2009-02-15 Guest writes: This area of the park is currently closed to the public due to illegal border activity.
Organ Pipe is a relatively lesser known southwestern masterpiece. The Bates Mountains are a remote jewel in the backcountry of Organ Pipe. Isolated and severe, they are trailess and require a lot of effort to get to but offer big rewards. My friend Philip and I went there today to explore this rugged wilderness and mountain range. We ended up climbing an un-named and spectacular peak that looked impossible from below and set eyes on a future target...Kino Peak. From Bates Well Ranch (Border Patrol camp) head basically south through the desert. Head for the small saddle between the large flat mesa on your left and the small hill on the right. You will be heading South here. You'll immediately pass by some old wooden corrals on your left. Soon you'll cross Growler Wash. As you scramble alond head towards the right/west end of the small saddle. Look around and pick out a well worn use path. Hop on this path and head out into the wilderness. This is an area of border crossing (hence the Border Patrol camp) and there is occasional evidence of their passage, though not much really. NPS told us you are unlikey to see them during the day. Be careful.
As you cruise along the use trail there will be saguaros, organ pipes and some of the largest cholla I've ever seen. This is pristine desert out here and it is beautiful. You will eventually come to the head of Bates Valley separating the montains. The Bates Mountains are on your right. There is no trail up into these mountains and no correct way to go. Our peak will soon become evident as a severe sharp spire in the foreground of the range and it looks unattainble.
We followed the use path for about 45 minutes or so, to a point where a smaller saddle was evident between larger peaks along the near ridge. Just head off to a point that looks manageable. Climb away and up. At the saddle you will need to go left or south. There is no correct way. We just scrambled along climbing as we went. Eventually we reached a spot where we briefly though we had peaked out. Scramble left and slightly down and you can skirt to the left of the peaked ridgeline. Keep heading south and climbing when possible. Eventually the face of Peak 2493 becomes visible again and looks scary...but you know a secret about it. You can climb up the not visible backside. From where you are, you can start to climb up towards a saddle up and to your right. You will climb up along and pass a huge number a dens and caves, each remarkable for the obvious wildlife that has been in it. Keep climbing up to the peak from the saddle. You will need to pass to the right or west side of the vertical north/northeast face. Pick your way up and around the south/soutwest side, climbing whenever you can. The last 50 feet or so have some significant exposure, which can feel severe at the very top. This does require nontechnical rock climbing. Fear of heights will not work here. From the top the views are outstanding. You can see everywhere and it is all amazing. To the south are a couple of huge pillar-like peaks framing the range highpoint behind them...Kino Peak. This one is now on the list.
Make your way back whichever way you can. Be careful going down there is frequent loose footing and many drainages down will not work due to severe droppoffs/cliffing out. Take this hike seriously, the route finding, climbing and exposure can be severe. The payoff is large, though.
National Park $8 fee per car for a 7 day pass. Backpacking and backcountry camping is not allowed at this time due to an increase in illegal border activity.. Camping is available in the two designated campgrounds only.
To hike Take 86 West off I-19 just south of Tucson. Take this a little over 100 miles to the town of Why. At the stop sign in Why turn right onto AZ 85 towards Ajo. After 8-10 miles you'll see a large mine on your left. There is signed left tirn for Darby Wells Road, take this a couple miles to a fork in the road. You want the left fork (Bates Well Road). This may not be signed. There is a sign marking seasonal road closure from March 15 - July 15. Take this overall decent gravel road for about 25 minutes to the NPS marked Bates Ranch on your left. There is a Border Control compound here where you park.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
Warning: heat kills!
Avoid 8am to 5pm over 90 degrees. Prehydrate & stay hydrated. Hikebot recommends using an umbrella to block the sun. Avoid Heat Illness - do NOT hike when temps exceed 100 degrees, period.