Wood Mountain, Arizona, March 2021

On Sunday, March 14, Matthias Stender, Scott Peavy, and I climbed Wood Mountain in the Northern Chiricahua Mountains. Wood Mountain has 1446 feet of topographic prominence, making it the 162nd most prominent peak in Arizona. But we climbed 3000 feet from Wood Canyon to reach the twin summits and return. It was a more challenging and interesting climb than we had expected, and it was satisfying to summit this rarely climbed mountain.

Wood Mountain from Wood Canyon Road south of San Simon, Arizona
Wood Mountain from Wood Canyon Road south of San Simon, Arizona

Wood Canyon lies south of the town of San Simon, Arizona. I scouted access to Wood Mountain two weeks earlier. On my drive I met Eva Morin who with her husband Howard owns the Morin Ranch close by up canyon. She wondered if I was off route to Portal. I explained that my friends and I hoped to visit Wood Mountain in the near future as part of our “peakbagging” activity. I verified with her that we could use a nearby primitive campsite and cross the land from there to the peak.

Our campsite in Wood Canyon with Dunn Springs Mountain beyond
Our campsite in Wood Canyon with Dunn Springs Mountain beyond

Matthias, Scott, and I had climbed Whitlock Peak Saturday and drove into Wood Canyon that afternoon. We spent Saturday evening and night at the campsite with Scott Casterlin, who I had not previously met. It was a fun evening discussing climbs and plans with only the sounds of distant ranch dogs and an owl around us.

Wood Mountain from near our campsite in Wood Canyon
Wood Mountain from near our campsite in Wood Canyon
We first climbed the slope left of center to reach the ESE Ridge above it
We first climbed the slope left of center to reach the ESE Ridge above it

Sunday morning Matthias, Scott Peavy, and I left Scott Casterlin who had plans to visit Fort Bowie and other historical sites for the day. From camp the three of us hiked directly towards Wood Mountain across open country while being watched by cattle.

Scott and Matthias climbing up a steep slope to the ESE Ridge
Scott and Matthias climbing up a steep slope to the ESE Ridge

We considered gaining the long ENE Ridge and following the ridge to the summit. However, several significant rock bands cut across the ridge higher and it looked like it would be a slow climb. Instead, we decided to climb a slope onto the ESE Ridge and follow it up to the ENE Ridge above the rock bands.

The upper ESE Ridge climbs to intersect the long ENE Ridge
The upper ESE Ridge climbs to intersect the long ENE Ridge
Matthias leading high on the ESE Ridge
Matthias leading high on the ESE Ridge

This plan worked out well, though the slopes and ridge became steeper than we had expected. There were several short rock bands on our route but we could easily climb around or over them.

Once on the ENE Ridge we followed it towards the summits, climbing over the knob on the right
Once on the ENE Ridge we followed it towards the summits, climbing over the knob on the right
Approaching the south (L) and north (R) summits of Wood Mountain
Approaching the south (L) and north (R) summits of Wood Mountain

Once we reached the ENE Ridge we turned west and followed it the rest of the way to the northern summit.

Bowie Mountain (L) and the distant Dos Cabezas Mountains (R) from Wood Mountain
Bowie Mountain (L) and the distant Dos Cabezas Mountains (R) from Wood Mountain
The Whitlock Mountains, Whitlock Peak, and Orange Butte lie to the north
The Whitlock Mountains, Whitlock Peak, and Orange Butte lie to the north
Several New Mexico Bootheel peaks rise to the southeast from the north summit of Wood Mountain
Several New Mexico Bootheel peaks rise to the southeast from the north summit of Wood Mountain

The northern summit had a cairn and summit register. It also had a witness mark, but we could not find the benchmark. We enjoyed the views to the west, north, and east and identified many familiar peaks. The Chiricahua Mountains rose higher to the south. Cochise Head watched us as we climbed the slopes and rested on the summits.

Cochise Head from the north summit of Wood Mountain
Cochise Head from the north summit of Wood Mountain
The south summit of Wood Mountain from the north summit
The south summit of Wood Mountain from the north summit

The southern summit seemed a little lower, but with the higher mountains behind it we were not sure of this. So we hiked across the summit ridge to visit the southern summit as well.

The Chiricahua Mountains from the south summit of Wood Mountain
The Chiricahua Mountains from the south summit of Wood Mountain
The north summit from the south summit of Wood Mountain; we are glad we visited both
The north summit from the south summit of Wood Mountain; we are glad we visited both

Here we got better views of the Chiricahua Mountains and Wood Canyon. We could not reliably determine which of the two summits was higher, so we were glad to have visited both.

Wood Canyon and Dunn Springs Mountain from the south summit of Wood Mountain
Wood Canyon and Dunn Springs Mountain from the south summit of Wood Mountain

We descended the same route back to the campsite, taking nearly as long to return as we had taken to summit. This is a pretty area. Sometime we may return to climb nearby Dunn Springs Mountain immediately rising from the campsite. Eva shared with me that hunters had spotted a cougar mother and cubs high on that mountain.

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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