Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Years at Cochise Stronghold

This New Years we decided to go on a mini road trip and check out the climbing in Arizona. The predicted weather for the Tucson area was temps in the 60's and sunny. This seemed perfect and neither Lizzy nor I had climbed in AZ before.

So off we went to the Cochise Stronghold for a few quick days of climbing. Hope you enjoy the Trip Report; I tried to offset all the talk with some pictures from our trip since I usually write too much and leave out the pictures.

The steep approach combined with the warm sun allowed us to wear t-shirts even though we had to hike over ice. It was quite amazing to be so warm in the last week of December!
For our first climb we chose to do the classic What's My Line. For some added mileage and a bit harder grade we did the direct start. We set off up the steep canyon to locate Cochise dome so that we could climb What’s My Line. I guess the direct start rarely gets climbed because we found a cam, a nut, a belay device and a biner on our way to the stance below the first pitch.

I was able to link the two pitches of the direct start and ended my lead at the first set of anchors of the regular route. Lizzy, happy to be climbing after the windy belay, zoomed up to my stance and got ready to lead the next pitches. She also linked pitches brining us to a tree belay just below the summit.
The climbing was quite fun and the weather was great despite being a bit windy. In the photo on the right you can see a sea of chicken heads that served as both hand holds and protection.

With most of the gear already on my harness I lead the last 30 feet to the rappel anchors. A team that we had caught up to allowed us to rappel on their rope which helped us quicken the decent and get back to the campground before dark. On the decent we stashed our gear for the next day so that we would not have to do the steep approach again with our ropes and rack.

The next day we headed back up the canyon but this time to the Rockafeller Group. We were hoping to do a few climbs on the south side of the end pinnacle. With light packs filled only with food and water we made great time getting back up the steep approach. We got to our climb early and it was still all in the shade. Based on the orientation of the two climbs we wanted to do we chose Days of Future Passed as our first route. While this route ended up being much more serious than we expected it was a good choice.

After three serious pitches of run out climbing we made it to a spacious sunny ledge. This was a most welcome change from the past two hanging belays. The climbing on the first two pitches followed a large crack system that had a numerous chickeheads along the way. when the crack ended there was one pitch of exciting run out face climbing.

After a bit of food we chose the easier path to the summit and I climbed past around ten bolts to the summit. This was more than three times as many bolts as the previous pitch which was of comparable length. After reaching the summit we snapped some photos and made our way over to the rap station. Three crazy rappels through a chimney and a crawl through a hole beneath a chockstone lead us to the ground.

After packing up all of our gear we determined that we were far to tired and it was much too late for another climb. We hike all our gear back to the camp site and made a tasty dinner in celebration of New Years Eve.

This trip was a lot of fun and it taught me a bunch about traditional ethics and run out climbing. Why do you need gear when you will not fall? Bolts are not the immediate solution but the last resort. The climbing was scary and physical and expanded my mind. Most of all it really makes me appreciate all of the climbers of the last generation. While they may be a bunch of old die hard traddies they really have a lot of balls.


- Luke


Rob Littlefield said...

Sounds like you had a dramatically warmer new years eve experience, glad to hear you're getting out of state and exploring.

lizzy said...

we'll be going back to AZ over MLK weekend to check out Queen Creek Canyon - welded tuff sport climbing rumored to be similar to Smith Rock


Rebecca said...

Yay!! Queen Creek Canyaon!!!! I can't wait!!! :-)