Scott Baxter or Karl Karlstrom: Summit Peak/KOFA


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Mountain climber
descanso, ca
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 8, 2008 - 03:33pm PT
I'm trying to find info on a route that Scott and Karl did, a grade IV on Summit Peak (really, it's an outstanding pinnacle...) in the KOFA refuge in AZ. Rock & Road said that Karl wrote an article called "On the Wings of Icarus" but I haven't been able to find a copy of it, or a way to contact Scott or Karl for beta. I've been to the base of the formation but have some questions re: which way they went. I don't want to screw up what they've already accomplished.
Any help on how I might contact these pioneers?

For reference, here's a picture from a nearby summit looking south towards the pinnacle.


Jan 8, 2008 - 03:43pm PT
Karl is a geology prof at Univ of New Mexico

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Jan 8, 2008 - 04:00pm PT
I talked to SB about that climb once, it's supposedly pretty loose. Baxter was prolific in AZ and did some really remote stuff. Some flag types who frequent here might know how to get in touch with him.

Mountain climber
descanso, ca
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 8, 2008 - 04:10pm PT
Thanks TwistedCrank. I'll see if I can get in touch via your link.

Flag, AZCO
Jan 8, 2008 - 06:16pm PT
Baxter lives down in Sedona. If you can leave me a name and number, I can forward it to him.
We talked about Summit Peak on one of our trips down to the Kofa Mountains a couple of years ago. I thought our climb of Squaw Peak was loose and terrifying but seems like it was pretty solid compared to Summit Peak. However, it would be a desert coup if one could get the second ascent of the peak, more than 30 years after the FA. Just when it seems like everything has been climbed a hundred times or so, there are still those old secrets that keep re-surfacing.
David Balfour

Trad climber
Yuma, AZ
Jan 16, 2008 - 03:05pm PT
Anyone find any answers to this question? I am unfortunate to be a passionate climber, and live in Yuma. I've been trying to find some details about this menacing looking pinnacle, but have found nada. I see it almost every other day while at work, it's calling.

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Jan 16, 2008 - 03:25pm PT
I was just thinking about that thing the other day...

Any chance you'd give up the actual location of the spire to me? Always wanted to at least go out there and see it.

Check out those four tiny dudes standing on top...

Mountain climber
descanso, ca
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2008 - 05:10pm PT
i really appreciate the support here. thru your help i managed to speak with both scott and karl. looking forward to an attempt to follow in their footsteps in the next few weeks.

david, you ever climb any of the other formations in KOFA? hope you do more than look. quite an adventurous place!

steelmnky: take a look at a topo for Summit Peak on in the KOFA NWR Az. On the refuge map it's located between signal and squaw.

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Jan 16, 2008 - 05:36pm PT
Thsnk tdoughty! Now I just have to find the time to get out there and check it out. Have been thinking about that thing since seeing that cover shot and article a bunch of years ago. Knowing what total shite volcanic junk can be in Arizona, I can only imagine how bad it is. Maybe we should join forces and knock that sucka off some upcoming weekend.

Here's the original article from Climbing Magazine

Karl Karlstrom
Climbing Magazine, Sept-Oct '72

Many of the things that are important to climbers are vanishing: wilderness, solitude and unclimbed peaks are becoming rather scarce commodities in today's world. The course of action for the climber is the same one faced by the disappearing mountain lion and the wily coyote. You have to work a bit harder - look harder for remote places and be willing to walk farther to get to them.

Four of us, Scott Baxter, Rusty Baillie, Dave Lovejoy, and myself (of the Syndicato Granitica), drove and walked to the base of Summit Peak, a 700-foot unclimbed tower or rock in the Kofa Mountains of Southwestern Arizona. This monolith is a tribute to true desert climbing. It is a staunch representative of the spirit of the desert where desolation, beauty, eternity and change all seem to merge into an indefinite force which, to the desert climber, becomes an irresistible attraction.

The Kofas are a remote and rugged mountain range remnant in Arizona's basin and range province. The loose, volcanic crags and barren canyons of the range, originally a lure to miners, prospectors and bighorn sheep, present an atmosphere which is very different from accessible climbs on good rock. On bad rock the objective danger has increased significantly. The emphasis of the climb and the challenges involved, are in a realm more familiar to the mountaineer (to reach the top safely and to return). But the techniques are still those of the rockclimber. In addition to mastering a technical move or struggling up a strenuous crack, a climb on bad rock requires the exertion of a great deal of mental energy. One must climb with a very deliberate and cautious style to minimize rock fall. Thus, climbing on loose rock requires patience, hardhats, and a certain amount of luck.

