Add Heading HereWell, I left my memory card in Tempe before leaving, so this one will have to be sans-pictures...
Still, what an adventure this hike was! Tanya and I pulled into the Barnhardt Trail parking lot at 2200 last night, noting that the temp was 80 degrees and nobody else was in the parking lot. These were pretty good signs we'd be in for a warm day of hiking! We unrolled our sleeping bags in the back of my station wagon and awoke the next morning at 0600 for an early start to beat the heat.
We found the Y-Bar Trail off to the south of the more well-travelled Barnhardt Trail and followed this rocky track into the series of side-canyons below the Peak. These traverses led us into Shake Tree Canyon, which offered amazing views down into the canyon and gave us our first glimpse of Cactus Saddle and the forest above (we thought). Fighting our way through brush and negotiating a few eroded patches of trail, we eventually made it to the pines and Cactus Saddle at 0830.
Mazatzal Peak's true summit (7,908') is not quite visible from here, but you get the general idea. A series of rock "steps" seemed to be the major obstacles to gaining the high ridges above. We left Cactus Saddle and made our way straight up the South Ridge, bypassing the first rock step on the east side, where we found a forested slope that led back to the main ridge. From here, we avoided/fought thick brush on the ridge and stayed on the rocks whenever possible. This sandstone/conglomerate makes for fun scrambling! This was Tanya's first experience with brush-bashing, too, so she was more inclined to stick to the solid rock (an advisable move...unless you like bashing through chaparral....)
After about .25 miles of steep but solid climbing on the ridge, a final step blocks access to the upper ramparts. We skirted to the left (west) side inside a broad, loose gully and popped out on the final summit ridge of the peak! Finally seeing live pine trees for the first time since near the saddle, we strolled up to the top and made it by 1100, with careful route-finding and brush-avoiding factored in. We looked at Suicide Ridge, but after lunch and a quick snooze in the cool air of the pines, we decided to just return the way we came. I took a shot of Hot porridge for me and David (TalusMonkey), and off we went.
A nice breeze helped cool the air on the way down, and we found descending this ridge to be surprisingly easy, if you could avoid the brush. Back at the saddle and out of the wind, it started getting warmer and we were starting to run a little low on water. So we put our heads down and made a bee-line for the car, stopping to fix Tanya's blister en-route, and returned to a 95-degree TH around 0345. The AC and extra water I'd left in the car felt good back at the still-empty (except for us) Barnhardt TH!
Of note: the Y-Bar Trail becomes quite faint in the burned forest area, so pay attention when route-finding. The entire length (about 10 miles) was rocky and rugged, so quick travel is not something this route offers. But man, is it scenic and a heck of an adventure! Tanya handled her first Southwest brush-bashing quite well and we're eager to do more of these Arizona summits and hikes.
Total hike time: 9:45. 10 miles, 3600 feet elev. gain.