The Mountains of Arizona

Peak 2104 from where we parked. It don't look too bad from here

We ascended the slope in the middle. Looks easy from here

Lower part of the slope

Matthias squeezes between some rocks and cactus

Summit of Peak 2104 into the glare

View north, Komatke Road below, farms in the distance

West, Maricopa Mountains, with Woolsey Peak in the distance

Southeast view, Peak 1998 ahead. Table Top is the distant peak to the right

Southwest view, the Maricopa Mountains

Peak 2104 as I exit down a wash heading northwest

Peak 1998

Summit of Peak 1998 ahead

View from summit, looking back at Peak 2104

South view, Espanto Peak to the left, Peak 2391 to the right

Summit of Peak 1998, some crosser trash, and the Sierra Estrella

Peak 2104 from the north, Peak 1998 into the sunny glare, and two boundary markers of the North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness, on the top ridge of Peak 1998

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North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness

Peak 2104 • Peak 1998

Matthias and I teamed again to hike a couple peaks in the Maricopa Mountains, west of Phoenix. We were looking at a batch of three peaks on the north tip of the range, two contained within the North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness, a subsection of the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The third peak lies just outside the boundaries.

The peaks look easy on paper and even when up close, the slopes and ridges look manageable. However, the two that I ended up doing were rockier, steeper and looser than expected, which slowed us. I did not attempt the third peak.

Peak 2104
• Sonoran Desert National Monument
• North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness
• Maricopa County

Date: February 4, 2023 • Elevation: 2,104 feet • Prominence: 764 feet • Distance: 2.5 miles • Time: 3 hours • Gain: 832 feet • Conditions: Sunny and pleasant • Teammates: Matthias Stender • Prog rock bands played: Alec Machacek, Birth Control, Can


I met Matthias at his place, then he drove us south through Maricopa, then west on AZ-238 to the 99th Avenue "exit" at Mobile School. We went north briefly, then a left onto Komatke Road, which runs atop the El Paso Natural Gas Line, which itself spans the whole state. We passed a big landfill, then proceeded north and northwest along the road. The road is a boundary of the Sonoran Desert National Monument. To the west are the peaks and the monument, to the east is the Rainbow Valley, a big swath of open desert incorporated into the City of Goodyear.

The road is pretty good, mostly hard-pack sand, with some ruts and dips from recent rains. Where the road bends slightly more left (northwesterly), it crosses a number of small sandy arroyos. Most vehicles should be fine as long as it has reasonable clearance. This got us to the peaks, arriving about 8:30 a.m.. The day was sunny and mild, not cold at all.

We chose to hike the highest of the three first, Peak 2104. Matthias drove in on a side track to a small turn-around that abutted the peak, literally within feet of the base of the slope. The summit was directly above us, 0.3 mile said the GPS. The slopes were rocky and brushy, but looked friendly. The rock slopes in the Maricopa Mountains, in my experience, tend to be solid. Thus, while steep, clambering over them is usually safe as long as normal precautions are accounted for. We both figured an hour for the round trip.

We picked a slope near the car and started up. Down low, it was a heap of very large boulders, hopping from one to the next. Then the slope steepened, and things went well, until they didn't. The immediate concern was the rock itself. It was "weathered granite", a nice way of saying that it decays into large-size gravel, and pulls easily off the main rocks with any slight force.

For about a 300-foot gain section, this rock was awful, at least I thought so. I would test a rock before using it to hoist myself up, and I must have pulled off a dozen pieces at one point or another. If I had my feet on a rock it would also break off and slide. It was treacherous. We slowly ascended, finally getting onto firmer rocks and a less-severe slope, then onto the main crest where we took a break.

The summit was just above us, but there was more rock ahead of us. But this was the more solid kind where one could usually depend would hold when hands or feet were placed on them. We walked upward through the gauntlet of rocks to place ourselves at the base of the final slope. Even from a few yards away, it looked intimidatingly steep, but once below it, the angle isn't so severe. While steep, the more-dependable rock made this ascent much easier. I felt about a hundred-times more confident on this than the crap down below.

This slope leads to what looks like a crown of low cliffs, but the good news is that slope makes a little left and bypasses this small cliff band, the summit itself about thirty feet away along a tiny ridge. There was a little encampment up here! Mexican crossers, more likely the lookout sentries up to no good. The encampment had a bare-dirt platform, low walls, an old gas stove, a frying pan, lots of discarded bottles and wrappers and a couple old clothing items. There was no sign of actual people and it all looked old. For them to be this far north was surprising, but they apparently use the roads in the Rainbow Valley as a conduit.

We got to the summit and took a long break. I just drank some liquids and vegged. The views were excellent, with cool dry air and no clouds. We could see the silhouettes of Woolsey Peak to the west and Table Top to the south. To the north was mucky haze from Phoenix. To the east was the Sierra Estrella. Down below was an endless din of clinks, pops and the occasional rat-tat-tat and boom. The area is close enough to civilization so that it's easy for the shooters to get here. Even from up top, the noise was constant and loud.

