Old Baldy on Mt. Wrightson
and I needed a relief from the Fall rains in the Northwest so we headed to Arizona to find some County Highpoints
and Prominence Peaks.
We arrived in Arizona on the evening of November 11, 2006 and climbed Rice Peak
and found the Pinal County Highpoint on November 12th. The next morning we explored Mt. Lemmon
and the Pima County Highpoint.
From Mt. Lemmon we headed back down to Tucson and then south to Madera Canyon and the trailhead for Mt. Wrightson. Dean was feeling puny at this point and didn’t feel up to the hike. It had been a long drive from Washington, a tough hike for Pinal County, and then a windy noisy night on top of Mt. Lemmon. I think he had “Jet Lag” or some bad junk food on the way down.
He talked me into hiking this one by myself, so I paid the $5 at the trailhead, grabbed a map from the kiosk and headed out on the Old Baldy Trail. Old Baldy is a little shorter than the Super Trail. They start from opposite ends of the same parking lot.
I was pleasantly surprised at how great this trail is. It is wide, graded well, and shaded under forest cover. The climb went quickly and soon I found myself nearing Josephine Saddle. I could hear other climbers talking as they came up the Super Trail on the other side of the canyon. At the saddle I saw the memorial to the boyscouts who died in the area years before. I also caught up with 3 other hikers who were bound for the summit. I passed them and continued generally northeast towards Mt. Wrightson.
As the trail continued it rounded the nose of a ridge and I could see Mt. Wrightson looming high above me. Other hikers were coming down and they had full packs on. They obviously spent the night up here somewhere. I kept going, hitting some switchbacks that climbed up to right under the west face of Mt. Wrightson near Bellows Spring. My GPS said it was only .25 mile to the summit, but I was still 2,000 ft below the summit. Since I am not a rock climber, I decided to stay on the trail and take the long way to the summit.
More switchbacks past Bellows Spring. I lost track of how many switchbacks, but I did catch up with 3 more hikers bound for the summit. They were from Tucson and graciously let me pass them. I finally reached a saddle on the ridgeline called Baldy Saddle. I followed the sign here towards the summit. The trail gains more elevation as it traverses on the back (east side) of the summit of Mt. Wrightson.
The last 500 ft of elevation gain is on a trail that has had a lot of work done on it. This trail seems to be blasted out of the summit block in some areas. Lots of retaining walls and many more switchbacks were in this section. I just stayed on the trail and worked my way up, out of the tree cover and started to enjoy the view. The summit is fairly flat and large enough for lots of people to enjoy. No real danger up here of falling unless you do something stupid. It had taken me 3 hours to get to the summit and I thought that was a good effort for me. I was sweating profusely even though most of the trail was shaded and in some areas near the summit, it was cold.
I took several pic’s and then sat down on an old building foundation to eat my lunch. About 10 minutes went by and a girl from the last group I passed joined me on the summit. Another 10 minutes and her male companions struggled up to the summit.
They asked me to take a group photo and I obliged. I didn’t stay much longer because I knew we still had a good drive ahead of us to get to Miller Peak
and tomorrow’s climb.
I took the same trail down as I had come up and was soon down to the car without any difficulty. Dean was feeling better after a nap and getting some nourishment. He was looking forward to the climb tomorrow.
I really enjoyed this climb. The views are fantastic. The hike is challenging, but rewarding when you get to the summit. I would do this hike again. November seemed to be a good time to do this hike because it wasn't unbearably hot.