Prieta Peak, Arizona, February 2021

On Saturday, February 20, Adam Humphreys and I climbed Prieta Peak, the highpoint of the Slate Mountains. Prieta Peak lies about 25 miles southwest of Casa Grande, Arizona. It has 1617 feet of topographic prominence, making it the 121st most prominent peak in Arizona.

Prieta Peak and the Slate Mountains from the Sawtooth Mountains (2018-02-03)
Prieta Peak and the Slate Mountains from the Sawtooth Mountains (2018-02-03)

Prieta Peak first caught my attention when I climbed in the West Silver Bell Mountains late in 2017. I noted it again while climbing in the Sawtooth Mountains early in 2018. I have been hoping to visit it since, and was pleased to hear that Adam was available and interested in joining me this February.

Our view of Prieta Peak from the road near the Desert Queen Mine
Our view of Prieta Peak from the road near the Desert Queen Mine

We met Saturday morning in Arizona City from where we drove separately west, then south, and found a discrete parking spot near the Desert Queen Mine. This mine is reportedly an inactive silver and gold mine but I have seen some surface activity in the past as I have driven past. It was quiet when we parked nearby Saturday morning.

Prieta Peak from where we left the road and began hiking directly towards its north slopes
Prieta Peak from where we left the road and began hiking directly towards its north slopes
We decided to climb the ramp left of center leading towards the ridgeline
We decided to climb the ramp left of center leading towards the ridgeline

Soon after leaving our cars we passed around the south end of a fence and between some open pits to reach a primitive road leading east. We followed this road until past a low ridge, then turned south and walked directly towards the north slopes of Prieta Peak.

The ramp steepens as it approaches the ridgeline with firm footing and fun rock scrambling higher
The ramp steepens as it approaches the ridgeline with firm footing and fun rock scrambling higher

We followed a steepening slope that led towards the ridgeline high above us, working around a few short cliffs on firm footing. Sometimes we would enjoy an opportunity for fun rock scrambling.

I thought the subpeak with the solitary saguaro above us might be close to the summit
I thought the subpeak with the solitary saguaro above us might be close to the summit

Eventually we reached the ridgeline and scanned the undulating ridge above us to the south trying to identify which peak along the ridge might be near the summit. I thought a subpeak with a solitary saguaro above might be close. It seemed too early to see the summit, itself, and that turned out to be correct.

We approach the "solitary saguaro" subpeak; is the peak visible left of center ahead the summit?
We approach the “solitary saguaro” subpeak; is the peak visible left of center ahead the summit?
From the "solitary saguaro" subpeak I see another peak rising beyond the false summit.
From the “solitary saguaro” subpeak I see another peak rising beyond the false summit.

Once on the ridge we followed it to the south, climbing through or around rock outcrops. We arrived at the “solitary saguaro” subpeak but many more subpeaks appeared further on. Several times we identified candidate summits but more kept appearing ahead of us as we climbed.

At one point we dropped steeply down to a saddle before continuing our climb. Here Adam realized he had misplaced his phone on our ascent to the ridge line. We planned to look for it on our return.

The true summit finally peeks above the ridge ahead
The true summit finally peeks above the ridge ahead
I climb the last subpeak, this one the summit itself
I climb the last subpeak, this one the summit itself

The ridge was easy to climb, but it did take some careful foot placement and the climb was time consuming. Finally the true summit became apparent and we climbed the last few feet to reach it.

The summit of Prieta Peak has a radio repeater
The summit of Prieta Peak has a radio repeater
My pack leans against the summit cairn where the benchmark is located
My pack leans against the summit cairn where the benchmark is located

There was a solar panel and a radio repeater on the summit near a pile of rocks around an unlabeled benchmark. I searched the rock pile and nearby but could not find a summit register.

The Sawtooth and Picacho Mountains lie northeast of the Prieta Peak summit
The Sawtooth and Picacho Mountains lie northeast of the Prieta Peak summit
The West Silver Bell, Silver Bell, Waterman, and Santa Catalina Mountains are visible ESE from Prieta Peak
The West Silver Bell, Silver Bell, Waterman, and Santa Catalina Mountains are visible ESE from Prieta Peak
The view of Gu Achi Peak beyond the Lakeshore Mine from the Prieta Peak summit
The view of Gu Achi Peak beyond the Lakeshore Mine from the Prieta Peak summit

Adam took a nap on the summit while I ate lunch. I enjoyed the views of many mountain ranges and peaks I have previously visited and a few I plan to visit soon.

Looking down the north ridge towards the Tat Momoli Mountains; the Desert Queen Mine near our parking spot is just visible left of center
Looking down the north ridge towards the Tat Momoli Mountains; the Desert Queen Mine near our parking spot is just visible left of center
Prieta Peak is the highpoint of the Slate Mountains; I presume this is slate
Prieta Peak is the highpoint of the Slate Mountains; I presume this is slate

We returned the same route down the mountain, successfully finding Adam’s phone that he had misplaced on the ascent. I’ve misplaced my phone a few times and knew how relieved he must have been to find it.

We hiked back across the desert and along the primitive road past the Desert Queen Mine to return to our cars. It was a pleasure to hike with Adam again and to finally visit Prieta Peak.

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 Cascade Mountains and other mountain ranges in the Western United States.
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