On Saturday, March 13, Matthias Stender, Scott Peavy, and I climbed Whitlock Peak northeast of the town of Bowie, Arizona. Whitlock Peak lies in the Northern Peloncillo Mountains, separate from the Whitlock Mountains to the west. It has 1691 feet of topographic prominence, making it the 107th most prominent peak in Arizona, and is remote from paved roads – I was glad to have company.
Matthias, Scott, and I met in Bowie and drove in 28 miles to our parking spot in Poppy Canyon. This was a long drive on gravel, dirt, and rocky roads. I had driving waypoints from the Southern Arizona Hiking Club and scouted the driving route two weeks earlier to be sure of the route and to verify it was still open to the public.
On the drive in we passed a few miles west of Orange Butte and considered how me might approach and climb it. I enjoyed the views of the Whitlock Mountains and Javelina Peak to the northwest, which I have climbed in years past. We gradually approached Whitlock Peak to the north.
We passed through the Delong Ranch and drove more directly into the broad Poppy Valley. Once we climbed into the canyon the road became rockier and high clearance became necessary. I heard a “bang” at one point as a rock hit the armored undercarriage of my Jeep.
We crossed a rocky wash, then encountered two steep climbs. Matthias and I were able to crest a ridge in our vehicles using 4WD but Scott had to stop short. It was time to park and start our hike.
Once we regrouped we continued on foot up the primitive ranch road towards Whitlock Peak. Eventually we left the road and directly climbed up the steepening south slope towards the summit ridge above. At times I was short of breath with an elevated pulse. Perhaps this was caused by the Covid-19 vaccine I had received two days earlier. Matthias and Scott held back for me as I slowly climbed up to the summit ridge.
The summit ridge was brushy but mostly open and easy to walk along to the summit. We relaxed on the summit, ate lunch, and enjoyed the views.
The summit had nice views down Poppy Canyon and of many mountains ranges around us. I think we were able to identify all the peaks we saw with the exception of some of the New Mexico peaks to the northeast.
After lunch we descended the same route down to Poppy Canyon and back to our cars. We drove out across the rangeland back to Bowie. It was later than we had expected so we gave no thought to exploring Orange Butte on our drive out.
From Bowie we drove east to San Simon and south into Wood Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains. Here we met Scott Casterlin at our planned primitive campsite before sunset. We enjoyed the evening together.