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Bear & McComas & Treasure & Little Bear, NM
mini location map2017-04-02
87 by photographer avatarAZHiker456
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Bear & McComas & Treasure & Little Bear, NM 
Bear & McComas & Treasure & Little Bear, NM
 
Hiking avatar Apr 02 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking13.66 Miles 4,162 AEG
Hiking13.66 Miles   9 Hrs   19 Mns   1.59 mph
4,162 ft AEG      44 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 4 (NM Peak Bagging Trip)
With 4 named peaks bagged and approximately 9 miles of bushwhacking, [all but one of which was total brush carnage], this adventure was truly spectacular. I kicked things off from the end of FR 4242D, a short jeep road that’s located right off the main road [Bear Mountain Road / I-51]. From the looks of things, FR 4242D is now more or less used as a car-camping area; [the road is only 0.10 miles long but has TONS of little pullout-like areas, each separated by some trees; and many of the small pullout areas have fire rings / other evidence of camping. In addition to having the entire road to myself for the night, it also served as the perfect starting point for the loop-hike I was planning, [given that it’s located about 1/2 air-mile from the summit of Bear Mountain].

Eager to let out some piss and vinegar, I decided to go for Bear Mountain first. The slope of the mountain I planned to ascend looked pretty steep, but there looked to be enough space between the brush that I figured it would be a really good workout without too much of a brush battle… let’s just say: boy was I wrong… [or at least about the brush]. With super steep slopes in combination with thick brush that had me breaking out the safety goggles just 2-3 minutes after setting foot off-trail, this was one hell of a brush battle to say the least. Even utilizing animal routes for the entire way up, [without them it would have been a total ‘brush-out’, no joke], there were many places where I resorted to crawling on all fours and countless other places where I was at a total standstill, clearing a path for my upper body/head. In fact, toward the end, I was literally opting to brush into cacti over battling with brush! MapMyHike announced my 1-mile split the moment I reached the summit, and it was 1 hr 9 minutes… enough said! Thanks to the brush, the views were largely blocked in most directions, but the views to the North toward some of the bigger, distant peaks in the Gilas were quite nice. There was a large register container but only a few loose sheet of paper inside and the sign-ins were all very recent [2016 & 2017].

As for the next two segments of my adventure, all I can say is luck was really on my side… I started to follow a very well-defined / cairned route off Bear Mountain, [half expecting it to soon leave me in total brush hell like the well-defined routes I followed off of a couple of the summits from my previous days adventure]… however, to my pleasant surprise, the route soon became more defined and resembled a full out trail for most of the way down. It lead nearly all the way down back out to the main road, blending/merging with a shallow, stony drainage (with almost no brush :) ), literally just before reaching the bottom. What would’ve otherwise been a hellishly brushy, 1+ hour off-trail descent took all of 10-15 minutes.

My luck didn’t stop there: after a very short, 1/4 mile stroll up the main road, I’d slipped under a barbed wire fence in preparation to bushwhack up the ridge that would lead me to my next point of interest, McComas Peak. No sooner had I dusted myself off when I noticed what appeared to be a very well-defined route. However, the crushed stone/gravel that had been added in many places, the manner in which some of the larger rocks/stone had been cut away in other places, and a handful of areas where it switched back definitely indicated that this was more than just some route/cattle trail. It lead all the way to the peak and made for one fast and pleasant ascent to say the least. The views from this peak were truly sensational, and they were definitely my favorite of all the peaks I’d done in that area to date. And to top it all off, the sensational views didn’t stop with McComas Peak but were outstanding for most of the way between that peak and UN 7470. After McComas, there were many routes leading off the peak in various directions, [but all were routes vs. the nice trail leading to the peak]. Nonetheless, [aside from a handful of spots that were either steep with loose footing and/or brushy], most of the off-trail from this point onward proved to be a very ‘smooth sailing’ type of bushwhack.

The initial ridge that heads SW from the summit of McComas soon diverges into one that heads more Westward and another that heads more Southward. Given the steepness of the slope in combination with some very loose footing, I’m sure glad I decided to do some frequent GPS spot-checks, which helped me catch the fact that I had started to head down the wrong ridge. After correcting my path, the next bump on the ridge was UN 7220, and it was around this area [or shortly before] where I crossed a barbed wire fence… and almost immediately after started seeing cattle dung… let’s just say, after the brush carnage I endured the previous day and earlier that morning, ‘Hell Yeah!’ was my immediate reaction to the sight of the cattle shit, [which typically goes hand-in-hand with multiple, well-blazed routes]. As I anticipated, this area proved no different than most areas where lots of cattle roam: almost immediately after I first spotted the cattle dung, multiple, well-blazed routes opened up, and the brush battles were over.

