Although it is very bad for the water table, the extremely dry weather we have been having in Arizona has been a blessing for me as I can do some "serious" peakbagging over my semester break. (I submitted my final grades the day before this trip.) When I moved here in July I got caught up in a whole lot of things that prevented me from doing much hiking before the school year began, after which point I could at best only do some of the local Prescott peaks.
Arizona is not the best place to do altitude-based peakbagging due to the relative lack of high terrain relative to neighboring states, and the fact that a lot of the existing high terrain is on Indian reservations and thus generally inaccessible. It certainly isn't as popular as it is in Colorado and California where there are a lot of high peaks. But, I'm not going to let that stop me from working my way through the list. Über-peakbagger Bob Martin and his wife published a guidebook to the accessible 9000-foot or higher peaks back in the 1980s and I recently found a copy on eBay. In some cases, 7.5' maps did not exist when that book was published. Based on this information and my own studious double-checking on the latest topo maps (well, actually scans of topo maps), I have been putting together a list of the highest summits that satisfy the "300-foot rule", sometimes known as the "Colorado rule". Roughly, this counts a summit as separate if it rises at least 300 feet from the saddle that connects it to a higher peak; i.e., 300 feet of "prominence".
Anyway, with some time to actually do a longer drive (4.5 hours in this case), I decided to head for the White Mountains and bag several relatively obscure peaks around 10000ft. These peaks are located just east of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, and I drove through a corner of this area on the way to the trailhead. The access is on Forest Road 111, which is a left turn about 1.5 miles outside the Reservation. From here, I drove up the road to a 4-way junction. The road is good for normal cars, on a cinder surface with just a bit of snow in places. No steep parts. The weather was sunny with temperatures of 20-25F during the hikes with a southwesterly breeze gusting to 20mph at times, and mostly sunny with increasing high clouds.
I'm giving each peak a separate section since these were technically separate hikes separated by short (or very short) drives. The elevation gains and distances assume a "perfect" approach, while in a few cases I did a bit of extra distance wandering around. I.e., these are "guidebook" types of stats. The gains are from mapwork and the distances are from GPS.
The left side of the 4-way junction had a corral and a narrow road through a gap in a fence. This whole area seems to be used for grazing cattle in the summer, but hiking access is still good. I drove through the gap and parked just on the other side because the narrow road continuing toward had a little more snowcover and looked too soft to completely trust in a car. But, I was only three-quarters of a mile by air from the summit, so that was fine. I walked up the road into the forest, through another gap in a fence. From here, I angled up to the northeast ridge of the peak. Once in the trees, there was a steady 0.5-2" of snowcover. The ridge is a little steep from about 9700 to 9900ft as indicated on the topo map, but this route barely qualifies as a bushwhack. As with the other 99ers, there was a "summit register" in a glass jar (rather poor choice of material, if you ask me!) hidden in a small summit cairn. These registers were more or less just scraps of paper as opposed to any formal register, so it is hard to say if everybody signs in. There were a few sign-ins last year and this year. However, the register gave an elevation of 9940ft (and a name I can't remember). There are good views to the south (and west), which is true on all of the peaks because they all are forested on the north sides and bare on the south! Although it makes sense, it is rather striking to compare the 4 peaks on the topo map. The summit is just barely out of the trees. A southerly approach for this peak is probably easier if you can drive the road that circles around to the south side.
I noticed that there was an old 2-track road up the south slopes of Point 9947 that started just east of the 4-way junction. There is a sign there that tells people not to drive on the road, but that foot travel is okay. This is not the normal ascent route for the peak (which will be covered later), but makes some sense since there is already a trail for the most of the route.
So, I did the long drive of a few hundred feet and parked on the road shoulder. The hike up the old 2-track starts out gentle and gets exponentially steeper until you reach the ridge below the very minor false summit (the main summit is in the left background in the photo). I stayed on the ridge as it curved around counterclockwise to the main summit. The strongest winds of the day were in the little saddle between the two summits, which were averaging a bit over 15 mph with gusts over 20 mph. This was a chilly place. However, the actual summit of Point 9947 is in fairly dense tree cover and was sheltered. In fact, on the summit register, someone suggested a name of "Haven Knoll" for exactly that reason. Interestingly, no one had signed in this year so far.
Martin recommends starting this hike and the one up Point 9947 from a 9550-foot saddle between the two peaks. I drive up the snowcovered road to here, but there wasn't a good place to park and there was occasional traffic around here all morning. I decided to park a bit south of the saddle on a relatively wide shoulder. There was a fenced area below this, with a fence running all along the road. Following Martin's book, I hopped the fence and headed west towards the summit. There was light snowcover on the hill, but the route is a trivial hike around a corner formed by the tree cover on the north and northeast sides. Martin already calls this peak "Grassy Top" and that was the name on the register. Interestingly, there was a small rolled up pad of paper in the register dating from at least 1990, but it was getting to be in bad shape. There were new entries from this year on July 4th and August 28th, the latter complaining about all of the cattle.
On the descent I decided to check out the fenced-in area because I thought that it might be open from both sides. I hit a trail of sorts and indeed there was an opening on the opposite corner from the road, so I walked around Fence Tank and back to my car. So, that's the way to go; start at the little two-track leading to the Tank and go through the fenced-in area on the way to the summit so you don't have to hop a fence.
Greens Peak is the highpoint of the immediate area and has a road to the top which services a massive cluster of communications equipment, as well as a fire lookout tower. So, less motivated (i.e., "lazy") peakbaggers sometimes will take credit for their car's climb of the peak. My plan was to drive up to a major switchback at 9700ft and get a bit of exercise from there. However, with the roads being partially snowcovered and this being a very steep road, I ended up parking at the base of the start of the steep climb at about 9460ft. This is at a "major" road junction not shown on the topographic map. Basically, the road that takes off to the northwest from the 9520-foot saddle on the map has been relocated about 0.2 miles south and appears to be a good road when dry if you have a reason to go that way.
Just like the 99ers, Greens is forested on the north side and exposed grass on the south (road) side. So, this was a sunny and breezy hike. The hillside is rather steep, so going cross country on the grass would be a little awkward, albeit much more direct. There was no other traffic of any sort on this road, unlike the lower roads. The USGS summit marker is right next to the impressive lookout tower next to a building. In addition to all of the comm equipment, there is an outhouse up there. I walked down the ridge a bit to make sure that the lookout tower is at the highest point, which it is. Of course, the tower was closed so I didn't get the dramatic views over the trees.
There are some other 9000-foot knolls in the area, but with the snow on the roads I decided to call it a day, and in any case the amount of hiking I did wasn't completely trivial to that point. So, I headed back home, the 4.5 hour drive taking the expected 5 hours with a 10% increase being the norm when comparing my oh-god-thirty drives to afternoon drives.
To the chronological trip index
File last modified: 21 February 2006