaving amongst ledges and up gullys until I approached a narrowing chute that led up to the base of the southern peak on its southwest side. Here, there were several class three options and I opted to walk a small ledge north to a short arete which led me up to the small saddle between the two peaks. Taking a break and pondering my options, I was not optimistic. In fact, even with binoculars I couldn't see a viable route to solo. Nonetheless, I groped around the south summit to be sure and things only became more vertical the deeper I probed. The one route I did see looked more airy than I wanted to tangle with. I probably could have upclimbed, but the downclimb would have been too nerve wracking. So, back at the saddle, I strolled northward to the slopes along the north summit's southeastern face where a route began to open up. Although, these were still exposed and marbly ledges and attention was prudent. Walking now towards a notch in the summit's southwest arete, I expected something to "give". Well, peering through a narrow crack, it gave way to about a 500' cliff into a deep canyon - wrong way, wrong route. Groping some more, I made a U turn here and diagonaled back east and up towards the sloping edge of the saddle. So far, so good. Rounding the edge, I again was confronted by more air, but the arete on this edge was viable class three, albeit exposed, perhaps a bit more than you might find on DPS's Mopah. I was hesitant yet again, not so much about the ascent, but the descent. So, I dropped my daypack (with register cans) and proceeded move by move through the class three (perhaps 30') which went easier than I expected despite a healthy adrenalin rush. Now, I was standing on a small platform perhaps 50 horizontal feet from the true summit. To get there demanded very careful footing over the narrow and rocky ledge. This portion reminded me of a few places on DPS's Moapa's summit. Finally, I was on top, no caim, no register, lots of bird droppings though. I was annoyed I'd left the register cans below, but I hate down climbing exposed class three with a daypack. Furthermore, I was not going to reclimb that pitch to place a register that may never be signed except by me.
I was able to enjoy a few moments on the sununit, looking across and down at the southern "ear" as well as the flats of Dome Valley and to the north towards the Castle, Tank and Kofa Mountains. My anxiety about the downclimb though, forced a quick departure, so a buttslide brought me back to the small platform and then a few hesitant yet focused downclimbing moves had me back at my daypack, much relieved. It's moments like this that make long-lasting memories.
From here, the descent is as tricky as the route up. I left several ducks to be sure to locate the correct "cliffettes" to descend. Perhaps someday, I'll return to try the south ear, but, not without a belay.
The next day, I climbed nearby Red Bluff Mountain then met Richard Carey and Shelley Rogers. We spent several days in Cabeza Prieta climbing regional highpoints and benchmarks.
DRIVE: From Yuma, AZ, proceed east on 18 to the Ligurta exit. Go east through Ligurta to Dome Valley Road and turn north. Follow Dome Valley Road (aka Avenue 20E) north to the 4-way stop-signed intersection with County 7th and Avenue 20E. Turn east on to County 7th and proceed 1 mile to the Dome Valley Transfer Station. Follow the dirt road around the southeastern comer of the transfer station and proceed north/northeast passing a BLM sign at 1.6 miles. Continue driving the now 4WD track up Muggins Wash to 3.0 miles where there is ample parking. Note : 4WD/ clearance mandatory.
CLIMB: Approach the peak from the southwest and glean what you can from my report. RT stats : 2 miles, 1,100' gain, 2.5 hours.
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