Ascent of Mount Ajo on 2015-01-01

Climber: Mihai Giurgiulescu

Others in Party:Jeff Webb
Mayukh Banik
Liz Romeu
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Thursday, January 1, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Mount Ajo
    Elevation:4808 ft / 1465 m

Ascent Trip Report

Access notes: Highway 85 into Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is paved, with the turnoff for Ajo about 70 miles south once leaving Interstate 8. Turn east at the signed junction, across from the park's visitor center. Ajo Mountain Road is an unpaved scenic loop in the shape of a lollipop, done in a clockwise direction. The first few miles are accessible to any vehicle, but once the tracks split and become one-way, high clearance is strongly recommended. We passed passenger cars on the way out, with those vehicles having completed the loop, but they were moving slowly. High clearance is a must if one does not want to spend a considerable amount of time negotiating the road. A guide with 21 points of interest can be picked up at the visitor center for those looking to learn more about the area. After passing the stop for Arch Canyon, the trailhead for the Estes Canyon and Bull Pasture routes appears about halfway through the drive. These are the only maintained trails in this area of the park; the parking turnout is large, and there are also picnic tables and a primitive restroom for visitors.

Climbing notes: The first part of the route consists of following the maintained trail to Bull Pasture. Doing so covers about 2 miles and 900 ft gain. The trail to Estes Canyon splits off immediately after leaving the trailhead, to meet again at the 1.5 mile marker. All junctions at the lower elevations are well-signed. The maintained trail terminates above the Bull Pasture (3200), from where an unmaintained but not hard to follow path continues to the SSE on the flanks of Point 3437. There is also a quasi-trail going straight up to Point 3437, this should be ignored lest bonus elevation gain is desired. The route reaches a saddle, then makes a hard turn to the NE and begins traversing the flanks of Point 3669. It also starts gaining more significantly here. At around 3600, the route reaches the bottom of a rugged gully, which is used to gain the south ridge of Mt. Ajo. The trail stays on the right of the gully, heading straight up with no apologies (about 400 gain in 0.25 mile); it is overgrown in parts, but clearly distinguishable. At the time of this ascent, up to a half inch of snow was still covering the rocks in this section, requiring caution with regard to foot placement, both up and down. The gully faces NNW and is thus in the shade for most of the day. At the head of the gully, the trail makes somewhat of an exposed traverse across some large rocks (which were also slippery when we crossed) and climbs toward the top of the south ridge. Views are expansive and get better the higher up one goes. Below bump 4400+, the route veers to the eastern side of the ridge and bypasses the bump before regaining the top of the ridge. From this point, the top of Ajo and its antenna are clearly visible. One final uphill follows a shallow dip, with an easy scramble needed to surmount the summit rocks. Views in all directions are glorious; one can see deep into Mexico on a clear day. Rather disappointingly, the cellular tower and its accompanying solar panels detract from a true wilderness experience, but everything else is a classic desert peak experience.

The USGS marker identifies this as 'Sierra del Ajo'. A register maintained by the park is scrunched up inside a PVC pipe, requiring careful extraction to avoid ripping the paper and destroying previous signatures. One would expect a wider container to hold this historical document, but alas. The peak sees most visitors in the winter season, as expected. The return is a simple matter of retracing one's steps, albeit with added awareness for the steep sections that may be wet or still snow-covered. Because of the late start and en-route distractions, we arrived back at the cars shortly after sunset, however the entire route can be easily done in 3 hours, making Ajo one of the easiest DPS summits - a rarity indeed. The greatest challenges are in reaching this remote park, successfully passing through the Border Patrol checkpoints, and driving the scenic road without damaging one's car.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2988 ft / 910 m
    Elevation Loss:2988 ft / 910 m
    Distance:8.2 mi / 13.2 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:2738 ft / 834 m
    Extra Loss:300 ft / 91 m
    Distance:4.2 mi / 6.7 km
    Route:Bull Pasture Trail/Mt. Ajo Use Trail
    Trailhead:Estes Canyon Trailhead  2370 ft / 722 m
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:2688 ft / 819 m
    Extra Gain:250 ft / 76 m
    Distance:4.1 mi / 6.5 km
    Route:Bull Pasture Trail/Mt. Ajo Use Trail
    Trailhead:Estes Canyon Trailhead  2370 ft / 722 m
Ascent Part of Trip: AZ Sonoran Ranges 01-15

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Mount Ajo2015-01-01
2Table Top2015-01-02
3Harquahala Mountain2015-01-03
4Harquahala Wilderness High Point2015-01-03
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Mihai Giurgiulescu
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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