On Saturday morning, March 25, Eric Kassan, Adam Humphreys, and I met at a dispersed campsite just south of Pinnacle Ridge in the Santa Teresa Mountains. Eric and Adam had arrived late Friday and I only noticed they were parked nearby when I got up in the dark to start my breakfast. After breakfast we drove north to Trail 66 near Sand Tank. The goal was to climb the high point of Pinnacle Ridge.
Pinnacle Ridge is the 40th most prominent peak in Arizona, with 2470 feet of prominence and 7550 feet of elevation. Eric and I attempted Pinnacle Ridge last April. The climb statistics are quite modest, but the mixed forest surrounding rock pinnacles reduces visibility and the thick brush on steep slopes obstructs progress. On the previous occasion we ran out of time but this time we started soon after sunrise and had the entire day if necessary to complete the climb. We knew we had a long day ahead of us.
We started on Trail 66 which leads up Cottonwood Mountain, but we soon left the trail and followed a creek and slopes up to a saddle providing a view of Pinnacle Ridge. From there we skirted around the west side of Point 6420 and entered a thick forest of manzanita and pine broken by large rock pinnacles. In the photo above the route leads across the rocky/forested ridge ahead up to the lower saddle on the upper ridge, then left up to the summit pinnacles.
Weaving around the rocks through dense manzanita/pine forest was very time consuming. Fortunately the forest was not particularly thorny so brute force thrashing was sometimes helpful getting through brittle limbs.
We focused on keeping moving and orientating ourselves to the terrain when the ridge above us was visible. We climbed up to the upper ridge on the right, then traversed left below and between the towers right of center to reach the ridge line. From there we climbed the brushy gully splitting the summit towers on the left.
We moved from the right to the left in the last brushy gully and became separated as we each looked for the best route. I paused for Eric to work his way through thick brush to reach me as Adam led up the gully towards the summit. The summit pinnacle is just out of sight near the center in the above photo.
Fortunately, it was a cool day. With patience and persistence we reached the steep summit rocks. Eric lead up the summit pinnacle via a fun class 4 route carrying his large pack. I left my pack below and just carried my camera and GPS. Adam explored a nearby rock pinnacle instead. Eric and I enjoyed a comfortable summit perch for photos and reviewing the summit registry. The rock was excellent to climb on and the views were impressive. The Pinnacle Ridge summit was narrow but had good footing.
Eric took my photo on the summit while I modeled my Southern Arizona Mountaineering suit. This includes a sun hat, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants covering the top of mountain boots. I also wear thick leather work gloves while moving through brush. Yucca easily penetrates the suit but the suit does slow down many other thorns.
From the Pinnacle Ridge summit we looked across to Mount Graham. Below we could see our morning’s climbing route. Our route started below the hill near the right hand margin of this photo, traversed the forested ridge right to left in the center of the photo to reach the ridge below on the left, then up the ridge to the summit.
We also had a nice view of Mount Turnbull from the Pinnacle Ridge summit. Mount Turnbull is the high point of the Santa Teresa Mountains, which includes Pinnacle Ridge. Eric and I, with several others, climbed Mount Turnbull last April.
I was glad not to be carrying my pack as we descended the steep summit block. Once off the summit we rested and had lunch then began the long descent back to our cars.
We took a similar route down and often consulted our GPS track to ensure we found our way through the forest and rock pinnacles back towards Point 6420. From there the terrain opened up and we descended open slopes and followed cattle trails and creek beds to Trail 66 and on to our cars. It was a relief to have succeeded on Pinnacle Ridge. We left the area and drove on through Globe to the access road for Apache Peaks, Sunday’s goal.