Castle Dome Peak, Signal Peak


By: Ron Jones


Seven o'clock on a beautiful brisk Saturday morning found sixteen DPS members and 10 guests at the "Castle Dome-Yuma Proving Ground" turnoff off Highway 95, about 49.5 mi south of the intersection of this highway with Interstate 10 at Quartzite. Incidentally this was the final weekend of the BIG mineral snow and encampment at Quartzite and there were more than 5000 RVs, maybe as many as 10,000 RVs packed into that town and extending north, east and west for several miles and camped south for 4 or 5 miles. It must be a lot of fun. I'll. bet the holding tank stations were all full.

Gene Olsen's road map published in SAGE 164 (5-7/82) is still accurate. We took the fair dirt road in about 10 miles past the Castle Dome and Hull Mines and about 3.5 mi. north beyond the Hull mine to the mouth of the large wash northwest of Castle Dome and which contains Ladder Tanks.

Twenty-three of us started up the broad wash and at about 2100 feet we turned SSE on an obvious route around the west shoulder of the peak. Rounding the shoulder to the SSE side at about 3400 ft we found our way up a pretty obvious set of wide mostly class 2 ledges with an occasional move of cl 3 to the summit (3788'). A rope was carried but never used. I think that with a large group this route is to be preferred over the route up the north east by the big gendarme. My thanks to Gene Olsen for describing the route to me. We descended down the much looser route to the north east and were back to our cars by mid-afternoon. Back at Highway 95 we caravaned 18 mi north to the turnoff leading to Kofa Palm Canyon and drove to the parking lot at the end where we set up the hors d'ourves tables. I had hoped that we would take the time to walk up Palm Canyon to observe the fan palms growing in the narrow clefts of the cliff but between partying and a light shower (accompanied by a lovely double rainbow) no one walked very far. Suzanne Thomas, Igor Mamedalin and I drove north to Kofa Queen Canyon and checked out the road as far as Indian Canyon in preparation for the next day's climb. This road we all agreed the next day was a satisfactory desert road, about the same as Palen, Turtle or Castle Dome. The roads to Tipton and Big Maria are much worse. Meanwhile, back at the campfire Walt Wheelock was regaling us with stories about gold mines, Nevada and Baja California. We were joined by Jack Trager, Gordon Lindberg, John Sarna and his friend Martha bringing our total to 32. Later Elden Hughes who just had the cast removed from his knee (the result of a New Year's hike up Tajo Canyon in Baja) got out his guitar end we celebrated under dry, mostly clear skies.

We followed the driving and hiking instructions written by Wes Shelberg in SAGE #135 (9-10/76) and Dick Banner who took 19 up to the top (SAGE #143 3-4/78). I feel that this is the route that should he used by ALL future DPS climbs of Kofa other than by the class 4 route up Palm Canyon. The climb is class 2 and about 1-3/4 miles one way. I think the route is probably prettier end more spectacular than the Palm Canyon route and definitely better than the longer usual class 2 route up Four Palms Canyon. Nearly all cars should be able to drive the 4.6 miles to the mouth of Kofa Queen Cyn and there is a great level area for camping with room for 15 or more cars (map follows). We consolidated into the 7 vehicles with best clearance-two VW vans, a Chevy van, two Toyota pickups, a Ford and Chevy pickup- and drove slowly with no troubles about 2.7 miles to the very obvious mouth of Indian and Ten Ewe Cyns. There is plenty of room for easy parking. This dirt road is heavily traveled by off-road drivers going to the Kofa Queen Mine (no ruins). The Peak one sees up Indian Cyn from the cars is Ten Ewe Mtn. Twenty-eight of us started SW up Indian Cyn and after 1/4 mi. left the stream bed and headed up the slopes to the large saddle (4240'+) just west of Ten Ewe Mtn. At the saddle we turned west, hiked through a smell bowl and up the picturesque drainage with its small pools and smooth rock, and walked up the easy slopes to the summit (4877'), contouring sw below the pointy false summit to the north. I made the top in 90 minutes of walking from the mouth of the canyon. All 28 who started signed the register. After an hour for lunch we descended to the mouth of Indian Cyn in 65 minutes.

I have done this lovely peak 4 times now from 3 routes over a 19 year period. I suggest to the DPS that a peak which can easily be climbed round trip in 2-1/2 hours (and I'll bet it can be climbed RT in less than 2 hrs) should not be a DPS Emblem Pk and I propose that the Emblem Pk in AZ be moved to Baboquivari which now has no access problems and where hikers are welcome. It too has magnificent scenery and it is a significant climb! Remember, an Emblem once climbed can always be counted as an Emblem Pk.

Thanks to Graham Breakwell for his fine assist and to Bob Kanne for his assistance in route finding. Thanks also to Karen Leonard for her pickled lime rinds, to Paul & Pat nelson who I haven't climbed with in a long time. Bob & Ella Hoselton for wining us & all the rest of the gang. Congratulations to Sarna's friend Martha who climbed her first DPS peak.

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