Mount Ajo, Cerro Pinacate, Superstition Mountains
27-Nov-92 (Private trip)
By: Bob Sumner
Friday, we met at 7:00 AM on a brisk clear morning at the Cloudview Road trailhead to hike route "A" to Superstition Mtn. We headed up the trail at a moderate pace and were soon admiring and photographing the Indian petroglyphs in the canyon. Then up brushy slopes to the ridge where we emerged at the balancing rock. From here we headed northeasterly following ducks and white paint spots on rocks.
At about 4400', we encountered a significant rock band, but found a 30' class 3 route up it. There is a longer route which goes around the east side of this buttress, but we did not explore it. We continued along the ridge, encountering one more trivial section of class 3 just before reaching the summit of Superstition Mtn. The views were scenic and far-reaching, but Weaver's Needle no longer looked so imposing. Skyscrapers in downtown Phoenix were clearly visible.
We descended the same way, passing the mid-day tourist crowds on the trail. Dan's vehicle had a slow leak, so we detoured to Apache Junction to have it checked. A nail was extracted, the tire fixed, and soon we were on the road again. We rendezvoused at Dago Joe's Restaurant in Ajo, where we were greeted by our favorite waitress, Lillian. The food was good, the beer was cold, and it was a very enjoyable dinner. Good chile relleno plate - it's made a bit differently than usual. Be sure to pick up your dayglow Dago Joe's hat for only $5.00. Onto Lukeville, where we stayed at the Gringo Pass motel. Nice rooms.
We met at the coffee shop across the street at 7:80 AM the next morning. After a hearty breakfast, we crossed the border into Mexico and headed south on Hwy 8 toward Puerto Penasco. visas are not required for day visits. We found the correct turnoff and headed toward the now-visible Cerro Pinacate. The road was a bit sandy in places, and a bit rough in others, but nothing my 2WD van couldn't handle.
Then came the right turn after a 4.6 mile stretch of the road. It had become increasingly sandy just before this, but once we turned onto this next (1.5 mile) segment, it was over very quickly. That is to say, the van was now stuck in very deep sand on this so-called "2WD road". So we crammed all seven of us into Dan's 4WD and continued down the road/wash. Once again it was over quite quickly. That is to say, we were now confronted by 4WD-eating rocks sticking up out of the sand. So we backtracked, pushed the van back about ten yards to an apparent turnaround, and got it back to solid ground.
The next hour was spent searching for the missing fork, since the sand wash obviously wasn't it. We never did find it, so we did the only logical thing - we went left after 4.6 instead of right. We did in fact rediscover the good Pinacate road by this route. Here's how: after the 4.6 mile stretch, bear left and go .7 to another fork. Go right on a deteriorating 4WD road for a couple of miles until you intersect the good Pinacate road at a duck.
We were happy to find the trailhead and wasted no time. We crossed the sharp and rugged black lava flow and then went up cholla-infested slopes to a broad plateau. Then up a gully, past some lava tubes and a hissing volcanic fumarole, and on up to a saddle on the side of Carnegie Peak. After briefly exploring a Pinacate-ish looking peaklet, we went up very loose slopes to the summit of Cerro Pinacate. The view included the Sea of Cortez, Puerto Penasco, and Big Picacho.
Daylight was waning, so we ran down the gravelly slopes and most of the way down the ridges, jumping over cholla and rock with recklessly happy abandon. Bill T gave us an 8.5 cholla rating (out of a possible 10), for no one did make any significant contact with it. We took the good road down and ended up in the same sand wash vicinity, but with a new twist. We emerged at the "apparent turnaround" where the van had been stuck. The bottom line: this 1.5 mile stretch is very sandy, has at least one undocumented fork, and should not be attempted by 2WD vehicles (at least not without a 4WD along).
Reclaimed the van and got back to the border by dark. The Border Patrol was not impressed with our cooler full of sodas and yogurt, so they let us pass. Another night in the Gringo Pass motel. Also, good dinners at the restaurant across the street - never did notice the name. A well-stocked store next door supplied us with some well-deserved beverages, Had a party in our room to celebrate the last night of a successful trip.
Sunday, drove 11 (not 13!) miles down the Ajo Mountain Drive to the trailhead. The route was scenic and straightforward - no surprises. Atop Mt Ajo, we correctly identified the surrounding peaks and had a relaxing lunch. Back to the cars by 2:30 PM. A gorgeous sunset accompanied us on the way home. The perfect way to end a perfect trip.
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