Ragged Top, Arizona, December 2018

On Wednesday, December 19, I joined the Southern Arizona Hiking Club for a climb of Ragged Top, a craggy peak in the Silver Bell Mountains west of Tucson. Ragged Top has 1357 feet of topographic prominence. I first noticed Ragged Top on my climb of Silver Bell Peak on November 16, 2016 and knew I would try to visit it someday.

Ragged Top's northeast face. We hiked over a saddle to the left.
Ragged Top’s northeast face. We hiked over a saddle to the left.

I drove us into the Ironwood Forest National Monument on primitive but passable roads and parked just below the northeast face of Ragged Top. Ragged Top is quite imposing in appearance with complex steep buttresses of rock separated by shadowy narrow gullies. But we knew there was a reasonable route up, so we started with high expectations of success.

From the lower saddle we traversed to the higher saddle below Ragged Top's south face.
From the lower saddle we traversed to the higher saddle below Ragged Top’s south face.

We hiked cross country to the saddle between Ragged Top and Wolcott Peak to its east. From there we worked across slopes below the south face of Ragged Top to a higher saddle below its south face. This traverse was “decorated” with Teddy Bear Cholla and all of us picked up cholla segments as we worked our way across.

From the upper saddle the obvious, brushy chute leads up to just below the summit on the right side.
From the upper saddle the obvious, brushy chute leads up to just below the summit on the right side.

From this higher saddle we could finally identify our ascent gully towards the summit. It appeared full of brush but not too steep or exposed and provided access high on the peak.

Near the top of the gully we traverse right into a narrower gully that leads higher yet.
Near the top of the gully we traverse right into a narrower gully that leads higher yet.

We ascended this gully, then enjoyed scrambling over some good rock with a little exposure to a surprisingly broad summit with excellent views.

Silver Bell Peak (L) and Silver Bell Benchmark (R) to the south.
Silver Bell Peak (L) and Silver Bell Benchmark (R) to the south.

The weather was nice, though the Tucson Basin seemed quite hazy. I recognized many peaks around us near and far.

Looking down the gully. Prickly pear, teddy-bear cholla, and ocotillo decorate the route.
Looking down the gully. Prickly pear, teddy-bear cholla, and ocotillo decorate the route.

We had lunch here and signed the summit register. I could have spend much longer on top but the team was soon eager to head down. We enjoyed the rocky start to the descent, then carefully descended the loose and brushy gully back to the upper saddle. We met many cholla on our return traverse to the lower saddle but the slopes opened up a bit below that and we returned to my Jeep by early afternoon.

This was a worthwhile climb that I would repeat someday, and as usual I enjoyed the company of my SAHC teammates.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
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.
This entry was posted in Climbing, Hiking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *