Completing My USA State Highpoints Project, March 2022

This March I completed my USA State Highpoints project by visiting Sassafras Mountain, Brasstown Bald, Cheaha Mountain, and, lastly, Britton Hill.

The Western USA State Highpoints

Paul on the summit of Mount Hood (July 1977)
Paul on the summit of Mount Hood (June 1977)

I began visiting USA State Highpoints in June 1977 with Mount Hood, the highpoint of Oregon. But I had no idea I was starting a State Highpoints project. I had previously climbed two other Oregon volcanoes and somehow the opportunity to join other work colleagues on an attempt of Mount Hood came up. This was my first experience with roped climbing on snow and ice with ice axe and crampons. I wore jeans and a cotton shirt, but the weather and conditions were excellent and I got away with my inexperience. Soon afterwards I improved my skills on a week-long snow and ice climbing course.

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Black Mountain (Pima), Arizona, February 2022

Linda and I recently boondocked near an abandoned mine off the Darby Well Road southwest of Ajo. Over the next two days I climbed Sauceda Benchmark and Black Mountain (Pima) while Linda explored the area on bicycle and foot. It was a sheltered and pleasant campsite.

Black Mountain from the southwest; the summit is on the left
Black Mountain from the southwest; the summit is on the left

My goal the second day was to climb Black Mountain, rising just to the south of our campsite. I know of four Black Mountains with at least 1000 feet of prominence in Arizona. This Black Mountain has 1328 feet of prominence and lies in the Little Ajo Mountains of Pima County south of Ajo. The northern slopes appeared quite steep from our campsite but some friends had found a good route up its southwest ridge that I intended to try.

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Sauceda Benchmark, Arizona, February 2022

Linda and I recently took our first boondocking trip of the winter season near Ajo, Arizona. On Thursday, February 10, we drove in and parked our trailer on a concrete slab near an abandoned mine off the Darby Well Road southwest of Ajo. Over the next two days I climbed Sauceda Benchmark and Black Mountain while Linda explored the area on bicycle and foot. It was a sheltered and pleasant campsite.

Sauceda Benchmark peeks above the Sikort Chuapo Mountains as I drive in on the Pipeline Road
Sauceda Benchmark peeks above the Sikort Chuapo Mountains as I drive in on the Pipeline Road

My first climb was Sauceda Benchmark. With 1595 feet of prominence Sauceda Benchmark is the 126th most prominent peak in Arizona and the highpoint of the Sauceda Mountains. From our camp Friday morning, February 11, I drove to just south of Ajo, then turned northeast on the Pipeline Road.

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Santa Rita Peak 6280+, Arizona, January 2022

On Thursday, January 27, I visited the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. Specifically I explored the northern extension of the Santa Rita Mountains that leads towards Mount Fagan. Here a ridge of little peaks has over 1000 feet of topographic prominence. However, it is not obvious from maps which peak is the highest and therefore gets the coveted prominence.

Left to right: Peak 6290, Peak 6280+, Weigles Butte, Helvetia BM, and Harts Butte from AZ Hwy 83 north of Sonoita
Left to right: Peak 6290, Peak 6280+, Weigles Butte, Helvetia BM, and Harts Butte from AZ Hwy 83 north of Sonoita

There seemed to be three candidate peaks. On the latest topographic map Weigles Butte has a surveyed elevation of 6284 feet. An unnamed peak about a mile south of Weigles Butte has a surveyed elevation of 6290 feet (“Santa Rita Peak 6290”). Between these two is another unnamed peak, without a surveyed elevation, but with a contour interval indicating it has at least 6280 feet (“Santa Rita Peak 6280+”). The current consensus amongst peakbaggers is that Peak 6280+ is the highest. Matthias had recently climbed this peak and thought the same. This ridge is quite visible from our bicycling routes on the east side of Tucson. So I decided to visit these peaks to decide for myself and claim another local P1K Peak (having at least 1000 feet of prominence).

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