'Tween the (Battle) Axe & The Spine
Overview: Ever since I first laid eyes on this mountain it seemed to mesmerize me. With a very distinctive shape and surrounded mostly by sheer cliffs I wanted to scale it... no, not directly by scaling the sheer cliff walls but rather by hiking up one of the less steep apprpoaches. With no name other than the Peak 2939 moniker I gave it, how would anyone know where it is? Well, it's located between The Spine and Battle Axe Mountain just south of the White Canyon Wilderness.
If you have a very capable high-clearance 4x4 you will be able to drive all the way to where I started the hike if you take Battle Axe Rd around Battle Axe then take Walnut Canyon Rd to the second wash then turn back NE to the TH. If you have a stock 4x4 and don't mind an Arizona pinstripe or two you can access it by driving down a wash from the cattle pens just off Battle Axe Road within a few miles of SR 177, however that will add 1.5 miles of hiking to the round trip.
Warning: Vehicle: You will need a capable high-clearance 4x4 and capable driver to approach the TH from Walnut Canyon Rd.
Trail: There is none so if you don't use the GPS route I uploaded, you will pretty much be on your own in selecting your route. Some areas are very steep and the ground shifts easily but other than when looking over the cliffs from the top there isn't much exposure.
Hike: From the wash you will begin by hiking up an old, unused-in-years road for about .25 mile (which is where I parked my Samurai) where it abruptly changes and becomes fit only for rock-crawlers or hikers on foot willing to boulder-hop for another .2 mile. While there was one spot slightly sooner than where I turned off the road to start the climb, it was very narrow and appeared to be full of brush of the thorny variety. So I continued just a bit farther to a point just over .4 mile from the wash before hanging a left and climbing up what I'd describe as a small embankment.
From there it's just a matter of scanning the upward slope for what looks easiest or most appealing to you. Some may stick to easier slopes with plenty of brush, where I tended to seek more open but slightly more treacherous ground. Not sure on the first trip exactly how I could reach the summit, once I saw a large cave at the base of the cliff and it appeared there was a cleft just past it that I hoped would take me to the top, I set a beeline for the cave. Unfortunately, once I got there and looked around the corner it just turned out to be a much taller cave. Ok, so I'll have to backtrack and look for another way up. No big deal... I decided to sit down and enjoy a wonderful view of the full length of The Spine, which we climbed just last week. (When I decided Peak 2939 couldn't wait much longer for me) While you could skip the caves and save some time and effort, I believe the views are well worth it the short detour.
Ok, time to get moving again, I'm out of the cave and moving back down along the base of the cliff until I could curve back west and then south for the climb to the summit. I didn't realize just how steep and how far I continued up toward the summit until looking back over the area later in the hike. But by taking it one step at a time I hardly noticed the effort. Again it's a matter of picking the route the suits you and as long as you follow the incline to the top you'll reach the summit. Along the way here you will have a few opportunities to look back down from above the caves where you were earlier in the hike. Once you are at the top of the first ridge and all along the way over to the highest point there are unending, jaw-dropping views of The Spine, Battle Axe along with a huge chunk of the Gila River Valley.
From the peak I headed westward to the outcrop I had taken photos of from Walnut Canyon Rd on the drive out. I had set a waypoint at the western-most outcrop but as I approached it I encountered a 20-25 foot drop to a very short saddle followed by a climb back up. So rather than spend the time finding a route to make that happen I continued my trek back east followed by a long arc to the farthest northwest point. But again as I got closer it was obvious if I didn't have climbing gear I'd have to backtrack some distance to drop down what would amount to one shelf, followed by some zig-zagging to drop down successive shelves before I reached the same height and continue to the NW "peninsula" followed by an "island" at the end. So with a few more planned waypoints yet to reach I headed eastward. Crossing two more high points on successive hills followed by walking out another peninsula to the east, all of which yielded their own unique views, I started my trek back. Where I went next I found out later was private land posted with no tresspassing I will simply leave that part out. I also edited my GPS track to return to the car by the way I had originally planned, but again you may wish to scan the terrain and choose your own route back to the old road.
While this hike is not very easy to get to, if you'd like great views of Battle Axe, The Spine, Gila River Valley and portions of the White Canyon Wilderness as well as being well off-the-beaten-path this hike is well worth it. Just remember, there is no trail so you'll get a chance to hone your path-finding skills. Although there are thorny patches here and there, for the most part they can be avoided by planning ahead. For me Teva sandals were the perfect footgear for the hike. Oh yes, one more thing... in warmer weather I'm sure there would be a number of rattlesnakes about. On this day, starting out at 50 degrees and never topping 65 I wasn't concerned about that possibility.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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