Battleship Mountain, 2004
Superstition Wilderness

Battleship Mountain, a notable landmark in the Superstition Wilderness, is easily recognizable by its large, squarish shape. Viewed from the north, it appears as a massive, unclimbable block of stone that could only be conquered with the aid of technical climbing equipment and skills. I had walked past it several times and had viewed it several others, but never did it occur to me that it might be climbable. I was rather surprised to find a trip report that mentioned that, although exposure was present, but "no technical climbing skills" were required to reach the summit of Battleship Mountain. Upon closer research and inspection, I learned that Battleship is actually a narrow ridge that serves as a separator between lower Boulder and LaBarge Canyons. Although it does appear very blockish when viewed head-on, it really is shaped somewhat like a long ship with a bow, a stern, and a prominent control tower. Intrigued, I set off to give it a try on December, 14, 2004.


Starting from First Water trailhead, I turned onto the Second Water Trail and wound my way up to and through Garden Valley. This lush plateau is filled with desert vegetation and is always a favorite for a morning stroll. On this day, the desert floor was green with a fine grass, the result of recent heavy rains. On the northeastern edge of Garden Valley, the trail began dropping into Boulder Canyon and I got my first glimpse of the Battleship. From this side view, it did not look blockish at all.

Lush desert

Garden Valley

First glimpse

After descending the trail and meeting up with the Boulder Canyon Trail, I joined forces with Gary Thieme, another solo hiker who was out to explore Boulder Canyon. He had started from the Canyon Lake Trailhead and was headed upstream along Boulder Creek, as was I. We walked together and after a half mile or so, came to the point where I had intended to leave the trail and begin making my way off-trail up to the southern end of Battleship Mountain. Having no particular other destination in mind, Gary decided to join me.

We climbed the slope up to the battleship's mid-section on a relatively gentle grade with only moderate vegetation that provided fairly easy walking. Realizing that we had left the Boulder Canyon Trail too soon, we traversed along the slope toward the rear of the ship to a point where the climb to the deck of the ship looked feasible. After a short, hands-on-the-rock climb, we found ourselves standing at the southern end of the long ridge that makes up the deck of the battleship.

Climbing from Boulder Cr.

Boulder Creek

On Battleship's deck

We followed the ridge northerly on easy terrain until we reached a narrow spot in the ship's mid-section. Although narrow with dropoffs on both sides, it was not dangerous to the point of being overly scary. The wind was blowing pretty good however, and we both took great care with our footing. Safely across the narrow spot, we continued along the ridgeline until the mountain became a little more complex. We were greeted with one minor obstacle after another, each one solvable without significant difficulty. After winding our way up, down and through the jumbled terrain, we arrived at the mountain's summit approximately 45 minutes after gaining the ridge.

Along the ridge

An obstacle

On toward the summit

Gary at the top

Canyon Lake

View of the ridge

Gary and Dave

The views were striking and we stayed for nearly an hour soaking it in. The nearby narrows of LaBarge Canyon appeared especially eye catching, with steep, rugged and extremely jagged walls. Not wanting to leave our lofty vantage point on such a fine day, we finally relented and began the journey back across to the stern of the battleship. After re-solving the mountains puzzle pieces again, we again reached the southern end of the ridge and started down. Since the terrain looked very manageable, we chose to descend into LaBarge Canyon on the eastern side of the mountain instead of Boulder Canyon that we had climbed from earlier this morning. This would give us a chance to visit the LaBarge narrows, an impressive destination in its own right, all in the same trip!

Back along the ridge

Ridgeline views

Obstacles in reverse

The southern ridge

The descent to LaBarge was gentle enough and we even picked up a faint trail along the way, which eventually bottomed out on the canyon floor right at the narrows. We walked through the narrows a little ways, looked it over, took a break, and then headed downstream towards home. Viewed from the east in LaBarge Canyon, Battleship Mountain appeared very long and ridge-like -- a stark contrast to the unclimbable-looking, blockish mass that it appeared to be when viewed from the north.

Down off the ship

Pool in LaBarge


The long ridge of Battleship Mountain, viewed from the east

The boulders throughout the mostly-dry, rocky creekbed in LaBarge Canyon provided tiresome walking, but eventually we reached the Boulder Canyon Trail which would lead back to the trailhead. Gary and I parted company, with him headed for Canyon Lake and me headed for First Water. It had been a fine day and it was good to share it with a new friend. Gary had been fine company and we would likely hike together again someday. Gary headed north on the Boulder Canyon Trail and I headed south to pick up the Second Water Trail. By 3:30pm, I was at the trail junction and beginning the long, gentle climb back to Garden Valley. With final views of Battleship Mountain disappearing behind me, I trekked the final few miles across the easy terrain of Garden Valley and back to First Water Trailhead, finishing a half-hour before sunset. It had been a wonderful day in the wilderness.

Viewed from the north

Last glimpse

First Water TH

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