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Peaks 5528 5460 5409 5437 Loop, AZ
mini location map2013-08-13
20 by photographer avatarCannondaleKid
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Peaks 5528 5460 5409 5437 Loop, AZ 
Peaks 5528 5460 5409 5437 Loop, AZ
Hiking avatar Aug 13 2013
Hiking7.70 Miles 3,220 AEG
Hiking7.70 Miles   9 Hrs   38 Mns   0.88 mph
3,220 ft AEG      55 Mns Break25 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I planned this simply as a peak-bagging trip to bag five of the eleven 300'+ prominence peaks in the Superior Quadrangle. What I didn't plan on was everything it turned out to be... and not be.

First what it WASN'T...
I didn't reach the 5th (and tallest) of the peaks
It was NOT just a walk-in-the-park (the GPS track profile looked like I was on a pogo stick)
It was NOT uneventful. :o

Ok, now to what it WAS... (point-by-point followed by the rest of the story)

Rattlesnake, ascend, summit peak, descend, ascend rock slope, video deer, traverse ridge, ascend, summit peak, descend, continue traverse, ascend, summit peak, descend, pass through military aircraft crash site, follow canyon floor, ascend, ascend, summit peak, descend, ascend, ascend, summit peak, steep descent to trail head. VERY bad road west along FR342 to FR650, with FR650 being very rough with many washouts.

The rest of the story...
1. I barely stepped out of the Jeep and was greeted by a Black-tailed Rattlesnake who was not too happy with me parking there and taking my time preparing for the hike. I shot just over a minute of it buzzing away then attempted to move it away from the Jeep with my (extendable) snake hook but it flat out refused to leave. So I went about my business, now ignoring the constant buzz.
(Edit Oct 2020: I closed my website so no video. If I can locate it I will post it on YouTube)

2. No warmup, just a STEEP climb up Peak 5528, which because there's no way around will be my first and last summit. Awesome views from the summit... Kings Crown, Picketpost Mountain, Peachtree Mountain, Fortuna Peak, a healthy chunk of the eastern end the Superstition Wilderness and lots more. But with so much ground to cover there was no time to take it all in staring open-mouthed.
Peak 5528 summit panorama (1:35 video)

3. The almost bee-line shortest route to Peak 5460 didn't last long... all it took was seeing a herd of 6 deer climbing a bare rock slope then ducking into a wooded area and my plan changed. (Ultimately this added over a mile to my plan. Instead of heading east I'm making a wide arc north to a ridge line that I will follow for fully half of the hike. Being barren of vegetation the bare rock slope would be my easiest climb of the day.

4. Once up on the ridge line I began the swing back north, the direction I originally planned on. While I caught fleeting glimpses of the deer herd among the trees now below me, eventually I was able to shoot a video of three bucks climbing a hill across the ravine from me. I will see one or more of these three on a few more occasions but never long enough for a photo.
Three White-tailed Bucks (1:00 video)

5. It was reasonably easy continuing along the ridge toward Peak 5460 but it was not without several route-finding problems to solve. As I approached 5460 the brush got noticeably thicker with more and more Manzanita. ](*,) By skirting around the worst of it I finally made it to the summit.
Peak 5460 summit panorama (2:20 video)

6. I continued following the ridge line as much as possible while heading east toward Peak 5409. This would prove to be the most challenging segment of the hike... bush-whacking through thick brush, scaling rugged crags, dropping into ravines only to ascend the next steep brush-clogged slope... repeat, repeat... :bdh:
(I shot a 2+ minute video while passing through the only part easy enough that allowed me to hold the camera in one hand but I have yet to post it.) But the views over the Supes were AWESOME! 8)
A few false alarms got my hopes up, but eventually it was the last slope to the summit of Peak 5409. But now barely halfway and some 5+ hours since I started, and my 100 oz bladder empty (3 semi-frozen bottles amounting to 72 oz are left) I knew I would not have enough time for all 5 summits and reluctantly excised Peak 5630 from my ever-changing plan.
(Edit Oct 2020: Still not posted on YouTube... I'll have to locate the video and post it)

7. One of the photos I shot off to the south before the ascent of Peak 5409 appeared to be an aircraft wreck site so on the descent I made another route modification to explore that possibility. Sure enough, it was the wreck of a Northrup T-38 Talon dual-seat supersonic trainer strewn some 100 yards down the slope. In my research yesterday I was able to find out it crashed on April 18, 1967, interestingly, on my 17th birthday. After engine trouble both the instructor and student bailed out. There was quite a bit there, enough to identify it as a T-38 and very specifically which one from the partial tail number, but it appears the cockpit, engines (or what was left of them) and possibly any sensitive instruments have been recovered. Even skipping over much of the wreckage I still shot over 30 photos.

8. Ok... still one peak to go (plus crossing back over the first one) so it's time to start bookin' along the mostly bare-rock canyon floor. Along the way I'll scare up first a BIG buck (actually scared me more as I had already run across both large cat and bear scat) :scared: and then a LONG-horn bull that wasn't too happy with me encroaching on his space... he pawed the ground while casting an evil-eye at me so I pushed through some Manzanita to give him a wide berth.

9. Onward and upward... although I ascended Peak 5437 on the easiest (NOT!) slope, the terrain included large boulders, soft dirt, loose scree, juniper, Manzanita, shin-daggers, agave and more. Whew! Finally I'm at the summit of Peak 5437! Time for a quick pan of photos and video and I'm outta here!
(Edit Oct 2020: Still not posted on YouTube... I'll have to locate this video as well and post it)

10. Dang! Taking an inventory of fluid as I'm about to leave the summit I have but one small chunk of ice amounting to maybe 2 oz to get me the last 1.5 miles. No big deal if it were a trail like First Water but this one includes a very steep 500' drop (so steep I let gravity break me through the Manzanita), another 550' climb and thankfully the final 375' steep descent to the Cherokee. I managed by dripping a few drops on my tongue whenever it stuck to the roof of my mouth... and drinking two ice-cold 32 oz Gatorades when I got back to the car. On the drive back home I'd drink another 32 oz... and still lost 7 pounds.

Whew, the hike is over... and now the rough and scary. (Yes Mike, this one was way worse than Dripping Springs!) A combination of no maintenance and gully-washers this year there were a number of times I'm out pacing off the width of the road next to a 500-700' ravine. But each time when I looked at how far I'd have to back up to turn around, somehow each spot looked wide enough... [-X
Thankfully I'm here as evidence they were in fact, wide enough.

After reaching FR650 (the eastern route back down from Rogers Trough TH) I expected the road conditions to improve but it is the worst I've ever seen it. Almost every wash had a 1-2 foot deep, 5-20 feet wide rut. They must have had a pretty good amount of rain in a short time to be this bad. It will probably be well after monsoon season before the Forest Service cleans it up again.

Whew! For being so close to home (a few miles north of Superior) it was one long day... I was out of the house by 6 am and returned at 8:30 pm. But, having created some unfinished business by skipping Peak 5630 I have a reason to return.
Airplane Wreckage
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