BMG west side / Cabeza Prieta Thanksgiving 2014 week Promathon
© December 2014 Mark Adrian

Greetings and Happy Holidays!

I/we recently had a great excursion into deep southwestern Arizona over Thanksgiving week. Below are links to pictures and videos for your viewing.

In my opinion, this is the most rugged and delightfully-intense Sonoran desert area in the lower 48. It is a place that I cherish and yearn to return to again and again for its stunning beauty, isolation, ethereal mountain ranges and their exquisite climbing challenges. This was my second journey there this year, but was NOT to be exceeded by my earlier trek in the (nearby) Granite Mountains with Doug Kasian back in February. That multi-day/night climbing excursion with Doug will never be superseded in the low-desert climbing lexicon.

This recent journey, however, was through the Barry M Goldwater’s west side range, southeast of Yuma, AZ, and then into the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Directly south of Yuma, in the Yuma Desert, the open plains are used by the Marines for training. The Gila Mountains, Tinajas Altas and Butler Mountains are the last vestiges of any mountain ranges in southwestern Arizona. Westward, the ranges mercilessly flatten into the Yuma Desert until it bleeds over into Mexico’s Gran Desierto’s rolling dunes and the throat of the Gulf of California where the Colorado River drains whatever it has left to give. Only the Sierra de Rosario erupts out of the Desierto’s sand as an isolated beacon of any hint of a desert peak. We climbed to this desperately-lonely range’s highpoint back in 1997.

Across the expanse of the Yuma Desert, you can witness mock towns the Marines use for training. Laser warning signs along their eastern border’s Camino del Diablo are clear clues to their presence in the area. You will often see them and/or their/our jets flying about and an occasional/frequent BOOMs from their bombing exercises. Combined with the US border patrol, they’re a formidable presence in the region, despite the isolation. I felt safer there than I do here, at home.

I have been into this area many times and also through its Mexican neighbor just to the south along Mexico highway 2. Rugged desert mountains through this corridor offer an unprecedented desert experience in the lowest and perhaps most brutally rugged yet romantic desert terrains in our Country. I’ve climbed peaks in all the ranges in this “archipelago” and I always yearn to return for more. Sandy washes, compelling vistas, vast valleys, saguaros, cat claw, agave, and the ever-present cholla cactus are only overwhelmed by the pungent aroma of the ironically-delicate and un-thorned elephant tree as you explore and climb peaks in this inhospitably-yet-seductive, desolate desert. And for a spectrum of colors, the sunsets and sunrises are hand-painted by God in a blinding glory of swirly clouds and indescribable patterns of mystic beauty. When I die, please, bury me here or let the raptors feed on my carcass.

Fortunately, few roads penetrate this area and those that do are unpaved, demanding four wheel drive, especially in deep sand. Not a tourist destination nor one where you will argue for a parking spot! I spent four days alone, in solitude, without seeing or talking to anyone and then, I met a lonely border patrol agent on duty. Not talking or seeing another person for a few days was, for me, a delight, but, still, it was good to see and talk with another human being at that point. We had a brief chat about the impact of the nearby massive border fence and its impact on the illegals’ traffic. Those guys have a tough job and we saw several patrols during the week. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to those folks out there protecting our borders and freedom. A bit ironic, while climbers visit there for recreation, illegals struggle northward, in death-defying attempts for a better life. I saw much evidence of their presence in the most obscure places, especially in washes and saddles where I picked up empty water bottles ... testimony to their determination to make it through.

So, detaching from the “pains” of modern technology reduces one’s solo existence to extreme introspection and especially when climbing up uncertain routes to reach the summit of a lonely desert peak. But, for me, that’s what it’s all about and life does not get any better than from a summit!

En route, I climbed several (15) peaks southeast of Yuma, Arizona. The first half of my journey was solo, then I met with San Diego locals for TGing festivities and more climbing.

Here’s a list of the summits I visited.

Gila Mountains:

Point 2474 (dual summit, seems no one contested the western option where I did and left a new register).
Point 2744 (from the west, my 2nd ascent, new route)

Tinajas Altas:

Point 2464 (where I found a 1990 "MacLilley" register, no one since had signed in).
Point 1459   This was an elusive climb as my first route failed with 4th class obstacles;
                    2nd route, 3rd class, worked OK from the northeast, first ascent.

I met the San Diego group and we continued on ... towards the Cabeza Prieta Mountains for
Point 2068 (Lighthouse Peak, 2x, new route), Point 2094 and then, Tordillo Mountain (2x).

Then on to the nearby Tule Mountains for:
Point 1705 and the newly-dubbed Point 1713, "Graniteberg Peak".

Unfortunately, my camera ran out of film for two more fine climbs in the Cabeza Prieta Mountains,
Points 1999 and 1833, just southeast of Buckhorn Tank.

Afterwards, we drove east through Tule Well, enjoying lunch and libations there before
driving northeast, then north and setting up for Point 1781 in the Sierra Pinta, now dubbed “What Fo Peak”.

For pictures click on the Thanksgiving 2014 icon

Summit panorama video links

Please, you may/should reduce the volume since the wind distorts my narratives.

Point 2744 in Gila Mountains

Point 2747 in Gila Mountains

Point 2462 in Tinajas Altas Mountains

Tordillo Mountain

Point 1781

For more route details, please refer to Richard Carey’s most-excellent reviews -

"LightHouse Peak", Point 2094 and Tordillo Mtn

Peak 1999

Peak 1833

Peak 1713

Point 1781

Cheerios and may you find peace within this Holiday season ....