Kino and Browns Peaks in AZ

Harlan W.S. & Craig J
April 6-7, 2015

The first peak, Kino, has been on the Desert Peaks Section "suspended" list since 2003, when the NPS closed off over 90% of Organ Pipe National Monument. The closure followed the death of ranger Kris Eggle at the hands of a hit squad from a Mexican drug ring. (The Mexican police alerted the US authorities that the suspects had fled to the US.)  The porous southern border of AZ was a magnet for drug smugglers and "undocumented alien" traffic.  Even now one can see immense amounts of trash left behind by illegal trafficking in drugs and people.

But much has changed, and in 2014 the NPS re-opened most of Organ Pipe National Monument.  Security is much better than in 2002, and illegal activities have been pushed into the nighttime hours. So the hike to Kino is fairly safe, as long as one doesn't stay there past daylight hours, and travels in a group. Dehydration and rattlesnakes are probably greater threats; see the comments from NPS at the end of this page. We also left water outside our cars, encouraging any possible thirsty immigrants to take that water in preference to breaking into the cars.  I carried a SPOT satellite transmitter, and would have hit 911 if suspicions had mounted.

Because of the security issues, you probably won't want to camp near the Kino "trailheads." However, you can get an RV space for anywhere from $10-$20 a night in Ajo, and you are only 4-6 miles from the Darby Well Road. The road in was in very good shape, at least for the first 17 miles, and one could take a modest clearance sedan (being watchful of the occasional dip and rock).

My interest in Browns was kindled in 2008, when I traveled to Phoenix to visit a friend, and to climb Superstition Mountain the first time.  I saw a rugged ridge to the NE, and my friend casually called it "Four Peak."  I decided to scope out the ridge on the way back from Kino, with a vague plan for doing the technical 4-Peak traverse in later years.

Our track, near DPS A.
The section across Growler
Wash was brushy, and
I would reroute that 1st part
of the trip.
View of Kino to S, from
near the TH. There is
actually an improbable,
mainly class 2 way snaking
diagonally across those
steep faces.  Loose rock
(often perched over cliffs)
is the biggest danger.
Pic courtesy Craig J; palo
verdes in bloom.
Craig and Bill examine
one of many pieces of
detritus left by immigrants
and smugglers
Now we head south
through main wash E
of peak.
Bill and I will stay just R
of rocky prominence;
others will head up wash
to R.
Pic courtesy of Craig J.
Jeff climbs the precarious
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South Kino. From the N
peak, one can see lower
mountains over the top,
so this crag must be lower
than the N peak.
View back north to folks
gathering on N peak
L to R: Bill, Jeff,
Craig (red shirt), John
Photo courtesy
Craig J.
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View NE as we head back down
about to start descent
over NE face
Many beautiful spiky
plants are waiting to
embed in your skin.
View back SW from
just above NE face.
Pic courtesy Craig J.
Bill examines a possibility.
View E across saddle;
one must drop, then
traverse to L.
View NW, over ridge
bounding DPS B
Bill contemplates the
start of traverse.  Pic
courtesy Craig J.
The traverse from saddle.
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From near parking,
view S at peak.
Browns is reached by
a long (20 mile) but very
good dirt road, with some
steep and exposed
The Four Peaks to E;
Browns is at L.
Vetch near start of hike.
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View up at N side of
Browns, showing
class 2 & 3 gully
View SSW over peaks
2, 3 and 4
View NE from summit
View SSE from
summit over
Apache Lake
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Pano S from summit.
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Beginning descent. There
is a chockstone just below
top of gully, requiring a
mantel, which turns back
many folks
The arrow points to folks
who turned back
Imagine hiking through
the manzanita, if there
were no trail!
manzanita flowers
Overkill for this road--
but you will spend a lot
of time in 1st gear.
View back on the
Four Peaks.
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Weaver's Needle to S.
From the NPS Organ Pipe FAQ, as of April 8, 2015:
"The Department of the Interior, National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection has constructed infrastructure and increased numbers of agents and park rangers.Where there used to be a barbed wire fence designating the border there is now a 30-mile vehicle barrier fence and a 5.2-mile pedestrian fence.The NPS has increased the Visitor and Resource Protection staff from 5 park rangers to 20.The Border Patrol Ajo Station in the Tucson Sector has increased from 25 agents to over 500.The Department of Homeland Security has installed towers with radio and imaging technology that also aids in the tracking and apprehension of those engaged in illegal smuggling."