On Sunday, January 16, I left the Hayden-Rhodes Aqueduct below Big Horn Peak and followed the Salome and Eagle Eye Roads north to climb an unnamed peak at the northern end of the Harquahala Mountains. This peak, Harquahala Peak 4489, has 1689 feet of prominence, making it the 110th most prominent peak in Arizona.
As I approached Harquahala Peak 4489 from the south I got good views of its long east ridge, my planned route to the summit. I expected a straightforward and scenic climb.
Last Saturday, January 15, I left Tucson and drove to the Hayden-Rhodes Aqueduct between Phoenix and Quartzsite, Arizona, just north of Interstate Highway 10. My goal was to climb Big Horn Peak, the 180th more prominent peak in Arizona with 1400 feet of topographic prominence. Though Big Horn Peak is way down on the Arizona prominence list, it has a very distinctive appearance and offers a complex route with significant rock scrambling around and above cliffs.
I arrived at the aqueduct and began my hike in at noon. I crossed a footbridge just below a water drop that sounded like a river rapid. The water was running strongly. Once across I followed dirt roads and crossed a locked gate and a barbed wire fence. Then I began hiking directly across the desert towards Big Horn Peak.
In November I finally returned to Northern Arizona to hike two prominence peaks, Sitgreaves and Bill Williams Mountains, that I had left unclimbed on my last visit two years ago. I needed to return before the winter snow arrived, as it might linger into the late spring.
On Sunday, November 21, I drove from Tucson north to Flagstaff, west a few miles, then turned north and drove through the Pitman Valley and into the Kaibab National Forest. I followed forest roads to a small trailhead below the north slopes of Sitgreaves Mountain and parked.
Sitgreaves Mountain has 1949 feet of prominence, making it the 78th most prominent peak in Arizona. It has 9389 feet of elevation, higher than any peak I had visited since last May. The route started at about 7800 feet of elevation and led up a steep ridge on a primitive and unmaintained trail through open forest. I felt the altitude on the steep lower ridge but I soon warmed up and felt better.
The trail and ridge were easy to follow and I arrived at a small meadow and summit cairn. I had the hike and the summit to myself. The summit views were mostly obscured by trees but I could see Bill Williams Mountain to the southwest. I found the SITGREAVES benchmark but no summit registry.
I descended to the southeast a few hundred yards and got good views of Kendrick Peak and Humphreys Peak, the latter the highest point in Arizona which I had hiked ten years before.
I returned to the summit and descended towards my Jeep. It was a very pleasant day and I enjoyed the forest hike as I casually followed the faint trail. Distracted, I began to descend a ridge off route to the west, but I soon discovered my mistake and traversed across to regain the correct ridge.
I returned to my Jeep and drove a few miles through pine forest before parking and camping for the night. It had been a pleasant fall day in the Kaibab National Forest.
Bill Williams Mountain
On Monday morning, November 22, I drove through Williams, Arizona, and parked at the Bill Williams Mountain Trailhead near the Williams Ranger District office. From there I hiked the Bill Williams Mountain Trail and the Bill Williams Mountain Scenic Drive to the summit of Bill Williams Mountain.
Bill Williams Mountain has 2296 feet of prominence, making it the 51st most prominent peak in Arizona. The Bill Williams Mountain Trail starts at about 6900 feet of elevation. It starts by climbing up onto a bench, ascends some gentle slopes, and switchbacks up a steep canyon to reach the Bill Williams Mountain Scenic Drive at about 9000 feet. From there I followed this road to the summit at 9256 feet. I had the hike up the trail and road to myself.
Many buildings and communication towers surround the lookout tower. I found the WILLIAMS witness mark and the natural highpoint located between two buildings but did not find the WILLIAMS benchmark, itself, or any summit register. To get better views I climbed the lookout tower to just below the locked lookout. Here I tried to identify the many visible distant peaks.
It had been another pleasant fall day in Northern Arizona. after my hike of Sitgreaves Mountain the previous day. I returned to the trailhead, enjoying the well-maintained trail and meeting only three other hikers on my descent. From the trailhead I drove back to Tucson via Prescott eyeing a few more prominence peaks to visit in the future.
On Friday morning, November 12, I met Matthias and Scott in Fort Thomas, west of Safford, Arizona on US Highway 70. Our goal that day was to climb Gila Peak, a prominent peak in the Gila Mountains of Graham County.
We had many miles to drive in on dirt, dusty, and eventually rocky roads. Scott left his Subaru in Fort Thomas and rode with Matthias in his 4Runner. I drove my Jeep with new tires and suspension.