I met Kyle and Joel at First Water Trailhead on February 7th after a lovely drive up Highway 79. We started hiking around 8:15 am and after turning on the old roadbed of the Second Water Trail, we passed a large group of hikers. Other than this group, we hardly saw anyone else all day. We hiked through the flats of Garden Valley with a view of the Four Peaks in the distance. Soon, we descended to reach the junction with the Boulder Canyon Trail and took it south. There was running water in the creek and several larger pools. Temperatures were warm enough that I wet my head at one of the creek crossings before we started our ascent of the Battleship.
We reached the turnoff for the route, marked with a cairn, and crossed the creek one last time before going up a steep slope that led to a use path on the left side of a side drainage of Boulder Canyon. The path curved around and took us to a saddle where we could look down into the Lower La Barge Box. From the saddle, we continued northwest on a path that took us to an alcove at the base of the rock formation that makes up the back end of the ship where we took a break before the real scrambling began. There were great views of the Weaver's Needle from the alcove. I stashed my hiking poles at the alcove and put on gloves to follow Kyle as he scrambled up on solid rock with good ledges and handholds toward the top of the back end of the ship. Suddenly, we were on a flat expanse of mesa, with incredible views in every direction. The ridgeline of The Battleship stretched out in front of us, looking a little more than daunting.
We wove our way through the rock formations- it was nice to have Kyle along, who had been here recently. However, the route was pretty well beat in and there were cairns in questionable spots. I knew the "scary spot" that all the triplogs talk about was coming up, but when we got there, it didn't look so bad at all. Here's a video of Kyle on the scary spot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yqwr4D1Xuvw
Then it was my turn. I decided to use one of my favorite techniques when faced with a spot where a slip or a fall would ruin your day. Some call it Butt-Hiking, I call it La Rompage. Here's a video Joel got of me crossing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFqDa0Wj2E0
After crossing the connecting ridge, we continued scrambling up the ridgeline. There were some places that looked like a tight squeeze between boulders, we found it easier to travel along the top of the solid rock of the ridge. We reached a set of cliffs and the route dove down and to the left on horrible, loose pea-sized gravel on top of solid rock. There was no good way to get down it, so I tried a controlled slide which worked okay- another area the gloves came in handy. I couldn't wait for the ball-bearing slopes to be over- in retrospect, if I wouldn't have left the poles at the alcove, I would have gotten them back out for this part. A little more scrambling and then we were able to see Canyon Lake in the distance. The route wrapped around the mountain to the right and up on a good path and all of a sudden, we were at the red summit register box. 360 degree knockout views in every direction! Here's a video from the summit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aikBXNeK55w
Wow. We made the summit just before noon and took a long break to explore the and soak in the incredible views. We could see the Weaver's Needle, which I hope to climb someday. We signed the summit register- I always enjoy reading the various entries and there were a lot of names in there that I recognized. It was a perfect day, with blue skies and a slight breeze. We saw two large birds soaring above and diving- I later determined that they were a pair of Prairie Falcons.
After our summit break, it was time to reverse our route down the ridgeline. The most unpleasant part was short stretches of the ball-bearing slopes. The temperatures were increasing and we could feel the rocks were warm to the touch. I wouldn't want to try this hike in hot weather. We found our way back to the alcove, having gotten through the scramble with only minor scrapes and bruises. The path was easy to follow from the saddle down toward Boulder Creek, and after one last steep section we were on the Boulder Canyon Trail.
It was pretty warm on our hike up out of the creek, so I got out my umbrella. Crazy that we're sweating, when only four days before the high had been right around freezing. We had an enjoyable time on our hike back. I could tell that we were nearing the trailhead because shirtless people carrying no water began to appear. Just before the trailhead, I said good-bye to Kyle and Joel and took a half-hour to myself on some pretty rocks near the trail before getting back in my car and driving back to Tucson. I really enjoyed the hike and the company and would like to try coming in from Canyon Lake to access the Battleship the next time.