The Mountains of Arizona •
Peak 5966 • Black Hills
• Bureau of Land Management
• Graham County

Peak 5966 Black Hills, Arizona
Peak 5966 (left) and its north neighbor, Peak 5900, rise up behind a ridge, with Shoat Tank in front
Peak 5966 Black Hills, Arizona
Peaks 5966 and 5900, and a lot of prickly pear ahead of me
Peak 5966 Black Hills, Arizona
The saddle is ahead. I mainly ascended the slopes below Peak 5900 then cut over to the saddle
Peak 5966 Black Hills, Arizona
On top of Peak 5966, looking over at Peak 5900
Peak 5966 Black Hills, Arizona
East view, the Sheldon Mountains which I would climb tomorrow
Peak 5966 Black Hills, Arizona
West view, summit cairn and lower ridge points
Peak 5966 Black Hills, Arizona
View as I exit, more toward the southeast toward Trap Tank
Peak 5966 Black Hills, Arizona
Peak 5966 is the distant peak to the left, taken from highway US-70 near a historical marker. That's Twin Peaks North on the right

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Date: November 12, 2021 • Elevation: 5,966 feet • Prominence: 1,166 feet • Distance: 7.5 miles • Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes • Gain: 1,450 feet • Conditions: Sunny and warm, clear skies

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I was looking at two 1,000-foot prominence peaks in eastern Arizona, this one called Peak 5966 because it does not have a name otherwise, and Ash Peak. The two peaks lie on either side of US-70, near the Graham and Greenlee county line, part of the extensive Black Hills. It's a 200-mile drive, so hiking two peaks promised a better return on investment than one. This would be my first time in the area in many years. My last time in the general area was in 2018, when Matthias and I hiked Whitlock Mountain. However, I have not been farther east on US-70 in probably a decade.

I left Tempe at about 2 p.m. on Thursday, Veteran's Day. Traffic was moderate. Once past Apache Junction, traffic lightened and I could drive at normal highway speeds. I had a hotel room booked in Safford, and I drove straight through, US-60 to Globe and then US-70 to Safford, arriving in town as the sun was setting. I stayed at a Motel-6, living the highlife. I ate at a Jerry's nearby, a reuben sandwich.

I was up early the next morning, on the road at 6:15 a.m., heading east on US-70. The road I wanted is a scant dirt track on the north side of US-70, just east of milepost 366. I was trailing a pickup hauling a Polaris, and wouldn't you know, he turned onto that very same road. Rather than rush him, I drove to a pullout up the highway, waited a couple minutes, then drove back, and let myself in past the gate. This looks to be Arizona State Trust Lands. The gate was dummy locked and there were ADOT signs on the road (Not maintained, watch for cows, a squiggly arrow).

The road was in decent condition. I followed it north, right at the first Y-junction (a left goes to a building and windmill). Up ahead was the pickup and toy hauler. He had stopped, so I stopped well back. I don't think he saw me. Moments later, I rolled up beside another pickup and talked to the guy there, an older gentleman. It was mainly to kill a little time and inquire about roads. He said he'd already seen three vehicles pass by. These were hunters. He probably assumed I was one too, and I didn't say anything to the contrary. I told him where I was headed (Shoat Tank) and he just nodded.

Up ahead was a wire-stick gate, which I passed through. The pickup and toy hauler guy had parked in a clearing just inside the gate. I followed the road on a leftward bend, dropping into a drainage, the only rough spot of the drive for me. My lower front end barely scraped the dirt on the other side of the channel. I made a left turn at a second Y-junction (a right would lead toward the Sheldon Mountains, which I hiked the next day). I was able to inch in another half mile, parking in a clearing. The road had been pretty good until now, but a segment with a heavy lean kind of spooked me, so I parked. I was within three air-miles of the peak, so well within my hiking comfort margin. Just then, the Polaris guy rumbled by. We waved.

I got packed and everything locked up, and started walking at 7:15 a.m.. It was chilly, in the 40s, but clear and dry, and very sunny. I walked about 500 feet to another junction, going left. This road segment was very rocky, more than what the Forester could handle, so I was smart to park back where I did. I followed the road through the Shoat Tank Wash, then a right at yet another Y-junction (a left leads to Trap Tank). From here, it was another mile and a half to Shoat Tank. I passed through another gate along the way. The road tread showed no recent tire tracks. I was at Shoat Tank after an hour, covering about 2.5 miles from my car. It was warming now, now into the low 60s.

