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Double Eagle - Eagletail Mountains Wilderness
2 Photosets

mini location map2017-01-07
19 by photographer avatarchumley
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Double Eagle - Eagletail Mountains WildernessSouthwest, AZ
Southwest, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 07 2017
Hiking2.28 Miles 1,017 AEG
Hiking2.28 Miles   1 Hour   55 Mns   1.95 mph
1,017 ft AEG      45 Mns Break
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I've always been enamored by the Eagletails. When you drive past them on I-10 they just stand out and seek to be explored! The namesake peak is a triple peak, with each "feather" being a technical climb. Last year I visited the highpoint on the northern half of the range. Courthouse Rock is an impressive feature worth visiting, and there are some impressive walls of historic rock art here.

Today I was looking to check out access from the south side of this rarely-visited range. This is the easiest access I have found thusfar. There's paved road to just short of the wilderness boundary followed by some incredibly nice dirt. Not everybody would choose to, but I could drive a sedan all the way to the end of the road where I began my hike. It's mostly smooth with just a handful of shallow wash crossings.

After finding the "Eagle" benchmark last year, I decided to check out the "Double Eagle" today. After my earlier hike, I was trying to get to the starting point by 4pm. Though I had only penciled in a track I knew it was only about a mile and under a thousand feet so I figured 90 minutes of sunlight would suffice for a round trip.

From the end of the road, I contemplated the logical drainage route from looking at the topo map, but having seen it on the drive in, I opted for the slanted cut up the face of the mountain farther north. It looked like scrambling fun, with the caveat of not knowing if it would continue or cliff out around the corner. The scramble up was fun and when I reached the top, I was happy to learn it did not totally cliff out. I did have to backtrack a short distance and drop down a bit into a drainage to make the final ascent toward the peak.

The geology here is incredible. The rock is totally different from Saddle Mountain just a few miles away across the valley. Numerous small caves, alcoves, and overhangs covered the hillsides and the rock formations were jagged and dramatic. It didn't take long to get to the top of the drainage where I was surprised to find a wide basin below the Double Eagle summit. Here I followed a well-traveled sheep trail that ascended while traversing around the basin.

There were probably routes to the summit from the north or northeast, but I continued east and ascended on a pretty easy slope before heading back west toward the high point. There are several blocks of rock on the summit and I had to drop down to the south briefly before pushing to the summit after making a full "S" loop. It's not tough to figure out when you're there.

The summit had wooden debris from survey structures and a tall pole with a bunch of wire from an old height of light. The benchmarks are intact and the view of Eagletail Peak is awesome. To the southwest, the Castle Dome Mountains dominated the view. I signed the register, and made the terrible decision to descend a different way than I had ascended.

With daylight waning and no idea what I would find, this could have left me backtracking in the dark. In the end it turned out ok, but I know better than to make poor decisions like this. The upper part of the drainage was ok, but thick with growth so I traversed on the slope above. Until I reached the big drop. I scrambled down a few levels until I reached a huge dryfall that would be totally impossible for me to get down. I found a route I might be able to downclimb but I was not remotely happy about it and decided to look elsewhere not wanting to retrace my steps to the summit and head back the way I had come up.

Thankfully after a short distance of backtracking I was able to find a route that descended around the huge fall. Below the fall, I realized that the downclimb I had contemplated would have been a terrible decision, with a large overhung drop at the very bottom. Glad I didn't end up there. The drainage from here down was steep and filled with car-sized boulders, but it wasn't long before I was on the desert floor and heading back to my truck just in time for the last light of sun on the surrounding peaks.

I'd say the drainage I came down is the easier route, but the way I went up is so much more interesting and scenic. The loop as I did it is actually how I would recommend it to others unless you don't care for the scrambling required going up the northern slope/cut.

I may have to come back out here. It's super easy to get to, amazing geology and access to the Eagletail Wilderness.
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