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Baboquivari - Western Approach
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mini location map2020-04-15
8 by photographer avatarDennisWilliams
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Baboquivari - Western ApproachTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hike & Climb avatar Apr 15 2020
Hike & Climb9.00 Miles 4,254 AEG
Hike & Climb9.00 Miles   7 Hrs   50 Mns   1.26 mph
4,254 ft AEG      40 Mns Break20 LBS Pack
Solo I  • 5.2 Granite Good • 100 Feet 1 Pitch
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Babo el viejo solito.

This one had been on my radar for years but the distance from home and the technical section had allowed me to put it off. Having the taxes done and yielding to pressures to isolate (not much of a pressure for me) I decided that today was the day.

It is a 3+ hour drive from my house to the TH. Reveille was 0330. Driving by about 0415. Still dark enough to clearly observe Jupiter but also a faint Saturn and Mars next to a bright half moon. I took the western approach out to Sells. No need to visit Tucson. Arriving at the turn off from IR19 there was a sign stating Park Closed, but heck, the road wasn't closed, so I figured I'd proceed the final dozen or so miles to the park. Besides, having driven well over 2 hours I wasn't going to be stopped quite so easily. At the park entrance was an identical sign, this time located in the middle of the road. I could see the picnic tables and restrooms just beyond, so I reversed course for a couple hundred yards and found a pull off and parked there, interpreting "the park" to apply only to the immediate environs. Shortly thereafter a nice gentleman in a pickup with his dog pulled in behind me. Some years past I would have said "nice older guy" but now I need to be careful. We seem to be about the same age.

"What are you doing here?"


"I live here, right over there. Did you see the signs?" (His house cannot be seen from the road but can be from high up on the trail)

"Yes. I saw that the park is closed, but the road isn't closed, so I thought I'd hike around a bit. It is beautiful here. Am I parked in your driveway? Very sorry. Would you like me to leave?"

"No. I can pull around you. There is a guy from Sells at the Indian Bureau that comes out to check the park. He might have something to say. I've seen some people come out, just for the day."

"Do you mind if I park here?"

"No. Have a nice day."

Parsing my language I concluded our conversation had provided tacit approval, at least from a local person, to be there "outside the park". I began hiking around 0800. The trail goes up. I would guess that over the entire distance the total trend downward might add up to a negative 100 feet. For the most part it is nicely switched back, varying from loose and rocky to pleasantly soft, but up. The trail is easy to follow and refreshingly free from cairns. At the higher elevations just below the Great Ramp it is steeper and there is some dead-fall but the direction is never in doubt. Eventually it deposits you at the ramp, a steep gash angling up and to the left. Scramble up this and find the bottom of the the only real technical pitch: the Ladder Pitch.

I had brought a light 8.0mm X 60m rope, super light harness, a couple carabiners and a belay device. Reports had indicated the route was easy class 5 climbing, possible to solo, but I didn't want to get all the way there and be turned back for want of gear. The plan was to solo up and use the rope to rappel the harder bits on the way down. I tied the rope on my back, slipped on the harness, stuffed everything else into my pockets, and began to climb. I would rate the Ladder Pitch as slightly riskier than the first pitch on the east C4 route of Weaver's. After the ladder the route exits to the right and follows a path along the base of the rock face to find a 10 foot face. It took a little while to find this spot but eventually got it. The climbing there is easy to scramble up and back down. The next section is in a brushy chute with a few cairns leading the way to the summit. All pretty easy to follow but do take mental note of your route. I think if you got even a little bit off on the way down you might be in big trouble.

At the summit I paid my respects to I'itoi and deposited my offering, adding to the many already there. Kitt Peak is plainly visible to the north with it's many gleaming white instruments probing the mysteries of the universe. The views in all directions exceed 100 miles. I also took a moment to celebrate the occasion with a couple mouth-fulls of Lagavulin 16 year old.

The descent was straightforward. I set up the rappel at the chains at the top of the Ladder Pitch. The 60m rope ends just make it to the bottom. The hike out was uneventful and fairly rapid. The truck was where and as I left it and no official had posted any invitation to court. All day long the gentleman in the truck was the only human being I encountered between leaving and returning home just before 1900 hours. I had the entire place to myself. I'itoi must have been pleased with my offering as no calamity had been visited upon me and the day was splendid.

Post script: I have appended the photo set with an image of the ladder taken in the autumn of 1951.

- Antoninus Pius
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