Ascent of Harquahala Mountain on 2015-05-16

Climber: Gustav Sexauer

Others in Party:Artski and Jennifer
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, May 16, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Harquahala Mountain
    Elevation:5681 ft / 1731 m

Ascent Trip Report

The three of us decided to hike Harquahala Mountain instead of Humphrey's due to a foot of new snow which was still falling on the state highpoint. It was a bummer because it was going to be the highlight of our trip, but with rain and snow to the north, east, and southeast of Phoenix, we had to hike elsewhere. Luckily Harquahala offered up roughly the same elevation gain and mileage, just not the elevation.

We borrowed a car and drove on I-10 from Phoenix, passing the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant which was creating a giant cloud from the cooling elements, then taking Salome Road to Salome. Salome Road is rather annoying because of over a dozen sets of three rumble strips reading up to a notification to "watch for cattle". The most interesting part is that the last three or so said "watch for cows" instead. We saw no cows. This road also fluctuates between a 35 and 55mph speed limit. We turned in Salome and made it between mile marker 70 and 71. If it weren't for the small lone palm tree on the north side of the road, it wouldn't be obvious where to turn off the highway. Even so, we had to circle back because the BLM gate is somewhat hidden by bushes unless you are stopped on the highway in front of it. Once through the gate, we were able to make it all of the way to the trailhead across drainage ditches and a very rocky final mile. We were driving a 2007 Toyota Corolla and only scraped the bottom on a single bush in between the tire tracks.

The trailhead had a pit toilet and a big sign and map which was unexpected after the quiet signs that lead from the highway to here. We began hiking and couldn't see the mountain due to clouds above 4500'. The trail was easy to follow and clearly used to be drivable until "Base Camp" which is noted by some building ruins and a plaque. Form there it is a hiking trail, but one that is around 100 years old! Mom enjoyed the small saguaros and other cactus immensely. At one point before the switchbacks start we noticed a cable overhead. For some reason there are two wires that span a great distance between some large rocks in the valley. We continued up the switchbacks and saw some succulent plant that had died, but looked like it was something from a Dr. Seuss book with red and yellow lumps on it. There were also many small lizards about, some with blue on their sides. We were briefly under the clouds which made it a bit cool, but then the clouds lifted from the mountain and we were in the sun again. Mom was discouraged, though, because we couldn't see the top due to the steep slope above us. We then came across platforms for old mining tents which also had a plaque with description before finally reaching the ridge. We could see the road coming up from the other side. It looked very steep on one section that was maybe a mile's drive from the top. I was worried that my parents might be mad after seeing the road that I didn't tell them about, but they were alright with it and were hopefully enjoying this family hike more than we would have a long drive on a backroad in a sedan. It wasn't very long until we made the top which is next to a windsock. We ate some lunch, but it was pretty cold as the clouds were still blocking the sun and the wind was blowing steadily. It may have been around 60 degrees. We also found a helipad, a solar array, and the historic building which had no intact plaques to describe it for us. We went back down the pack trail with it begin much the same as the way up. Artski proclaimed that once we got down to a certain elevation we were definitely in a forest of saguaros. It was great to see the two of them enjoy the Arizona desert for their first time, after I had become acquainted with it previously within the last year. Back at the car we were all tired, Mom especially. This was the longest hike of her life, but Artski kept making comparisons to our biggest hike, Granite Peak, which was much longer, more difficult, and scarier at times. On the way back we drove US60 to Phoenix, passing through retirement communities. There were many stoplights along this route and it may have not saved us any time, but I can't say for sure.

I'm glad we took the pack trail on this one and didn't drive to the top. It was a rewarding trip that showed that sometimes you have to go the way that takes more effort to created better memories.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Harquahala Mountain from the Pack Trail trailhead (2015-05-16). Photo by Gustav Sexauer.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3441 ft / 1048 m
    Extra Gain:40 ft / 12 m
    Round-Trip Distance:9.9 mi / 16 km
    Route:Harquahala Pack Trail
    Trailhead:BLM TH  2320 ft / 707 m
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 35 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 2 Minutes

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