Big Horn Peak, Harquahala Peak, Ten Ewe Mountain

18-Mar-94 (Private trip)

By: Mark Adrian


Expanding one's horizons is an inevitable byproduct of peak bagging. At least it is for our adventurous group of six: Mark Adrian, Richard Cary,. Gail Hanna, Shelley Rogers, Charles Hummel and Hilda Belarano. I was fortunate to arrive at the Kofa Wildlife Refuge, Palm Canyon entrance, just at the prime of sunset. The spectacular western face of Signal Peak exploded in a blast of fiery orange hues that Just about brought me to my knees -- what a sight! Later that evening. after several thundering military-jet over-flights, the remainder of the caravan arrived.


Friday morning, after a leisurely breakfast complemented with the din of varied peak bagging stories, we consolidated into 4WD trucks for the drive up Kofa Queen Canyon. Note that the trailhead for Ten Ewe is the same as the DPS Guide's Route C for Signal Peak (No. 8.5), 7.5 miles from intersection post 19 (4WD recommended high clearance mandatory). From the parking area. a prominent cave can been seen at a bearing of 214 degrees on the N face of Ten Ewe (there are two caves, it's the BIG one on the right/W side). Hike SW up the canyon to this cave, or keep it in mind if you decide to do Ten Ewe on return from Signal. From this interesting perch (the cave), walk E through some brush about 200 feet, passing a deep, narrowing chute/waterfall that's up and to the right (S), over to a sloping "wall". This is the first of three class three pitches that take you to the "upper half' of Ten Ewe. Since we encountered slings on these pitches, some climbers may want a belay here, which we didn't. After these are overcome, proceed SE across a section of loose talus and then curve in a SW direction towards the summit. We left a new register in place of the single-entry film canister we found there dating only a couple of weeks prior to our visit. Ironically, other than Ewe scat, we didn't encounter any other evidence of Ewes on Ten Ewe's slopes.--ROUND TRIP STATS: 1900 feet elevation gain, 3 miles, 5 hours

That afternoon, with the peak in the bag. we made camp high up on Signal's alluvial fan, just before the road dips into Kofa Queen Canyon. Warm breezes and a radiant sun created the quintessential desert setting. We awoke early Saturday morning in a rain shower and immediately decided to move breakfast to nearby Quartzsite, where we found a quaint, but adequate, roadside cafe. Our objective for the day was 5,681-foot, Harquahala Peak, the highest point in southwestern Arizona. The Peak straddles the western edge of the 22,880-acre Harquahala Mountains Wilderness which was established via the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990. Although a rugged 10.5 mile 4WD road skirts the Wilderness boundary to the summit, we chose to take the scenic and historic trail, contained entirely within the Wilderness area.

The four mile trail to the summit was created in 1920 and used by mules to haul supplies and materials to the then active Harquahala Peak Observatory, Constructed by, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and first operated by Dr. Charles G. Abbot. The facility was active from 1920 to 1925. The Observatory was commissioned to study and research the "solar constant". which aided weather forecasting. The facility closed in 1925 due to extreme weather conditions and decreased visibility. In 1975 the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is much more to the history of the Observatory than space permits here. The single remaining shack there is well fenced and embellished with a BLM info-placard and visitor's register. In addition to these relics, there is a large, solar-powered, microwave communications facility, that is operated by the Central Arizona Water Control District to control water flow in the Central Arizona Project canals. We found no register at the BM.


From Quartzsite. AZ, head E on I10 and take exit 31 onto AZ 60 to Brenda, AZ. Proceed E on AZ 60 through the town of Wendon to mile past 70. Then, continue another 0.5 miles to where there is a roadside rest area on the N side of AZ 6O. Directly across the highway on its S side, there is a closed barbed-wire fence/gate. Go through the gate, make an immediate "S" bend and continue 2.2 miles to the Wilderness boundary keeping left at all forks. The road is poor dirt, but is accessible to careful 2WDs. There is parking for at least six vehicles at the trailhead. marked by several BLM "brown stake" wilderness "posts". The GLADDEN l5' topo may be useful. Beginning as an old road bed, the four mile, class one trail, starts here, just beyond the posts, and heads SE. The path is well ducked for most of its route as it proceeds up the canyon. The sides of the canyon are rich in desert vegetation, with magnificent stands of saguaro being the most dramatic. During the second mile or so: remains of an old telephone line call been seen strung between boulders -- part of the old Observatory's installation.

