North Wilson, AZ (5358’)

(5th CVA Anniversary Hike)

Harlan W. S.
March 08, 2007


On December 28, 2002, Nick N and I went up Wilson, AZ, accompanied by Desert Danny and Patti.  Before the hike, we had both looked at the northern peak, about 2 miles away, and thought it might be cool to bag that peak as well. Alas, when we got to the Wilson summit, we saw the ridge to the northern peak was very rugged, so we decided against the traverse.


Every year I try to do something “life-affirming” on March 08, which happens to be an anniversary of sorts.  This year, my 5th “anniversary”, I decided to try that ridge and the northern peak.  In summary, my judgment 4.3 years before was pretty accurate; that ridge consists of class 3-4 terrain, punctuated by short class 2 stretches of steep talus and boulders.  The top of North Wilson is somewhat spoiled by a helicopter-accessed weather station and cell relay tower; but if you go there, you’ll know you are among very few people to arrive on foot.  The terrain is much more dramatic than could be imagined from the topo maps.


This is a very rough, trailless hike, and would be brutally (fatally) hot in late spring, summer, or early fall.  For the loop, the car-to-car distance is 8 miles, and the accumulated elevation gain is ~4400’.



The “hike” begins from the Horsethief

Canyon Road.  This gravel road (high clearance)

begins on US 93, 4 miles SE of Hoover Dam.

I managed to get my Subaru Outback to the end of

The road.


I took the southern route up to the ridge,

then came back via the northern (much

Easier) route. Whether ascending of

descending the N path, it is important

to change drainages as shown.


Here’s the parking spot (also a designated

BLM campsite) at the end of Horsethief

Canyon Road.





Early on, the hike passes stope blocks of

mafic rocks, some stretched and flattened.


It has been a dry year, yet water is

running.  Flocks of grouse flew up

at least 8 times on the hike, usually near

wet areas.


In many places, the canyon is

wet enough to support cottonwoods

and cattails. This waterfall is passable

on the left side (class 3).





The abundant pools of water

attract sheep…


…some luckier than others.


I finally intersect the ridge; the route

back S to Wilson (sharp peak at R)  is

rough, but …





…the route N is even rougher.  I first climbed

up this fin but found no easy climb-down

on the N side.  Next I head for the ragged peak

to the N…


I get a better look N.

Naively, I assume that once I am on the

“gentler” ridge with the lighter-colored

granites, the hike will be easy.


(Oops. Out-of-order photo.

I look back on the first fin I climbed,

and concur there was no easy downclimb

on the N side!)





I finally hit granites; that’s snow-capped

Charleston Peak in the distance.

Then I turn around…


…and view the last two gneiss-schist lumps

that I traversed. Could I have walked

around the pinnacles? (Not easily.)


Now on the granite, view S.  The

“easy” ridge consists of large blocks,

with many gaps that are invisible at first.

I climbed this block from the S, only

to find a gap on the N side

and 15-20’ of air.





After 2 hours of in-your-face terrain on

the ridge, I finally hit the summit,

where there is a helicopter-serviced weather

and relay station. View NW. By now a thick

brown dust-smog cloud blankets Las Vegas.

Fortification Hill and Lake Mead are in the

distance; Hoover Dam is at L of lake,

barely visible.


I set my camera on one boulder,

clicked the timer, then quickly

scrambled to another boulder.


View NE from summit.





I decide to drop directly WSW from the

summit.  This rock index finger pointed the way.

Halfway down, I had to cross into the next

drainage to the S.




Amphibole-pyroxene rock.







More water on the way down; I found

I had to pick “high-water” routes, and

got a complete soaker on one foot—

not an experience I expected in

 a dry year in the desert.


More water.





Yellowcup (a primrose).