A Southern Arizona Snow Climb

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Trip Report
Arizona, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Mar 22, 2003
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Created On: Mar 31, 2003
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I got e-mail from Cactuscat stating that she and Arizonaheat (from Arizonahikers.com) was going to hike Browns Peak on the 8th of March. A week before the 8th it snowed up on the 4 peaks and the trip was canceled. We heard that it could be a nightmare climbing the scree chute when it’s filled with snow. About a week later I got another e-mail from Cactuscat stating that her and Arizonaheat will be doing it on March 23. I made arrangements to be apart of this climb.

I met Arizonaheat and Cactuscat at the Browns Peak road junction. Fr143 was surprisingly in good condition. We made the 18-mile drive to the trailhead in just over an hour.
None of us has done Browns peak before, we just had the instructions from hikearizona.com. A week before the hike it snowed again on the 4 peaks. The next week was warm whether, so we decided to go ahead and do the hike anyway in hopes that the snow will be melted. Arizonaheat had sources tell him that there still was a considerable amount of snow on the north side, but he kept his mouth shut and decided to give it a go anyway.

We arrived at the trailhead at about 9:20 and to our surprise there was snow all the way down to the 5,800 foot level. There was far more snow than we anticipated. We got on the trail anyway and headed up to Browns saddle to get a look at the scree chute. We were hiking in about 5 inches of snow within no time. Before we knew it we were at Browns Saddle. The trail wasn’t real difficult and it was kind of fun hiking in the snow again. Looking into the Scree Chute we saw plenty of snow. The snow filled Scree chute looked so steep that it appeared unclimbable. It looked like a death wish, our chances of success looked grim. Fear started pulsing through my veins just looking at it. Arizonaheat mentioned that the snow might make things easier since we will be able to get foothold, so we continued up to it.

We hiked up the snowy ridge, dropped down into the Scree Chute and looked up at its incredible steepness and saw footprints heading up it, so we followed them into the chute. At first it was not to bad heading up, in fact it was kind of fun. Things started to get more intense and scarier the further up we went. Vertical rock ledges were covered in snow. Arizonaheat was blazing the way making footholds in the snow. Many times his footholds gave way and I had to find some other way up periodically getting stuck. Cactuscat got stuck a few times and I had to give her a hand to help her up. Sometimes the snow would give way and we were knee deep or even nearly waist deep in the snow. Our hands were freezing from the snow and frozen rocks. Trying to find hand holds on the frozen rocks only made matters worse. I knew this was going to be a difficult climb, but I was not prepared for a class 4 snow filled coulier.

Once out of the coulier it was a nice climb to the peak. We spent and hour on the peak under blue skies without a cloud in sight. To our amazement, it was so clear we could see Humphreys Peak in the distance. The White Mountains were also visible. We could not have picked a more beautiful day to go ascend Browns Peak.

We debated whether or not we should go back down the way we came up or find a different route. Cactuscat started looking everywhere she could to find the alternate route down. She was very adamant about not going down the scree chute, saying it will be suicide. We found one route, but the snow created more dimensions to consider. It would have been a long traverse in the snow on steep mountainsides, so we decided to head back down the way we came up.

I blazed the way down this time keeping in mind what was really bad and trying to find better routes to avoid those areas. Arizonaheat kept with Cactuscat encouraging her and helping her down the chute. My heart was racing and it seamed to be more intense for me heading down it. Cactuscat thought it was better heading down than up. We made it to the bottom in about 45 minutes. We hit the trail and headed back to the truck.

Having climbed to the top of Maricopa County has been one of my high points in my hiking career. This has been one of the most intense, most challenging and greatest climbs I have made.


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A Southern Arizona Snow Climb

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