Pastora Peak • Range Highpoint: Carrizo Mountains
• Northeast Apache County
• Four Corners Area, Navajo Nation

Date Climbed
July 10, 2010

Elevation
9,407 feet

Distance
2 miles

Time
1 hour (hike)

Gain
500 feet

Conditions
Cool, pleasant

Prominence
2,687 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version


View from Beautiful Mountain in New Mexico
 

At dawn
 

On the approach
 

And a few minutes later, I'm up top
 

Looking down at the forests and meadows of the Carrizo highlands
 

On the hike out
 

Now exiting, a parting shot of a lovely highland meadow
 

A camp used by the Navajo
 

Looking north from the lower foothills. Abajo Peak in Utah is the faint shadow
 

Chezhindeza Mesa, as seen on the drive in

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Pastora Peak is the highest point in the remote Carrizo Mountains of extreme northeast Arizona, close to the Four Corners on the Navajo Nation. From a distance the Carrizos have a uniform profile, with numerous peaks jutting above 9,000 feet. Pastora Peak comes in at 9,407 feet but does not stand out among its subsidiary peaks. Nevertheless, I had a strong interest in visiting Pastora Peak as it is a highly-prominent peak in Arizona, located in a beautiful part of the state.

Beth and I were here back in May of 2007. Our trip to the Navajo Nation was unplanned and done very last-minute. As such I had brought no maps. We ventured up the main road into the range from the north and decided to go as far as possible. We got about 8 or 9 miles up the bumpy road, but opted to turn around and exit when storm clouds began to build. I had no idea how close (or far) I was to the top anyway, and the roads looked like they could get real nasty when wet. I took a GPS reading of our position and recorded it for later reference. When we got home I discovered I had turned around about 5 or 6 miles short of the summit. In retrospect I felt good about the decision to turn around.

Its distance from the Phoenix area—over 350 miles one way—makes Pastora rather difficult to get just as a singular destination, and I essentially ignored the peak for a couple of years. However, an opportunity arose when a group of pals, Scott Casterlin, Chris Gilsdorf and Scott Peavy, were planning a few peaks on the Navajo Nation, including Pastora. This would be an excellent opportunity to go get this distant summit and add it to my records.

Casterlin drove up from Tucson and picked us all up in the Phoenix area, and we made the long drive onto the Nation via Flagstaff, Cameron (where we got our permits), Tuba City and Kayenta. We had spells of rain along the drive, and the weather was somewhat unsettled as we approached the Carrizo Range, arriving in the early evening. We drove up the road, bumping over the rocks, slowly and steadily. The road was kind of wet from the day's sprinkles, and we skidded and yawed in places. The road was steep and rocky, but never too bad, as long as we went slow. Finally, we arrived onto the upper plateau. Here, the road was very slick and goopy, and by now the weather had turned to a mist and rain mix, so we generally skidded and slid along the road, finally stopping at a road junction marked by spot elevation 9,120 feet, just an air-mile away from the top. Our camp area was a grassy meadow ringed by low forest cover of juniper, pine and mountain oak. Peavy and Gilsdorf set up their tents, just as it got dark. Casterlin crashed in the back of the vehicle, while I slept up front in the folded-back passenger seat, which wasn't too bad.

The next morning started clear but the air was very moist. We got ready pretty quickly and were walking along the road by 5:30 a.m. Arizona Time, 6:30 Navajo Time (The Nation is one hour ahead of Arizona). The hike to the top was very quick as it was nearby. We walked the road up over a small hill, then lost a hundred feet as it dropped into a saddle below Pastora itself. The gain from here to the top was just over 300 feet, all of it up steep rocky slope covered in low brush, mainly mountain oak. It was short, steep, minorly strenuous, and momentarily we were all on top, the one-way hike having taken us a half-hour total.

The summit is broad and rocky, covered in the same mountain oak shrubbery, plus a few scattered pine. We inspected a few candidate highest points, then sat around a rocky clearing to take in the views. Roof Butte and Beautiful Mountain—two peaks on our agenda—were immediately south. Off north we could see the faint outline of Abajo Peak in Utah, another objective for this trip. Big Navajo Mountain was to the northwest. We could also see a lot of the upper Carrizo highlands, a pleasant scene of gently-rounded summits with patchy forest cover and grassy meadows. A very serene place. We stayed up top for about 30 minutes, then made the easy hike back to the vehicle, our total time out just over an hour.

The drive out went well, the roads having had time to dry out a little from yesterday. By 8 a.m. Arizona Time we were back out on the paved highway, US-160. I had suggested we venture into Utah to visit Abajo Peak near Monticello, and that's what we did. The tale continues here.

The Carrizos seem to be used for grazing stock during the summer, and we saw many corrals and an occupied homestead (see photo at left) while up top. The map shows numerous roads all over the range. There's a small community of homes at the base of the range, and in our brief encounters with the locals, they were very friendly. In winter, we surmise the Carrizos probably get slammed with snow, and getting up top would be essentially impossible. It's too far to hike from the road, and driving as far as we did was nice. As mountaineering objectives go, Pastora is not much of a challenge, but the drive, the camping and the scenery is very lovely. I'm glad we were successful, and really enjoyed my time up there.

Images by Scott Peavy:

Descending.

(c) 2010 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.