Mount Ajo, Kino Peak


By: George R. Davis


A gathering of climbers assembled at the unpublic campground in Why, Arizona to gather a number of desert peaks, including some prizes such as Baboquivari and Weaver's Needle. The weather did not cooperate. Phil and I had climbed Montezuma's Head in beautiful weather the day before, and found it an exciting mountaineers' peak with a couple of low, fifth-class moves. We recommend its addition to the list. Monday, ten of us found the Kino roadhead by striking south west from Ajo along the Bates Well Road until just beyond Growler Pass and Well Bates Ranch, then 2 1/2 miles to an obscure left turn where one angles south into a prominent wash. This wash turns into a beautiful desert gorge, and when the saddle east of the summit is reached, the contouring path leads back toward the north west along the shoulder of the peak, where the obvious north east arete leads directly to the summit. There the advance party sighted a group of big-horn sheep--probably three. A cloudy, pleasant and uneventful day. Next, thirteen of us climbed Ajo in the most obvious and easy way, under very cloudy, even cold, conditions. Some climbers saw one or two big-horns just below the last ridge. Lunch was brief and cold. We hurried out, with John McDermott tugging his unbalanced daughter, Vanessa, by the hand most of the way. She's an excellent climber without help.

Most readers know about the problems encountered the next morning, in attempting to gain access to Baboquivari Peak within the Papago Indian Reservation. Several factors (all perpetrated by "white-eyes") had influenced the Papago Tribal Council to exclude invaders from the Sacred Mountain. Whites had earlier raided Indian graves and scattered most of the contents, and stolen others. Bikers had run and, injured or killed a number of cattle. Dope smugglers had passed across the Mexican border, and used the isolation of the Papago Reservation as a sanctuary. The US Federales had objected to these practices, with the insinuation that the Tribal Police had better put a stop to it. Last, but not least, some murders had occurred on the Reservation, murders of "Americans", as the red-neck press of Arizona phrased it, and the Papago Tribal Police did not want to be held responsible for murders of "Americans". So--they closed the place up, tight: Phil and I-talked with the deputy in Sells, who gave an unequivocal "NO" to even entering the Reservation, much less, to climbing in a sacred area. Jack Grams was crestfallen--He's on the scent of "list-finishing". Since then, Jack has succeeded in obtaining permission to camp and climb in the Reservation, and there's more about that elsewhere in this issue. The real disappointment was felt by Mike Manchester, who had flown from Los Angeles to Tucson, renting a car on that morning, only to arrive in Sells in rain, and -finding no climb possible. He headed back to Los Angeles after another futile attempt to get the Triba1 Police to soften their resolve.

The few hardy, but not hearty, climbers remaining headed for Sonora Desert Museum just west of Tucson--more overcast skies and rain. Altogether a beautiful museum, but the director had neglected to advise us he was going to Washington, D.C., so the pre-arranged tour was led by a willing but indolent Electrical Engineer. The underground caves, fabricated of reinforcing iron, wire mesh and sculpted gunite "granite"., are worth seeing while under construction. A fine place to hold a typical desert peaks campfire in the middle of a hot day. BYOB!

Phil's truck needed some minor repairs while Tucson was having a major rainstorm. Most of us who remained sought shelter or solace at the Kino Mission nearby. Most of the party had now left for Northern Arizona, or had chosen a friendly bar to ease the humidity.

Next day we were off to the Superstition Mountains. Weather was dark. We paused at the site of Tom Mix's death along the highway, and at the well preserved County Courthouse in Pinal County. At the Weaver's Needle turnoff, we met Joe McCosker and Gene Gail, who were only slightly interested in confronting the rainstorm predicted for the following day. Weaver's Needle is not the best in fifth-class rain. We agreed, among the three parties left, that the trip should be aborted at that point. Phil and I headed for Los Angeles, already planning a substitute outing on Saturday, of rock climbing at Sespe Gorge.

A few days later, Phil learned that Jim Erb and Theresa Rutherford had arrived at the Baboquivari Compound shortly after our planned climb, only to be run off by a Tribal Policeman wearing a prominently-displayed pearl-handled revolver.

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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