Three days earlier we hiked up White Canyon with hopes of crossing west up a long ravine to connect with the Arizona Trail #16 and make a loop hike out of it. We didn't quite make it, but came away with a new plan to climb up to the highest peak on the plateau between the two canyons I'll hereafter refer to as the heart of the White Canyon Wilderness.
Already having scouted out an easy escape route near the upper right side of the heart on the previous hike, all I hoped to find was another route up from the Arizona Trail side. In the few days in between trips I pored over numerous topo and satellite maps then spent time drawing out possible routes, and we were ready for another adventure in the WC Wilderness.
This time we started from a parking spot along Battle Axe Road where the Arizona Trail #16 heads northwest just below the bottom tip of the heart. The hike north along the AZT provided a number of different types of terrain each with their own dangers. The loose baby-head threatened us with sprained ankles, the brushier area provided plenty of chances for thorny encounters, and of course both the prickly-pear and chain-fruit cholla forests kept us awake, lest we step too close and pay for the encounter.
All along the route up the west side of the heart we were taking photos, not only to document our trip but to seek out another safe route up. Only one area held some promise near the end of the AZT #16 segment but we continued to the end in hopes of finding something easier just around the top-left ventricle of the heart. Steep cliffs greeted us there as well, so we climbed up the easiest slope up to the base of the cliffs with hopes to follow the base southward to the spot that help promise. Unfortunately we only went about a hundred yards along the cliff before the footing became too loose, threatening to give way and we'd be tumbling down. Nope, this was enough for Tracey, and for once I agreed it was more than I cared to deal with too. So we turned around and headed back up and around the upper left corner.
Not yet willing to admit defeat (at least I wasn't) we decided to continue along the slope as long as we could hoping for another sot at the top. After checking out a few narrow gaps that provided no access, we were just about to head down to the ravine and loop eastward to link up to our path from the other side three days ago, when I noticed some light game trails heading up through some thick brush. I figured if they were that defined, there likely was a route up through there somewhere, so I said, it's now-or-never and pushed through the heavy brush. Thankfully it was just jojoba and holly so no lasting holes in the skin. After breaking through the thickest layer we were treated to some rock climbing, traversing across some loose ground again and finally up one rock that Tracey absolutely would not want to go back down, which meant we better find the rest of the way up. Thankfully moments later I reached the top and the efforts were all worth it. Awesome views all around as well as a new look at Battle Axe completely different than any I'd had before! Wow!
Greeted by this vast upper plateau area complete with hills, cliffs and valleys for a moment all I could think of is where should we explore first? But being within 500 feet from Peak 3660, the one absolute goal I set for the day, the choice was easy. The peak is right at the edge of the steep cliffs so we stopped to take some photos over the Arizona Trail. I was there for only a few moments when I noticed a small Rx capsule in a small cairn of rocks. We opened it and pulled out a summit log. The one-and-only entry was well over 10 years old! Wow! Such an honor to be among the few! So of course we added our names to the log.
With the major goal achieved we set off to traverse across the center of the heart. Surprisingly the track I drew the night before as the most likely route to take turned out to be almost an exact duplicate of the actual path of least resistance down the various levels as we progressed eastward. Every so often we'd approach what appeared to be a steep drop, only to look over and find it wasn't that bad after all. It got to the point we no longer worried if we'd be cliffed out and continued merrily along our way. As we approached the bowl area that I had explored three days earlier it was time to decide if we had enough time to try what could be the quickest way down, or head north through the bowl and use the escape route I had used before. If we could get down this way it would save about 90 minutes and 1.5 miles of hiking, so we took the gamble.
Unfortunately, we took a clockwise path around a peak toward the hoped-for exit only to be cliff'ed out. We continued the loop a bit more hoping to be able to see the bottom but were unable to. So not knowing if we'd be treated to a quick and easy escape route by going all the way back around the peak counter-clock-wise, we went for the known-good escape route through the bowl. As we approached the bowl we passed through an area that was reminiscent of sandy beaches. Although it looked like sand it was simply crushed white rock... probably why this area is named White Canyon.
Once down the escape route we were back in the White Canyon with the familiar route of boulder-hopping just waiting for us. Being our third trip through in three days some of the areas went quite smoothly, others we tried different routes over, around, between and in one case under the large boulders. It wasn't long and we were back at the car. What a great feeling of accomplishing the main goals we had set for the day and then some. And for me, wonder of wonders, almost the only hike in years that I did not spot an empty Bud Light can... ANYWHERE! Hopefully this area continues to be inaccessible enough to those who care nothing for the environment that it stays that way.
Tons of photos but posting them all on HAZ would probably dilute the value of each so I'll put the rest on my own site when I get around to it.