Background: This is not really a hike. It’s more of a test of mental and physical endurance (meaning a lot of difficult, steep bushwhacking). Not many people venture past Buster Mountain, but instead detour past Buster Spring or so-called Little Buster (marked Peak 4223 on USGS topos) on the way back down to Alamo or Montrose Canyon on their return to Catalina State Park. I’m not sure how this one got started. We probably looked up at Buster Mountain, and wondered if we could reach the unnamed peaks beyond it toward Cathedral Peak. After our 4th trip up there, I decided to prepare this description, on the slim chance that someone might benefit from the tracks we’ve generated. I warn you, this is not a walk in the park, but if you reach the peak marked 5791 on USGS maps you will be rewarded with unparalleled views of Montrose Canyon and just about everything else in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness area.
Warning: Past Buster Mountain, someone in your group will need to be a very good route finder. Highly recommend taking a good topo map and generating a track on your GPS to follow on the way back down. There are no path markings or cairns along the way, except to Buster Mtn. Note that reaching Peak 5791 involves some high class 3 scrambling. Note that most of the area you’re in for this hike is contained with the Bighorn Sheep Management Area and is off limits to hikers from January 1 through April 30 each year. Dogs are prohibited year round for the same reason.
Hike: The best place to start this hike is the easternmost parking lot in Catalina State Park. Head out as if you were going up Romero Canyon, cross the Sutherland Wash and turn right onto the well-used and clearly marked CSP Birding Trail instead of going up the Romero Canyon Trail. Proceed south on the Birding Trail but leave it at its southernmost point to continue south toward Alamo Canyon. There is a clear trail all the way to Alamo Canyon, but watch for and take a path that leads east toward Buster Mountain. Less used but pretty easy to follow, this trail can be followed to the Buster Mountain summit. Look for the sign-in jar.
From the summit of Buster Peak, Peak 5791 can be seen to the southeast, but is still a little over 2 km (air miles) away. This is where route finding skills are needed. The bad part is that you have to descend a couple hundred feet from Buster to even start up the ridge. The short version is to stay on the ridge all the way up but avoid cliffing out along the way. Look for game trails and openings through the Manzanita and other brush, and just keep plugging up the steep slope around obstructions. Peak 5791 is just under 1400 feet above the saddle crossed after leaving Buster. At the peak, you are rewarded with magnificent views of Montrose Canyon all the way to Cathedral Peak, Window Peak, Leviathon, and the rest of Pusch Ridge. If you make it entire way, pat yourself on the back, because this is a tough one.
Note that there two other peaks about the same elevation near Peak 5791, both to the north. One of the tracks I posted shows going directly to Peak 5791. However, twice I’ve been up there and, while trying to stay on the ridge, emerged at the peak about 0.5 km to the north. Both times I’ve called it a day and failed to go over to Peak 5791, but my hiking partners scrambled over to Peak 5791 to sign in at the PVC container (that Frank left there a couple of years back). Matt was the only one in our group during our recent trip up that had the energy to go over to sign in. He said no one had signed in since our last visit a year ago.
Wear gaiters and long pants. Watch your step and be careful. Hope you see some Bighorn sheep on your hike. We didn’t but flushed one white tail deer.
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.