Baboquivari Peak


By: Jon Inskeep


The real objective of this trip was to climb majestic Baboquivari, but it was billed as an exploratory because 1) neither of the leaders had even been in the area let alone climbed the peak, 2) the possibility of ice or snow on the upper parts of the route could make the summit unattainable, and 3) no definite activities were scheduled for Saturday or Sunday. Despite all these trepidation's, the trip was a success. Friday afternoon saw 33 climbers on the summit of Baboquivari.

More than 40 people in 22 vehicles, including several from Arizona, met on the edge of the Indian settlement of Sells at noon on Thursday. After greetings and lunch, we caravaned south on paved road to Topawa which had so few buildings that the leader buzzed right past it before realizing that he should have turned off somewhere. The group managed a mass U-turn and drove back to a large mobile home, the residence of a young couple who were probably missionaries, to ask directions. He was incredulous at the line of cars in his driveway, saying that we were "more white faces than he had seen in one place in years". He was even more amazed at our purpose. "People around here go to Baboquivari all the time, but no one ever climbs clear to the top!" His directions were good. The turnoff to Baboquivari Camp is a wide, graded road south of town, about a quarter mile past a windmill on the east side of the road. The road is excellent and easy to follow. There is a fork at about 7 miles; bear right about 3 more miles to the camp. There is no water in the fall and little firewood, but the area is adequate for a large group, having trees, several fireplaces, and tables.

There is a large water tank near camp next to a jeep road. This road leads east about a half mile to the prominent, well-traveled trail heading south. 36 climbers left camp Friday morning at 6:45. By 9:30 half the group had gained the 3700 feet to the bottom of the major class 3-4 pitch. Two belays were set up by Paul Nelson and Jay Wiley, and although some climbed without a rope, it took a total of two hours to get everyone up this steep 80 foot slope. For Jay and Paul, and others who helped, it was mighty cold work as there was no sun on this side of the peak. By noon 31 had signed in on the summit, a short 500 foot additional gain, and the first arrivals were ready to start down. They arrived at the pitch in time to assist Bill Clifton who had stayed back on the trail with a woman and her two young children. The two adults made the top for a total of 33. It was sad to see the children come so far and not make the summit and to see the more than one person hobbling back in tennis shoes, but the schedule stated that the trip was not suitable for beginners and the leader specifically told everyone that tennis shoes were not acceptable footwear. Getting everyone down the pitch required an additional two hours. It would have been much longer except that after several had muffed the down-climbing and rappelling, a new technique called the "duffers drop" was devised (the leader will be happy to describe it to anyone' interested).

The first ones down were back at camp by 4 while one of the leaders and the slowest "limper" in tennis shoes were back about 6. The group then divided up with some electing to stay in the same area, others moving over to climb Ajo, and still others going to try Kino. Paul Nelson led the Ajo group up from Bull Pasture with seven people signing in on the summit.

Jon Inskeep "led" the group up Kino but got hopelessly lost finding the roadhead on Friday night. He was an hour late at the meeting place and missed the 7:30 am departure time of the group by fifteen minutes but caught up with them in time to lead an approach to the peak from the wrong side (the east). This was enough to discourage six of the group, but eight people made the summit via the northeast notch and the third class route on the east face. Assistance was given by John Hardt who had climbed the peak the year before. We returned down the canyon on the east side of the peak and were back to the cars by four. Some headed for a Sunday climb of Ajo while most spent the night at Bates Well with nothing more than the drive back to LA planned for Sunday.

For those with a natural tracking ability similar to that of the leader, here are the mileage's into Bates Well, the roadhead for Kino. From Ajo drive south and turn west on the Derby Well Road and follow it to the pavement's end at the well. Take the left fork (0.0 miles), stay left at a side road (2.8), take a right fork (3.4), stay left past a side road (6.0), go right at a minor fork (7.3), take a left fork (7.9), pass the monument boundary (11.2), and park near Bates Well (15.4).

Even as far east as Sells in the Mountain Time Zone, sun time (sunrise, sunset, etc), which is more important than clock time, does not seem to vary significantly from Pacific Time. In the future then, it would seem better to handle trip scheduling in Pacific Time to avoid confusion. (Editors note: We would like to congratulate Jon for the brilliance of the above revelation - now that he has already written up Mountain Time into two of our Western Arizona trips and thereby causing many people to get up too early. Thanks, Jon.)

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

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