By: Ron Bartell
BABOQUIVARI FROM THE EAST
After climbing Weavers Needle & Superstition Mtn with Bill Russell's trip, Chuck Pospishil, Jerry Keating, and I drove south toward Tucson and Baboquivari Peak. We had been refused permission to climb the normal western approach through the Papago Reservation (due to drug smuggling problems on the reservation). So armed with topos (Baboquivari Peak, Arivaca - 15 mm) and a brief roadhead description from Jack Grams we planned to try an eastern approach.
We drove as follows: from Arizona 86/286 junction, S 29.5 mi to a Highway Maintenance Station on the W side of the road. About 50 yards S of the station, a good dirt road passes thru a gate to the W. After 2.8 ml on this road bear right at a Y, leading down to a wash, then curving back toward Babo. From here the road deteriorates, but passenger cars should be able to go about 3.2 mi from the Y to the crossing of the main canyon coming from Riggs Ranch, soon after another gate. The final 2 miles to Riggs Ranch (we drove 1 mi, which took half an hour) was among the worst roads we'd seen.
At 7:20 Sunday morning we started walking up the road, enjoying good views of Babo and the first saddle S of the peak on the S ridge, which was our first objective. There is a canyon descending SE from this saddle, with easy grassy slopes on its NE side. At Riggs Ranch (now called Babo Ranch "hikers and climbers welcome") follow a road up to the right, which after 200 yards curves around behind the ranch buildings, which are now on the left. A solid fence is on the right. Follow this fence N to cross a barbed wire fence and pick up a road/trail going N up the canyon. It eventually crosses to the W bank below a small waterfall, and continues to the canyon descending from the saddle, mentioned above. Here the trail disappeared, but the grassy slopes go well to the saddle.
From the saddle, ascend the N ridge 100 ft to the top of a rock outcrop, and a view of the S face of Babo. From here our route crossed the S face to the high notch on the SW ridge at the base of the main summit cliffs, as follows: A gradually ascending traverse on the W side of the S ridge (through small trees, small yucca, large yucca, prickly pear, and bushes) will cross a shallow gully, then come to a larger talus chute after about 1/4 mile. We descended the talus chute about 200 ft to a point where we could go right into a wash (very loose boulders, some class 3) which we ascended about 250 ft, exiting left to the left hand edge of the high notch. From here a generally level traverse of about 2/3 mi on around the mountain followed grassy areas among the trees to reach the Babo Trail coming up from the reservation.
The trail can be followed without too much trouble up through dense forest until it disappears at a narrow rocky gully, with steep slabs on the left. Ascend the gully (pay attention here on the descent - we didn't) a short distance to remnants of the stairway, and ascend up 2nd class slabs to the left, directly under the high cliffs. Above the slabs, the trail reappears, and soon leads to more ladder remnants at the base of the 80 ft class 3-4 pitch. Exit right at the top of the pitch to a wide ledge, which is followed right 100 yds to a chute. A 3rd class move at the bottom of the chute brings one to the trail again, leading to the summit about 300 ft higher. (Technical gear required is 2 120 ft ropes, a few slings and biners, and rappel gear.)
We reached the summit at 1:30, where Chuck finished the DPS List. Jerry had one more peak remaining to finish the list. After a short visit with the summit squirrel, we beat a hasty retreat, reaching the ranch just at dark (6 PM), after only a slight delay when we had to pull Chuck out of some cactus (and vice versa). We reached the car at 6:30 and the pavement at 7:45, where we finally had the champagne by headlights.
From the saddle on the south ridge to the trail there was no sign of previous climbers. Perhaps the saddle NE of the peak goes better to the trail, although the part we could see leading up to it looked like a lot of bushwhacking would be necessary. Maybe future parties will give it a try.
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