El Capitan Mountain, Arizona, November 2018

On Sunday, November 4, I joined Matthias Stender and Scott Peavy on a climb of El Capitan Mountain, the highpoint of the Mescal Mountains southeast of Globe, Arizona. El Capitan Mountain has 6568 feet of elevation and 1808 feet of topographic prominence, making it the 92nd most prominent peak in Arizona. None of us had ever visited El Capitan Mountain before, though we had heard from our peakbagging friend Michael Berry that the mountain was very brushy and we expected a challenge.

El Capitan Mountain from the primitive road. The summit is hidden behind the distant high point.
El Capitan Mountain from the primitive road. The summit is hidden behind the distant high point.

Scott had scouted out a potential route we hoped would reduce the brush we would need to deal with. The three of us parked along Arizona Highway 77, crossed the highway, and mostly followed a gated primitive road to near its end as it crossed a gully beneath the WSW Ridge.

The notch in the WSW Ridge cliffs from the end of the primitive road.
The notch in the WSW Ridge cliffs from the end of the primitive road.

From here we started bushwhacking through thick, but fortunately not particularly thorny brush up the steeping slope. The morning shade below the cliffs helped. We followed game trails where we could and eventually climbed to the ridge through a notch in a cliff.

The summit ridge from the WSW Ridge.
The summit ridge from the WSW Ridge.

From the WSW Ridge the brush was more open. We traversed the slope upwards and to the east until we could finally see the summit. After a short descent to a saddle we climbed through some easy rock bands and across rock slabs to the summit.

The El Capitan Mountain summit to the east.
The El Capitan Mountain summit to the east.

Matthias found the summit registry, placed in 2004. We were suprised to see that we were only the fifth party to add our names to the registry over the past 14 years, the previous entry being our friend Michael Berry a year earlier.

Mount Turnbull behind a subsidiary summit from the El Capitan Mountain summit.
Mount Turnbull behind a subsidiary summit from the El Capitan Mountain summit.

We had lunch and enjoyed the views from the summit, identifying many peaks and ranges around us. We hiked over to a subsidiary summit to the east just to be sure we had visited the highest point. It was eventually time to descend.

Pinal Peak from near the summit. Steep cliffs dropped down to our right.
Pinal Peak from near the summit. Steep cliffs dropped down to our right.

We followed approximately the same route to our cars but picked up the primitive road at its end and stayed on the road its entire length out to the highway. We were treated to nice views of a scenic canyon below us containing a small stream on its rocky bottom.

Scott Peavy leading down from high on El Capitan Mountain.
Scott Peavy leading down from high on El Capitan Mountain.

It was very satisfying for us to have climbed El Capitan Mountain. I always enjoy climbing with Matthias. Although I had never met Scott before I knew he was a very experienced Arizona peakbagger, so meeting him and sharing the climb with him was a bonus. I hope to share more peaks with Scott and Matthias in the future.

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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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