From January 1st- April 30th, the Bighorn Sheep Management Area of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness is off-limits to off-trail travel. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoy off-trail travel. It opens up a world of possibilities and I like the challenge of route-finding.
I wanted to make the last day of the year count and chose Prominent Point as my hike for December 31st . I had been doing some research on different ways to summit, but chose the Pima Canyon approach for my first attempt.
Bill and I started hiking around 7:30 am. The HikeArizona.com description says that the turnoff into the canyon is about 1.6 miles in, it is actually more like 2 miles. The entry is across the creek from the big slabs that I took to Table Mountain last year. There is a nice cairned route that pretty much stays in the canyon bottom. Rosewood Point looms above, but not for long.
We stopped to take a break and noticed that we were at the junction where you go to the right for Rosewood Point. We followed another cairn for the route that curved to the left. The canyon bottom here was pretty open and we had several sections of big slabs to walk up. It got steeper, but didn’t require any scrambling.
We had to ascend toward a saddle with a cliff on the left. No longer on a route, we shot straight up the hill. Big rocks came loose from the soil below and shindagger threatened every step. This was the worst footing of the day, both up and down.
We reached the saddle and saw our next big climb past the Thumb to the ridgeline. There were great views into Pima Canyon of the Pusch Ridge peaks. Sadly, for all our climbing, we were not yet above Pusch Peak.
Up until now, we’d been in the shade of the canyon. It was surprisingly hot for the last day of the year. There was a pretty good route heading toward the Thumb- what an impressive slab of rock! Finally we reached the ridgeline and the views were incredible. It was pretty easy walking for most of the ridgeline, just a few small scrambles where it narrowed down near the drainages.
The summit loomed ahead, the final slope steep and unrelenting especially after a long day of uphill. Patches of snow appeared and below the summit I found several large pottery sherds. I would imagine this peak would make a good lookout, given its prominence.
We reached the small maze of rocks that make up the Western summit and made a snowman. We posed on top with our New Year’s accoutrements.
The summit has fantastic views in every direction, too many peaks to name visible. A peregrine falcon flew overhead- what a great way to spend the last day of the year!
We started down the mountain around 1:30 and made our way along the ridgeline. Now that I’ve done this way, I’d like to summit via one of the other routes. Cowgill and Glendening say that the most direct route is the gully that comes off the summit into Finger Rock Canyon, and there are ways to get to it via the route to the Guard as well. So many interesting options! Too bad they will have to wait until after the summer, at least there are bighorn sheep to warrant the closures now. I won’t go into it here, but there was recently a great article in the Tucson Weekly about the Bighorn reintroduction project: http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/rebalancing-nature/Content?oid=3941330
The lighting was spectacular on our way down. We managed to be on a route for most of the time which sped progress over straight bushwhacking. Still, the slope from the cliffs to the bottom of the canyon bend was really loose and unpleasant.
It eased up considerably once we got back down to the streambed. We took a break once we hit the shade, right before the side canyon curved back toward Pima Canyon. It is amazing how quiet and remote it feels back there, even though all that is between you and Tucson is Rosewood Point.
The Pima Canyon Trail seemed like it dragged on forever as usual, we saw our first people of the day a mile away from the trailhead. Made it back in time to watch the sunset light on Prominent Point. It doesn’t look as far away from the trailhead, because the long ridge is foreshortened.
Although it was a great hike, Bill and I agreed that it would have been even better with Wendy along. She’s been nursing a bum Achilles tendon- hope she heals up soon so she can join me on bushwhacking adventures again in the new year.
Overall, the terrain and the route was easier than I had expected. It’s a long day, but the views are totally worth the collection of scratches you’ll amass hiking to Prominent Point.
In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, I’m trying to get in as many shifts as I can before I leave for my thru-hike of the Arizona Trail on March 14th. We’ve got quite a few interesting characters at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, including three Peregrine Falcons. This one we’ve had for a while will eat from the fist. So I get to go into the cage with a plate of food, offer up my arm, and it hops on and I let the Peregrine eat from the plate in my hand. What a magical experience to be able to work so closely with the world’s fastest bird.