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Ascent of Mount Turnbull on 2021-09-11

Climber: Nathan Ponder

Date:Saturday, September 11, 2021
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Turnbull
    Location:USA-Arizona
    Elevation:8282 ft / 2524 m

Ascent Trip Report

Got my permit in Peridot at the San Carlos Rec & Wildlife Dept. Sign on the door said permits are also sold at the Circle K and somewhere else; I thought I took a picture to report back more specifically than that, but it's not on my phone. I told her my itinerary, two days hiking and one night camping, but it just rang up as 2 x Recreation Permit, $10 each. I mentioned my intent to go to Turnbull specifically and she said that was fine.

Access is rough, one of the worst on any P2K I've done (this was #51). I think the 2021 monsoon season beat the upper roads to shit, because I didn't even make it to that 5,520' saddle that Dean advises. I wound up parking at about a mile and 1,000' vert below, where a partial washout in a draw made for a narrow off-camber section that I didn't like. Above there and below the saddle, there are some seriously steep and/or washed out pieces that I probably wouldn't have attempted anyway. I'm a pretty novice 4WDer so maybe I'm just soft, but I think it is pretty damn difficult driving in here. Other obstacles before I parked include very steep inclines, deep ruts, exposed sidehilling, tallish catclaw growing in the middle of the two-track, and a wash crossing that challenged my 4Runner's approach/departure. You can tell these roads don't get used much.

I started at 4,600' which made for about 3,700' of net gain in just under 5 miles. It was a slog with how steep the roads are. But no matter where you park, the hike can be summarized as:
* Steep dirt road until 7,180' (33° 04.893' 110° 16.286') - ends at a campsite/flat spot
* Overgrown dirt road until 7,360' (33° 04.821' 110° 16.252')
* Overgrown but distinct foottrail until the radio towers at 8,000' (33° 04.470' 110° 15.929')
* Pretty open down into the saddle
* Moderate to high brush and steep sidehilling until you can get up on the ramp
* Brushy ramp/gully climbing, at times loose, can be a little exposed depending on your route
* Then the rock finish, which was a welcome relief

Lots of rocks were loose on the final pitches; I cleaved off a 1' cube while climbing the ramp.
In the lush late summer I had a constant swarm of insects around my head from 7,180' on.

I was quite shocked to meet someone high up on this route: around 7,000', I was passed by a Native man and his grandson in a RZR (or similar). They stopped to chat for a minute, and were friendly. He remarked that he never sees anyone hiking up here, that he once drove his Jeep to the 7,180' road end (bet the road was better), and that he's seen "big, BIG" bear in this country. My permit was never brought up. The two zoomed off, made it all the way to the road end, and I saw them at the radio towers from the summit.

The guy also mentioned that he had come in off the west side of the saddle and asked where I had parked, and my assessment if he could get down that way. This surprised me, because he was a local and his regular access (even in the RZR) isn't the way the Peakbaggers are driving? Maybe that west side is worth a look. (Probably just as bad.)

Beautiful views, but quite a difficult experience, to include the driving, hiking, and brush-bashing. Worth it once!
Summary Total Data
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Nathan Ponder
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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. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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