Take a good look at a topo map of the White Canyon Wilderness and you may notice a large heart-shaped plateau virtually surrounded by steep cliffs. While many hikers have traversed up & down the canyon to the east (see White Canyon canyoneering description) and/or have traversed the GET#3 (was AZT#16 at the time of this description) in the canyon to the west, very few appear to have ventured up onto the roughly 2 square mile upper plateau. Probably the most common reason not many have done so is the intimidating cliffs. But after some research, poring over topo maps as well as boots... whoops, Teva's-on-the-ground hiking of White Canyon we decided to give it a shot.
The only thing I knew for sure is that there was a relatively easy access to the upper mesa from the far right ventricle of the heart and the highest peak was on the far upper left edge of the left ventricle. So with plenty guess-and-by-gosh thinking I hoped to find a reasonable access near the highest point, Peak 3660. So with just that much data in-hand, we set out to: 1. find another way up, 2. bag Peak 3660, 3. cover as much ground up top and 4. finally try to locate another way down just below the right ventricle.
Having already gone up and down White Canyon, we started out hiking up the GET #3 (previously Arizona Trail #16) from Battle Axe road just below the bottom point of the "heart." We followed it all the way up to the White Canyon Wilderness/Tonto National Forest boundary, all the while scanning for a way up. With one 30 minute false start we continue around toward the northeast until we found the most promising albeit treacherous-looking area and I announced now-or-never and we headed up. Through heavy brush, sometimes low-crawling, climbing bare rock, climbing loose steep sections and we finally reached the upper plateau. Once up top we were greeted with flat mind-blowingly awesome views of not only the plateau but of Battle Axe and all the peaks in the surrounding area. A quick jaunt up to Peak 3660 and we located and signed the summit log. With the one-and-only previous log back in April of 2001(!) we felt honored to be the first ones in the ten years since to visit this peak, or at least sign the easily-visible cairn and capsule.
Now it was a matter of, where do we explore first, how far do we go, along with do we shoot for the known-way-down or do we seek one other possibility down? We settled for continuing across the center of the heart following a descending-in-steps ridgeline, seeking (and failing) the shortest route down and ultimately heading back up north-east to the known exit. Then it was simply following... ok, so it was more like not-quite-so-simply boulder-hopping our way back to Battle Axe Road and walking west back to the car. One last photo of the base of the heart from the car and we headed home. With just hint of a taste of what still lies up there waiting for us to explore, we are already planning the next trip.
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.