“F*@#$g Epic!” are the only two words that come to mind when I reflect back on today’s adventure, [of just under 8 hours, just over 4,200’ AEG, and just under 12.5 miles… 9.5+ of which were completely off trail]. If ever there is a contest for awesomest route to Gibbon Mountain, I will definitely be entering the one I took today.
I’d written off the shorter approaches to Gibbon Mountain [via Molino Basin or the Gordon Hirabiyashi Campground] since I needed to work on my weakness [distance] and wanted to log at least 12 miles today; but approaching via the Soldier or Babad Do'ag Trails – and then bushwhacking to connect with the GPS route to Gibbon shown here – hikelemmon.com/gibb ... ain/
– was starting to appeal. When I first moved to the Tucson area, I remember overhearing an experienced hiker mention that the Babad Do'ag Trail is very beautiful…
…and, to my pleasant surprise, when I started entering “Babad Do'ag” into HAZ, there was not one but two Descriptions: “Babad Do'ag”, [the one I was expecting, which describes the out-and-back hike along the official trail]; and “Babad Do'ag Drainage”. Let’s just say, the moment I caught sight of the word “Drainage”, I was sold.
This drainage is a boulder’s hopper’s dream! With almost no brush, tons of solid boulders and countless small waterfalls to scramble up, [for 2+ miles], this drainage is pretty sweet to say the least. I’m not sure what is typical in terms of water, but today there was very nice flow, making things all the more beautiful.
Towards the top of the drainage and after scrambling up a ridge, you connect with the official Babad Do'ag Trail by which you can return, making a sweet loop. As awesome as the drainage was, I figured I’d be pretty beat by the time I got back from bagging Gibbon Mountain [and ‘pretty beat’ would be an understatement!]. Needless to say, I was more than happy to go back by way of the trail. It was a win-win-win: a) having a very beautiful trail with decent footing to return by after over 9.5 miles of bushwhacking; b) different scenery by doing a loop over an out-and-back; and c) by going down the trail, I got to really take in the awesome views.
It took me about 1 hr. 40 min to get to the official end of the Babad Do'ag Trail via the drainage route. After that, I was initially planning to use the bushwhack portion of part of a loop route that a few HAZ hikers have posted, which connects the Babad Do'ag and Solider Trails. From there, I would follow the route to Gibbon Mountain, shown in the link I posted above.
Plans ended up going astray [in a good way]. The going was proving to be extremely easy [for a bushwhack], and I still had tons of energy… so I ended up continuing more or less ‘as the crow flies.’ It was an absolute blast… but flippin’ exhausting! Let’s just say, if you think false summits are bad, try ‘false ridges’…! I lost track of the number of ridges I went up and down. In addition to the endless ‘ridge riding’, at one point I even dropped into another amazingly beautiful drainage, which I rode for a good ways. Like the Babad Do'ag drainage, this one also had beautiful flowing waterfalls and was tons of fun to boulder up. At least with my ridge-hopping, there were no false summits! When I eventually got to the base of Gibbon Mountain, I was in perfect position to head straight up toward the large saddle between the highpoint and another point on the summit that is almost as high.
While I haven’t done many hikes in the Catalinas, Gibbon Mountain definitely takes the prize for my hands down most beautiful summit views in this range to date, [better than Cathedral, Window Peak, Rattlesnake Peak, and Airmen Peak to name just a few]. I was surprised to not find a summit register since this is a SAHC peak. I’m usually pretty good at finding them too, but it’s possible I may have just missed it. The ridgeline that traverses the top of Gibbon Mountain is very fun and offers a great variety of spectacular views. I couldn’t agree more with this: “While Point 5801 seems to be marked/referred to as ‘Gibbon Mountain’ don’t stop there! For great views of the lower portion of Bear Canyon (and a nicer spot to stop and take a break) continue to the next prominent high spot (to the south-west)” hikelemmon.com/gibb ... ain/
After continuing to the prominent high point toward the Southwest [which interestingly enough has a large cairn on top], I retraced my steps to the actual highpoint, then back to the saddle area, and then, [instead of descending from the saddle area], I decided I would take a different route back. Not only did I want to visit the third prominent highpoint on Gibbon, I was having tons of fun traversing the ridgeline… and it was definitely a lot less tiring than the ridge-hopping I did en route to the mountain.
Initially I rode the main ridge off Gibbon Mountain… then ended up on a different ridge… then crossed a small drainage… then contoured a minor peak… [maybe I mixed up the order of some of that; thank God for GPS!]. At one point, I spotted the trail I was initially planning to connect with on my way to Gibbon Mountain. This time, I angled my path toward it and touched down on trail at 8.25 miles, [all of which had been bushwhacking up to that point, aside from the few feet where I reconnected with the official end of the Babad Do'ag Trail]. Shortly after reaching trail, I arrived at the junction for the Solider Trail; and shortly after turning onto the Soldier Trail, I made a left onto an unofficial but well defined route that connects the Solider and Babad Do'ag Trails. The going was very smooth at first…
…but, [thanks to the combination of easy off-trail terrain and a good sense of direction], I realized that I’d strayed a fair margin from my ascent route by the time I decided it was time to spot-check my GPS. Not wanting to backtrack, I pushed forward, hoping that the ‘hypotenuse vs. two sides’ phenomenon would once again work out in my favor… and that I wouldn’t step on a rattlesnake in the process. My shortcut back involved traversing some terrain with very tall grass, [the kind where you cannot see what might be underneath], and the temps had warmed up enough to where the snakes might just venture out… luckily it all worked out well. When I touched down on the official Babad Do'ag Trail and looked back at the small drainage I ended up using on the return trip, I thought, “pretty cool… that’s the same drainage I was thinking about using initially…”