Eagletail Peak (AZ), Courthouse Rock (AZ)


By: Greg Vernon


This was a scheduled SCMA trip for which no assistant could be scared up, so it went as a lonely adventure into the wilds of Southwest Arizona. What better way to spend the New Yeaf s weekend than exploring a gorgeous area in sunshine and 60 degree weather. Fellow adventurers were John Thau (aka Brandon's Dad) and Phoenix ex-patriot Chris Brewer.

Eagletail Peak , 3300', Class 2 (summit 5.8) The hike starts at the wilderness boundary (see below) and proceeds into the valley between the Eagletail crest and Granite Peak. After going up the valley the better part of a mile, cross a couple of ditches and head to the prominent notch in the crest (U'FM 0284858 meters east, 3699145 meters north). From here, stay below the crest (150 feet seems about right for avoiding most of the nasties) and contour into the saddle north of the peak (Eagletail Saddle). You can also follow the crest, then drop 200' into the saddle via ledges to the right. From here, a trail of sorts goes to the base of the summit pinnacle (a class 4 route reaches Eagletail Saddle from the left). UTM 0285632 meters east 3698412 meters north.

The climb to the summit is about 40 feet of 5.8 climbing (the summit was first free climbed in 1977, and in true Arizona tradition was given the sandbag rating of 5.6). 4 small to medium stoppers and a couple medium cams are adequate protection. A bolted anchor is found just below the top. To the south of the main summit are the "tail feathers", the most spectacular being the South Feather, going at about 5.2.

The rounded hump near the summit is only a few feet lower than the true summit and the views are just as good. It was dubbed "chicken feather peak" by Andy Smatko and Barbara Lilley after failing to negotiate the high point. Barbara returned to bag the summit by jummaring the 70 foot rappel route.

This peak was led as a DPS outing in November, 1982 by the legendary Cuno Ranschau, Don Sparks, Mans Valkass, Ron Hudson, and myself. The register we left was still there after 19 years and had lots of room in it. We went on to climb the Forbes Route (5.6) on Baboquivani and the backdoor route on Weavers Needle which felt about 5.7. To this day, many of the participants consider that this was the best ever DPS trip.

10 miles round trip, 2700' of gain, 9 hours.

Courthouse Rock, 6 roped pitches, III 5.5 Courthouse Rock is the spectacular 1400' monolith visible south from 1-10 about 80 miles east of Blythe. The route goes up the Southeast Gully about 200 yards south of the base of the vertical face. It is a rather classic mountaineering type route with lots of class 3 and 4, route finding , and loose rock. The route ascends the gully for 5 pitches, follows a trail for .2 miles, then goes up class 3 ledges to the final short class 4 pitch to the saddle below the summit. From here it is class 3 to the top. You can see a rappel station above the class 4 pitch as you come down from the summit.

Two 165 foot ropes, a rack of 6 cams, and a few runners are adequate. A helmet is a must! All belay/rappel stations have nice 1/2 inch stainless steel bolts. Two miles rt, 1500' of gain, 7 hours.


80 miles from the Arizona Border, leave 1-10 at the Solome/Harquahala Road exit. Go south on the Harquahala Road 5.6 miles to the Courthouse Rock Road. Turn right. Go 7.0 miles (there are mile markers!) to the 0.0 marker, at which point 3 roads meet the main road.

For Eagletail, take a sharp left and follow the gasline road for 1.4 miles to where a fence appears on the right (if you get to the gate across the road, you've gone a couple hundred yards too far). UTM here is 0289947 meters east 3704020 meters north (Eagletail Mountains East 7.5' Quad, 1990 Provisional). Turn right and follow a serpentine track for 0.6 miles to the barbed wire fence marking the wilderness boundary. (From what we observed, there are plenty of desert bighorn in the area, so keeping cattle out is a good idea).

To get to Courthouse Rock. follow the main road from the 0.0 mile marker for about 4 miles. From this point for the next mile, 3 roads lead to near the rock. The third road is the main graded road marked by a BLM billboard and ends at the start of the Ben Avery Trail. The second road leads to a nice campsite at the wilderness boundary closest to the rock.

The area is featured in the 1985 edition of Arizona Highways and can also be found on several web sites.

    Editor's note:
Eagletail Peak is also known as the North Feather. It is the range highpoint of Arizona 's Eagletail Mountains. Its lower, but still challenging neighbors to the immediate south, include the Middle and South Feathers. For more information, consult Adventuring in Arizona by John Annerino - Sierra Club Books

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