After my Apache Peak 6940 climb last week I couldn't wait to return to make a 'Northern Loop' trip to visit the summits of the northern-most eight out of the tallest dozen peaks in the Apache Peaks complex. To try and make it all in one trip I relied on topo maps, satellite views as well as the information I gained on my climb of 6940. Yes, it was quite an ambitious plan even knowing how large a gap there can be between creating and carrying it out, but it was worth a try.
Start from Forest Road 220 near Apache Tank and hit the peaks in the order as follows:
Peak 5819, 6188, 6326, 6353, 6729, 6412, passing back over 6729 on the way to 6651 and finally to 6601. From there I would continue south toward 6940 until I found an opening to climb down the steep western wall, eventually back down to last weeks' trailhead then hike the road back up and around Peak 5819 to my start point.
I hit 5819, 6188, 6326, 6353 & 6651, hardly varying a hundred feet from my planned GPS route until climbing the northern rise of Peak 6651 prior to heading east to pick up 6729 & 6412. Once I caught sight of 6729 & 6412 it was obvious I would have neither the energy nor enough fluids for the steep ascents and descents out-and-back so I settled on finishing with just 6651 & 6601. But as it turned out while I did not continue to 6601 I did reach five of the eight summits I hoped for. Not a bad day's work.
0740 - Started from my designated TH @ N33.54718 W110.76909
I had a nice spot parked between two trees tall enough to provide shade for most of the day. The climb to begin with was reasonably steep but the terrain was open enough it was easy to pick out the best route.
0805 - Reached Peak 5819 summit @ N33.55029 W110.76498
Once at the summit I realized my planned GPS route was working out well with the only obstacel that may cause a variation was pretty sturdy barbed-wire fence. Hopefully I'd be able to cross it at the opportune times without too much grief.
0906 - Reached Peak 6188 summit @ N33.55560 W110.75647 (My GPS read 6224')
Although early in the hike, this peak was the toughest of the day for me, being very steep with exposure near the top, very loose scree to climb and of course for me, not being comfortable with heights, sheer cliff faces and drop-offs. Truthfully I almost
gave up, and even once I was within a few yards of the top I told myself "enough for today, I'll summit it and call it a day, heading back and spending the rest of the day doing more 4x4 recon of the area. But once I reached the summit and saw the terrain wasn't as bad (close, but not as bad) to continue on, I figured I'm here, let's get it done!
0949 - Reached Peak 6326 summit @ N33.55936 W110.75234
This peak was a pretty easy climb, although I started to get into the thicker brush that would become the theme for most of the hike. Still, there were enough well-beaten game trails I could avoid the worst of it.
1004 - Reached Peak 6353 summit @ N33.56378 W110.75130
The terrain being pretty open yet with plenty of shade trees the hike along the 'peninsula' to Peak 6353 was the easiest and most enjoyable part of the day. With tons of game trails and fresh animal tracks I was a bit surprised I only had one fleeting glimpse of a white-tail deer the whole day, so short even if the camera was on and in my hand would not have caught it.
1108 - Reached Peak 6651 summit @ N33.55649 W110.74764
This was very close to the toughest climb of the day. Every bit as steep if not steeper than the climb to 6188 but not nearly the exposure. But it took enough energy I knew by time it started to level out that my out-and-back from here to pick up 6729 & 6412 was not feasible today so I headed straight for the summit.
1142 - Make-or-break time @ N33.55536 W110.74539
Already it's taken 4 hours, I'm lagging on energy, have only a few ounces of Gatorade in the CamelBak bladder with a 20 oz back-up
bottle and I have another 3 tough miles to go, so... do I continue as planned on to pick up Peak 6601 and seek an unknown opening to drop down or choose the known opening now, heading down the ravine into Negro Wash? Hmmm... which is it?
I figured reaching five out of eight planned summits isn't bad so I chose the latter (and very wrong!
) option. Yup, as usual hindsight is 20/20. While this was a known
option, the brush became so thick, even moving as fast as I could downhill, it took well over and hour to go less than half a mile. Worse, it was sapping me of the energy I'd need to make my last 400' ascent back up to my TH. The only 'good' thing during this descent was almost no cats-claw so the upper body scrapes were just that, scrapes. However, I did get plenty of those. For the legs it was a good thing I had two layers of gaiters (light short ones and tall heavier ones over that) for I still came back with a deep cut behind each leg. I have no idea when or where I got them as I didn't notice them until after I returned home.
The last unpleasantness of the hike was sitting down on a nice shaded rock to take off the outer pair of gaiters (only half-mile walk along the road left) only to find out the rock was covered in pine sap. Thankfully the last thing before leaving home I grabbed an extra pair of pants and was able to change into them before driving home, otherwise it would have embedded the sap into the car seat. As it is, three scrubbings with Shout!
and washing did not remove the last of it so I'm looking for the next thing to try.
1352 - Returned to start and enjoyed some nice cold Gatorade to reayd me for more 4x4 recon.
With such great views, three more of Apache Peaks to reach on the northern end and another four to the south, I'll be back for more.
I'm still whittling down to a few dozen to post on HAZ but the full set of 81 photos (including both FR220 & FR220A 4x4 trips) is here: