Clifty Point (Arizona)

Spring 1999

By: Richard L. Carey


In late March of this year I climbed Castle Dome Peak for a second time with my friend Kathleen Mazur and it was a great climb on one of my favorite peaks on the list. Looking northwest from the summit one can see a high pinnacle in the Castle Dome Mountains which looks interesting to the climber seeking new peaks. This peak, 7.4 miles away, is Clifty benchmark and my attention was drawn to it by its listing in a group of worthwhile peaks not on the DPS list suggested by Barbara Lilley in the October, 1992 Sage. It wasn't until this spring that I finally had the opportunity to give Clifty a try.

The peak is on the Arch Tank, 1990, 7.5 minute map or on the old Castle Dome, 15 minute map.

Leaving the trailhead for Castle Dome we drove northeast through McPherson Pass. This is a scenic route, but it has some deep washed-out ruts and a fourwheel drive vehicle is best to get through. Then at junction 53 on the Kofa Wildlife map we turned north, parked, and camped after about 0.9 miles at a broad, flat gravel bar. The next day we found that we should have gone another 0. 1 mile further north and parked at the junction of an old road heading west into Virgin Basin. The old road is staked "No Vehicles" and it is a good hiking path west toward Clifty.

It was an easy four mile hike across flat desert and then some moderate hills to a saddle on the east side below Clifty. We groped around the north side and soon realized there was no easy way up the cliffs. Then we ascended a steep chute that led to a bench on the south side. This was the "key" to Clifty and we were soon climbing easy rock and ribs on the west side. Then we moved right and up a slope to the ridge. Progress looked difficult until we noticed a handy ledge with a small agave on it that appeared to lead left around a rib. This was the way and after one exposed move around the rib we scrambled up to the rocky ridge top and north a short distance to the summit.

What a fine peak this was we thought with its small exposed summit area! Clifty was an appropriate name for there was no other way up due to sheer cliffs on the other sides. The last climbers in the register were Barbara Lilley and Gordon MacLeod in December 1989. The first ascenders since the USGS were John Vitz, Barb Fink, and Dick Sheets in February 1982. No other climbers noted. The benchmark was placed in 1933. Our return hike was easy and the total time had been about seven hours for this 8.5 mile hike. The elevation gain is about 1600 feet.

This is a fun climb and I strongly recommend it when in the Kofa area. It can be climbed from the west side, but it looks a lot rougher getting up to the bench on the south side so I suggest our route from the east. The drive in from Stone Cabin would be easier than through McPherson Pass.

From highway 95 at Stone Cabin drive east on King Road for 6.2 miles and turn right (south) at junction 60. Drive south for 4.9 miles and park at a cairn on the right side. The No Vehicles sign is about 100 feet back from the road. Plenty of camping space here. This road has a few sandy washes, but most highclearance vehicles should make it.

Hike west on the road into Virgin Basin. Go through the low saddle in hills (UTM 763730E, 3673400N) or else go around the south end. Continue across the basin to hills at UTM 761500E, 3773900N. Go to the right side of the bump in front of BM Clifty to the saddle at UTM 760330E, 3674080N. Climb up the chute to a bench on the south side of the rock face. Then, proceed north and scramble over easy rock ribs on the west side. Climb an easy chute to the high saddle on the ridge. Then, proceed north, climbing up on a broken ledge and move left past a small agave and around an exposed comer with good hand holds. Another easy chute leads to the ridge top, then traverse a short distance to the summit. 4hrs up, 3 down, 1600' gain, 8.5 miles.

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