The next UN peak along my ridge was 7211. The views from this peak were some of the best of the entire adventure, and the descent off this peak was a boulder-hopping blast. Terrain wise I could have gone much faster at this point, but the scenery was just too awesome to rush things. Treasure Mountain was really neat and felt more like a large mesa than a mountain or peak; and, [although the surrounding views don’t look anything alike Sedona], the ‘feel’ of this mountain was very similar to Sedona’s Munds Mountain & Wilson Mountain]. There is a survey marker and large summit cairn by the highpoint, but I was unable to find a register. About 1/4 mile before reaching the highpoint, a bee came out of nowhere and made three very fast & threatening circles around my head while buzzing me angrily. Luckily, it was just as quick to leave me alone the second I stepped out of what was apparently its territory. Armed with my BeeAlert, it was nice to not have my heart racing for minutes after such an encounter; and I even got a laugh over how I’d forgotten about the incident altogether… that is until I retraced my steps a good 15-20 minutes later and got buzzed in the exact same spot and in the same manner. I saw a few other bees on my adventure, but never more than one at a time and none of the other bees even buzzed me let alone flew at me.

It would’ve been nice to spend more time on Treasure Mountain, but by the time I’d my way to the highpoint of the Northern end [UN 6894] I started to get a bit antsy in anticipation of the next leg of the journey: the elevator ride down into Ash Spring Canyon AND the elevator ride back up, [which not only separated me from the 4th & final summit of the day but also from my vehicle!]. Unlike some areas, most of the slopes in this area were not craggy, [or had craggy areas that could easily be circumvented]. However, there were a few exceptions; like the area that toward the top of the prominent SW ridge of Little Bear Mountain. Thus, while I had very clear lines of sight for most of the terrain I needed to cover, there were still a handful of unknowns; and given the costly potential of a backtrack for a loop hike of this nature, it definitely got the adrenaline pumping.

The first unknown was the descent off UN 6894 on Treasure Mountain and into Ash Spring Canyon. Cliffing out here would not be the end of the world, given that I already had a clear line of sight down from the original ridge I’d planned to use, which was the one to the NW, toward UN 6613. However, since it was getting late and the terrain in this area was generally very forgiving [in terms of not cliffing out], I decided to risk a blind descent off the NE ridge, which was a more direct route back. There were two ‘holy shit moments’… the first occurred midway down and proved to be more of a mind tarzan swing than anything else, requiring nothing more than some upper Class 2 / lower Class 3 maneuvers to negotiating a short section of vertical rock; and the second was emerging from some brush toward the bottom, only to lay eyes on a massive, circular-shaped boulder that looked to be the size / height of a multi-story house. However, after taking a few steps closer, [and noticing not one but many areas where animals routes skirted the massive monolith], I was very relieved knowing that Unknown #1 [i.e. my more direct descent into Ash Spring Canyon] would be a success.

The next big unknown was getting from UN 7470 to Little Bear Mountain. The thick tree cover prevented me seeing any underlying cliff/crag; and, while the topo contours looked unquestionable favorably, [I’ve never seen anything with such generous contours that does not end up panning out], I’ve been let down one too many times but the topos, that I had to experience it to believe it. Aside from some moderate brush, it luckily ended up being very easy/doable. Had I known this, I definitely would’ve spent some more time down in the beautiful Ash Spring Canyon… or up on the amazing ridgeline between UN 6833 & UN 7470. This ridgeline was one most fun parts of the entire adventure. With a steep grade but excellent footing, it was one of the rare times where my off-trail pace was limited by my legs/lungs vs. the terrain; and toward the very end [approaching UN 7470], what looked to be a not-so clear line of sight that I’d initially planned to skit actually panned out [barely]. A rather vertical rock slab had one small section with ‘indents,’ almost like stairs, [which made what looked like a shear vertical section from a distance be easily doable]. Topping off the super fun ridgeline experience were the killer views; and making them even more awesome was the fact that I could turn almost 360 degrees and admire the surrounding peaks & ridges I’d hit up over the course of my adventure…

…the final one I had yet to do: Little Bear Mountain, [but as expected, this one proved to be extremely quick and easy given that a full out jeep road goes all the way to the summit]. I was unable to find a typical register on Little Bear, but near the highpoint was a geocache register. One of the items inside is a small replica of a grasshopper, and it vibrates at the slightest trigger [i.e. the moment I touched the container]… I couldn’t help but laugh at how many people are going to jump out of their skin over this.

After Little Bear Mountain, the final 2 miles were very smooth sailing on dirt road back to my vehicle.
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