Ascent of Chiricahua Peak on 2016-11-23

Climber: Dean Gaudet

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Chiricahua Peak
    Elevation:9759 ft / 2974 m

Ascent Trip Report

i used rob woodall's track for the ascent. rob refers to the trail as trail 269, but i'm consulting the USFS maps at caltopo (including the new USFS 2016 overlay) and 269 is the trail up the ridge. 352 is the trail up the canyon, where rob's track goes.

i ascend on 352 up the canyon, which although it's signed, and mentioned on the USFS maps, really does not seem maintained. there are many washouts and downed trees, with no indication of any recent maintenance. i'm not a fan of canyon hikes, and this one isn't all that enjoyable. it's cold and dark the whole way. at some point there's a beam of sunlight and i stand in it to warm up a bit. i'm quite happy when i finally get high enough that the sun is shining on the trail on and off more frequently. i eventually reach the summit using the same sequence of 352, 356, 270B, and 270A trails which rob used. (356 + 270B have young saplings growing right in the trail! definitely not maintained.)

the summit is wooded, with limited views. the benchmark is easy to find, and there's a register right beside it. i sit in the sun to warm up while i have a sandwich.

i'm not enthused about returning down the same way i came up, so i start looking at the maps i have on my phone. i have openstreetmap (via locus pro app) and the old USGS 7.5' topo (via peakbagger app). both of them show a trail which starts over at cima park saddle and contours back to an intersection at 8762. this looks like it would be in the sun the whole time, and about the same distance as the 270B + 356 combo. i don't remember seeing this trail at the 8762 intersection on the way up... but i figure i'll take my chances. i head down toward the cima park saddle, on the lookout for the trail on the slopes below me, but i don't spot it. i get to the supposed location of the trail intersection... my target trail is not visible nearby, but i see hints of it further away below, and i also see what looks like an enormous flood / washout which would have taken out the trail. bummer.

at this point i'd prefer to just head cross-country downhill, but the slopes here aren't really good for this: quite steep, loose rock with poor traction, and considerable amounts of deadfall and new young saplings to avoid. so i have to backtrack uphill and get to 8762 the long way.

some time later i'm at the 8762 intersection and i look around and i can see the other end of the trail i had been looking for, so it's at least visible at its lower end... later, after i'm in the hotel, i'll look this all up on caltopo and learn that the older USFS maps show trail 269 continuing between 8762 and cima park, but the 2016 USFS map does not show this trail at all. i'm guessing the washout is permanent.

i still don't want to return via the canyon, and both OSM and USGS maps show an alternate path down the ridge instead of the canyon. this one i learn later is numbered 269 in USFS maps (and is still there in the 2016 map). from what i can tell i can take this trail down to close to where i'm parked and throw in a little cross-country to get to my car. this seems like a fine plan, so i set about finding this ridge trail.

the ridge trail starts out pretty nice, i'm in the sun, i've got some views. but it soon becomes apparent that this trail is also not maintained. i'd start worrying about my abort options: the canyon wall is too steep, and has the same problems as earlier (poor traction, loose rocks, lots of brush). if i have to abort it will have to be uphill and back down via the canyon trail... i'm really hoping this trail goes the whole way :)

it's listed as a pack trail, and it's gently graded, with handfuls of switchbacks. it alternates between clear sailing, and encroached by brush and cactus. there are numerous sections where you have to plow through the brush, but the old trail is always there. i don't see any evidence of recent footprints, but i do spot a couple cairns. in a few places people have cut the switchbacks, but the cuts don't show footprints either.

as i get down near the outcropping with 7550 point elevation i'm really worrying about the abort options... but at this point the trail goes through the saddle to the canyon on climber's right. this side actually looks like i could descend if i had to, so i have an alternate abort option, but i stick to the trail. soon after this, somewhere around 7000', and back on the ridge above mormon canyon, i spot just what i've been looking for: a hillside i can definitely descend into the canyon and back to my car. yay!

269 was an interesting and enjoyable trail, but i feel pretty lucky there were no washouts on it yet. it's on a steep slippery ridge the whole way and a washout would make it fairly unusable. if the USFS were taking votes on trails to get maintenance in the future i'd pick 269 over 352.

in all i think i made a poor choice taking the mormon canyon route instead of the more popular rustler park route. i ended up hiking about the same distance, and i didn't get to bag any bonus peaks with the mormon canyon route. ah well.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3863 ft / 1176 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3863 ft / 1176 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10.8 mi / 17.4 km
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3463 ft / 1055 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3363 ft / 1025 m; Extra: 100 ft / 30m
    Loss on way in:100 ft / 30 m
    Distance:4.4 mi / 7.1 km
    Start Trailhead:turkey creek road  6396 ft / 1949 m
    Time:2 Hours 46 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3763 ft / 1146 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3363 ft / 1025 m; Extra: 400 ft / 121m
    Gain on way out:400 ft / 121 m
    Distance:6.4 mi / 10.3 km
    Route:269 + XC
    End Trailhead:6396 ft / 1949 m
    Time:3 Hours 6 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Dean Gaudet
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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