Archive for December, 2011

Mt Lemon and Queen Creek

A bit of shifty weather and the the terrible road up to The Homestead made us consider moving along. A friend of ours had told me about Mt Lemon. It was all hearsay tho, friends of his enjoying it. I didn’t ask many questions, just registered that it was granite sportsclimbing. Seemed right up my alley, so I convinced Nigel and we set off for Tuscon.

Camping was good at Molino Basin Campground, and the weather was great. First day we drove around exploring a little bit, checking out the spot we had a mini topo for, called Windy Point. There were really cool formations, but I was not too stoked, as it looked a lot like Joshua Tree…

Second day we went to check out a place called The Hairpin. At the parking lot we met a grizzled old veteran climber. He could tell us that The Hairpin offered the worst rock on Mt Lemon. We decided to brave it anyway. Got on what we thought were a 5.7 and a 5.8. A couple of local climbers came by and told us these routes were not even in the topo. But at least the routes felt like the grades we thought they were. Then we went and climbed the 5.8 we thought we already climbed. Around the corner there were supposed to be a few climbs in the 5.8 to 5.10a range. But the topo turned out to be absolutely useless. No pictures of the climbs, no descriptions, and tons of routes on the wall not in the topo. So it turned out to be impossible to determine which climbs where which. Either way I got on a steep and thin route that looked interesting. But I stalled out and couldn’t make it up from the 2nd bolt. Managed to get the draws off and bail without leaving gear. Just too thin and too hard for me. Nigel not stoked about the climbing here so he left it alone and we called  it a day.

Windy Point turned out to be a huge disappointment. While the rock looks cool, it seemed like an area suited more for stronger climbers than me, and none of the routes we looked at inspired us. I got on a 5.9 and couldn’t get passed the first bolt. Nothing I could use. Nigel managed to get through it with one hang.

A little more looking around and feeling the stoke diminish from moment to moment, we got the hell out of there. Packed up our stuff and drove off Mt Lemon. We stopped at Coffee X Change and checked weather. It was disheartening news. Cold and rain and snow everywhere we checked. I proposed we try to get a couple of days in at Queen Creek and holing up in a motel in Phoenix for a few days if the forecast was correct. My proposal was approved and we hit the road.

Dinner at In N Out burger turned out to be a marvelous discovery. Best fast food burger ever, by a good margin. Free camping at Oak Flats outside of Superior was good too.

We didn’t have the highest expectations for Queen Creek. The rock is Tuff, and I was not stoked on Smith Tuff, but thought we might give  it a try. And it turned out to be excellent. Not like Smith at all. More pure rock, no pebbles sticking out. Just patterns, ledges, pockets, etc in the reddish rock.

I got on a 5.6 called Fat boy goes to the pond. I felt it was a fitting first route. It was easy, but good. Very enjoyable. Nigel did short work of  it before I surprised myself by getting on a steep 5.8. I thought I was going to fall every move until the third bolt when the angle eased off. I was pumped out of my mind, but because of the runouts I had no choice but to continue to the next bolt. And in the end I just kept going to the chains. Apart from The Homestead, this was the best climbing experience since way back. Absolutely stellar for a 5.8. And just the kind of route I need to be climbing. Steep and pumpy. Good for strength and footwork.

Nigel cruised it and we both climbed an unknown route next to it, really hard bouldery start fro me, but chill after that. Probably 5.8ish.

Then for the main event. A gloriously steep 5.10a. Bouldery overhanging start followed by a long vertical plus section, before an overhanging bulge before the top slab. All pockets, all pumpy as hell. It is called “Pocket Puzzle” and it is aptly named. Pockets everywhere, but just a select few are useful.

Nigel roped up and went for it. Climbing quickly and efficiently he got through it. Great climbing, good footwork, good use of rests and the will to push through the pump. It was really cool to see.

After a rest he gave me a catch on TR, and I flailed away and eventually managed to pull the moves on the bouldery start. Already pumped out of my mind I surprised myself by linking a few moves between hangs on the vertical plus part. A lot of hangs (some of them really long) later I reached the chains. So pumped I had trouble tying out of the rope. But pretty damn happy. Working through a route like this is just what I want. Something that is within my abilities, but requires me to work it to get the sequences down to send.

Pumped out, we decided to call it a great day of climbing after the disappointments of Mt Lemon.

Forecast looked menacing so we headed into Mesa near Phoenix and got a motel, where we are holed up now waiting for the forecast to improve. Tomorrow looks promising so it will probably mean heading back to Queen Creek. Jacks Canyon was on our list, but it sems to be covered in snow and unavailable for a good long while. Too bad…