Stud Mountain & Little Picacho

  • Updated: December 02, 2012
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

December 2nd, 2012
Stud Mountain (2,130')

After spending the previous two days climbing Baboquivari followed by a slightly less successful trip to Mexico which morphed into a somewhat bushy descent on Mount Ajo we had relocated out to Yuma after another lengthy late night drive.

Sunday morning we woke up in the desert north of Stud Mountain at what I'd loudly declared to be Camp Studly.
Stud Mountain isn't something that's climbed a lot to say the least.  I'd found this trip report from Richard Carey lays out how to get there

To reach the trailhead, exit Interstate 8 at Sidewinder Road which is about 8 miles west of Winterhaven. Go north on the good graded dirt road and cross a railroad track at 0.2 miles and then at 2.0 miles turn right onto Barney Road which is BLM route A391. Stay on this road and go right at a fork at 5.1 miles and go under a power line at 7.0 miles. Then at 7.5 miles turn right at a fork and at 11.2 miles you will come to a four-way intersection and a BLM sign which indicates the end of road A391. Turn sharp left here and continue straight ahead for about another 0.5 mile and park. UTM for this location is 098393. The road is generally good and a high-clearance, non-4WD vehicle should make it without difficulty. There is suitable flat camping at this point alongside the road for several vehicles.  

The road is excellent and we easily got two passenger cars back there in addition to the SUVs.  There was one slightly sandy wash that caused an issue on the way out when one of the cars didn't keep up their speed but we were able to push them out quickly.  Right around where we camped is where the road starts getting more serious and trying to drive further to the west where there looked to be a mine and at least one old structure quickly turned into jeep territory.

Where we stopped we found plenty of flat areas and several small fire rings.  Things could be charitably called slightly desolate but there is a wash with a bit of brush nearby and at night a large antenna array visible some distance to the north flashes a elaborate sequence of red lights.

Amin having driven in last night from San Diego was fairly fresh while the rest of us looked like we'd been mucking around in the desert for a few days climbing through pointed underbrush.

Stud Mountain was our bonus peak for the day as Little Picacho is a short climb.  It was yet another somewhat nondescript bump picked because it had an amusing name.

(I will say it was significantly less of a slog than a number of on list peaks I've been on and the theme trip potential alone should be enough to get it added to the list.)

We climbed a prominent ridge from the north mostly so we'd have nice views the entire way.

We had a good view of Little Picacho off in the distance.

I will admit I was somewhat disappointed when we reached the top and didn't find a 50 ft monument built out of beer cans by local frat boys or something similar but ah well.

We did find several GIS markers calling the peaks American <#> and there was even a register waiting for us festooned with drawings of blood colored organs.  (Or pink and red hearts.  However you want to think of it)

Coming back we dropped down into the gully north of the peak which proved to be ducked and an easy walk if less scenic than our initial ridge.

Back at the vehicles Neal mentioned seeing the back roads on Google Earth connecting from where we were to the road leading to Little Picacho and we briefly explored driving over in Neal's Tahoe and Mat's Jeep.  We soon decided we didn't have the time to mess with the maze of jeep roads and instead backtracked to the 8, dropped the extra vehicles, and did the normal DPS approach.

To save time we opted for the longer drive but shorter hike northern trail head of Little Picacho.  Previously I'd approached from the east which startes off with several miles of approach across the desert.  The north route involved more driving but takes you almost to the base of the peak.  The DPS guide calls it a 2WD trail head but I'd suggest stopping before the waypoint I marked as it gets rather nasty there.

We parked inside a wash that would have made a decent camp spot (complete with fire rings) and quickly set out.  Starting up some solid rock dry waterfalls and soon were looking up at Little Picacho.

Heading south we soon came to an obvious gully.

We put on helmets here as it gets a bit steep but still largely 2nd class.  Once you reach the notch at the top you exit to the right and start making your way up some easy 3rd class rock and ramps.  Route finding isn't really an issue as there are ducks and spray painted arrows all over the place.

Soon you come to the first of two ladders.  This one is short, made of wood, and solid.

Next up is probably the trickiest bit overall. There's a large gap that can be jumped across fairly easily but if you happen to fall you go down into the crack and fall out into about 25 ft -ish of air. You don't want to fall.

Having said that the move to get across if you jump is fairly short and trivial. The other option is to climb down into the gap. Sticking up again the rock wall makes things a bit trickier but lessens your exposure as you'd likely catch on a chock stone a few feet below instead of falling all the way.

Anchor options are somewhat limited but do exist. Last time we used one of the rock humps on the far side for a quick hip belay while I've heard of people putting pro in the cracks or even going over the lip where the ladder is located.

While crossing on the way up can make people a bit nervous remember the return is much easier either with the crack or the jump method.

Once everyone was across we were back to more ledges.  The route is simple going up but you can get a bit turned around coming back down.

One more ladder and you're up on the summit ridge.  I remembered it being somewhat more rickety last time but it's actually a fairly well made ladder.  The top is anchored in by some rotten webbing and the bottom is further secured by a few small rocks.  Easy!

Past the ladder we found ourselves on the summit ridge.  (Little Picacho really is a short climb)  Note that this doesn't mean the summit yet.  The register and such is on the high point in the background.  You have to cross the rock in the middle first.

Getting up the rock isn't too bad.  It's easy moved with a bit of exposure.

No big deal, right?  This is the view looking down...

On the plus side past about 40 ft additional fall distance becomes somewhat academic...

So it's trivial but if you slip you'll quickly find yourself visiting the desert floor Vertical Limit style.  For everyone but the leader climbing it on top rope it's trivial.

Once up top there's a second set of anchors to rappel down the far side.

And then from there it's a walk to the summit which has a register embedded in the rock.

Getting back up the block once you visit the summit requires either a stiff climb or as we did a prussik up the rope.  This takes time hence why a lot of guides recommend ascenders or etriers.  Once up you just rap down the far side.  Since there's two sets of bolts you don't need much gear beyond webbing and 6 locking biners.

It was getting a bit on the late side and we wanted to be back over the leap bit before it was dark so there was a bit of a hustle to get folks over and back. Still, we made it with a little time to spare and as an added bonus got to do the descent to the cars via headlamp.

As I mentioned before the leap bit is much easier going back.

The drive out was uneventful and we found ourselves outside of Yuma at about 7 pm with several cars full of people who mostly hadn't had a full nights sleep since Wednesday.  We ate a quick bite to eat, loaded up on coffee and soda, and started the drive home arriving in OC a little after midnight.

And hopefully that should be it for a while as far as Sierra Club provisionals though there is one other I can do which would be a snow climb in the Spring.

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