I walked a little beyond Shoat Tank, then angled left and started up open grassy slopes, up and down a couple soft ridges, to place me due east of Peak 5966 and its lower northern neighbor, Peak 5900. I followed the lay of the land, through a number of easy arroyos and gentle ridges, until I was on the last ridge emanating off of Peak 5900. A quick look at what was ahead of me was this: the slopes off of Peak 5966 looked brushy and rocky. The drainage leading up to the saddle between the two peaks looked brushy, while the slope I was on looked more open, but covered in prickly-pear cactus.

I kept to the slope I was on, weaving through the prickly pear, then up steeper slope and a couple easy rock bands, until I was roughly the same elevation as the saddle. I then sidehilled toward the saddle, but this was a real chore. Rocks rolled from under me repeatedly. A couple drainages were too steep and loose to cross safely, so I ended up ascending or descending as necessary to cross this terrain. It was short and I was soon at the saddle. I took a break here.

The slopes up to the summit looked steep and brushy, with a couple rock bands, but not impossible. I started up the slope, its grade increasing by degrees. The brush was rarely a problem. I came upon the first rock band, where the brush was denser, and the rocks more of a heap than a true band. I was able to weave through the rocks here, at most needing to hoist up a three-foot step in a couple spots. Beyond it was more steep slope, then more rocks. This band was like the last one, steep and brushy, but with plenty of openings. Once above it, the top was near, but I was uncertain just how close I was to it. To my surprise, once I popped up onto the ridge, the top was just fifty feet away.

I walked to the open summit, the time roughly 9:30 a.m.. I found a register and signed in, snapped some images, but did not linger much. I tagged any high rocks, but wanted to be moving down while I remembered my route, so my stay up top was just a few minutes. The views were tremendous, with Ash Peak to the southeast, huge Mount Graham to the west, Guthrie Peak to the north and hundreds of other hills, ridges and ranges in all directions. I was close enough to highway US-191 to hear trucks engine braking.

Hiking down, I was able to butt-scoot down the rocks and slowly step down the sloppy segments, and I was back to the saddle in a matter of minutes. I thought about climbing Peak 5900, but decided I wasn't that interested. It was warming up now, into the 70s, and I figured I should start the walk out. I kind-of repeated my route, sidehilling the same slopes I had before, but staying higher which worked well. I then descended down through the cactus back onto the lower flats of soft ridges and wide arroyos.

Rather than repeat my route back to Shoat Tank, I aimed more easterly toward Trap Tank, following sandy arroyos until I was near the tank, then onto the Jeep track itself. I followed this out a mile back to the road I was on earlier, then more hiking until I was back to my car, at 11:45 a.m.. I estimate the mileage to be 4 miles to the peak via Shoat Tank, and 3.5 miles coming back. I didn't save that much mileage, but enjoyed the alternative route. Both tanks could be reached by higher-clearance vehicles.

Back at the car, I took some time to change, relax, have a cold coke, and enjoy the weather. By now, it was close to 80 degrees. Two trucks full of hunters rumbled by. One guy asked me all sorts of questions about if I'd seen any deer or tracks thereof. I had seen some deer, but that was 3 hours ago, and they were high up on Peak 5900. I never saw any people or vehicles on the roads I hiked nor off the roads either. Never heard any gunshots either. I don't know where these guys had been.

I slowly drove out, back onto US-70 about a half hour later. Suddenly, I wasn't that enthusiastic about hiking Ash Peak now. It was warm and I was beat. My hike up Peak 5966 had gone well, but longer than I had hoped for. I enjoyed the hike a lot, but figured it was warm and I'm an old man, so I chose to put off Ash Peak until tomorrow morning. I drove back to Safford, got another hotel room, showered and napped, and watched the United States-Mexico soccer match that the US won, "dos a cero".

The next day, I'd be right back in the area, tackling Ash Peak, then a pair of summits on Sheldon Mountain.

(c) 2021 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.