When we hiked Peak 3660 in the White Canyon Wilderness back last November we noticed a road coming over the ridge east of White Canyon and made mention of checking it out sometime. And so a short few months later when I had the inclination to do more 4x4 recons in the Battle Axe area this came to mind.
Just 2.5 miles west of SR 177 on Battle Axe Road where the road swings west into the wash is where I made a right turn to head northeast. About 1.25 miles in the relatively smooth and wide wash (reasonable clearance 2-wheel drive vehicle is ok) I made a left turn into a much narrower wash heading westward toward White Canyon. The short 1.25 mile drive in this wash was decidedly more technical than the first part, with a few spots I was leaning very close to the point of tipping over, but not quite. While is would be physically possible to continue another 1/2 mile up and over the ridge, being the east boundary of the White Canyon Wilderness travel by motorized vehicle is prohibited. So I left the Samurai at the boundary.
From the trail head there is no warm-up, just a 300' climb in the first half mile. Once at the ridgeline the treat is an almost birds-eye view over the White Canyon Wilderness from the east. As much as I wanted to head straight down toward the cliffs lining the east side of White Canyon, my goal for today was to continue as far southward toward Battle Axe along the ridge as I could. From the saddle that meant about a 1.75 mile hike to the end. While most of it was along the flat top of the ridge, there were a few spots where I had to drop down so steep areas to continue on. A number of ups-and-downs and numerous photos later I'm at the end, with an awesome view of Battle Axe. From this close and this high up Battle Axe takes on a completely different perspective. Something you just have to see!
I was just getting comfortable sitting back to just veg out for a while when the peacefulness was broken by two guys (I drove by them a few hours later) shooting just a stone's throw from the White Canyon Wilderness. So I figured I might as well head back. Barely a quarter mile on the return trip I came to a spot where I had to make a decision whether to go back the way I came, which meant dropping down 175' and climbing back up again or try going around and coming back up the other side which if memory served me correctly was quite possible, potentially saving me some climbing. As usual, potentially
is the keyword here... what may have looked fine from above did not turn out to be the case. I ended up having to drop down over 250' feet to continue around. But continuing around did not bring me to any reasonable point to climb back up to the ridge. I contemplated turning back, but now having invested all the extra time and distance I felt it was worth checking out one area that held promise to climb back up. It looked steep but had shelves that might allow zig-zagging up with only a few stretches. Once I reached it I wasn't sure, but it would save well over a mile and plenty of time to backtrack so one way or another I was going to climb up.
To get to the first passable ledge I had to wade through the thickest thorny brush of the whole day, but reach it I did. It looked like it would work out great because it rose at an angle, allowing me to climb most of the way up. Unfortunately, at one point I was blocked by a large Palo Verde tree with a jojoba bush, a large buckthorn cholla and some other hooked thorny bush all wrapped up in each other. But I was NOT going back now, so I pulled out my clippers and spent 15 minutes cutting just enough of a hole to let me pass through. Even then it was a matter of pushing until something gave way and I was through. Ok, now moving across the ledge I came to the point where it ended and I had to climb up to the next ledge. It would take a lunge up a few feet to grab hold of the largest plant to pull myself up, but largest didn't mean large. It meant a 4" half-dead plant that may or may not hold my weight, but I was going for it. But lunging up by pushing off with the feet isn't quite so easy when the ledge is thinner than the length of my sandals and is flaky and can break off at any moment. After kicking around enough to break all the loose stuff free and brush it away I didn't give it another moment's thought and lunged up, grabbed the tiny plant and it held! Thankfully I had enough strength to pull the rest of my body up, but I spent a few minutes to catch my breath before continuing on. But now with all the drama over it was a matter of a mild climb back to the ridgeline, follow it along to the saddle and drop back down to the TH and I'm home free.
I'll be posting photos here soon but it will be nothing like the 141 photo gallery on my web site:
http://changephoenix.com/jpserver/web/p ... .php?id=24
I'm still working on editing a number of panorama videos.
A short, a great new view of Battle Axe and the White Canyon Wilderness. If you don't quote have a very capable 4x4 it will only mean 2.5 miles added to the round trip.