Haystack Peak (AZ)

January 3, 2022


Quartzsite, AZ

Haystack Peak is somewhat overlooked as it’s both lower and more difficult than the neighbour, Ibex Peak. The higher neighbour boasts over 1000 feet of prominence but Haystack Peak does not. The scramble on Haystack Peak is also “class 3” and that’s assume one finds the easiest route. It’s very easy to get onto class 4 terrain for those not competent in this route-finding thing. Adam had tried this peak one time in the past but ran out of time. This time, Adam, Matthias and I came here with ropes and harnesses such that we definitely would bag this summit, one way or another. Earlier in the day Matthias and I had scrambled Ibex Peak. Adam had already summitted Ibex Peak, so opted to started later to meet us directly at the second Ibex/Haystack col closer to Haystack Peak.

Ibex Peak and Haystack Peak scramble link-up. GPX DL

Adam led Matthias and I scrambling up a ramp system on the SW Face to access the complex west ridge. This was the route that Adam discovered in his previous attempt and went easier than the GPX track I downloaded from peakbagger.com. I did not pay attention to much of the details in this stage as I just followed. We then easily ascended to near the top of a subsidiary bump on the west ridge of Haystack Peak, and made a gradual descent to the col between this bump and the main peak. Up to this point the scrambling was at most “class 2” but things started to look more seriously ahead (but also more fun).

Matthias traversing out of the second Ibex/Haystack col on Haystack Peak side
Adam leading the way.
The start of Haystack Peak’s scramble was not very enjoyable
Adam led us onto this ramp
Matthias on the typical terrain on this ramp
This ramp was similar to Ibex Peak’s in terms of scrambling difficulty
Onto the broad west slopes heading towards the west subsidiary bump
Matthias plodding up with Ibex Peak behind
Me descending that subsidiary bump with the main peak ahead.
A closer look at Haystack Peak’s summit block

I took a look down into the valley/slope to the north and made a note that we should descend that way to short-cut our return hike. Bob Burd’s party had taken the same exit such that I briefly remembered that trip report. The terrain ahead appeared steep and complicated so we ditched a pole and donned harness. I did not bother to use rock shoes as it didn’t look harder than “class 3” to me. Indeed, with some careful route-finding we did not encounter any major crux, but the exposure was quite severe at places. We made a rightward diagonal traverse while ascending this face, and then scrambled back climber’s left to get back onto the ridge crest.

Matthias and Adam scrambling the exposed class 3 terrain
Adam traversing the upper west ridge

The next section would be following the ridge but we faced several steps and notches. I led the group tackling these obstacles mostly head-on, but a few did require some brief detouring to the left or right. One down-climb looked impossible but I found a way on the north side of the ridge crest. At the base of the summit block it’s apparent that we wouldn’t be climbing the direct route. I did not do much research, but the only way to keep this within the realm of “scrambling” was to traverse south. Adam and Matthias ended up traversing a far ways to the south with some up-and-downs. I found a weak spot and scrambled a short, but exposed “class 3+” cholla step to short-cut this traverse. We then scrambled the summit block from the SE side with a few more easier 3rd class cholla steps.

Much closer to the summit block now.
After traversing onto the SE Face we started ascending again
Adam traversed even farther but now traversing back to join my route
Adam approaching the summit of Haystack Peak
Summit Panorama from Haystack Peak. Click to view large size.
Some lower sub-peaks of Haystack Peak to the SE
Ibex Peak was our previous objective
Me on the summit of Haystack Peak

On the descent we all down-climbed our respective routes off the summit block. While down-climbing my difficult route I got another cholla ball in my ass, but I managed to remove it myself. We then carefully down-climbed the rest of the difficult terrain back to where we ditched the poles and extra food/cloths. Adam pointed out that he wanted to bag the unofficially named “North Haystack” so we definitely would have to descend into this north side valley. The upper 100 m descent was quite unpleasant but eventually the terrain eased off. Matthias and I weren’t keen about that add-on summit, so leisurely traversed back towards the vehicle. The traverse was a long one with lots of up-and-downs and at least one hour of side-hilling. I started to wonder maybe it’s faster to just down-scramble back to Ibex/Haystack col and take the standard route back. Once back to the 4Runner Matthias and I drove to a better position for Adam’s return. The driving was not easy, but this saved Adam for at least 1 mile of plodding on the boring desert floor.

Me starting the descent. I was tired and beat as this was my Day 15 in this trip..
The first bits of 3rd class down-scrambling
Matthias negotiating a cholla step
A few short up-climbs on the west ridge
Adam balancing across a narrow stretch, with the true summit behind
Already done the hardest parts of the day
An obligatory shot of the chollas…
Adam leading us into the north side valley
The initial 100 m was steep and unpleasant
We descended back into sunshine
Adam continuing down with “North Haystack” ahead
Matthias descending the typical talus field
Matthias and I parted ways with Adam at this spot
A long while later this is a review shot of Haystack Peak from near the vehicle

Matthias and I waited for Adam for about an hour and Adam reported that “North Haystack” was harder than expected with very high cholla density. I was not surprised. After getting out of these rough roads Adam and I parted ways with Matthias. We firstly made a slight detour back to Blythe for some massive burritos in La Paloma, then drove a long ways north to Lake Havasu area to meet up with Sean Casserly the next day.