Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pusch Peak, 5,361', Pusch Ridge Wilderness

Essence: Half day hike to the Westernmost summit on Pusch Ridge, poised at the very edge of Tucson. Step immediately into the Sonoran wild. The good trail, occasionally steep and rubbly, is shaded on winter mornings. Relish the razzle dazzle summit covered in glistening, crystallized granite. A discussion on the plausibility of traveling east from the peak follows.
Travel: The Linda Vista Trailhead is in Oro Valley. From Ina Road and Oracle Road in Tucson, drive north on AZ State Route 77 for 3.0 miles to the signal at Linda Vista Blvd. Turn right/east and go 0.1 mile. The parking lot is on the right. No facilities, no water.
Distance and Elevation Gain: 4.4 miles, spur to Oro Point adds 0.4 mile; 2,750 feet of climbing
Time: 3:00 to 4:30
Difficulty: Trail; navigation easy; Class 2; no exposure
Maps: Tucson North, Oro Valley, AZ 7.5 Quads; or, Pusch Ridge Wilderness, Coronado National Forest, USDA Forest Service, 1:24,000
Latest Date Hiked: November 29, 2015
Pusch Ridge Wilderness Bighorn Sheep Closure: It is prohibited to travel more than 400 feet off designated Forest Service trails from January 1 through April 30, bighorn sheep lambing season. Pusch Peak is off-limits during that period.
Quote: Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.  Rachel Carson

Pusch Peak, The Cleaver, and Bighorn Mountain from Prominent Point West. (THW, photo)

Route: Walk southeast on the path that goes up the center of the Linda Vista Loop trail system. Link onto an unofficial, south trending track. Cross a draw and ascend the west slope of Pusch Peak. On the return, take a spur trail to "Oro Point." 

Linda Vista is posted No Dogs. Examine the site map at the south end of the parking lot. Two trails leave from here. The most direct route is the Featured Trail on the left. It bifurcates the established loop trail. To extend your walk by 0.4 mile, take the right fork and enjoy the southern half of the loop.

The Featured Trail takes direct aim at Pusch Peak, the first in a lineup of thundering bastions. To its left is Bighorn Mountain, and further still, Table Mountain. Image-right is our optional return destination, Oro Point.

The trail plows through a rich array of Sonoran vegetation. Walk through a top-quality natural nursery. Prickly pear are unusually lush and abundant as is the brittlebush. Staghorn cholla are gigantic. There are ocotillo and paloverde. In the spring you will see fairy duster, rosy desert beardtongue penstemon, and cream-colored poppies.

The trail splits a few times. At 0.14 mile, bear right and at 0.2 mile go left. As you rise off the valley floor, a line of ancient and magnificent green beings with multiple limbs will accompany. This is Saguaroland at its finest.

At 0.74 mile, intersect the loop trail and go left for a few yards. At 0.8 mile, a sign marks the start of the unofficial Pusch Peak trail. It is not a Forest Service trail and is therefore closed during the bighorn protection period. Looking at the image below, our route curves around to the right. The sunny rampart is the western bulwark of Pusch Peak.

The treadway hangs above the declivity between the peak and Oro Point. The rock is appealing Catalina Gneiss.

The hardscrabble track has tall boulder risers and occasional sheets of bedrock. (This image was taken on the return.)

At 1.2 miles, make note of the unmarked and subtle secondary path to Oro Point that branches to the right. At 1.5 miles cross the usually dry watercourse. The trail ascends the west-facing slope, topping out at the summit ridge. The zenith is just beyond the horizon, image-center.

Intrusive igneous granite cools below Earth's surface where large crystals of quartz, feldspar, and mica form. The slopes of Pusch Peak are comprised of granular granite bejeweled with dense, glistening crystals.

On a frigid morning in November we break into the sun just 500 feet below the summit. The route parallels the southwest ridge marked by a jutting line of incisors. Oro Point, image-right, looks diminutive from here. (THW, photo)

Gain the summit ridge at 5,300 feet and turn south.

Top out at 2.2 miles. The expansive summit, seen here from its companion peak, is comprised of effervescent, weathered boulders. (THW, photo)

The view is unstoppable from the western edge of mighty Pusch Ridge. To the east is The Cleaver, Bighorn Mountain, Table Mountain, and Mount Kimball. (THW, photo)

Gain an up-close perspective on Prominent Point West, The Thumb, and Rosewood Point. See the Rincon Mountains, Santa Rita Mountains, Elephant Head, Baboquivari Peak, and Kitt Peak. Below, a couple on the subsidiary peak is looking at the Tucson Mountains and Sombrero. Picacho and the Tortolita Mountains are off to the right. (THW, photo)

On the return, one mile below the summit at elevation 3,760 feet, look for the contour trail to Oro Point. This small flatiron is well worth the 0.4 mile round trip.

The jutting point is at once lofty and yet proximal to town. The entire climb to Pusch Peak is seen from Oro Point.
(THW, photo)

Upon reaching the loop trail go left briefly and then right onto the Featured Trail. Or, stay on the loop trail for a slightly longer route home.

Thwarted Attempt To Connect with Points East
We were curious about whether we could proceed from Pusch Peak to The Cleaver and then on to Bighorn and Table.  Specifically, on this day we wanted to climb The Cleaver. Below is a map of our exploration.

From the summit of Pusch Peak, we descended on the southeast ridge. At 5,180 feet, we left the ridge and had no problem working our way east to the cliff band at 4,800 feet, 300 feet above The Cleaver saddle. We cliffed out at a ten-foot, over-hung drop. Below it is a much taller technical wall.

We walked southeast along the rim probing every possible weakness. We dropped into a gully, shown, at 4,320 feet that would have worked. However, it seemed little better than the standard access from Pima Canyon Trail so we turned back.

Next, we will drop a shuttle vehicle at Linda Vista and then drive over to the Pima Canyon Trail. We will walk up the trail for two miles, thrash our way up to the The Cleaver, and then see if we can find a non-technical route up the escarpment. If successful, we'll summit Pusch Peak and descend to the Linda Vista Trailhead. Meanwhile, please drop me a comment if you know how to breech the barrier wall without ropes.


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