Belmont Mountain • Belmont Mountains
• Western Maricopa County


Belmont Mountains as seen from near Vulture Mine Road. I climbed the right-most summit bump
 

Approaching the ridge
 

Not too bad at first
 

The south-facing slopes. It got really nasty here. I summitted the peak you see at left
 

The real summit yonder
 

View northwest. The road I drove in on is seen below, with Black Butte off to the distant right

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Attempt: Did not summit • Date: April 15, 2012 • Elevation: 3,080 feet • Prominence: n.a. • Distance: 3 miles • Time: 4 hours • Gain: 1,200 feet • Conditions: Sunny weather, loose conditions on the peak

The Belmont Mountains are located west of Phoenix and visible along Interstate-10, looking north from the town of Tonopah. They rise about seven miles north, rocky and steep-sloped, typical of these low-desert ranges. I made rushed plans to hike this peak, procuring a map and goodies just the day before. I could not find any information anywhere from previous summitters. Apparently, the range is popular with 4-wheel drive enthusiasts.

I drove west along Interstate-10 to the 339th Avenue exit, north to Indian School Road, west to 355th Avenue and north and northwest about 16 miles to a lonely four-way intersection in the middle of nowhere, where this road, now called Aguila Road, meets with Vulture Mine Road. Beth and I have driven this road many times: it's one way to get to and from Wickenburg without dealing with Phoenix traffic. Anyway, at this junction I went south about 5 miles on decent dirt road and parked in a clearing near Beer Bottle Well as shown on the map. The morning was cool but sunny, with high expected to be in the mid-70s.

I was parked about one air-mile from the summit, and about 1,300 feet lower. It looked promising. I walked across desert flats to the base of the main northwest ridge, then started up, doing fine for about 15 minutes, gaining about 300 feet, and then, cliffs. Big rock outcrops line the ridge, and I was able to find ways through the initial bands but quickly saw that these rocks formed impassable barriers. Reluctantly, I descended to my right into a drainage and followed that up. This went okay, and the lay of the land essentially funneled me upward back to the main ridge, now about 250 feet higher than where I'd left it. I was mildly optimistic again.

Quickly, though, the same issue that dogged me below re-appeared: messy, steep cliffy barriers, choked with brush, palo verde and cactus, and not at all stable. Once again I veered right and descended about 100 feet, then laboriously started a traverse, not sure what would happen. I took it in fifteen-foot segments, going from one rock to the next. The going was steep, brushy and loose. In spots I had to clamber up small cliffs and in time, I found myself on a prominent north-facing rib, apparently below "the top". I decided to climb straight up and after some more battling with loose rock and brush, arrived "on top".

I had actually summitted a lower sub-peak, elevation 3,080 feet. The true summit was just about 300 yards east (and 50 feet higher) but the terrain between me and it looked very ugly: more cliffy barriers, brush and rocks. I had not expected this amount of trouble and one look at the ridge to the top, I threw in the towel. I think the better approach to the top would be from the southeast, maybe catching the ridge from some old mine roads in the area.

Going down was a bitch. Every freaking rock was loose and wanted to slide when I put weight on it. The slopes were composed of book-sized scree, small enough to move easily but big enough to potentially cause damage. If it wasn't loose rock, it was cactus, including cholla, and dammit if I didn't get some stuck to my belly, butt and hand all at once. I gently traversed back the way I came, slid flat on my ass a few times until I was back to the drainage. From there to my truck was a lot easier, if brushy. I was gone a little over three hours, a bit bummed to not have summitted, but glad to be done with the scramble. It had not been enjoyable and may explain why so few, if anyone, climbs this peak. Since it's close by, I'm sure I'll be back, but next time I'll try it from the other direction.

The drive home was uneventful, and I was surprisingly beat after the hike. It had taken a lot from me.

(c) 2012 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.