This was our second attempt to climb Summit Peak. Baxter, Lovejoy and I attempted the peak the previous year at Easter on the way home from Yosemite. Choosing a route on the west side, we climbed 200 feet of loose free climbing and technical aid to a ledge at the base of a huge chimney which leads up to the notch between the main summit and a secondary spire. The quality of the rock prompted us to name the ledge Tortilla Flats. It was like climbing and nailing a huge stack of stale tortillas. As it now turns out, the aid pitch below Tortilla Flats is probably the crux of the climb - at least the slowest section. But, as with all things, the truth is never known until after it happens.

That time we sat on Tortilla Flats, in unhurried uncertainty, trying to decide whether to go up or to go down. Our devious minds went to work and, in short order we convinced ourselves that we were low on water, in no mood for a bivouac, and generally burned-out. So we went down with vague thoughts of returning someday after the peak had toppled over like the walls of Jericho or melted in the sun like the wings of Icarus.

But a 700-foot unclimbed spire is hard to forget. It sat in the back of our minds and quietly nagged at us. It wasn't an aggressive nagging but rather, almost a seduction - a gentle and persistent calling. I guess we knew all along that we would go back, but sometimes it's easier to break the news to oneself gradually, with ample amounts of time to subdue memories of loose rock and long approaches, time to let the uncanny attraction of the desert take firm hold once again.

With the addition of Baillie to our group we were truly in the loose, jovial spirit of the thing and ready to try again. On February 19, after driving in the night before, we hiked to the base of the climb. That afternoon we had time to fix ropes to Tortilla Flats. Lovejoy and Baillie did the climbing on those first two pitches, while Baxter and I sat down below in blissful inactivity sipping Old Overholt and enjoying the fact that we didn't have to leave the desert floor until the following day. Lovejoy led the hard aid quickly and they managed to get down just as the sun was setting and the desert sky was coming to life. With two pitches fixed we retired to a fine bivouac overlooking the desert.

A fire, a gentle breeze, and more Old Overholt created an atmosphere very conducive to reminiscing. Scott had been the first of us to visit the Kofa Mountains. As a kid he had spent some time in the area camping and exploring old mines and out-of-the-way spots. In 1963, with Milo Prodanovich and Steve Bennett, he made the second ascent of Squaw Peak, the third highest point in the range (first ascent by the Stanford Alpine Club in the 1950's). Years later (1970), he, Mike Kuntzelman and I climbed Signal Peak, a hulking mass which is the highest point in the range. Unlike the range's other high points, Signal Peak is not a technical climb but it, nevertheless, has much to recommend it. In 1971 we returned with Lovejoy, Tom Taber, and Rick Watkins to make a first ascent of the fourth highest peak. We named the peak Bartolomo, after an old prospector who had once lived in those parts. Of the four highest peaks, only one remained unclimbed. From the west, a magnificent wing; from the north, a huge phallus - Summit Peak is perhaps the most majestic of all. As the evening wore on, both the fire and talk died down and we spent a comfortable night in the peak's westward shadow.

The next day the climbing above Tortilla Flats was all free and quite remarkable. The gaping chimney led up continuously for 300 feet to the notch. We had to take precautions to belay in sheltered spots since sitting in that chimney was a little like being bombed in a hail storm. The notch was an incredible place - not really a true notch, but rather just a space which got wider as you went up. The chimney we were climbing in came up into this notch and just continued down the other side. One rotten pitch above the notch led to a semi-hanging belay and another pitch above that led to the summit. Rusty got stuck with the last lead.

After a while we heard him say: "Sh#t man, this is just a hike."

I'm still puzzled as to whether to attribute this odd exclamation to some strange British rating system or, as I tend to suspect, to a more general limey enthusiasm. We left one pin in place on Rusty's pitch, a long Charlet Moser, which had been driven into a most un-noteworthy seam to the hilt. When I tapped on the pin to remove it, my footholds started to vibrate-a good criterion for a fixed pin, I thought. That strange enthusiasm was reexhibited when Rusty got the end of his pitch.

He yelled down in a cheerful voice: "Well I'm at the top now, do you really think it's necessary for you fellows to come up?"

