When Dinah and I drove across the Nevada-Arizona border last year to climb Liberty Bell Arch Peak in Arizona, we had to contend with long lineups. Prior to crossing Hoover Dam, vehicles were subjected to security checks. But that's changed. Recently the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (aka Hoover Dam Bypass) opened, literally paving the way for a quick border crossing. Three weeks after it opened, we took advantage of the new bridge to cross into Arizona to climb Fortification Hill. Fortification Hill, a mesa 1.6 km long, is an extinct volcano.
We followed the route in Branch Whitney's Hiking in Southern Nevada. We didn't have a 4WD vehicle, so we had to hike 3.8 km up Fortification Road to the trailhead. The trail was well-defined and we encountered no problems. It led us up a wash before ascending a ridge. The ridge, in turn, led to the base of the cliff band. After climbing up through some rocks – a brief, easy scramble – the trail followed a ledge above a vertical drop. It's safe enough if one stays on the trail, but straying off of it, we later learned, could have tragic consequences. After the trail traverses the ledge, it climbs again to reach the plateau of Fortification. From there, it's a long walk to the summit.
Although Fortification Hill was a pleasant enough hike, I was surprised when Shin said he wished he could have joined us. He had climbed it before so I wondered what the attraction was. Then he explained.
Two years ago, almost to the day, Shin had lost a hiking friend, Jay, on Fortification Hill. Jay, an experienced climber, had left the trail on the ledge to scramble up the cliffs when he fell 20 metres. He died of head injuries. Shin was on the trip when the tragedy occurred. Shin was only 60 m away at the time but neither he nor anyone else saw him fall. Shin had taken plenty of photos of the trip, but not until later, when he examined them closely, did he realize that he had unknowingly taken a photo of Jay. He had caught him climbing just before he fell. The weekend after Dinah and I climbed up Fortification, Shin and some friends commemorated Jay's passing.
Fortification Hill from Kingman Wash Road
Our hike started here since we didn't have 4-wheel drive
After leaving the road we started up the trail
We ended up on the skyline ridge in the centre
The trail leads to the base of the cliff band before turning right
Heading to the cliff band. Mount Wilson on the right (mouse over)
A brief scramble leads to a ledge
After climbing up we reached the plateau
Heading to the summit
A rock wren on the summit
Posing by the cairn
The Hoover Dam Bypass and Hoover Dam
Starting down from the summit
On the way back we stayed on the trail
A cairn (top left) marks the descent route to the ledge
Following the ledge back
On the road, Fortification in the background
Hoover Dam 1:24,000 Topo (8.5 mi, 3720 ft, 2444 ft)