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curtveld

[TR] Cochise Stronghold, AZ - Nines between storms 1/23/2010

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Trip: Cochise Stronghold, AZ - Nines between storms

 

Date: 1/23/2010

 

Trip Report:

Nothing like a mid-winter break from the PNW gloom to explore sunny rock down south, right? A great plan, but don’t count on any help from the little bastard known as El Nino. For you skiers wondering where all your snow’s been going, here’s a hint:

snotel.gif

But work calendars and plane tix don’t like to flex and besides, washed out access roads and snowy approaches just add to the adventure, right??

 

Day One – Isle of Ewe

Andy and I loaded up on groceries in Tucson (except beer, which can’t be sold before 10am?!?) and headed directly to the Isle, a great base-camp area with nearby sport climbing.

Ewe_camp.jpg

As the sun swung around, we did a few clip-ups on “Trad” Rock (center of photo above), including Baby Junior (5.8, photo below), Stone Woman (10a), OK Corral (steep 5.7) and Isle of Ewe, a classic 5.9 (after the 5.10 ‘boulder start’).

Curt_at_IOE.jpgBaby_Jr.jpg

 

At a glance, the scattered domes of grainy brownish granite of the Stronghold resemble Joshua Tree, though the rock is much more featured, in particular with with chicken-heads and dikes. There are many more multi-pitch routes than JT and, based on this trip, a lot less people.

 

Day 2 – Moby Dick (5.8, 5+ pitches)

We coaxed the rental car through streams, over boulders and through snow to the West Stronghold trailhead. Patchy snow covered the ground and surrounding domes, but with plenty of sun. We scrambled up the actively-flowing “wash” and up to Whale Dome.

Moby_Dick.jpg

 

After the crux first pitch, three more pitches of slabby face climbing lead to the spectacular pitch 5 headwall. Despite the sparse bolts (two in about 100 feet), I was having too much fun climbing the ladder of holds to notice. Slinging chicken-heads for belays added to the amusement.

Moby_belay.jpg

Moby_headwall.jpg

Great views on top before the gut-clenching free rappel off the back.

Whale_rack.jpg

Moonrise.jpg

 

Day 3 – Mystery of the Desert (5.9, 5 pitches)

A savanna hike lead to the Sheepshead area for this gem.

Sheepshead_view.jpg

After the improbable 5.7 dihedral (p1) and some nice climbing up a groove and over a bulge (p2), you encounter the ‘Wedge', a short bomb-bay off-width. If you’re tiny, you can wedge yourself through – otherwise a little chimneying and stemming (not to mention the three bolts) make it reasonable.

Mystery_dihedral.jpg

Wedge.jpg

Veg.jpg

The fourth pitch is a stellar left-leaning hand-crack to a dike traverse across neon-yellow lichen. A bit more face climbing and you’re up. Highly recommended.

Slanting_crack.jpg

 

Day 4&5 – Rain days

We showered, ate restaurant food and hit the Titan Missile Museum south of Tucson for a look at Cold War technology that would vaporize the Soviet populace, should they have elected to vaporize us – or vice versa. The cement-encased underground control room was straight out of Dr. Strangelove. Although ‘military intelligence’ is a favorite oxymoron, it is impressive that such awesome weapons were kept cocked all those decades without ever being fired, intentionally or otherwise.

Titan.jpgBunker.jpg

 

Mendoza Canyon had some sun but an angry rancher denying climbing access, so we visited another renowned winter climbing spot - Mt Lemmon. Well, the photos pretty much sum that situation up, though we did find a little dry bouldering.

Windy_sign.jpg

Windy_bouldering.jpg

 

Day 6 Return to the East Stronghold

Stop one was Owl Rock and the classic Nightstalker (5.9), which featured more cool chicken-heads and another free rappel.

Owl_Rock.jpg

Nightstalker.jpg

 

From there, we checked out nearby Zappa Wall and a couple nice clip-ups Excentrifugal Forz (5.8+, photo below) and Latent Appliance Fetishist (10a), as I belted out these FZ anthems from my college days.

Excentrifugal_Forz.jpg

 

After lunch we had time for one last Stronghold classic and headed for Bee Line (old skool 5.9). The first pitch is ‘the biz’ - splitter cracks from hands to fingers to tips up to the roof – then a flexing layback flake out the right side. And, atypically, hardly a face hold on the entire pitch. Andy cruised the runout 5.7 face pitch to the top.

Bee_Line.jpg

Beeline_climber.jpg

Plenty to go back for!

 

Gear Notes:

No up-to-date guidebook. Great beta from MountainProject.org

 

Standard rack + extra long slings

 

Approach Notes:

Trails and/or cairned. Many of the plants can hurt you.

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climbing there doens't make the indians cry? :)

If the apaches were still around, they'd be taking stronger action than that! Most were killed off by the military and the survivors shipped to Florida.

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Beeline was always a favorite, did Ben Burnham's BS bolted station in the middle of the first pitch crack get removed?

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Great to see the area with all the fresh snow...it's always been quite warm when I've been down there. I bet the desert likes having all that water...

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