Ten Ewe Mountain

December 30, 2021


Kofa Mountains, AZ

Ten Ewe Mountain is one of the higher summits in the Kofa Mountains in the SW corner of Arizona, but is overshadowed by Signal Peak. The highest peak in this range boasts over 1000 m prominence making it one of the more sought-after objectives in this broader area. The ascent of Signal Peak is nothing fancier than a “walk-up” but Ten Ewe Mountain offers some scrambling challenges. Over the past few days I had kept talking about Signal Peak as it just looked cool, but Adam had already done it. Adam then threw out the idea of bagging Ten Ewe Mountain which shared most of the approach with Signal Peak, and because of that we could do Signal Peak afterwards if time/energy allowed.

Ten Ewe Mtn. and Signal Peak standard route. GPX DL

The crux of Ten Ewe Mountain/Signal Peak was the drive-in. By this point I had already started to gain some experience in this part of the deserts and very often the biggest challenge and unknown is the road access. The main access road into the Kofas is fairly well-driven for all kinds of uses, but still, we must negotiate about 20 km of dirt roads. We only had Adam’s Subaru on this day so care must be taken. Adam knew the direction as he had driven this road in the past, and the road was also clearly marked on the Gaia map, so fortunately the navigation wasn’t a challenge. Overall the road was better than expected with no particularly bad spot, but the roughness was sustained such that we had to plod at a very slow pace. The bonus was the scenery in the late-afternoon lighting that I was absolutely blown by the volume of the spires and towers in this range. Even some of the road-side spires looked to be at least mid 5th class by the easiest route. If the access is better (ie. on a paved road), then this range could become another Joshua Trees…

Summit Peak with Old Smokey Mtn. and Squaw Peak behind in the shade
Signal Peak massif from the drive-in.
Driving up the canyon now. The Kofas is a very rugged range

We found a decent spot to set up camp about 500 m from the trail-head and the night had become fairly cold. We did camp at a higher elevation zone than the previous few days but the temperature felt to be at least 10 degrees colder. In the morning we packed up camp quickly and started the hike without much of lingering. The weather forecast for this particular day was not very inspiring with chances of rain later in the day, so we wanted to get off the peaks before the weather turned on us. Adam and I took turns setting a blistering pace into Indian Canyon following the unofficial, but well-defined trail. The approach was rather boring without much to see, but we did gain elevation efficiently that in short time we had made to the broad pass between Ten Ewe Mtn. and Signal Peak. There was some undulating terrain near this pass and we followed the trail for a little longer than I thought before leaving it towards Ten Ewe Mtn.

Adam starting the plod with Ten Ewe Mtn. ahead
The typical ascent on the lower slopes
It’s not obvious in pictures but we were following a well-defined trail
Nearing the broad pass between Ten Ewe Mtn. and Signal Peak

Adam led us scrambling up and over a smaller ridge and dropped to the base of our objective. The scrambling up the NW Face looked to be intimidating. I had done zero research so just followed Adam’s lead. In short time we had ascended into a gully which steepened into a chimney near the top. Adam and I used very different techniques to get out of the class 3 constraint onto the NW Face proper. Little did I know that the chimney was already the crux of this ascent, so it was nowhere “class 4” like Adam sold it to me. The upper face had a series of ledges with some hands-on scrambling and route-finding, but the terrain was fairly easy overall. Near the summit we might have scrambled a harder route than necessary, but it really didn’t matter. The views were inspiring as expected with Squaw Peak and Summit Peak stealing the show. Both of these spires would be major allures to climbers if located elsewhere.

We had left the trail to scramble towards Ten Ewe Mtn. by now
Adam leading us into the correct gully
The class 3 chimney constraint at the top of this gully
Summit Panorama from Ten Ewe Mountain. Click to view large size.
I wonder what would be the easiest way up Summit Peak
Squaw Peak looks just as pointy. Absolutely no beta anywhere about this peak
The northern Kofas in the foreground
The layer of fog is very rare for a desert state like Arizona
Squaw Peak and Old Smokey Mountain in the foreground
Me on the summit of Ten Ewe Mountain

The ascent had taken us about 1 hour so we definitely had time and energy for Signal Peak, but because the weather was moving in we still had to hurry. Descending the upper face got us briefly confused as none of us paid attention to look back while ascending, but such was no longer an issue in the new era with GPS technology. We checked the phone numerous times to make sure we found the correct entrance of that crux chimney. Lower down we got off route again and down-climbed an awkward 3rd class bushy step. Not far after that we had descended to Ten Ewe/Signal col and the day continued with an ascent of Signal Peak.

Adam descending the upper face
Checking GPS to make sure we could find the chimney
Looking back towards Ten Ewe Mountain after finishing the scramble