|Black Tank Clifty Loop, AZ|
|Black Tank Clifty Loop, AZ|| |
Black Tank Clifty Loop, AZ
|Hiking||7.93 Miles|| 6 Hrs 27 Mns ||1.39 mph|
|3,045 ft AEG|| 44 Mns Break|
||no linked trail guides|
|It had been a while since I had spent time in the Kofa Wilderness and winter often provides the kind of conditions there that I most enjoy. I set out to put together a camping weekend and explore some new areas. There's so much terrain to cover, and despite the spiderweb of wilderness exempt roads, it's still a long way to get to a lot of the places on the map that look like they might be fun to visit.|
After studying maps over the course of a few days, I drew up this option. There wasn't much to go on, but a USGS datasheet for the Black Tank benchmark made me think it would be possible to get there without ropes. There's no datasheet for Clifty so that was gonna be more of a shot in the dark.
We set out from the wilderness boundary near Black Tank and headed up the old two track until it faded away and we dropped into the drainage heading east. It's bouldery but relatively easy to travel as prickly desert vegetation is sparse. There are a few obstacles that required leaving the bottom of the drainage for some short scrambles up and around.
The ascent gets steeper and finally pushes into a chute that climbs to the right of an imposing cliff band. The chute is steep and screey (screeish?) but it tops out on a saddle with great views across the Castle Dome Plain to the south. A sharp left on the saddle leads through a notch and traverses a slope that drops back down to the original drainage above the cliff band. From here it's a more moderate grade as we hiked an additional 500 feet to the top of the drainage.
The summit is in view from here, an additional 350 feet higher. Because the direct approach is significantly steeper, we swung out to the right across a north-flowing drainage and then climbing toward the ridge leading to the peak from the south. There was a Rincon-sized cairn at the summit along with the remains of surveying equipment and a register that had fewer than 10 entries in 40 years. Definitely not Pusch Peak!
From here we had great views across the Castle Domes including its namesake peak and Thumb Peak behind it. But the most impressive peak was Clifty just under a mile away, though the route to get there was definitely not straightforward and the peak itself looked impossibly foreboding. But it was barely past noon, so what else were we gonna do today!?
The traverse was fun and reminded me how much I enjoy ridgeline views along desert ranges. There was clearly no way to get up the peak from the north or east side, so we swung around on the west to the saddle on the southwest corner. From here we headed straight up a ridgy gully (I like oxymorons). Near the top we swung left to a notch between the lower south peak and the higher north peak. There's a dicey class 4 move to get around the corner on the north side but from there is an easy scramble the last 30 feet to the summit. Clifty is as fun as they come!
After adding our names to another sparsely signed register, we headed back down to the saddle at the southwest corner. Instead of retracing our steps on the day we headed down to the west before climbing a ridge because from the peak we saw what looked like a dryfall that would stop our descent in the nearest drainage. After crossing another saddle we dropped into the next drainage which dropped precipitously to the desert below but without obstacles that couldn't be negotiated. Once in the lower drainage we had to figure out our way across some low ridges and washes before heading north back to the truck.
This was a really fun hike, and I'd definitely do it again!