Monday, November 2, 2009

1,000 SAHC Peaks Climbed

November 2, 2009 I reached my latest objective of climbing 1,000 peaks on the SAHC Peak list. I guess I am one of those people who need goals to spur them on to accomplish something. After reaching the highest award of 400 different peaks in April 2008, I kept climbing whenever I could and bit by bit the numbers increased until this new goal came in sight.
I started climbing mountains shortly after arriving in Tucson in the fall of 1993. Wasson Peak in the Tucson Mountains was my first. I fell in love with the beauty of the desert and the joy of reaching the summits and then looking down on the spectacular landscape which Southern Arizona possesses. The original top achievement award was the 315 which were peaks identified within 75 miles of Tucson. This took me to remote mountain ranges and onto 4 wheel drive dirt roads to places 99.9% of Arizonans have never seen. All of it is spectacular. We have seen all forms of animal life including bears, lions, coatimundi, fox, antelope, deer, lizards and lots of snakes, mostly rattlesnakes. We enjoy seeing them. We keep our distance and let them live. We also never litter. We have great respect for the wilderness and try to enjoy it without leaving a trace that we have been there except for the practice of hiding a bottle in a rock pile on top with our names written in. It really has no significance. It is just something we enjoy doing.
Once I reached the 315 goal I started leading hikes helping other friends reach their goals. In addition I would go on hikes led by others particularly to the newest peaks that were added for the 400 award. The distance from Tucson was increased to 100 miles to find enough named peaks for this purpose. I never really intended to try for the 400 but while I was off on a family visit Roxanna opened a member account for me on the web site created by John Yau and had started putting in my peaks. Once I accepted her idea I spent a considerable amount of time going through my records and when I brought it up to date I found I had 345 separate peaks already so I accepted the challenge of adding 55 more. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to those who cheered me on and particularly those who guided me to these new very remote areas. The ones most responsible were Doug Howard, Brian Larson and Ron Meech. There were others of course but these three really took on the challenge and I will be forever grateful for their encouragement and extreme effort extended on my behalf.
I must now admit that in recent months I have climbed Saddleback in the Catalina’s on a weekly basis as club hikes. Erika Hartz leads a hike to Blackett’s Ridge usually every Monday and Friday. To reach it you pass by Saddleback, so every time I hiked with her, I took the side trip to the peak. Many do not think highly of this as far as difficulty is concerned but at my stage of life it still takes considerable effort for me to climb. It is 6 ½ miles and about 1,700 ft. of elevation gain and takes me about 3 hours and 20 minutes roundtrip to complete. Particularly in the hot summer months we are grateful to finish before the extreme heat builds up so we leave very early sometimes using flashlights. Another aspect of aging is that my pace is slower now. Erika has allowed me to start ahead of her main group and I usually hike with Roxanna so Erika doesn’t have to accept responsibility for me. If I end later, I will call her at home and advise of my safe return.
This past Saturday Ron Meech led a hike with 15 hikers to Harts Butte, Helvetia BM and Weigles Butte in the Santa Rita Mountains. The wind was unexpectedly fierce and each of the peaks were extreme bushwhacks including rocks, many of which were loose. I was very conscious that I held up the group from the beginning but particularly the last peak. I honestly didn’t think I could make it, but because of Ron’s patience, the understanding of the group and Roxanna and Jim Terlep hiking with me step by step, I did reach all three. Jim steadied me numerous times as fatigue affected my ability to maintain balance. I wanted these to close in on my objective. They were 997, 998 and 999. This was the fourth time for me to climb these peaks, but the only time it was so difficult to finish. For the sake of friendship with Ron and the other hikers, I will limit the times I hike with the group to hikes I am fairly confident I can finish without delaying the hike.
Now that I have cleared this point up I want you to accept this letter as a feel good report on what for 16 years has been my main source of amusement and accomplishment. This morning Jim Terlep came in support of my 1,000th peak. We met him at the route leading to Saddleback peak. Erika and her group were also waiting for me to lead them to the top. Once there, we all signed the register. Roxanna provided treats at a tailgate party in the parking lot to celebrate my achievement.
I am not sure what I will do, going forward from today. There are trail and canyon hikes offered, but being a dedicated peak bagger I would like to continue on those I feel confident I can do at a reasonable pace. I have had unbelievable experiences over the years and have made many friends. I could write another book just about those adventures but I won’t.
(K.O.H) Means keep on hiking,

Jack B. Walters

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