Monday, July 13, 2015

Piestewa Peak, AZ

Hiked: 7/13/2015
Distance: 2.2 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 2606'
Prominence: 1176'
Elevation Gain: 1190'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.95
Round trip time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Recommended water: 32 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Squaw Peak Drive
Difficulty: Easy

Piestewa Peak, known as Squaw Peak until recently, is one of the most popular hikes in the Phoenix area. It is the second highest peak in the Phoenix Mountains, after Camelback, Piestewa Peak is named in honor of Army Spc. Lori Ann Piestewa, the first known Native American woman to die in combat in the U.S. military, and the first female soldier to be killed in action in the 2003 Iraq War.

I drove to the trailhead on Squaw Peak Drive and enjoyed the free parking. There were some hikers heading up and some coming down, but the 103 degree heat of summer in Phoenix had most sensible people indoors. I was lucky that early morning clouds saved me from direct sunlight on the ascent. The trail is well defined with steps built out of the rock most of the way, though there are some rough spots. It starts off at a moderate incline and climbs to a saddle before getting steeper. In a couple of spots, there is some mild exposure and hand rails have been installed, similar to those found on Camelback. To gain the summit, you need to climb about a 15' section of class 2 with no assistance. The summit has a battered benchmark and you can barely make out the "Squaw" stamped into it. I was alone on the summit and found no register. There are no flat spots on top, just jagged rock, and I nearly fell over trying to get a photosphere with my phone. Time will tell how it turned out. [update: photosphere had gaps from my stumbling and was rejected by Google]. The descent was no problem, except for the sun that beat down on me without mercy. I was glad to get back to the car and cool off in the AC. I took no breaks, other than photos and a brief stay at the summit. Since we were on vacation and I had some family hikes planned, this would likely be my only solo hike for the week.

Getting started

Heading to the first saddle

Steep upper section

Friendly chuckwalla

Another look at the fine chuck

Approaching the top

Final scramble to the summit

Summit view

Benchmark stamped "Squaw"

Looking toward downtown Phoenix

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