This peak had been on my radar for just over a year and a half; and I’d been patiently waiting for the right opportunity during the many drives to/from the Prescott and Flagstaff areas to take a slight detour in order to knock it off. The opportunity finally arose this past Tuesday. Not only was it so nice to finally see this beautiful desert area and check the La Paz County Highpoint off my list, making summit was definitely so much sweeter when it involved meeting unanticipated challenges head on and overcoming them. In a nutshell: what should have been an easy out-and-back trail hike [relative to what I’m accustomed to] of just over 10 miles turned into a grueling journey of just over 6 hours and just under 16 miles in triple digit temps.
With no stormy weather in the forecast and no confusing directions to find the TH, [the turn to the dirt road is between mileposts 71 & 70 exactly as described on the HAZ Description page], I was preparing to execute a slightly longer variation of this hike that The_Eagle and chumley have posted under the Alternative Routes section. However, upon finding a closed gate [that was stuck shut to the point where I could not even get it open to let myself though on foot], along with a sign indicating that motorized vehicles are not/no longer allowed on this road, my plans of doing anything more than making summit went out the window.
The HAZ page states that the dirt road is 2.2 miles one-way to the TH but it look to be closer to 2.5 miles based on the topo scale. Given that I’ve pulled off several 17+ mile hikes this year with flying colors, having to hike an extra 4.5 to 5 miles on jeep road was a non-issue [at least in terms of my body being able to handle the extra mileage]; and there was also plenty of daylight left for me to finish before dark. The biggest concern was: would I be able to carry [or even fit into my daypack] the amount of water that I’d need to sustain myself over 15-16 miles & 3,000+’ AEG in triple digit temps?
Knowing my body and the type of effort I was about to embark on, I estimated an absolute minimum of 4 liters and decided on 5 liters to play it safe. To offset the extra weight and space, I left behind my shin guards, trekking poles, jacket, and long pair of pants. While many may laugh at the last two items, I consider them essentials [given my tendency to bushwhack / go off-trail
] and I cannot remember the last time I intentionally went without either.
After crawling under the barb wire fence, I attempted to cut off distance by following a more direct path to the TH [vs staying on the jeep road]; but my sense of direction got turned around AND my phone shut off due to the hot temps before I had even logged 1 mile, [the first time I remember this happening not counting instances where I’ve accidentally left my phone in a hot car]. Luckily, without too much time/distance wasted, I made it to the TH area in just under 2.4 miles and just over 35 minutes. There was a trail log sheet by the TH, and it had only two other names. Neither of the other two people that signed in wrote a date but the left most column of the sign-in sheet was titled, “Date 2015”.
After signing in, I set out on the trail/jeep road. The area is really beautiful with many off-trail opportunities and old areas of mining activity to explore… but given the circumstances, I was not about to screw around on this hike! I kept a decent pace but didn’t push myself too hard in order to avoid drinking any more water than I needed to. For part of the way up, [as well as on the return trip], I was very fortunate to have a long stretch of shade thanks to some fluffy white clouds that were passing through, which completely blocked out the sun. Nonetheless, the combination of lots of direct sunlight in triple digit temps had me blowing through my water very quickly, as I anticipated.
The summit views are absolutely beautiful and there is a lot to check out on the summit [historic structures, a helipad, radio towers, etc.]. There was a survey marker by the highpoint but I could not find a typical [notebook in jar/bottle-type] register; although there was a sign in sheet similar to the one I’d signed near the TH. The summit sign in book had a lot more names than the one at the TH, [and it was dated 2015-2016]; however with the exception of a party of 7 that selected ‘Camping’ for the activity, all of the 15 or so others to sign in had selected “Other” as the activity.
My descent was uneventful, minus a small scare about halfway down: it started with me wondering why I literally seemed to be sweating my pumpkin off. Granted it was very hot, but I’m not a big sweater; and despite triple digit temps, the amount I seemed to be sweating was definitely out of the norm for me... in fact, I hadn’t even sweat that much on the ascent… when my pumpkin got to the point where it felt like I just sat in a puddle, I frantically whipped off my daypack to check my water supply. I’d taken two vessels: a 1 gallon jug plus a 1 liter bottle. Although there were no obvious leaks/loss of water, it was obvious from the water on the inside bottom of my pack that there was a small leak. I transferred the water from the gallon jug to the 1 liter bottle that I had finished during the first few miles of the hike and then polished off the little bit that remained in the gallon jug. Despite having about 4 miles left and just 1 liter at this point, the little bit I’d polished off held me over until I was about 1/2 mile from my vehicle, at which point I drank half of my remaining liter.