Baboquivari Peak, Signal Peak
By: Alex Amies
Our group met at the Babo campground at 6 am on Saturday morning for the Babo climb via the standard DPS Guide Route A (west side). There were five of us: Tom McDonnell (co-leader), Greg Mason, Ed Herrman, Brian Roche, and me. Edna Erspamer and my mother relaxed at the camp during the day.
We started at 6:30 am. It took about 3 hours along a good trail to get to the base of the rock.
Our group had two ropes (a 50 m and a 60 m rope), climbing harnesses, and other basic gear. We all used hiking boots for the class 4 rock. The hangers mentioned in the DPS Guide provided adequate protection for leading the only pitch. There was a new two-bolt anchor at the top of the pitch not mentioned in the guide. This was very useful but placed at an exposed position on the rock face requiring careful belaying of participants from the safe area further up and to the right for the descent.
We topped out at about midday and headed back to camp, arriving at about 4:30 pm. Overall, route finding and climb were straightforward.
After the climb we stopped by Picture Rock, which is a short drive from the camp, to look at the petroglyphs. While there we saw a crested kara kara - an eagle like bird with black and white markings, identified by Tom. Then we began the approximately four-hour drive to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge for the next day's climb of Signal.
There is primitive camping but no toilets or water at the trailhead for Signal Peak in Kofa.
Signal Peak is spectacular and with the surrounding mountains rise sharply from the desert plain. We were down to three for this climb: Greg, Tom, and me. We climbed the Palm Canyon / west side, listed as Route A in the DPS Guide. This proved to be considerably more difficult than the previous day's climb on Babo both in terms of route finding and technical climbing.
We left the trailhead at about 6:30 am. We checked out the California fan palms from a distance as we stopped by the trail. This is the only native palm in Arizona and there are only a few stands of them.
Luckily, I decided to pack in my rock shoes, which I appreciated when leading the technical pitch. There were two pitons providing protection for the pitch, which were not listed in the DPS Guide, but I appreciated nonetheless. A new bolted rappel station, also not listed in the Guide had been placed at exactly the right position for rappelling with a 60 m rope. However, it was not placed in a good position for a belay station for the climb up so I used a large boulder at the top. The technical climbing on this pitch is considerably more difficult than the pitch on Babo.
After finishing the roped pitch we had difficulty finding the route for the next section. I don't think that the DPS Guide is entirely accurate for this section. There are three gullies at this point. The middle one turned out to be the best option, as we found on the way down. The left one is not an option and the right, which we took for the ascent, one requires hacking through a considerable amount of desert holly.
We reached the top at about 11:30 am. Unfortunately, we did not see any big horn. We descended the same route as we came up and got back to the trailhead at about 4 pm.
Overall, both climbs were excellent. We did not see any other parties on either peak during the entire weekend.
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