After years of procrastination (and admittedly some fear) I wanted to at least try to climb this peak that I had always looked at in awe during the years I had lived in Safford. Online correspondence with a geocacher had led me to believe that this peak could possibly be climbed without technical rock climbing gear.
I turned off of the Swift Trail and rolled toward Marijilda Creek as midnight approached. The peak of Deadman 7505', illuminated softly by the moonlight, looked ominous. A strong wind blew across the desert foothills of the Pinalenos as I crawled into my sleeping bag in the back of my truck.
I was up at dawn, eating cereal and packing my pack. Soon after I was pushing my way into the grassy foothills from the Gibson Canyon trailhead. I passed two guys on horseback and a few Game and Fish folk who were heading down from the 8000 foot level of rugged Gibson Canyon. These were the last humans I would see.
Two miles in, I left the familiar tread of Gibson Canyon and turned onto the Round The Mountain Trail, where oak woodlands are still trying to recover from the 2004 Gibson Fire. A mile and a half further, just above Round The Mountain Spring, I left the easily followed track of the Round The Mountain Trail to trudge up a spur of massive Deadman Ridge. Atop the spur ridge, Deadman came into full view. Studying it briefly, I had my doubts but continued on.
Following the ridge toward the peak was a relatively easy mix of unstable mountainside traverse and picking my way up through boulders and oak brush. Reaching the western shoulder of the peak, the summit cone came into full view. I was greeted shortly after by the loud buzzing of a black tailed rattlesnake in full strike position a few feet ahead of me. It seemed a fitting greeting from a peak with the name "Deadman" in it.
The fairly easy off trail hiking came to an abrupt end as I approached Deadman's summit cone. I fought, stumbled and slid through rock outcrops and thick vegetation to reach what I believed would be a natural access ramp on the west face of the peak. This ramp was a steep rock slide of somewhat loose boulders, which I carefully made my way up as a hawk screeched at me from above.
The top of the rock slide resulted in a dead end at the base of a cliff. Doubt returned. I backtracked slightly and found a way to access the peak's north ridge, which I began to scramble up. The narrow ridge, with cliffs on either side, dead ended at a notch about 40 vertical feet below the summit. Pausing, I dropped my pack, noted a few available hand and footholds, and pulled myself up a little wall.
I was soon on the gray, rocky summit, amazed that the peak was actually able to be climbed and relieved that all of my effort was not in vain. After numerous photos, videos, shouts and smiles, I added my name to the two others in the summit log, and then placed it inside a larger jar that I had brought. Satisfied, I began my descent.
The descent from the peak went much faster, now that I knew the route, but the vegetation-induced bloodletting continued. I was happy to leave the rock slide behind after a close call with a loose boulder. Two and a half hours later, I was back at the Gibson Canyon trailhead, only slightly worse for the wear with a bruised knee and bleeding shins.
The route that had looked only slightly possible and very sketchy from long distance observations and satellite images had proven to be possible. In climbing this peak, one of my biggest hiking goals had been completed.
In conclusion, for anyone with significant off trail hiking and scrambling experience, this peak should not be a problem. Might be wise to not go alone on this one. I'd say it's not for beginner or inexperienced hikers or those with a fear of heights, though. My climb rating in this triplog is my best guess.