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[TR] Cragging Near Phoenix- McDowell & Camelback Mts. 2/20/2006

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Climb: Cragging Near Phoenix-McDowell & Camelback Mts.


Date of Climb: 2/20/2006


Trip Report:

Off to the sun for President's Day Weekend, Phoenix beckoned. We used Phoenix Rock II, by Opland, for route descriptions.


Day One: We tried to climb at Camelback Mt. on the Sunday of a three-day weekend, big mistake. The line to get into the parking lot was like the line to climb Frogland on a weekend. Cars for miles and lots of retired people with fanny packs making their way to the trailhead. Time for Plan B.


McDowell Mts.: We headed north and a bit east and ended up about 45 minutes from town at an area called Morell's Wall Parking Lot, aptly and beautifully named. After about ten minutes of hiking we found two nice moderates to warm up our cold Washington fingers on. The first one was a 5.7 called Seven-Up and it was pretty straightforward. Four bolts on a slabby face with consistent moves all the way to the top. The bolts were old but were secure. On top the anchor were three brand new, shiny anchor bolts but no chains. Hmmm...not very bright.


We ran up and down that one to warm up and then moved around the corner to another 5.7 Back to the Wall. We top-roped this one by moving our anchors from the previous climb and I'm glad we did. (btw, there are three sets of anchors on top). This one had one or two hollow sounding flakes that would've taken some nice gear but probably not held it. It had two or three bolts on the face and three anchor bolts (again, no chains) on top. Pretty fun climbing up into a shallow cave, past an abandoned nest, topping out at about 60 feet. Pulling the rope after rapelling was painful because of the lack of chains.


We headed back down to the road and across to the other side to climb a 5.6 called Phoenix. This one climbs a nice granite face and also utilizes the arete to gain the top. There's a nice two foot jump across to the belay. Only one bolt on top of this one but places to back it up with a piece or two. We walked off this one to the left. Although this one was rated 5.6 it seemed a bit harder if you just stayed on the face. I finally gave in and reached for the arete but it was a lot harder than some of the 5.6s I've done in the Icicle. Three or four bolts on this one and a nut or cam for the top. All three of these climbs were fun but they were not very aestetic and there weren't many great moves...but it was sunny and we weren't complaining. Some chains up top would make things much nicer.


Monday we headed back to McDowell Mts. to Sven Slab. We had our eyes on a 5.5 called Quaker Oats. We met up with a buddy so we'd all three climb this two pitch route. You can do it in one pitch but we were both eager to get some early season easy leads in so we split it up. The first pitch went at 5.5 straight up the right side of the face for about 100' with 5 bolts to a big ol' eyebolt for belaying and rapelling. We backed it up with the somewhat stout tree there. After that is a shorter pitch of 60' up to one solitary bolt and not a whole heck of a lot else to back it up. There was one spot on the right where I sorta slotted a nut but it wasn't the best. The bolt did have a quick link for rapelling. The book said we could walk off right (Class 4) but it did not look safe so the last guy rapped off the solitary bolt back to the eye bolt. One rope got us from the eye bolt to the ground and also opened up some nice TR opportunities next to our route...but...we had to go back.


Tuesday we met up with another friend and had our eyes on the Praying Monk that we got turned away from earlier because of the crowds. Today there was no problem and we got the front parking spot and headed toward the Headwall. There are a few ways to get up the Headwall to get to the Monk and we chose the 5.4 route up a water chute. This was pretty straightforward with six or seven bolts and another huge eye bolt and also two smaller eye bolts for rapping back down. The fire department was out practicing with their litter so we felt pretty safe if we were to have an accident today. Where were they when I'm climbing 5.11?


So we headed up the Headwall and then another 100 yards to the Praying Monk. There are three or four routes up this but we chose the 5.7 route because we had an absolute beginner with us. The start is on the SE side, called the East Face, and has a variation. You can walk up into the cave, take off about 20 feet of the climb and it goes at 5.3 the rest of the way, or you can start at the bottom and climb 5.7. The route is very exposed and very fun with lots and lots of handholds and bolts just about every 8-10 feet. They used small eye bolts instead of the regular bolts you see scattered about most sport climbing places. Are they any better? Cheaper? I don't know. The route was nice and moderate and consistent and fairly long. I would guess over 100 feet. On top is a great view of Scottsdale and Camelback Mt. There was another large eye bolt for belay and then two more big ones for rapelling. It's a very fun free rappel off the south side. Your feet aren't on the wall for very long on this one. I would definitely recommend this one for a beginning leader or as a Phoenix classic, a very enjoyable climb. It was much more aestetic than the other stuff we did in McDowell. The rock is basically petrified mud and it took awhile to get used to but I didn't have any rock come away in my hands on Camelback. We only needed about 10 quickdraws on this one and used a 60m rope to get back to the ground. You have to rap back down the headwall to get to the trail to head back to the car.


All in all it was a great weekend getaway. There was barely anybody out at the McDowell Mts. and it really reminded us of City of Rocks with sparse crowds and rocks and routes everywhere. Camelback was crowded on the weekend but nobody was there on the weekday.


Can't wait to get back.


Gear Notes:

Mainly quickdraws and some cams and nuts scattered here and there to back up anchors and run out areas


Approach Notes:

Southwest Airlines was late on every connection by more than half an hour. Boo.


Rental cars work very nice on dirty, bumpy roads out to McDowell Mts.

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Next time check out Gardener's Wall in the McDowell's if your into primo AZ 5.5 routes. 2 pitches of stellar crack. Also Queen Creek for hundreds of sport routes, Pinnacle Peak's worth checking out for better granite. Camelback is probably the worst place to climb in the Phoenix area. Also the Supes are good for stout trad routes on quirky, cool rock. BTW the Supes were hit with snow this last weekend!

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