Now time to get down. I wanted no part of that ascent slope, fearing I would just kick a rock loose and slide with it. Instead, I opted to take a much-gentler slope trending west from the ridge into a drainage, then do a long end-run around the range back to the road. Matthias went down a different ridge. My route wasn't too long, about a mile and a half, but mentally, I was willing to hike the extra distance if it meant being much safer.

Our second peak, a low hill of elevation 1,575 feet, lie just north. Of the three, it was the lowest, and I was willing to forego it. Knowing Matthias would beat me back to the vehicle, I told him to go ahead, hike that peak, and I'd just walk to it and meet him at his vehicle, so that's what we did. My exit hike went fine, the rocks were solid, the grade reasonable, with no obstructions. Once on the desert flats, I followed a track, then cross-country, to arrive at Matthias' vehicle. I actually saw him up on the summit from where I was. I took a ten-minute nap in the shade of his car.

Curiously, there were no shooters right here. They were nearby, and the sound was as constant as ever. This is by no means the first time I have hiked on a peak popular with shooters. They always shoot low, and once we're a hundred or so feet up on the slopes, generally out of harm's way. It's easy to hike behind rocks. We always try to be cognizant of them and go wide of them, as they have their right to be here too. I can imagine someone from a different country where guns aren't common would be freaked out by hearing all the shots, whereas we're so used to it, it doesn't put fear into us. Most of the time, we just wonder what the eff the big booms are. Somebody bring their cannon? The acoustics of the mountains also means that the shots sound like they're right beside you, even high on the ridge, but we get used to that. It adds some danger to the experience :).

Peak 1998

Elevation: 1,998 feet • Prominence: 458 feet • Distance: 1.6 miles • Time: 2 hours & 40 minutes • Gain: 791 feet • Conditions: Warmer


From Peak 1575, we drove back onto Komatke Road and southeast a couple miles, to get past all the shooters and to position ourselves near Peak 1998. We found a road and took it in, parking in a turn-around directly below Peak 1998. No one was here but us, the nearest shooters about a half mile away. It was nearing 1 p.m., now much warmer, into the low 70s, but with an intense sun.

The slopes up to the peak didn't appear as severe as those on Peak 2104, and there were a couple ridges that came down to us that looked promising, with gentler gradients. We picked one and started toward it. At first the slope was grassy, then soon, we were on the rocks. With a less severe slope, these rocks behaved. There weren't as many of those chossy granitic boulders. It was much more solid, which was welcome.

We marched up the slope, getting to a small saddle. The summit wasn't that far ahead. But we had to side-hill around one ridge-peak, which was a little sloppy, but not bad. Now we were on the main ridge. We stopped here for a quick break.

From here, the next segment looked real nasty, almost vertical. But when we got to it, it wasn't as bad as feared. It always looks worse than it is. It was a steep heap of boulders, solidly in place, just a matter of picking our way up them. This put us on a small level platform. There was another slope, this one a little looser, but it went fast. We were essentially on the highest ridge now.

Matthias was ahead of me about 30 feet. The summit was visible, about a hundred yards away. Here, the ridge was rocky and narrow. Not a knife-edge, but narrow enough to force one onto the rocks just to be safe. So I grab onto a large boulder, not too hard, but even that little grab moved it and two others with it, collectively weighing 500 pounds (my guess, probably conservative). They all groaned as the heap started to move. You better believe I got my ass back off that in an instant. These rocks had probably been like this for centuries, just waiting for a soft touch to let loose.

I was able to scoot around these rocks. The final few feet went well and we were on top Peak 1998 about 90 minutes after starting. The top, and a nearby subpeak, include two boundary disks from the BLM Cadastral Survey, when they were marking off the boundaries of the North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness in 1994. We weren't expecting any markers, so this was a nice surprise.

We stayed up top about 15 minutes. It was a nice break, the day was warm but pleasant, and we could relax a bit. Even the gunshots were quieter from here. And, yes, there were remnants of a sentry camp up top, mainly an old tarp and clothing. There was no register.

We hiked down the identical route, and were back to Matthias' car about 3:45 p.m.. I was beat by now, and scratched pretty good. We got changed and relaxed again, then headed out, back to Mobile, highway AZ-238, Maricopa and back into Phoenix and his place so I could get my car.

This climb was much more pleasant than that of Peak 2104. It was steep and a little precarious in spots, but I never felt unsafe (except when those big rocks started to tumble). It was just a typcially-steep rocky hike like almost all peaks in the Maricopas are. We agreed that both peaks were Class-2+, with some Class-3 moves, and sustained. The first one wasn't that bad if another ascent slope is chosen. I still enjoy the Maricopas a lot.

Today's music featured Alec Machacek, a jazz guitarist from Austria from 1999, then Birth Control and Can, two prog bands from Germany, early 1970s. I was vaguely familiar with Can, from a video on Youtube that it suggested I may like. And I did.

My thanks again to Matthias for driving. We had a fruitful day in the hills, and I was perfectly happy with the two that I got. They were hard-earned peaks.

(c) 2023 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. .