South Mountain (Pinal), Arizona, February 2017

On February 11 Michael Berry, Matthias Stender, and I hiked up South Mountain of Pinal County west  of Sells, Arizona. South Mountain is the 70th most prominent peak in Arizona, with 2020 feet of prominence and 4160 feet of elevation. It is therefore an important peak for those pursuing Arizona Prominence Peaks.

The east face of South Mountain from the trailhead

The east face of South Mountain from the trailhead

I had read in a previous report by Scott Surgent that a miner’s trail led up the east face of the mountain. Matthias had a road GPS track accessing the east side of South Mountain from his friend Scott Peavy. This track helped us navigate the primitive roads off Arizona Highway 86 to reach the trailhead. The east face of South Mountain, lined with cliffs, rose above us.

The South Mountain summit from the upper saddle

The South Mountain summit from the upper saddle

The trail was in surprisingly good shape and led through cliff bands to a high saddle. From the saddle we hiked over open country to the summit. There were many plant species to admire on the way.

Michael Berry and Matthias Stender on the summit

Michael Berry and Matthias Stender on the summit

We had South Mountain to ourselves and the ravens. We found registries at both the summit and the Benchmark, located about 100 yards south of the summit. It is fun to find a summit registry and read the entries of previous visitors, especially of those you know or follow.

The Ajo Range to the west from the South Mountain Benchmark

The Ajo Range to the west from the South Mountain Benchmark

There were good views of the isolated mountain ranges around us. The Mesquite Mountains and the Ajo Range rose to the west. Last winter Linda and I visited the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which includes the Ajo Range, and this was my first view of those mountains since then. Gu Achi Peak and the Silver Bell Mountains were visible to the north. Kitt and Baboquivari Peaks lined the horizon to the east. I admired prominent peaks in Mexico to the south.

The Ben Nevis and Quijotoa Mountains from high on the trail

The Ben Nevis and Quijotoa Mountains from high on the trail

We descended approximately the same route to the upper saddle, then followed the trail down. The Ben Nevis and Quijotoa Mountains rose ahead of us to our north from high on the trail.

Organ pipe cactus joined saguaro cactus in protected spots along the trail

Organ pipe cactus joined saguaro cactus in protected spots along the trail

Organ pipe cactus joined saguaro cactus lower on the trail in protected spots. Organ pipe cactus is not as frost-resistant as saguaro cactus and does not extend to the peaks closer to Tucson. It was nice seeing it again after our last visit to the monument.

This was my first hike with Michael and Matthias, though I had followed Matthias for the past year on Facebook. They were fun, interesting, and compatible companions and I look forward to many more hikes and climbs with them 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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