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Monte BM & Montezuma BM / Face Mountain South, AZ
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Monte BM & Montezuma BM / Face Mountain South, AZ 
Monte BM & Montezuma BM / Face Mountain South, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 17 2017
Hiking10.18 Miles 1,650 AEG
Hiking10.18 Miles   6 Hrs   19 Mns   1.72 mph
1,650 ft AEG      23 Mns Break
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 4 (Gila Bend / Painted Rock Adventure)
Like the nearby Yellow Medicine Butte, Face Mountain also struck me as something that looks like a really fun summit based on the topography contours and satellite imagery. And being located close to the main road and in the general direction I would be going to get back to Elgin, it made for a perfect option to round out my trip.

I kicked things off from a dirt “road” that I’d driven down for about 1 mile and then car camped by the previous evening. This dirt “road” was an interesting experience… CalTopo shows it staring [or ending] about 0.07 miles to the East of Agua Caliente Road… perhaps this has something to do with the fact that as you approach, there are TONS of ‘access points’ to the *official start/end of this “road”, [*as shown on CalTopo], that have been created from people having driven off into the desert at various points. I followed what appeared to be the main road, [all the while watching my GPS track against the topo as I drove in]. There may have been a single, more defined road at one time, but aside from a handful of spots where it briefly felt like you were on a road, the better part of the first mile [which is the extent I drove in] more or less feels like an off-road, desert excursion. The cool thing is, after negotiating the hump of dirt at the edge of Agua Caliente Road, there are really no challenges, clearance-wise, that can’t be circumvented; so even a low clearance vehicle could have some fun off-road in this area.

As for the hike, I felt like going for another ‘full ridgeline experience’ and headed for the Western ridge. The slope leading up to the ridge was quite steep, [but as with most of the other upward portions of the hikes I’d done over the previous few days], the terrain consisted of excellent gripping volcanic boulders that are well ‘rooted’ allowed for a fun and uncomplicated ascent.

My first primary destination was the Monte BM, located about mid-way along the longer, NW – SE running ridgeline, followed by the Montezuma BM / Face Mountain Southern highpoint, located at the NW part of this same ridgeline. En route to these destinations, I hit up several unnamed “peaks”: UN 1464, 1578, 1627, and 1861 leading up to the Monte BM and then UN 1941 in between the Monte BM and Montezuma BM / Face Mountain Southern highpoint. Interestingly enough, for most of the UN peaks, the ‘X’ on CalTopo definitely did not coincide with the highpoint.

Shortly after starting the gradual ascent up the mesa-like part of the mountain, the good old teddy bear cholla started to crop up. Fortunately, it was spaced out decently enough for about the first 1.5 miles and did not start to really slow my pace / become annoying until shortly after UN 1861.

The rather unique shape of the ridges that form Face Mountain make for some really awesome views throughout this adventure. My favorite was from the Southern highpoint, followed by those from the portion of the NW – SE ridgeline I had traversed.

The Monte BM has a few big cairn piles, along with some wire and large wooden poles/stakes [similar to what I’d seen atop the Rock BM during my first hike of the trip]. I’m guessing these things have/had something to do with the surveying process. I was unable to find any survey markers, but I didn’t want to dig too deeply amongst the large cairns, and I wasn’t about to kick them down in search of a survey marker. There was also a bee hanging around the wooden poles/stakes, and [as per the usual], it did not seem happy with my presence. Thus, I kept my visit to the Monte BM very brief.

The Montezuma BM / Southern highpoint of face mountain also had several big cairn piles, along with wire and large wooden poles/stakes, but luckily no bees. I found one survey marker as well as a register, which was placed on Feb 9, 1988 by, [you guessed it!]: Gordon MacLeod & Barbara Lilley. They labeled it, “Face Mountain Highpoint (VABM 2041’). Bob Packard was the next one to sign and below his name he added:

This is not HP of Face MT
HP is 2066 to the NNE!

According to good old CalTopo, the 2041 summit definitely looks like it would be the highpoint, but Bob’s comment is consist with what I found on LoJ prior to my trip, which recognizes 2066 as Face Mountain North and 2041 as Face Mountain South, [in which case the Northern summit is obviously the HP]. At any rate, I was not disappointed with my decision to go for a summit other than the HP. The Southern summit of Face Mountain delivered beyond expectation and provided an exceptionally beautiful and fun-filled adventure…

…although maybe a little too much “fun.” My descent off Face Mountain South proved to be among my top 5, [possibly top 3], most frightful descents of all time. My plan was to head down via a drainage located between the NW arm of the NW – SE running ridgeline and SW – NE running ridgeline. I’d eyed the drainage from the ground, as well as periodically throughout my ascent up the SW – NE running ridgeline, [which is where I should’ve taken a much better look…]. I figured I would get a ‘full line of sight’ for my descent from the Southern HP of Face Mountain, only to find that views of the drainage from the highpoint were almost entirely obstructed. I contemplated other descent options; the Southern flank of the ridge was extremely steep with sections of cliff mixed in, and the Northern flank was also quite steep, [but looked a little more doable]. I decided to head back toward UN 1941, and partway back I hugged the rim of the ridge’s Southern flank in an attempt to get a full line of sight for a descent. My options looked less than appealing and I was not in the mood for an out and back. I finally spotted a very steep section free of cliff that looked doable [barely!] and decided to continue to a little ways further to try to get a full line of sight down a nearby a gulley. The gulley also looked doable [but not much better than the steep slope], and it would definitely require a few Class 3+ climbs along with some moderate exposure. Either way, I had my work cut out for me. Although the gulley option was definitely more vertical and had more exposure, I opted for it without hesitation, given that bouldering is my forte while negotiating loose footing, [which there would have been tons of had I decided to go with the first option], is a huge weakness of mine.

The toughest climbs came early on into the descent, with the most challenging being a Class 3+ climb with exposure, which involved: tossing my pack one level below me and then bending my body like Gumby around/down cliff wall while simultaneously maneuvering around a teddy bear cholla just inches from my crotch. :o The awesome sense of accomplishment and relief I experienced after somehow managing to pull off the maneuver, [more easily than anticipated and WITHOUT get nailed by the cholla] was extremely short lived. With most of the technical stuff now behind me, I was preparing to have fun with the rest of the descent when a bee started buzzing me. Although the borderline Class 4 climbs were behind me, there were still some very vertical sections to negotiate, and I still had a ways to go before reaching more horizontal ground. To say it was frightful would be an understatement.

Relative to how vertical the terrain was, the portion of the descent with the bee in hot pursuit was hands down the fastest I’ve ever bouldered down [or up] a slope with that kind of grade in my life. There were a few painfully slow moments when I paused briefly to test questionable boulders that had the potential to send me down the mountain in the event they gave way, but aside from that, I HAULED pumpkin like there was no tomorrow. Go figure, [unlike my many other bee encounters during the trip where the buzzing bee left me alone after a few seconds of moving away from it], this bee continued to follow and buzz me for a good several minutes. As the vertical sloping gulley quickly transformed into a more horizontal, boulder-filled drainage, I was able to pick up even more speed, leaping from boulder to boulder. Miraculously, I managed to complete the descent unscathed, without getting stung and without having a fall, false step, or cholla encounter. I was planning to stop by the Sundad ghost town after my adventure, but with an ending like the one I had, I wanted nothing more than to get the hell back to Elgin.
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Face Mountain Montezuma Head
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