Ascent of Hualapai Peak on 2014-12-13

Climber: Mihai Giurgiulescu

Others in Party:Jay Dolan
Gary Novotny
Jeff Webb
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, December 13, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Hualapai Peak
    Elevation:8417 ft / 2565 m

Ascent Trip Report

Hualapai Peak was the first objective of a three-day trip to northwestern Arizona and the southern tip of Nevada. We also climbed Mount Tipton and Spirit Mountain, both entries on the Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section (DPS) list as well as on various prominence lists.

We rented a primitive cabin at the campground in Hualapai Mountain Park south of Kingman, which is located high in the namesake range and makes for a convenient base camp. We were surprised to see all the other cabins occupied at this time of the year, with large families and groups of friends reveling long into the night despite the sub-freezing temps.

The weather was just starting to clear after the first major storm of the Pineapple Express blew through this part of the Southwest, but the top of the mountain did not see the clouds dissipate as hoped. This meant that we started under low clouds and soon found ourselves in whiteout conditions with steady snowfall the higher we went. There was about 1 inch covering the ground from about 6700 upward, which grew to 2-3 inches on northern aspects as the trails got covered.

The map and brochure PDFs provided on the county park's website are very useful in figuring out the network of trails and roads spreading out from the campground. Links:

We ended up doing the Potato Patch loop without realizing it at the time. We took the 'left' branch of the loop ('left' when looking at the map between points 6 and 9), arriving at Hayden Junction. This junction has dirt roads and trails heading in many directions, not all of them are marked. Inevitably we got confused and took the wrong turn, even while navigating by GPS. The low clouds obscured the higher elevations around this flat area and the snow on the ground didn't help, so we ended up wasting quite a bit of time figuring out the route.

First we stayed on a road which took us to a locked gate. We realized this was the access road to Hayden Peak, which has radio equipment on the summit. Though previous trip reports said getting to Hayden is impossible because of the gate and fence, we saw plenty of evidence that people found a way through by burrowing under the gate. We headed back and turned on what looked like an old road heading into what we thought was Camp Levi Levi (marked on the map, but not clearly). While some facilities from the camp were found there, the "road" petered out and we found ourselves going down a ravine that made no sense. We finally made our way back to Hayden Junction and from there descended towards the Boy Scout commissary building, from where the correct road leading to Hualapai Peak becomes obvious.

It had stopped snowing at this point and the clouds were starting to part to the south, allowing the sun to peer through once in a while. We caught glimpses of the lower ridges and the desert surrounding the range to the south and east. The road descended for a while, passing the junction where the Potato Patch loop heads back to the campground, then after reaching a broad saddle it begins a steep climb to the base of Hualapai. This section from the saddle to the base of the peak is overgrown and rugged, with fallen trees to get around and snagging vegetation to watch out for.

By the time we reached the summit rocks, the clouds had closed in again and visibility was down to a few hundred feet. The old road ends at about 8200, right below the summit. We could see the rocks plastered with rime ice and wondered if we'd have to break out the rope we carried just in case. Snow depth was a solid 3-4 inches on more level ground. I remembered the most recent trip report saying to approach the summit block from the east instead of the west, so we backtracked to where the last switchback turns and went straight up through the bushes from there. As the rocks to climb over got bigger and steeper, we became more careful about holds. What are easy class 2 moves in dry conditions became more challenging with slippery snow, but we did not take out the rope or the microspikes. After careful scrambling including some class 3 moves, we finally reached the top, where a mild but persistent breeze kept the temps into the cozy 20s.

There were no views to enjoy and no register to sign. The can we found while searching revealed only a pathetic geocache. I did notice the USGS marker and took pictures of it. The only other thing we could see was the big drop on the western side of the summit block, which would make for a pretty sketchy climb even in good conditions. The key to this peak is definitely approaching the summit block from the east.

We carefully made our way down the slippery rocks back to the old road, then retraced our steps to the junction with Potato Patch loop and took the 'right' branch (between points 8 and 6) to the campground. I had anticipated a moderate half-day, yet was surprised to discover most of the daylight had gone by the time we were back at the cabin. I really enjoyed doing this CoHP in true winter conditions, but wish we had had some views from the summit. On the good side, access from Hualapai Mountain Park is easy and going back in milder weather would allow for 'extra credit' via Hayden and Aspen Peaks.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3017 ft / 918 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3017 ft / 918 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10.3 mi / 16.5 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Hut Camp
    Weather:Snowing, Cold, Calm, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2617 ft / 797 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2017 ft / 615 m; Extra: 600 ft / 182m
    Loss on way in:600 ft / 182 m
    Distance:5.6 mi / 9 km
    Route:Potato Patch Loop/Hualapai Peak Road
    Start Trailhead:Hualapai Mountain Park Campground  6400 ft / 1950 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2417 ft / 736 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 2017 ft / 615 m; Extra: 400 ft / 121m
    Gain on way out:400 ft / 121 m
    Distance:4.6 mi / 7.5 km
    Route:Potato Patch Loop/Hualapai Peak Road
    End Trailhead:Hualapai Mountain Park Campground  6400 ft / 1950 m
Ascent Part of Trip: Desert Peaks 12-14

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Hualapai Peak2014-12-133017 ft / 920 m
2Mount Tipton2014-12-143438 ft / 1048 m
3Spirit Mountain2014-12-152719 ft / 829 m
Total Trip Gain: 9174 ft / 2797 m    Total Trip Loss: 9174 ft / 2797 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Mihai Giurgiulescu
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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