Tat Momoli and Silver Reef Mountains Highpoints, January 2020

On Thursday, January 2nd, three friends and I climbed the highpoints of the Tat Momoli and Silver Reef Mountains southwest of Casa Grande, Arizona. These little mountain ranges are visible from the Casa Grande Mountains, a popular hiking area for residents of Casa Grande.

The Silver Reef Mountains and the Tat Momoli Mountains (right) from the Casa Grande Mountains
The Silver Reef Mountains and the Tat Momoli Mountains (right) from the Casa Grande Mountains

I was accompanied by Bill Hiscox, June Meyer, and Brian Larson, fellow members of the Southern Arizona Hiking Club. It was the first time on foot in these mountains for all of us.

Tat Momoli Mountains Highpoint

We met Thursday morning in Tucson and drove north to a discrete parking spot near the Tat Momoli Mountains. A Border Patrol “truck-mounted surveillance package” looked down on us from a few hundred yards away. I expected we might be visited by the Border Patrol upon our return, but it seemed a secure place to park while on our climb.

The Tat Momoli Mountains from the south. The highpoint is visible on the left.
The Tat Momoli Mountains from the south. The highpoint is visible on the left.

From the parking spot we hiked over a ridge, crossed the paved road we had driven in on, and continued across the desert towards the cliffy Tat Momoli Mountains just to our north. The country was mostly open with a few wash crossings and very minor brush.

We hiked across mostly open country towards the South Ridge on the right
We hiked across mostly open country towards the South Ridge on the right

We entered a broad west-facing draw and climbed up to a ridge leading towards the highpoint of the mountain range.

We climbed the South Ridge and traversed around Peak 2440 to the right
We climbed the South Ridge and traversed around Peak 2440 to the right

From there we climbed the south ridge and traversed around Peak 2440. The south ridge held a lot of teddy bear cholla, my first encounter of this winter season. A comb is very helpful in removing the segments from your clothes and body.

Approaching Jack Benchmark Southwest with Jack Benchmark behind on the right
Approaching Jack Benchmark Southwest with Jack Benchmark behind on the right
Jack Benchmark from the highpoint with the Silver Reef Mountains on the right and the Casa Grande Mountains in the distant center.
Jack Benchmark from the highpoint with the Silver Reef Mountains on the right and the Casa Grande Mountains in the distant center.

The highpoint lies just southwest of Jack Benchmark, hence the highpoint is unofficially called “Jack Benchmark Southwest”. We visited Jack Benchmark as well, which was a short hike northeast along a rocky ridge with some optional rock scrambling along the way.

Bill, Brian, and June on Jack Benchmark SW with the Vekol Mountains and Lake Saint Clair beyond
Bill, Brian, and June on Jack Benchmark SW with the Vekol Mountains and Lake Saint Clair beyond

The morning was sunny with pleasant temperatures and good visibility. We returned to my Jeep the same route but was not visited by the Border Patrol. Perhaps they had been watching us all along and had decided we were not of interest.

Silver Reef Mountains Highpoint

Silver Reef Mountain Highpoint from the South
Silver Reef Mountain Highpoint from the South

From the Tat Momoli Mountains we drove a few miles north and parked in a rock quarry amongst the Silver Reef Mountains. The location was well screened from any highway traffic.

We approach the West Gully which will lead us towards the summit
We approach the West Gully which will lead us towards the summit

From the quarry we hiked across the desert towards the highpoint of the Silver Reef Mountains. I could not see into the rocky gully ahead and wondered if we should take the ridge blocking it. A friend’s previous route led up the gully so we kept moving towards it mouth. As we hiked I studied the slopes, gullies, and cliffs ahead of us. I tripped and nearly fell on my face, entertaining the others.

We climbed the rocky West Gully through the cliffs at the top and entered a small basin higher
We climbed the rocky West Gully through the cliffs at the top and entered a small basin higher

We entered the rocky gully. Boulders covered the steep slope but the rocks were mostly stable and the brush was minimal so we made good progress towards cliffs above us. The route switchbacked and bypassed the cliff bands high in the gully and led us up into a teddy bear cholla-filled basin.

Bill on the Silver Reef Mountains Highpoint, the Tat Momoli Mountains in the distance
Bill on the Silver Reef Mountains Highpoint, the Tat Momoli Mountains in the distance

After carefully moving across the basin we climbed up a slope and arrived at the first candidate highpoint. Here we found a short metal post and a rock pile containing a summit register. We rested here for a short while to take in the views.

Across the summit ridge towards an alternative highpoint that looked lower but was topped with a tall metal pole
Across the summit ridge towards an alternative highpoint that looked lower but was topped with a tall metal pole

From our highpoint we spotted an alternative highpoint to the northwest across the summit ridge. A tall pole rose beside a saguaro and implied it was a significant location. The ridge was open and we soon reached the tall pole. We did not find a register at that spot, and it looked lower than the first, but this way we had our highpoint whichever one was the highest.

The rugged Sawtooth Mountains from the Silver Reef Mountains Highpoint
The rugged Sawtooth Mountains from the Silver Reef Mountains Highpoint

We descended through the teddy bear basin, down the steep, rocky gully, across the desert, and returned to Tucson without incident. It had been a fun and productive day exploring two little mountain ranges in the Sonoran Desert.

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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