Terrible Beauty or Awesome Beast?
Battle Axe Butte is located in the Teapot Mountain Quadrangle in Pinal County. Along with a rise of 951' from the surrounding terrain, it's official elevation is 3,531' which ranks it at #4592 for the state of Arizona. The summit coords are: 33.1530?N, 111.0876?W
Terrible Beauty, or Awesome Beast? Which is it?
Terrible Beauty: Well, for anyone who has gazed upon this massive rock as many times and from as many viewpoints as I have I would have to believe they would agree Battle Axe is definitely a beauty. Yet at the same time it is such a rugged, coarse, irregular, jagged, sharp, severe and aggressive beauty that one could easily term it TERRIBLE.
Awesome Beast: Along with that 'terrible' beauty comes the absolutely breathtaking, formidable, impressive, stunning, mesmerizing and magnificent rock that is truly AWESOME in its 'beast' ly-ness.
Hmmm? Did I use enough adjectives to describe this Beauty-and-Beast? After spending a very intimate morning scaling Battle Axe I don't doubt you'd come up with even more descriptive words for this aptly-named butte.
Ok, so what's it really like? The round-trip is only 1.66 miles but it comes over 1,500 of accumulated elevation gain so it definitely gets the juices flowing. The trailhead is a small pullout barely feet off of Battle Axe Road at the base of Battle Axe. To begin with just pick a cow-path heading up and follow it until you lose track of it, by which time you'll probably be able discern your route of choice. I found the easiest thing to do was to stick along the ridge as it winds its way up to the real meat (rocky section) of the climb. I was lucky enough to scare up a deer which bounded up the slope, leaving hoof-prints to guide me along a nice game trail for a short distance.
The first part of the climb is easy enough with the help of enough ground vegetation for reasonably stable footing. As you hit the beginning of the rocky area at the half-mile point there will be a transition from hiking into more of a climbing mode. A few zig-zags will bring you up to the next section which although steeper than the first half-mile still has reasonably stable footing. The next .2 mile you will to traverse to the left while climbing until you reach the saddle (albeit a very small one) where you have a beautiful view south over the Gila River valley. But wait, you're not done yet, the true climb is just about to begin.
The last 400' to the southeast comes along with 120' AEG so this is where you are truly in 'climb' mode, which for for me was death-defyingly, WAY out of my comfort-zone scary climb mode. And as usual, I took little comfort in wondering 'how am I going to get back down?' even as I continued up. Here is where you seek out every little nook-and-cranny that will provide purchase for the next step, even if it only provides 6" of movement. Sometimes this is wedging your boot into a crevice, sometimes it's a solid rock, other times the rock breaks loose (usually after it was stable for your hand, but not when you put your foot on it) and you have a singular heart-in-throat moment, and finally at times you're desperate enough to grab onto the smallest (and sometimes dead) piece of vegetation that provides just enough grip (confidence?) to climb another foot.
Finally, when you pop up and find you have reached the summit... whoa! Wait a minute! Hold your horses! It's just the a false-summit and you STILL have 160 feet still to go. At least it's horizontal instead of vertical, so what's so bad about that? Well, at one point along that 160 feet you have a 200' drop on one side possibly even more on the other and you only have a pointed rock to climb over, well let me tell you, that was too much for this old geezer with a healthy (un-healthy?) fear of falling. But for the adrenaline junkies in the bunch, I say go for it, you definitely feel the rush as you bathe in the beauty of this scary beast.
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.