I had attempted this hike with a friend a couple of weeks ago but we had to turn around partly because of time and partly because my friend spit the bit. Nothing wrong with that as this type of hike is not for everyone. So, here I am after walking 1.6 miles on the Pima Canyon trail, eyeing my destination as it sits between Bighorn and Push peaks.
I knew that a group of 5 had made the rare trek to the same destination the prior day so that kind of motivated me. If they can make it then why not I? I pause in a rare opening to look from where I came. I continued my pause as I looked.....
….where I still had to go....groan. It seems like it takes forever as I push through, stop, scan ahead, which way to go, rinse and repeat over and over.
Things are looking up as I climb a boulder and can see my destination, that saddle to the left of the base of the Cleaver. Then, I was reminded of the dangers of hiking solo in an environment like this. I stepped up and placed my right foot between two rocks, which happens countless times. As I leaned forward, bringing my left foot up, I noted my right foot was wedged. I lost my balance and fell backward. As I fell, I hoped for the best, braced and.....landed on a soft, sandy patch! I just as easily could have cracked my head on a rock and awoke hours later to find a mountain lion licking my face. The sense of some risk adds to this type of hike so I jump up, brush myself off and continue.
Another look back as I slowly gain elevation. I wish I could tell you where you ought to walk if you ever try this but that would be pointless. I did spend more time on the right of the ravine. There are times when walking in the ravine is impossible.
Yeehaw, closing on the saddle. But, the final 1/4 mile is a 30% average grade and again, no trail so just picking out the best route but at this point, it is fairly obvious, just keep plugging away.
I am nearly jubilant as I reach the saddle and look into Oro Valley and then turn my attention to what is left. It doesn't look like much but it is and steep too.
I did this hike 4 years ago and I recall there is a bit of a wall that gave me pause but looking at the base, there are enough steps and hand holds that it is not bad so I chalk it up to the experience of being a rookie back then and then.....
I come to the wall. Again, doesn't look like much but it is. There are enough imperfections in the rock to grab so I make it up but I am a bit worried about the return. Anyway, I slog up through boulders and finally make it to the peak.
I find the summit registry in a small jar and how about that?! I did this same hike exactly 4 years ago on 12/15/15. What are the odds, same exact day?
I look across, north toward Bighorn Mountain. My prior visit I retraced my route to the saddle and then went up that mountain too but the way down was really sketchy so not for today.
And retracing the route off the Cleaver is the only option as the way forward is a big drop. There was lots of bighorn sheep scat on the peak but I did not catch a peek of any.
It was enjoyable to sit on the peak, in the sun and warm temps even at this height. Warm but not too warm where I needed to worry about the rattlers. Well, maybe at the lower elevation where it would be nearly 70.
I stand at the edge and look at my return. It appears so benign. Well, time to.....
…..head back to the saddle. I did sit at the top of the aforementioned wall and calculate how I was going to manage that but after awhile I figured it out and dropped down. Then, it was into the thicket for the return.
Well, I took a good pic of Oro Valley first. I could spot my place in there too.
Huh! A Saguaro cactus has fallen against the side of the ravine. I descend, on and on and then.....
….find the Pima Canyon trail and enjoy the final 1.6 miles to the parking lot. Finished with 6.5 miles and 2100' of climbing but that doesn't begin to describe the required effort. Got another good one coming soon....the Cowboy Slickrock trail.