Cerro Pinacate, Baboquivari Peak
By: Dave Jurasevich
Meeting at the border town of Lukeville, Ariz. at 7AM MST on Friday morning, our group of 8 prepared to cross the border and "bag" Cerro Pinacate. Those in attendance were Bill Stevens, Barbara Reber, Terry Flood, Cathy Hanchett, Bill Tryon, Marta Flares, Ron Young and myself. The border station is now open daily from 6AM to midnight, so an early start is possible. Unfortunately, the Lukeville Cafe doesn't open until 7:30AM, so those wanting breakfast (like myself) had to forgo that luxury for the sake of schedule. Also, since it was the St. Patrick's Day weekend, every high school and college kid from Phoenix and Tuscon was lined up at the border for a weekend of drunken debauchery and lustful enterprise in Puerto Penasco. Sounds kinda like some DPS trips. Anyway, we all skated through the entry formalities with little or no ID required(a driver's license at worst). That is not to say that you shouldn't have a birth certificate or US Passport with you as proof of identity; you really should. One thing we learned was to tell the Mexican official responsible for stamping the tourist cards that our destination was Puerto Penesco, not Cerro Pinacate. He seemed to be a bit concerned or suspicious of anyone wanting to do something stupid like climb Pinacate. The drive down Mex Hwy 8 and dirt road approach to Pinacate are detailed on the map accompanying this writeup. Instead of parking near the "reddish butte" described in the DPS Peaks Guide, Ed. 2, we continued on the dirt road for another 5.6 mi., driving to within about 1 mi. of the peak. Although this road is bad, an experienced 4WD'er can do it OK. The most difficult portion of this drive is a steep, loose, rocky 50 foot section of road just past the "reddish butte" parking area. Bill Stevens had his 4WD Toyota truck airborne for an instant while attempting this crux move. Pinacate by this approach turned out to be a 39 minute ascent and 15 minute descent with 900 ft. elev. gain, 2 mi. RT. We celebrated a magnificent view from the summit with sightings of the Gulf, Big Picacho, Ajo, Volcan El Elegante and, what we suspected to be Baboquivari in the far distance. The Southern Arizona Hiking Club did a great job of photostating and professiona1ly binding the old register. It includes a 1970's entry by Edward Abbey, who climbed the peak from Tule Tank and recalled the adventure in a short story entitled "The Ancient Dust" in his book Beyond The Wall. We drove out and back across the border that afternoon, proceeding to the Baboquivari Campground for a climb of that peak on Saturday. Instead of cooking out that evening, we stopped at the new Basha's supermarket in Sells, which includes a full-service Deli. This market is on Indian Hwy 19(which doesn't appear to be signed), 1/4 mi. south of Hwy 85, right on the way to Babo. Included in this writeup is a map showing the Drive/Approach to Baboquivari Campground, adding a few more details to the one in the current Peaks Guide.
On Saturday morning we were joined by Paul Freiman who drove in from San Diego on Friday night. The climb of Babo went well, with the group reaching the top at 2PM. Snow and ice lingering in shady places from the 4th class pitch to the summit made for challenging and slow climbing. Bill Stevens had to duck on the 4th class wall when a large sheet of ice broke off from above and came crashing down on the climbing route, pelting him with fist-sized chunks. Further up some of the 3rd class moves were coated with ice, making it a bit tedious. Proper timing can be important in scheduling a climb of Babo. The climb turned out to be the culmination of many years of desert peakbagging for Barbara Reber, who became the 1st woman and 2nd? person to finish the DPS List twice. Congratulations Barbara!!!!! And a special thanks to Bill Stevens for assisting on the climb.
Following are my directions for the Babo Hike/Climb, further detailing the current Guide writup. HIKE/CLIMB: From the middle of the Baboquivari Campground walk 50 yds SE to a trail heading E toward the mountain. Follow this trail, passing a stone water tank on your right in 400 yds and continuing another 200 yds to the junction with a trail heading S (right). Turn right here and follow the trail (shown on the 71/2 mm map as a "Pack Trail") for 31/2 mi. and 2800 ft elev. gain to its end at the base of cliffs on Babo's W side. Head up and left on a sloping ledge along base of cliff (class 3 in one spot) for a few hundred yds to a continuation of the trail above. Following the faint trail through the trees, you will shortly emerge at the foot of the 4th class rock pitch. Climb up left side of this wall for 15 ft to a hanger and then diagonally up to the right to a second hanger 20 ft above the first one(anchoring in at these hangers provides the leader protection needed to safely negotiate this portion of the pitch). Continue up past 2 steel rods(60 ft and 75 ft above foot of wall) and diagonal right to easier climbing up a 20 ft chute to level ground, making this a 95 ft pitch in total. A good belay point at the top of this section is a 4" diam. pine tree with a thick steel cable around it. From here head right along base of cliff and up over an obvious notch, dropping down into trees and brush and following a faint trail a short distance to a crack with a chockstone 8 ft up it. Climb crack and continue up gully on faint trail which leads to the summit area. The descent of the 4th class pitch is best done as a rappel using the 4" diam. pine tree mentioned previously as an anchor point. One 120 ft rope will not get you down in a single rappel; you'll need two ropes of that length to do it.
On Sunday morning we explored a sacred cave of the Papagos. The cave, some 850 ft elev. above the campground, is located at the base of a rock wall at a magnetic bearing of 15° from the cabin on the N side of the campground. The trail leading to the cave starts behind the cabin and heads E for 300 yds, then turns N(left), switchbacking up the hill to the cave. The cave itself is about 30'lx20'wx 10'h and has a narrow slotted entrance approx. 16"wx21/2'h. Inside are a myriad of "offerings" including Indian baskets and beadwork, money, photos, ID cards, baseball caps, trophies, medals, animal horns and gourds just to name a few. The campground caretaker, a young Papago named Francisco Jeffers, indicated that we could visit the cave provided we respect the sanctity of it and not disturb any of its contents.
Permits for hiking and camping at the Baboquivari Mtn Park Campground can be obtained by mail or phone in advance by contacting Baboquivari District, PO Box 3001, Sells AZ 85634 at (602)383-2366. Permits can also be obtained on a first come/first serve basis at the Campground or the Baboquivari District Office Mon-Fri 8AM-5PM. The District Office is located at the junction of Indian Route 19 and the Baboquivari Mtn Park dirt road. If you would like to reserve the cabin, this should definitely be done in advance. The cost of a permit is either $3 per vehicle per day or $15 per group organization per day. In our case we were considered a group and charged $30 for two nights, which works out to $1.67/person/day. Not a bad deal for a campground with running water and flush toilets!
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