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2016-08-12  
Darton Dome & O'Leary L.O. & O'Leary Peak, AZ
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34 by photographer avatarAZHiker456
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Darton Dome & O'Leary L.O. & O'Leary Peak, AZ 
Darton Dome & O'Leary L.O. & O'Leary Peak, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Aug 12 2016
AZHiker456
Hiking10.43 Miles 2,703 AEG
Hiking10.43 Miles   4 Hrs   20 Mns   3.14 mph
2,703 ft AEG   1 Hour   1 Min Break
 
1st trip
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I was intending to do this combo [Bonito Lava Flow, O’Leary L.O./Peak, Darton Dome, and Robinson Mountain & Crater] as a longer day hike instead of an evening/after work quickie; but with WAY too much bottled up energy, I figured I’d take out as many points of interest as possible before dark and bucket the rest for another day. The Bonito Lava Flow, which extends almost right up to the trail, was really neat and I attempted to go out a little ways on the hardened lava. However, after a ROUGH week of sitting on my tail for many more hours than anticipated/ideal, I had a lot of piss ‘n’ vinegar that needed to be released on this hike, and attempting to “boulder hop” on the hardened lava with my equilibrium still not 100% was most definitely not cutting it. Thus, after scrambling a short ways out onto the lava and growing increasing frustrated at still not being able to leap like a gazelle, I returned to the main trail and decided to make a last minute tweak to the itinerary: instead of knocking off the ‘big guns’ first [i.e. O’Leary Peak & O’Leary L.O.] followed by a short jaunt up Darton Dome from the saddle between Darton Dome and the O’Leary L.O., I opted for a path of pure brutality up the SW slope of Darton Dome, [which gains about 1,000’ in just over the first four tenths of a mile]. Being a very strong uphill hiker, 1,000’ of gain in about .43 miles would normally be a kickpumpkin workout [but not total torture]… the brutality component is the result of the footing, which is comprised of very small crushed rock, causing you to sink in, [almost like walking on semi-wet snow]. Thus, in combination with a super steep grade, the end result was literally sliding 3/4ths of a step back for every step forward. Despite having no brush to contend with, the first 1/3 of a mile up Darton Dome takes the prize for the most physically demanding 1/3 of a mile I’ve ever hiked, the most I’ve ever sweat on a hike, and the hands down #1 worst segment of a hike to be without trekking poles [there was some violent lightening very near the TH as I was preparing to launch so I’d opted to forgo the trekking poles]. To get an idea of just how punishing the ascent was: I’ve summited both Mt. Wrightson and Humphrey’s Peak in under 2 hours, [the latter of which was in very poor conditions], yet during the assault up Darton Dome there were literally times when I was advancing just 1/100th of a mile per MINUTE… enough said!

The views from Darton Dome [as well as those during the brutal ascent] were just phenomenal and well worth the torture, which included not only the heart-pounding, leg-burning, lung-busting ascent but also the pleasure of having received about 20 cactus spikes in my right pinky [followed by the joys of removing them, some of which are still surfacing and will likely continue to surface over the next several weeks]. The physically punishing ascent was so demanding that for the first time ever, I’d let my guard down and paid the price as shear exhaustion drove me to [blindly] grab toward one of the few boulder outcroppings I encountered on the way up. Overly eager for the opportunity to ‘ride the rocks’ and not slip backwards for a mere few steps, I’d grabbed for part of the rock without fully examining it and was instantly stabbed by the only cactus I’d seen on the entire hike, [one of those cucumber-shaped varieties that love to grow in the crevices of rocks/boulders]. I pulled out all visible thorns and continued upward, but based on the itchy sensation [and swelling], I had a feeling there were more than a few spikes still embedded. After signing the register on Darton Dome, I sat for what felt like eternity as I dug out some spikes from the areas that itched most.

Since cumulative distance and total length of time on my feet are much bigger factors than AEG and intensity when it comes to wearing myself out, I still had a lot of fight left after Darton Dome, [but not a lot of daylight]. Thus, I decided to haul pumpkin off the gradual slope of Darton Dome to the saddle area between Darton Dome and the O’Leary L.O. and then head up the trail to the L.O. followed by the Peak. Both were very beautiful and I had just enough time to enjoy the views, sign both registers, and make it about 1-2 miles back down the dirt road toward the TH before pitch darkness. The last 1.5-2.5 miles was in pitch darkness but with excellent footing along the trail [dirt road] in combination with the new headlight that Black Diamond graciously replaced, I was able to keep a good pace.
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