Baboquivari Peak, Weavers Needle, Humphreys Peak
By: Bruce Knudtson
Using as our guide Wynne and Randy's 1986 impromptu Arizona peak bagging marathon, Stephanie and I decided to do the same in 1987. Peak bagging in Arizona during the Thanksgiving holiday is to be highly recommended due to the generally excellent weather and relative solitude, since the rest of humanity seems preoccupied with devouring large, flightless birds and watching pagan sports rituals on big screen cathode ray tubes.
We had originally planned to attempt five peaks but car trouble delayed our departure and we had to settle for three. After spending the night of the 25th at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, we drove on the 26th to the Papago Campground near Sells, AZ. Approaching Sells from the west turn south on a paved road [Indian Highway 19 but not marked as such] past the Indian Hospital for 6.5 miles to the Topawa District Office, where a dirt road goes left for 12.2 miles to the campground. Take every right fork; first is signed "park", next is signed "cabin road". The campground is a delightful, spotless clean area with flush toilets, water, tables and wood. Permits are required: $3/vehicle/day, $15/group organization/day. The trail is well signed at the onset, going past a steel water tank, then a stone tank before making a sharp right turn (sign) and climbing toward the peak. Numerous cattle trails cross the peak trail within the first quarter mile and some confusion is possible. From then on the trail is easily followed. The technical (4th class) challenge of this peak comes after 3.5 miles of trail and is a 95' climb up a wide water course, well protected by bolts. We had an excellent view of Tucson and Kitt Peak from the summit.
On the night of the 26th, we drove from Papago Campground to Peralta Trailhead outside Phoenix for our climb of Weavers Needle. Immediately after leaving the parking lot the next morning it became evident that the trail names coined by the Forest Service and those favored by the USGS on their 1966 7.5 map were not the same. The following wanderings got us to the peak: at the top of the parking lot take the trail going to the right (the left is the Peralta Canyon Trail) about 100' to a junction signed "Bluff Springs Trail/Dutchman Trail". Continue straight ahead an the Bluff Springs Trail, climb the ridge and continue into the canyon an the other side. At the bottom, the trail will turn right (east), passing over a stone stream bed between two peaklets (point 3179 is the southern one), then turn north again into the canyon beyond. After 800', the trail climbs the right side of the canyon; it is easy to miss this turn and continue up canyon on dead-end use trails. After climbing out of the canyon, a junction signed "Bluff Springs Trail/Terrapin Trail" is reached. Take the Terrapin Trail and follow it to its closest approach to Weavers Needle. From here you can scramble to the notch dividing the Needle. An 80' climb on the, right side of the notch with abundant (but somewhat loose) handholds and footholds brings you to a bolt/piton rappel station. From here, the right-hand gully can be followed to the saddle. A well worn path leads from there, via a route with some interesting exposure, to the summit. A rappel station has been installed on the summit to allow bypassing at some of the more exposed down-climbing. We descended to the west and took the Peralta Canyon Trail back to the roadhead, this route provides some excellent views of the Needle.
The night of the 27th. we drove from Peralta Trailhead to Flagstaff, grabbed a hotel room (temperatures were in the 'teens), then drove to Fairfield Snowbowl the next morning for our attempt on Humphreys. Unfortunately, the first significant snow of the season had already fallen and the hiker trail to the summit was obscured and hard to follow. We lost the trail completely at the 10,000' level and so proceeded to posthole our way straight up to the summit ridge at 12,300', where it was possible to see the Grand Canyon 60 miles to the north. Along the ridge we encountered hard ice patches and 30+kt winds; we had ice axes but no crampons. After struggling to within 400' of the summit, common sense finally prevailed and we beat a protracted retreat down the ridge to the ski slopes and hence to the cars.
Disappointed at only getting two out of three peaks but glad that we were able to spend time surrounded by the beauty or the desert and Mountains, we spent the 29th sightseeing our way back to Los Angeles.
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