Both me and my brother, Ravi, who lives in Tempe, Az, had heard a lot about this peak and had wanted to climb it for a long time. I had been under the impression that it was moderate fifth class and and so, it was with some trepidation that we set out for it since we did not have rope or pro.
After an hour's drive from Tempe, we were at the Picacho Peak State Park, having enjoyed a view of the peak for the past 40 miles or so in our drive. The peak is short but startling and distinct because of it's left-tilting conical-section like top. A ranger at the park told us that since this was Christmas Day, the 5$ fee had been waived.
We were off at 9.15am. Nobody else around except a solo hiker whom we saw, much further along on the trail from us. The Hunter Trail starts off from the parking lot and switch backs among the brush and Saguaro till the base of a impossible looking rock wall and then turns right to a saddle that has a small sign board. We did good time and were at the saddle in about 35 mins. From there the trail drops down to the back side where there are cables/rails to assist people on the rock and then, in a circuitous fashion, climbs up via more cables till a small amphitheatre that is right behind the imposing rock wall. The trail climbs to the top by staying right where there are a couple of hard class-3 sections which are greatly aided by the presence of cables. Without the cables, one would rate them as hard Class-3 or maybe even easy fourth class. There is also a small traverse over a short down sloping ledge but it is well protected by cables and what looks like a fence of mesh wire. It is an easy slaunter to the summit from the top of this traverse and we were on the summit (no register) at 10.30am. We had great views all around of the desert landscape interspersed with sharply rising peaks. We chatted with this solo hiker and then came down to the top of the cables but then Ravi pointed me to the surrogate summit and we took a short side trip to bag it also (rusty tin can register) and then back down via the cables. Now we started seeing several parties coming up, some even had children amongst them.
We were back down to the cars at 11.45. Some trip reports on the DPS web page speak of 5th class climbing whereas others call it no harder than class-3. Either they are talking about different peaks or different routes on the same peak.
Nonetheless, we had a short but enjoyable outing on a crisp and sunny winter day in Arizona.
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