A Sacred Peak

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A Sacred Peak
Created On: Jul 7, 2006
Last Edited On: May 31, 2007

The Background: Baboquivari and I'itoi

7,734' Baboquivari Peak is said to be the most difficult summit to reach in Arizona.

Bab-o can be conspicuous from I-10 as well as Picacho, Mount Lemmon and the Tuscon area (as well as from Mexico) during clear conditions. It lies on the edge of the Tohono O'Odham reservation (a peoples sometimes called Papagos). The Tohono O'Odham nation believe that I'itoi, their elder who brought them to this world, is present on this sacred mountain. The peak is central to their culture and is sacred to the point of being part of their creation beliefs. They believe that I'toi spends part of the year on this peak and part of the year on nearby Kitt Peak.

The working concept for climbers is to give respect to the mountain and in return I'itoi allows your climb. It is also traditional to give an offering to I'itoi on the summit in return for a safe descent. Offerings can be small traditional herb bags, incense, etc. though nothing that would over-clutter or pollute the summit.

The word "Arizona" itself is of Tohono O'Odham derivation. Baboquivari is not a Spanish name. Therefore, the correct pronounciation is BAB-oh-KWIV-ree (not BOB-oh-kee-VAR-ee or BOB-oh-KEE-vur-ee).

Aerial view of Baboquivari

Summit Shrine:
Summit Shrine

Geographic Location

Baboquivari Peak is the highpoint of the Baboquivari Range which lies just north of the US-Mexico border. The north-south range bisects two controversial valleys. The valley to the east is a center of illegal immigration. In fact, the peak itself is a guiding landmark for those rushing the border. The deserts surrounding the range are strewn with massive amounts of trash abandoned by the thousands who trek the deserts every month. Expect to encounter immigration officials and carry proper I.D. and, if you approach from the west, your reservation permit.

Looking into Mexico:

Looking North at Kitt Peak:

The Landscape

The surrounding Sonoran desert is a lush place with towering Palo Verde trees, Mesquite, Saguaros and many species of Cholla including Jumping Cholla. Everything you touch has a defense system (carry tweezers). Particularly troublesome are Cat Claw and Lechugillas (Shin Daggers) because they prefer to grow along trails (wear pants, no problem). Keep your eyes open for Javalina and Coatmundi; both easier to see at night, dawn or dusk. As the climbing permit says, be prepared for "emotional trauma from sighting of the lion". We didn't see a Mountain Lion but we did see a Cougar on the drive out.

Sonoran Desert thousands of feet below the Great Ramp of the Forbes Route:

The Climbing

The peak dramatically sails 5000' above the surrounding Sonoran desert. This is due to its construction of harder rhyolite and granitics. Dr. Forbes and party, from nearby University of Arizona in Tuscon reconnoitered the peak and made the 1st ascent in the late 19th century. They spent the night on the summit and lit a bonfire that was visible from nearby Mexico.

The trail was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (part of FDR's New Deal) in the 1930s. They built two long ladders over the two difficult parts of the climb. The wooden remains of these ladders are in a pile at the bottom of their respective pitches while bolted angle iron still remains here and there in the rock.

The solid rock has yielded a tremendous amount of multi-pitch climbs and there are projects on all sides, some of which are worked via helicopter.

The standard route, the Forbes, has been the sight of several accidents due to underestimation of the technical difficulties, lack of protection or rapping off the end of ropes. The sketchy hardware was recently updated with new 3/8" Metolius bolts and new chains at the top of the ladder pitch. (Tuscon climber Marvin Stafford, who has climbed the peak over a dozen times, has made the climb safe again. Thanks, Marvin!).


The permit can be downloaded.

The permit office is only open M-F so plan in advance. They might help you via FAX. The telephone number is 520.383.2366. The fax is 520.383.4622. We were allowed to just stick a check under the door early in the morning.



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A Sacred Peak

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