The joke took a minute to register, but with amiable curses we joined him on the summit. Six rappels brought us to the ground just after dark. The descent was terrifying - long rappels over loose rock. At one point the rope dislodged a rock the size of a basketball. All went well, however, and we again settled down under the westward influence of Summit Peak.

So much for the climb - IV, 5.8, A3, six pitches of unique climbing, a beautiful summit, and remarkable views. But the Kofas have come to represent more than a climbing area for us. The desert and the out-of-the-way places in the Southwest have become a retreat where we can rock climb without the intense competition and crowded conditions of a Yosemite or a Tahquitz. The whole point of climbing, it seems to me, is to get away from the hyper-activity of an anguished society and settle down, in as remote a place as possible, to find out some things about yourself - to re-establish some sort of personal harmony. The difficulty of the climb certainly has something to do with it, but so does the setting. The desert provides the most peaceful setting I've ever climbed in. Its very desolation and ruggedness gives one the feeling that there isn't (indeed that there never can be) any hurry or need for frenzied activity - no competition, no heroics, no vanity. For the desert, if you listen to it honestly, precludes such things.

In the past years we have slowly been consumed by the desert. It has drawn and taught us. We have gradually come to identify, more and more, with creatures who dwell in these barren lands, like the buzzard and the coyote. It is only they who truly understand it.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 16, 2008 - 11:54pm PT
Nice obscure summit! Hey buddy, could ya spare a few Tronos?
David Balfour

Trad climber
Yuma, AZ
Jan 26, 2008 - 11:29pm PT
Well, I finally got to hike up Signal Peak on 26 JAN and we thought we'd swing by Summit peak for a little recon. Much to my suprise, I'm not sure if it was tdoughty or steelmnkey that I saw preparing for the climb, but I hope the party made it to the top, and hopefully they have a little bit of beta to share!

Social climber
Newport, OR
Jan 27, 2008 - 02:24am PT
My hats off as well to the original Trono Posse!!

Mountain climber
descanso, ca
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 28, 2008 - 11:36am PT
David, fancy meeting you in a place like that! we didn't summit, but had an amazinag adventure! Here's ts following jb up the first 4th class pitch:

And then ts leading the crux 2nd pitch (5.10c/d x). you can see the 3/16" bolts that baxter installed right above t's head. when i talked to scott b. on the phone he said he installed them because of a loose block (still there) and he said it "was probably why i'm still alive today."

here's a couple of shots of ts on the lead and jb following:

And then the rain came!

we bivied in the only flat spot around, and it rained all saturday night and on the hike out on sunday:

hats off to baxter and karlstrom!

David Balfour

Trad climber
Yuma, AZ
Jan 29, 2008 - 04:55pm PT
Thanks for the reply. It truly does look awesome. I remember checking on you guys with the binoculars, wondering if you'd finish it the next day. I gotta say though, I'm a little worried about the "x" rating you gave it. I don't much like that idea so far from the car. Was there no pro?, or is it just the nature of the rock?

Old Pueblo, AZ
May 14, 2010 - 01:50pm PT
Anxious Melancholy

Mountain climber
Between the Depths of Despair & Heights of Folly
Oct 6, 2010 - 01:27pm PT
Cooling of nicely here in SoCal, and looking forward to another season of KOFA exploration. What will it be next?

Squaw and Old Smokey
adrian korosec

Oct 6, 2010 - 02:22pm PT
I'm in Tucson and always up for this type of climbing. The tougher the approach, the more I like it.

Willing meet out at KOFA if anyone wants to go.


Trad climber
Oct 6, 2010 - 02:38pm PT
beautiful. AZ pride.
scott baxter

Gym climber
sedona, arizona
Oct 6, 2010 - 11:09pm PT
Anxious Melancholy,

Nice photo of a world lost to a current generation. May the anxious and melancholy few rediscover it, and not the masses. long live the desert.
rick d

ol pueblo, az
Dec 8, 2013 - 09:50pm PT
Well walked into look at this over the weekend. 3 miles of hiking a wash and some steep unstable soil/rock, and lots of cholla. We came in from the north up Summit wash from the Queen Mine road. I thought the tower would be taller but the uphill side is maybe 400'. We looked over the original north face route and skipped even starting this. 40 degree daytime temps drove us back to wine and a warm meal at the truck.
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