My goal was Eagle 3186, the benchmark on the highest peak in the northern Eagletail Mountains. I'd always looked at this range while driving on I-10 west to California, and was happy to finally explore here. Most who visit begin near Courthouse Rock and the Ben Avery trail on the east, but I chose to start on the northwest, at the end of YE029 off the pipeline road. It's about 3.5 miles to Triple Eye Catchment along an old roadbed. About 2 miles in you catch a glimpse of the first of the triple eyes. Another half mile along the road and you can see all three. I had seen the name on the map, but didn't really know what to expect. A quick web search hadn't netted any details. As a result, I was quite intrigued when I saw it. So much so, that I decided I should climb up to it. But I didn't want to get too distracted from my goal, so I pressed on and decided I could climb Triple Eye on the way back if time permitted.
I continued to Triple Eye Catchment at the end of the old road, a fascinating structure of engineering built by AZGFD for watering wildlife. Probably the most extensive project like this I've ever encountered. I smiled for all the game cameras
and pressed on uphill toward the peak.
Along my planned "best-route" option, I saw a large arch up a side drainage and decided to check it out. It was great! I ended up having lunch here. I was slowly learning that the Eagletails are absolutely loaded with natural arches and windows! My arch side-trip made me choose a different path to ascend, and I'm glad I did! My approach to a small ridge kept me hidden from four mighty rams that were foraging in a draw just below the crest. It wasn't long before my BO notified them to my presence, and they ran a good distance before taking a breather to curiously look back at me. I knew the Eagletails had a population of sheep, so I was very excited to be able to encounter this herd!
Climbing ever higher, I was surprised that the next wildlife I spotted were four deer
. They too became aware of my presence and ran off quickly.
Eagle 3186 is protected on three sides by 100+ foot cliffs, but I was able to traverse a moderate slope to the west and ascend into a small bowl southwest of the peak (oh, and another arch). From here, I decided to head straight up for the peak, a solid class-3 endeavor. Nearing the summit, I had to head around to the east before making the final 20 foot climb to the summit. There is a ton of room and great views in all directions. The register was placed 20 years ago, and there were perhaps 12 entries, including all the usual suspects.
On the return, I descended the drainage toward Dead Deer tank, another natural pothole aided by AZGFD construction. And another arch.
I was down to a half liter of water, and with 6 miles or so to get back to the truck, I decided to drink and filter from a pool in the bedrock. I was surprised to find such pools in these dry and desolate mountains. It has to have been many weeks since it last rained here.
The extra water allowed me the luxury of not heading directly back to the truck, but ascending the peak of Triple Eye with an attempt to view the arches up close. This is a rugged, vertical mass of rock and I ascended the drainage to the west before climbing the ridge to the arches. I was unable to get above them, but by taking a route on the north side, I was able to clearly see the westernmost arch. I made a solid attempt to climb it, but turned back due to being alone. In reality, the class-4 ascent would not be particularly difficult, but tired, at the end of a long hot day, and no support, I decided it wasn't worth the risk.
The center arch is not visible from anywhere on the north side, though the opening where it is can be seen. I went around to the east side and caught a glimpse of the third eye, though this one may be the most precarious to attempt to reach. With sunset nearing, I contemplated dropping directly into the drainage east of the eyes, but decided to head back to the west side of the eyes before taking a less-than optimal route back toward the road to try to shave some distance. It would have been easier to descend the same drainage I had come up.
All-in-all, a fantastic day, and an area that deserves further exploration!