Bust yourself up on Buster Mountain
Overview: This is an off trail bushwhack to the summit of Buster Mountain, a 4595 foot peak at the northern base of Pusch Ridge from Catalina State Park. It's a steep serious climb through all the desert fixin's, prime for tearing yourself up a little. The payoff are unparalleled, up close views of Pusch Ridge that will bring tears to your eyes. There is a short maybe 8-10 foot class 4 pitch near the top, otherwise this is just an off trail hike...albeit a steep one.
HIKE: Take off from the ubiquitous Catalina State Park trailhead and immediately cross Sutherland Wash. Where the Romero trail breaks left and goes up the steep hill, instead go right on the signed Birding Loop trail and follow it a short stretch until if splits into it's loop at a bug tree. Take the left fork and cross over a wash, go up some wooden steps and climb the little mesa. At the top of the little climb you will see a bench on your left. This is 0.5 miles from the start. Behind the bench a clear unmarked and unmaintained trail heads off left, south towards the mountains. You can follow this narrow little trail into the desert, towards Pusch Ridge. Several faint little nothing trails break off in either direction, but stay the course. At about 1.15 miles from the trailhead a faint path will break off left near some rocks, it is likely cairned (This is at roughly 32.41273, 110.90903).
This scratch route will take you about 2/3 of the way up or so. It is a very faint path and cairned route that is subtle at best. However, a hiker experienced in the Catalinas, Superstitions or other locale home to poor trails and routes will have little trouble following it. The route almost immediately drops down and over a wash, then climbs over a couple of large granite slabs (go up and look for cairns). Very soon the route starts climbing STEEPLY up the southwestern flanks of Buster. You approach many interesting rock formations. The first large outcropping you will skirt right, heading up the whole way to sort of a saddle in the slope of the mountain. From here the route climbs up steeply again, to and up some very red rock. Near the top of this formation you start to veer left and up now heading more southeast to a second more prominent saddle. This is cairned. The views from here towards Pusch Ridge are immediately unbelievable. From here to the top is more of a true bushwhack, the little route deteriorates even more. Just keep heading up, there are traces of use routes you can follow. They mostly consist of deer tracks more than footprints. The climbing is now more sever and rocky, the mountain falls away to your right (far, far down). This is class 3 climbing here. Soon you will come to a short almost vertical rock ledge with seemingly only one way up - a short less than 10 foot class 4 pitch that is very doable. The exposure is really not that bad, but it may feel like it (especially if it is windy). Once over this rock ledge you are pretty close to the top, maybe another 0.2 miles or so of climbing through a plethora of shin daggers and pricklies. Just head up now, and before long you'll be on the southwest end of the summit. A short grassy walk over to the highpoint yields the register for those who care. Break out the handkerchief and dab your eyes as you partake of majestic views of the extremely rugged, jagged spires of Pusch Ridge. Alamo and Montrose Canyons roar up the Ridge. This is the place to be, friends.
Please be careful on this hike, as with all off trail summits a fall here in the right place could cause REAL trouble. Please bring your standard bushwhack gear, including GPS/map.
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.