Copper Mountains, Arizona, January 2019

On Sunday, January 13, I climbed the highpoint of the Copper Mountains located in the Barry M. Goldwater Range (BMGR) southeast of Yuma, Arizona. Copper Mountains Highpoint has only 2888 feet of elevation but has 1968 feet of topographic prominence, making it the 76th most prominent peak in Arizona. To gain access to the peak I obtained a BMGR permit ahead of time.

Sunrise on Copper Mountains Highpoint from the northeast
Sunrise on Copper Mountains Highpoint from the northeast

I drove my Jeep 13 miles into the BMGR Friday afternoon and camped near the Copper Mountains. Saturday I joined Matthias Stender on a climb of Cabeza Benchmark. Sunday I was on my own. I was glad my muscles had recovered from Saturday’s climb and the weather appeared promising even though it was raining in Tucson. As I was climbing solo and likely would see no one else on the mountain I planned to be especially alert and cautious this day.

Copper Mountains Highpoint from the east. My route is up the facing gully to the saddle just visible on the left, then up the ridge to the right.
Copper Mountains Highpoint from the east. My route is up the facing gully to the saddle just visible on the left, then up the ridge to the right.

I drove into the Copper Mountains a few miles on gradually deteriorating roads across a wash and past Betty Lee Tank. The road narrowed as it passed through another wash so I decided to park there. The Copper Mountains Highpoint rose before me.

Looking up the East Gully of Copper Mountains Highpoint
Looking up the East Gully of Copper Mountains Highpoint

From my Jeep I hiked into the mouth of the east gully. Soon I found a dry fall/dam and I climbed it on its left side. Above the dam the gully was full of boulders, some quite large, that would be time consuming to climb over and around. Instead, I tried to stay to the right on the slope above the bottom of the gully which avoided most boulders. My route offered many little challenges which kept my attention as I climbed.

The summit of the Copper Mountains Highpoint from the southeast ridge
The summit of the Copper Mountains Highpoint from the southeast ridge

I eventually reached a bouldery saddle at the top of the gully. From there I worked up the southeast ridge, moving from left to right looking for the most stable route. Higher I traversed left below cliffs, occasionally noticing empty 50 caliber shells dated from 1944. Eventually I found easy access to the summit.

The Mohawk Mountains to the east from the Copper Mountains Highpoint
The Mohawk Mountains to the east from the Copper Mountains Highpoint
West towards Gila Mountains from the Copper Mountains Highpoint
West towards Gila Mountains from the Copper Mountains Highpoint

The summit was broad with many good resting spots. I had lunch and enjoyed the views. To the east were the Mohawk Mountains and to the west were the Gila Mountains, both ranges I visited last February with several climbing friends. To the south were the Cabeza Prieta Mountains which I had visited the day before.

The summit registry can was empty, as reported by others. I looked about and found the registry tablet wedged in a slot between rocks. I found no registry jar, nor could I find a pencil or pen. So I left the tablet unmarked by me sheltered in the can secured by a rock. At least my friends had not marked the summit registry, either.

Descending into the east gully
Descending into the east gully

I descended the ridge and gully by roughly the same route, but sometimes got cliffed out and adjusted my route to suit my preferences. I returned to my Jeep without any stumbles, especially careful as I glanced down a deep mine shaft below the dry fall/dam. On my drive out I met a few other drivers but saw no one else on the mountain.

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Paul McClellan

About Paul McClellan

I had the good fortune to have spent most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, where I discovered the joys and addiction of hiking and climbing in the Cascades Range and other ranges in the Western United States.
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