Mount Perkins • Black Mountains
• West-Central Mohave County

Date Climbed
January 10, 2008

Elevation
5,456 feet

Distance
3 miles round trip

Time
2.25 hours

Gain
1,050 feet

Conditions
Cool, beautiful clear

Prominence
2,036 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version


The dirt road entrance off of US-93
 

Snow-clad Mount Perkins from the north
 

The summit cairn
 

Now looking back north toward Nevada
 

A rocky pinnacle along the ridge, and the lower tower buildings in back
 

A parting shot of the peak and the high ridge.
 

Always glad to see my truck still there!

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The Black Mountains are the principal mountain range in northwest Arizona that extend south from Lake Mead, fronting the Colorado River as far south as Bullhead City. The range highpoint is Mount Wilson, located toward the north end, while Mount Perkins is the highest and most prominent mountain in the southern half of the range. The Blacks hem in the long Detrital Valley, which includes highway US-93 between Kingman and the Hoover Dam. Mount Perkins is about 30 miles north of Kingman, near the community of White Hills.

I was on my annual winter getaway, driving to California to visit family and friends. Earlier in the trip, I had hiked Orocopia Mountain in California. I spent a couple days in California, then drove to my parents in Henderson, Nevada. I was now driving home, and my plan was to scout the roads around Mount Perkins for a later visit. I had no information to go by, and assumed the roads were either gated, in horrible shape, or both. I was not expecting to actually climb the peak today.

I left Henderson before the roosters woke up, and was over the Hoover Dam before dawn, beating the usual crowds. At the time, the big by-pass was still being built, and the section of US-93 over the Hoover Dam was notorious for long backups. By the time I had arrived in the general area around Mount Perkins, the sun was up. The day was very cold and very lovely. The peaks, including Mount Perkins, were covered in snow from a big storm from a few days ago.

I first tried some "residential" roads in and around the community of White Hills. These are roads bladed in willy-nilly, and homes built wherever the mood strikes. Some are fairly nice, some are hovels. In any case, I had no luck with these roads and soon, was back to US-93. So I tried Plan B, a scanter power-line access road. I drove south to the powerlines and eased to the right (west) shoulder, and found a very discreet wire-stick gate in the fence, the sign just asking to close it afterwards. I went in and hoped the road was driveable.

I drove west a couple miles, then south on another road, now aiming for Mount Perkins directly, covered in white. About 6 miles later, I had rumbled up onto the hillsides directly below Mount Perkins, having gained about a thousand vertical feet, a pleasant surprise given the road had a very gentle grade the whole way. Along the way, I passed through some mine claims. Ironically, the road's quality improved the farther I drove in. I parked in a clearing about a half-mile short of the communications towers, as by now the road had become quite steep and littered with boulders. I was about 1,100 vertical feet below the top. This was a pleasant surprise!

There was patchy snow on the hillsides above my truck. From a distance, the actual summit seemed to be covered over with snow. I packed light, but carried in my snowshoes "just in case". From my truck, I walked the road toward the towers, but left the road when I spied a path that barged steeply up a slope to gain the ridge just southeast of the towers (so I never actually hiked to the towers). I continued up a set of old jeep/ATV tracks up another slope toward a rocky pinnacle and surmounting this, could see the summit and the rest of the ridge I would follow. It looked friendly. Big rocky outcrops seemed to be spaced evenly along the route, while the snow was not an issue yet.

I walked along the ridge toward the rock pinnacles. Paths skirt these pinnacles and the climbing is easy, sometimes using my hands hoist up or down some rock steps. So it went for this stretch: ridge, rock pinnacle, ridge, another rock pinnacle, ridge ... you get the idea. The snow started to get thick the closer I got to the top. One last pinnacle stood in the way. I went left but the snow was icy here, so I turned around and decided to go around the back-side (in dry conditions I think the north side is the proper way to go).

Around the backside the ground had less snow but it was frozen in places. I traversed a slope, then worked my way up a gully, gaining about 40 feet to the rocks at its crest. I found a very convenient ramp that brought me out of the gully and back onto the range crest. From here the summit was a quarter-mile away but obstacle-free. I went up another slope, past one more very simple rock section, then came upon the buildings and solar-panels set atop the peak. The true summit lies a short ways beyond, marked by a large rock cairn and mailbox.

I spent about 20 minutes up top, admiring the views. The best views were west, looking down 4,000 feet into the Colorado River Valley, and then across into Nevada and some peaks in California. I could make out the Spirit, Kingston and McCullough Ranges easy, and even the snow-capped Mount Charleston way off to the northwest. To the east I could make out US-93 down below and big Mount Tipton directly across. The snowy ridges were very pretty, especially from the south and west.

The log book had no signatures for all of 2007, the most recent being some Mohave Sheriff’s employees who helicoptered up here in September 2006 to check their repeater box. Some signatures went back over 25 years. Not too many people climb this peak, which surprised me given how easy it turned out to be. Of more immediate concern was the cool brisk air and the breeze that was cooling me down uncomfortably, so I got moving. It had taken me about 90 minutes to make the summit from my truck.

The hike down went very quickly and I was able to remember my route down the chute. Once past that I almost jogged the remainder, taking time for photographs and admiring the views. I was back to my truck in less than an hour, not unreasonable given I probably only hiked a mile and a half each way. Back at my truck I was surprised to see another truck rumbling up the road. It was an Arizona Fish & Game biologist. She was real sweet and genuinely surprised to see anyone up here. She was up here to track a herd of bighorn, and said I was the first person she’d ever seen up here. I asked if the land is closed to the public and she said not at all, just that no one comes up here ever.

After our chat, I changed into dry clothes and made the 8-mile drive back to US-93. including drive times the entire journey took just under 4 hours. I was very pleasantly surprised to have hiked this peak in what was supposed to have been a scouting mission. I was in Kingman by 2-ish, getting gas, then from there I made the long scenic drive down US-93 all the way into Phoenix, just in time for late-day traffic.

I can only assume the reason more people don’t hike this fairly simple peak is its remoteness, lack of "flair", and most likely, a very unclear road net (and access point) leading to the peak. Those without any maps who want to hike this peak on the spur of the moment would be hard-pressed to know where to exit off the highway. Otherwise, there is nothing barring anyone from a fun short half-day adventure up here. Just beware the mines.

(c) 2008 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.