I organized a group hike to Shovel Saddle, high up in the Santa Ritas. Hiking friend, Lorna, suggested that since we would be in close proximity to 88 Mac peak, we should extend the hike by about a mile and hit that too.
During the hour+ drive to Madera Canyon, I passed Elephant Head, gleaming from the rising sun. In a couple of hours we would have a very different view of this remarkable feature.
Our group of 5, shove off on the Super Trail, soon get on the Pipeline Trail, drop into Fern Canyon and ascend it, hang a left at an unnamed trail junction and.....
....reach Roger's Rock. At 1.7 miles from the parking lot, this alone is a worthwhile destination but we had much farther and much higher to go. We ascend the 24% average grade of Roger's Ridge to Four Springs Trail, make a right and....
...enjoy the rolling nature of the trail. Several places we cross rock falls and occasionally the foliage would open and we had....
....great views of Mount Wrightson. Our destination was at 8850' while Wrightson is 9200' so almost as high.
The Four Springs Trail to Shovel Saddle is about a mile with an average grade of 15% so not a flat trail, just not as steep as what we had already climbed or what was coming. The saddle is a beautiful area with exceptional views of....
.....Elephant Head, lower right in the above image. Hard to believe the climb to the top is up that left side.
We turned our attention to the next leg of our hike. Less than a mile away, so close but look at the elevation difference!!!! I had not previously visited this location so was glad Lorna knew where to leave the saddle as pine needles had covered the social trail.
Emerging from the ponderosa's we climb the .4 mile to an unnamed saddle. It's a beautiful, grassy area but with an average grade of almost 30%, a real toughie. We had incredible....
....views to distract us. Mount Hopkins in the distance with the Whipple Observatory on top. Throughout, I was keeping an eye on area clouds and weather radar. We are finally having an active monsoon season with 70% chance of rain forecast for today. Storms frequently form on the mountains, rather suddenly, and then slosh over into the valleys.
Now at the saddle, we look to the peak although what we see is a false summit, the actual lying beyond, unseen.
Kind of rugged and an enjoyable, route finding challenge as we pick our way to the peak.
My very fit and hardy hiking friends on final approach.
Clouds are thickening as we view Wrightson. I'm not concerned about getting wet as I had a towel and change of clothes in my car. However, I am concerned about bolts of lightning so again checked radar. Still nothing in the immediate vicinity, showing rain.
Marc took us to the northwest side of the peak to look down on McCleary Peak.
In the distance, the Catalina Mountains.
There was an unknown peak between us and Wrightson. I'm unaware if there is a social trail to that peak but probably. A hike for another day.
We begin our descent, grudgingly because the 360 views at the top are amazing.
We reach the first saddle and begin the....
....steep descent to Shovel Saddle. Reaching it I look....
....to 88 Mac, hard to believe we were up there just a few minutes ago. We continue our descent and upon reaching Roger's Rock we hear....
....rumbles of thunder. Just like that, it was now raining at the highest peaks. Within about a mile of the trail head, it began to rain lightly but we arrived, dry. On the drive out, it began to pour. We finished with 8.5 miles and 3700' of climbing. A hard and very worthy hike with a good group.