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Big Horn Peak
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mini location map2011-01-15
15 by photographer avatarHansenaz
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Big Horn PeakSouthwest, AZ
Southwest, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 15 2011
Hiking7.00 Miles
Hiking7.00 Miles   6 Hrs   50 Mns   1.02 mph
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Two years ago I first noticed this peak and became sort of obsessed with it. Information on how to approach it and climb it was a little vague. First time I tried I followed my nose from the Salome exit off I-10, took the obvious dirt roads toward the peak and got about as close as I could - on to the road paralleling the CAP canal, with the peak on the other (north) side. On that day the foot bridge over the canal was marked "No Trespassing" and a guard was posted so I continued driving looking for another way. Well there's no other way from south of the canal. I made other recon trips looking at Big Horn from the west, north and east (the Jeep road through the Big Horn/Hummingbird Springs Wilderness is fun), and did find an eastern approach which starts above the canal. Eventually I started a hike from there but I was unsuccesful and pretty confused about whether I was even going up the same face as the others (triplog posted on HAZ).

I headed out this time thinking I must be able to get over the canal via the bridge and that turned out to be true - no guard, and it's set up as a public rightaway. From there it's pretty much straight across the open desert toward the peak and its WSW face (I had been on the south face last time). It's easy going through the low altitude desert and I walked past a fenced off homestead ruin - early 20th century I'd guess - hard to imagine anyone chose to live out here.

It took about 45min to get to the base of the peak and then the fun starts. I include a GPS track if you want to see my route but here are a few observations/suggestions:

1. I went up the left side of the central ravine - in general staying on a ridge is better than being in the loose drainage, and when I hit a headwall, possibly climbable by brave souls, I contoured right and to my suprise found a nice route around and my first cairn.
2. I found cairns were only useful for re-assurance. Never could see the next one until I was accidentally standing next to it.
3. From the base of the peak to the intermediate step (~half way up) took me about an hour.
4. After the intermediate step, things get really steep and loose.
5. It may seem most obvious to take the gully up but it's much better to stay right, approximately on the ridge. The firm rock is much better to travel on than the "two steps up one slide back" loose stuff. Plus there is the occasional phantom cairn on the ridge.

The upper half was very slow going for me - the loose rock is exhausting and I also spent a lot of time pulling out Teddy Bear quills. Eventually the summit ridge is reached and it seems the best way up is to cross over to the east side and take the first gully up - definitely 4th class but it's really only two moves at the start. The register shows just how few people climb this peak - just 4 groups in 2010 - and it's a great view.

You have to be very careful on the descent because it's easier to start a slide and/or have your feet go out from under you. It feels great to get down to the intermediate step where the slope abates somewhat - and I was glad I treated myself to an alternate route down the big SW ridge. This is a beautiful, wide cactus garden at the top, and though it eventually gets steeper it seems like child's play. I took it all the way down to a saddle and then dropped right into the broad valley I had approached from, and headed home.
Canal - Aqueduct
HAZ Member
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