As the canyon narrows, the trail climbs upwards and transitions into a series of switchbacks, passing a spring near 4200 feet. There's plenty of over-growth and virulent catclaw along the way, especially in these last two miles. At times, the path can be hard to follow through the thick foliage. Eventually, the route tops out at a saddle. With good views all around. From this windy vantage point, the dormant Observatory can be seen as a landmark. The trail turns E here, and ascends an easy ridge line to connect with a service road to the summit.

During our visit we hiked in intermittent and intense rain showers. With the summit cloudy, windy, and COLD. It was interesting to note how the old mule trail has aged in the seventy or so years since it was active. Finding the trail down was somewhat elusive since we found "new" ducks and remains of several old cabins during our route-finding probes. Nevertheless? we returned to the trucks just at sunset and were rewarded with radiant pinkish glows from nearby billowy clouds. Next morning, the sun's gleaming yellow scepter nudged us all out of our bags by six. The views N across McMullen Valley of the Harcuvar Mountains were as clear as could be. With blue ski, all around, we were on the road by eight, headed for Big Horn Peak.


Big Horn Peak, situated in the Big Horn Mountain Wilderness, was recommended to us by Desert Rat/guru, Dave Jurasevich. He mentioned a third class summit. but we had virtually no details of any routes so intrigue was high. The Big Horn Peak 7.5 quad, which helped with the drive in, was virtually useless for route finding because of "banded" contour lines. Analyzing the peak from the trailhead is the best recommendation. Richard did, and he successfully found the crux portion while en route, which goes high class two to the summit mound, whereupon there is a forty foot section of "good" class three. This peak goes well with Harquahala, but it would also entertain a return drive from Weavers Needle. The trailhead may be accessed by continuing E on AZ 60 from Harquahala's TH turnoff. by turning S at Aguila, and heading towards I10 on an unnamed paved road. However. I will give directions relative to exit 81 on I10.

From the N side of IlO's exit 81 (Salome Road) overpass, proceed 0.3 miles on pavement, NW to an excellent dirt road on the N side of the blacktop, just E of a "DIPS" sign. Turn N onto this excellent dirt road and proceed 0.65 miles N to a fork where the excellent dirt road turns W and a fair dirt spur continues NI passing a "Borrow Pit" on the W. Continue N on this spur for about 2.0 miles to where there is a "T" intersection with a powerline road. Turn W here and continue for 0.3 miles. to near pole number 27 (poles are numbered with metal plaques high on their structures). There is plenty of roadside parking here, and careful 2WDs should be able to get this far. The peak is obvious directly N of the parking area. From the parking area, walk N for about 0.5 miles and locate, then cross: the footbridge over the aqueduct. Continue up to the top of a large earthen berm. The top of the berm is a good place to orient a map and pick out a route. From the summit, a gully can be seen immediately below the top as it drops over a series of parallel, horizontally-oriented, series of cliffs. The gully is a landmark for the general direction up the S face. We stayed to its right/E side. Basically, though, You're on your own adventure! Drop down the berm, cross over the service road, and continue N for 0.25 miles to where there is a barbed wire wilderness boundary fence. Slither under the fence and continue N, passing through the low saddle between points 1458 and 1855. From here, curve NW, picking your way up to the summit's third class mound. Good Luck! Richard discovered an old buried register dating back to 1941. Unfortunately. we couldn't make out the name(s). We replaced the glass bottle with a tin can, putting both old and new registers within. We didn't find a BM, but the topo indicates there is one there. From the summit, we could easily see Harquahala Peak to the NNW. More stunning though, was the view SW of the Eagle Tail Mountains.

ROUND TRIP STATS: 2100 feet elevation gain, 7 miles, 5.5 hours P.S. I'd like to nominate Ten Ewe, Big Horn Peak, and Cerro Aconcagua for the proposed Desert Rat List.

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