Ascent of Chiricahua Peak on 2019-11-15
|Other People:||Solo Ascent|
Only Party on Mountain
|Date:||Friday, November 15, 2019|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Elevation:||9759 ft / 2974 m|
Ascent Trip ReportHow I chose this peak: Another Ultra
This was part of a trip where I had three hikes planned. Lemmon on Thursday, Chiricahua on Friday, and Graham on Saturday. I followed in this order.
For the hike itself I was indecisive about the route up. I considered the Mormon Canyon Trail, but last minute chose the Mormon Ridge, theorizing it would have better views. I'd then take the Crest Trail (B) to meet the Chiricahua Peak Trail. For the way down I would take the Chiricahua Peak down the opposite (south) side and connect with Crest (D) back to Crest (B), then up and down Monte Vista via its trail then to Turtle Mountain, up Johnson Peak, then finally down Morse Canyon Trail. I followed this, minus Johnson Peak.
I placed Sycamore campground, Pearce, AZ into Google Maps. Mormon Ridge Trailhead was prior to this campground, but there was little parking. I ended up parking at the Mormon Canyon Trailhead past the campground. Neither trailhead had much parking.
The drive started included a flat, wide dirt road. It was eventually narrowed and gets a bit rougher. Nothing too tough for the rental Kia Sportage. I would have been willing to take my Honda Civic up the road, but would have certainly slowed down. On the drive I saw many deer, and on the way out I saw a pack of Raccoons.
I parked at the Mormon Canyon Trailhead and walked down the road to the Mormon Ridge Trail. This lasted 0.8 miles and lost around 200 feet.
Now at the Mormon Ridge trail I immediately reached a small spring. I crossed straight over and couldn't see the trail. Looking around I realized the trail cut across at an angle up the stream. Now on the other side stream I start gaining elevation. Early on I'm walking through a lot of tall golden grass. After some time this grass goes away. For a brief section there are many Palmer's Agave plants, I also spot a Santa Catalina Indian Paintbrush. The trail is clear and easy to follow, but there's quite a bit of growth impeding the trail. I find myself pushing through the growth. Small scraggly oaks and Madrones. As I climb higher I'm provided with the first nice views both up the canyon and long-distance back in the direction I came from. The higher points have quite a bit of green growing on them, as the land is further away and shorter it becomes more and more brown. This trail goes about 3.5 miles and gains about 2600 feet where it meets its first intersection, with the Mormon Canyon Trail. I continued on the Mormon Ridge for an additional 0.55 miles and 450' of gain. Here I meet the Crest Trail (B). (4.85 miles total)
I had it in my head this section would be very short. It wasn't long, but seemed longer due to expectations. This section remained easy to follow. It lasted 0.8 miles and gained 300 feet. Here I reached an intersection with the Chiricahua Peak Trail. (5.65 miles total)
I started up the Peak trail from the northern side of the mountain, happy to finally be nearing the top. There were no clear views in this section, only a few which were obstructed by trees. After 0.65 miles and 250' of gain I reached the top. Here there's a small clearing where it appears people camp. I stop here and eat a sandwich and fly my drone. The drone doesn't make it far before it loses signal, and I almost crashed it on take-off. After this break I get back on the trail. (6.3 miles total)
I continue on the peak trail, headed down the opposite (southern) side of the mountain. I'm surprised to find the trail on this side quite difficult to follow. If not for my GPS I would have likely headed back down the way I came up. As I'm getting lower in this direction I gain an exceptional view towards the west or southwest. Soon after the view I hit an intersection with Crest (C) trail which i take briefly before cutting back onto the Crest (D) trail. Again at this intersection there are great views. This section lasted 0.45 miles and lost 300' (6.75 miles total)
On Crest (D) I begin by regaining a bit of elevation. Views again become obstructed. A bit before reconnecting with Crest (B) Crest (D) loses a good deal of elevation. This connection is a very short distance from where the Mormon Ridge ran into the Crest (B) This section lasted 1.15 miles. Gaining 130' in the first 0.6 miles, then losing 400' in the remaining section.
I will follow Crest (B) for the next 3.25 mile. I only gained a net of 100' in this section, but there was a good deal of up and down. In this section I realize I'm running behind schedule. I don't feel like I need to be in a hurry, but certainly can't be taking long breaks. Most importantly, though, this section has the most wonderful views of the hike. Views of painted rock, the canyons and rock cliffs/formations to the south of Chiricahua were the best views of the hike, and my entire trip to the area. The Crest trail ends here meeting the short trail up Monte Vista, the Monte Vista Trail, and Turtle Mountain Trail. (10 miles total)
Next I take the trail up and down Monte Vista. This trail is only 0.2 miles, and gains/loses 100'. There's a cabin and a fire tower at the top. The fire tower has a sign requesting you not to climb. I still went up a few flights of steps to take in what were effectively the last views of the day. (10.4 miles total)
Back to the intersection I take the Turtle Mountain Trail. This really marks my start back down to the road. I know I had seen burned areas previously on the hike, butt his is the first point where it's still clear in my mind. It looks like the trail was used to form a fire line, as trees are burned to one side of the trail, but not the other. I lose 700' here in 1.25 miles. Still behind I feel I'm not going to run out of light, but know I'm pushing it a bit. I had considered bagging Johnson Peak, but tired and considering the time, I easily decided to leave it alone. (11.65 miles total)
I reach Morse Canyon Trail and head down the mountain. At this point I'm pretty fatigued, and my feet are hurting. It doesn't seem that the trail will ever reach the road. Steep switchbacks keep coming. This trail remains in the forest, and close to a rocky drainage (Morse Creek, though I saw no water in the creek) for quite a while. The trail drops 1900' in 2.3 miles. (13.95 miles total)
I reach the road a couple minutes after sunset, but there's still plenty of light. I see a van coming up the road then trying to turn around. The guy gets out of his van and is seemingly checking to see if the van has clearance. I speak to him, he hadn't noticed me yet (despite the bright yellow running shirt I'm wearing). He waves and gets back into the van. As I get closer he gets back out and asks where the road ends. I share that he's about 100' away. He asks if there's a place to camp, I shared that I didn't see any place to set-up that he could reasonably reach before dark. He said he was just looking for a place to sleep in the van, for which there was plenty of areas to park. I continued the 0.55 miles down the road back to my car, losing 250'. When I reach the car there's still plenty of light, but we're well into dusk... I hadn't expected to get back after sunset on either of my first two hikes of the trip, but it was the case for both (14.5 miles total)
This hike was the highlight of the trip, especially the section around painted rock. During the hike down Morse Canyon I began thinking of some of the 20 milers I'd done only a couple of years ago. My conditioning is not what it was, I wouldn't have a chance at one of those right now. My current limit is probably 15 or 16 miles. The guy in the van is the only person I saw all day. No one else on the trail, I like that.
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