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Superstition Mountains
March 23, 2019
by Tom Simonick
  GPS Map 
Trailblazers on Peak 5057. [photo by Tom]
Tom, Jim, Chris, Carolyn, Neil, Keith, Li, Debbie

In the middle of the night, eight hikers woke up and met in in a dark parking lot at 4:30 AM for one purpose, to hike the Superstition Ridgeline. The Ridgeline (a.k.a. the Superstition Death March) is both an exhilarating and exhausting hike. We have twelve hours of daylight to cover fourteen miles and the accumulated elevation gain will be over 5000 feet. So we head out immediately, arriving at the Carney Springs Trailhead on Peralta Road and are ready to hike by 5:40 AM. With our headlights on, we do a brief introduction and set out for our first goal, the West Boulder Saddle.

Carney Springs Trailhead. [photo by Tom]

The temperature is cool enough to require layers, but we will be shedding those once we begin climbing. After a mile, the trail begins a steep ascent of 1200 feet over the next mile. There are hints of daylight in the east, and we can remove our headlights.

Dawn finds us climbing. [photo by Debbie]
Chris, Carolyn, Li, Neil, Debbie. [photo by Tom]

We take a short break at a lower saddle, and continue climbing to West Boulder Saddle.

Keith. [photo by Li]
Debbie, Chris, Carolyn, Neil, Jim, Li. [photo by Tom]
Debbie, Carolyn, Neil, Jim, Chris, Tom. [photo by Li]

We are now officially on the Ridgeline! Next major goal is Peak 5057, but that is over four miles and 3 hours away.

Jim, Neil, Keith, Chris, Debbie, Carolyn, Li. [photo by Tom]

Hiking west, we slowly ascend and then descend into the top of West Boulder Canyon, with a trickle of water, and then climb again to a saddle where we can look south over our distant trailhead and into the desert.

Tom leads the way, with Weaver’s Needle in the background. [photo by Li]

We continue climbing to another saddle and now we are looking down at Gold Canyon in one direction, and Weaver’s Needle in the other. Turning north, we head towards Peak 5057.

What a view from up here! [photo by Tom]
Debbie, Li, Chris, with Weaver’s Needle in the background. [photo by Tom]
Hoodoos. [photo by Tom]

Additional climbing up scree and across rocks brings us to our first hoodoos, with wonderful views looking at the interior of the Superstitions, as well as Gold Canyon and Apache Junction.

We leave the trail, scrabbling up on the west side of the hoodoos until we are at the base of the 5057 hoodoos. This westerly approach, as opposed to approaching from the east, has confused the leader, but not Jim. So I’m surprised when I realize the short climb ahead of us is the summit. Except for two other hikers we have the summit to ourselves, probably because it is only 9:30 AM.

Last year the summit was a very busy place, relative to the size of the area where you can sit.

View to the south. [photo by Tom]
Debbie, Chris. [photo by Tom]

We sign the log and break out food. Li is acting as caterer, with a variety of vegetables, ranch dip, and her famous vegetarian roll-up/burrito. Jim boils water for a packaged trail meal.

Jim finds a comfortable rock. [photo by Li]

One of the other hikers takes a group picture for us and after a short while, we climb down, this time hiking southeast to pick up the trail heading north on the east side of 5057.

A’down we go. [photo by Li]
Heading north. [photo by Tom]

We arrive at a point where we need to go on the west side of another peak, but the trail becomes difficult to follow and is taking us down towards the top of Hieroglyphic Canyon. This happened to me last year and required climbing back up to find the actual trail. This year we keep looking for the trail along the base of the formation and we find it, turning north again.

Where’s the trail? [photo by Tom]
Down the chute. [photo by Li]

Our next major challenge is climbing down a chute, looking for places to put your hands and feet as you span the rock crevice and exit the bottom.

At this point we have been hiking for five hours, but have only covered five miles; nonetheless, we all consider this great progress. The Ridgeline is not the place to be in a hurry.

We continue on our way, sometimes sliding down scree, other times picking our way through boulders. Almost always, there is another climb ahead, another saddle and rarely, a little downhill.

Whew! We’ve made past Peak 5057. [photo by Tom]

One saddle is the location of the Hieroglyphic Trail junction, which is marked by a number of cairns and where we see a few people, but our trail leads us up following the ridgeline. Keeping an eye out for cairns is important, but we know the trail will disappear in places and you have to look farther ahead, sometimes on the next long uphill portion, to pick it up again.

We still have some climbing to do. [photo by Debbie]

One unique landmark is a lone pine tree that is visible in the distance and is right next to the trail.

There’s a trail and a tree on the Ridgeline. [photo by Debbie]

Two or three more miles and we seem to walking out on a large ledge, with no obvious way down, until you look around and see a small cairn marking another chute, which we take down.

Trailblazers with Peak 5024 in the background. [photo by Li]

Farther on, we pass eastbound hikers headed to Carney Springs. It’s now around 2 PM and we’ve covered about 7 miles, so those hikers will be on the Ridgeline in the dark. I’m happy it’s not us.

These folks will still be up on the ridgeline after dark. [photo by Tom]

We take a good break, making sure we are drinking enough water and some of us take electrolytes. It’s not hot, but we’ve been out a long time and with all of the climbing and sweating we are doing, leg cramps could become a problem. Our route is now taking us more west, as we get closer to the back side of the Flatiron.

We make a final climb and we at the saddle above Flatiron, with peak 5024 to our right. It’s about 3 PM on a beautiful day, but there are only a few people on the Flatiron.

One more break and we stand at the top of Siphon Draw ready for the 1.4 mile, 1500 foot descent to the Bowl. We get down or around the Wall, and start scrambling on tired legs.

Carolyn, near the Flatiron. [photo by Li]
Down Siphon Draw. [photo by Li]

The plan is to regroup at the Bowl, so that we know everyone has descended safely, before continuing the hike down the easy part of Siphon Draw. Somewhere in that steep descent we pass a hiker with a bad foot injury, but his party has already given him first aid and called Search and Rescue. We’re almost out of Siphon Draw when we hear and see a rescue helicopter flying up the canyon.

Approaching Lost Dutchman campgrounds, our faster hikers have found our fellow club member Terry, who is out looking for us. Terry volunteered to meet us at the Siphon Draw Trailhead so that we would have two cars to take everyone to dinner and help get people back to Home Depot. Terry and his “welcome wagon” are in the parking lot and he has brought libations, cold water and, more importantly, beer! After twelve hours of hiking, it is time for happy hour!

Hikers enjoy happy hour courtesy of Terry (orange shirt). [photo by Tom]

We enjoy our drinks, relaxing and looking back at the Superstitions, and then move on to dinner at Los Gringos Locos in Apache Junction. Having called ahead, our wait is short and we’re seated on the patio, which is always a good choice after hiking. The service is very good and so is the food. Here we recount our day’s adventures, and everyone agrees the Ridgeline lived up to its reputation.

Los Gringos Locos in Apache Junction. [photo by Tom]

According to my GPS we hiked 13.9 miles in 12 hours, with an elevation change of 2850 feet and an accumulated elevation gain of 5200 feet.

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updated April 1, 2019