Ascent of Mount Ajo on 2019-05-25

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Others in Party:Amayi Morales
Date:Saturday, May 25, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Ajo
    Elevation:4808 ft / 1465 m

Ascent Trip Report

Departed San Diego 4:30pm, arrived at trailhead at 11:15pm - tent set up and sleeping by midnight (not typically a campsite - but with the early start there was no risk of receiving fines)
Sunrise was at 5:35am, alarm went off at 5:15am, break down tent, coffee and quick breakfast and was on the trail by 6:30am to the Bull Pasture. Reached Bull Pasture (1.3 miles) at 7am. Sun was still hidden behind Mount Ajo giving plenty of shade. The temperatures were super enjoyable - I was worried about the heat since there are very few entries after April time frame and my last desert hike several weeks ago in Joshua Tree was very hot. The scenery in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is absolutely beautiful. There was a lot of evidence of flowers on the cacti and the trees, but the bloom had mostly passed. This would be incredible in March during the full bloom. I loved the organ pipe cactus - it is a beautiful plant.
The Bull Pasture section is nice and flat and goes by quickly. There is a small arch in the rock wall the trail wraps around. This place is gorgeous. Right after wrapping around the arch is the steepest part of the route and some of the fine rock on the trail is quite loose. Going up, it does not serve much of a challenge but on the way down this was difficult to get good traction on. Once this steep part is surpassed you gain the ridge and get your first view to the East. Spectacular. Here you follow the ridge to the summit - there are many cairns along the way - impossible to get off route. Very easy trail - mostly class 1. Use of hands required once or twice towards the summit. Reached the summit at 9am and spent a solid hour enjoying the views and basking on the rock.

The descent felt quite long and now the day was beginning to heat up. Saw some other hikers below Bull Pasture on the way down. It seems most people mark that as their destination with this trail. Reached the trailhead at noon, had a lunch and then hit the road, finishing the Ajo Mountain Road drive. A brief stop at the visitor center and overheard the rangers directing visitors looking for things to do to drive the Ajo Mountain Drive. I guess we had seen the main attraction - time to move on. Hitting the road south to Mexico joining the masses from Arizona on their Memorial Day weekend getaways with eyes set on camping in the Reserva Biologica de la Pinacate - alas we would reach the closed gate with no attendants around and a sign reading the road was closed indefinitely. Not wanting to camp in a random area in Mexico, we continued down to Puerto Penasco and (luckily) found a place to stay for the night.

An additional day of drinking sangria at the beach was not too bad of a consolation. A little bummed about not getting to try Cerro de Pinacate - there's no telling when they will be re-opening the road.

Long drive back to San Diego on 5/27 - driving through Mexicali was crazy (I guess they have a rush hour at 5pm as well - it was chaos). Accidentally got in the SENTRI lane which meant we would have to wait in secondary screening (2 hrs) - won't make that mistake again. Arrived home at 10pm.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1800 ft / 548 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8.2 mi / 13.2 km
    Route:Bull Pasture
    Trailhead:Estes Canyon  3008 ft / 916 m
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Cooler than expected for a late May desert hike
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 

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