I chose Tower Peak for ‘logistic purposes’: with holiday madness already setting in, causing major delays with some special food that I normally order online, an obligatory trip to Tucson to hit up Whole Foods was very much in order. In addition to being a very easy / straightforward TH to get to, the takeoff point for Tower Peak is also very conveniently located to the Speedway Blvd Whole Foods.
Having hit the trails just once this past weekend, I was more than ready to tear it up... [but not so ready for the trip down ‘Memory Lane’, which began the moment I pulled into the TH and caught sight of Bushmaster Peak dominating the horizon]. Most of the way to Tower Peak was a repeat of my approach to Bushmaster from January of this year (hikearizona.com/x.p ... 7376
). With my equilibrium still not 100%, it was sad and frustrating to have to slow my pace in order to be able to enjoy the scenery; and the vivid memories of how I rocked the show on this same stretch of mountain en route to Bushmaster Peak back in January definitely didn’t help matters.
Despite the small handicap, I was making phenomenal time; and it felt very good to be able to easily negotiate stretches of moderately loose footing that I’d found slightly challenging back in January when I did Bushmaster. However, I decided to take a slight detour by following a fun looking route up toward UN 4063. With literally just 300’ to go, things got rather cliffy and I ended up turning back. Knowing that I might have succeeded had it not been for the viral infection that F’d up my equilibrium this past summer, it was extremely frustrating to say the least.
As far as Tower Peak was concerned, the most challenging part proved to be on the approach rather than the ascent. Very shortly after having returned to the main route after my failed attempt to summit UN 4063, [but before reaching the saddle area where you’d continue North to bag Tower or East & slight South to bag Bushmaster], there is a ginormous, downed saguaro laying right across the path. With very loose footing, a relatively steep grade, and not much margin for error between many varieties of thorny vegetation just waiting to nail you, it definitely took some care to maneuver around.
Interestingly enough, Tower Peak is only about 1 air mile from the TH and NOT the one with all of the radio towers on top, which is shown as 4395 on CalTopo and approximately 2 air miles from the TH. The ascent up Tower was very uncomplicated, both from a route-finding and a technical standpoint. There are some cairns to help guide the way and the grade is relatively gradual with many solid, good-gripping boulders. Given that the peak tops out on the low end [at a little over 4,000’] and the metropolis of Tucson dominates views to the East, the summits views were surprisingly beautiful. And, while the summit area is not very large, there are many excellent boulders to rest on while soaking up the sun and enjoying the beautiful, 360-degree views. The highpoint area is obvious, and there is a summit cairn and register. The oldest sign-in I saw, [located at the top page of the main log], was from March of 2005; but there may have been older sign-ins… by this point, I was getting buzzed by a not so happy bee and was not about to hang around flipping through the summit log.
The return trip proved to be a very enjoyable experience with many fun surprises. The first was UN 4063. I had noticed a route leading up to this peak from the saddle area where the route to Bushmaster Peak and Tower Peak diverges; and on my return from Tower, I decided to check it out. The route is very well beaten in, and it leads toward a massive, vertical-looking boulder, which is easily skirted by heading either clockwise or counter-clockwise to the SE. As you start to skirt the boulder-like summit, you’ll notice that it’s much more approachable from the other sides; and some fun scrambling is required to reach the summit. To my surprise, the views from this unnamed little peak were even better than those from Tower. Even more interesting was the summit register: according to what appeared to be the first sign-in, [a SAHC group from October of 2013], this summit is also known as the “Palisades Crest”; and there were also interesting ‘artifacts’ in the register… like 2-3 almonds in a smaller, clear, cylinder-shaped container… and part of someone’s thermals…
Shortly after bagging UN 4063 and returning to the main route, it was time to figure out how to maneuver around the giant saguaro that had fallen across the path. Luckily from this direction, there was a medium sized rock against the base of the cactus. However, at just over 5’ tall, there was no way my short legs would come close to clearing the cactus, [even with the rock], if I attempted to use it to step over… but the rock provided just the extra lift I needed to be able to leap over the cactus and then ‘stick a landing’ on the one solid rock in sight, located a few feet away on the other side of the cactus. I’m sure glad my equilibrium no longer impacts the athleticism needed to pull that off or the fun and surprisingly easy leap could well have ended in a painful cactus encounter.
The final treat was riding the small ridgeline [that runs NW from the TH] back to the TH… vs contouring it to the East like most of the routes listed for Tower & Bushmaster. This ridgeline is routed to the point where the routes look/feel more like full out trails in most places. Aside from a few loose spots, the footing is worlds better than the fainter routes that contour the ridgeline, and I don’t recall having to dodge any cactus, [something that definitely cannot be said for the contouring routes!]. To top things off, there are tons of full little prominent points along the ridgeline that make for some very fun scrambling and offer some excellent nice views.