FKT: Brian Janezic - Tucson Eastern Skyline Traverse - 2023-03-24

Route variation
one way
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
2d 5h 53m 21s
GPS track(s)
TEST.gpx24.56 MB

I started this effort one day before the Traverse by parking our van at the Gordon Hirabayashi campground stocked with a running pack and plenty of food. I then ran out to Sabino where my wife picked me up. The next morning I caught a ride out to the Miller Creek trailhead on the Eastern side of the Rincons, at 9:56 am I started the traverse under cloudy skies with an approximately 23# pack. While I had packed microspikes and waterproof socks in anticipation of both icy slopes and post holing, the snow proved solid enough to not need either. I spent most of the day moving through the clouds arriving at Douglas Springs campground right around 10 pm with 30 miles and 10,000’ done. I camped at Douglas with a bivy sack and 30* quilt under cloudy skies. 

The next morning brought light showers so I decided to wait them out in the bivy until about 8 am when they cleared up. The rest of the day was gorgeous as I hiked out Ernie’s Falls trail then did some cactus-wacking to access the Tanque Verde falls area. Some route finding is required in this area through there are some faint trails of use. Ascending out of Tanque Verde Falls to the main parking area I then picked my way towards Agua Caliente Peak using a network of old Forest Service roads and more cactus-wacking. 

I had the summit of Agua Caliente all to myself (a theme of this trip) and was happy to be back on maintained trails again allowing my brain to turn off and make my way to Gordon Hirabayashi where I looked forward to a fridge full of snacks and burritos. Approaching Molino I ran into a friend on his mountain bike and took the opportunity to enthusiastically describe the Tucson Eastern Skyline Traverse to him and his riding partner (photo attached proposed caption “Crazy man explains the T.E.S.T). I walked into Gordon Hirabayashi right before sunset.

After a great night’s sleep I awoke to bb sized hail falling outside. Spent some time figuring out what clothing I wanted for the day then took off with just a hand bottle to Gibbons Mountain, after some route finding touching Gibbons I returned to the van and grabbed my running vest and started towards Airmen Peak. The route to Airmen Peak was marked with faint cairns and I was lucky to have a gpx track from a friend who scouted the route earlier. Though this did not prevent me from making a couple wrong ascent attempts before finding the correct gully to access the peak. The gully to the top is fairly steep and loose, I am not sure I would want to do it in the dark solo. Once on top I was rewarded with some humorous summit log entries and great views, returning to Bug Springs trail was fairly straightforward where I continued to the final peak, Green Mountain. 

Green Mountain Trail still had some decent patches of snow, enough that I missed the first turn off to summit Green Mountain and ended up almost reaching San Pedro Vista before taking the trail of use to Green Mountain. The summit of Green Mountain was nice and quiet, a perfect way to end the route. 

At this point I stopped my watch, sent a couple text messages then jogged back down to Gordon Hirabayashi arriving back at the van just before dark. 

There is a lot of room for an individual or team to move the time down on this route, on no day did I ever get an ‘alpine start’, and aside from the first night I did no moving via headlamp. I was lucky to have an abundance of water in the creeks so never carried more than 1.5 liters at a time and probably could have even gone lighter. Additionally with the out and back nature of Rincon Peak and Tanque Verde Peak a self supported athlete could drop their overnight pack in favor of a running vest or even hand bottle for those summit bids. With the changing weather during my attempt I opted to keep all my gear with me during these remote sections. Overall the Tucson Eastern Skyline Traverse is an awesome adventure and if anyone wants to attempt it, I would happily help out with logistics. This route would also make a great combined backpack through the Rincons then slackpack the Santa Catalina sections.