Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Southern Arizona in the spring

by Chris Thomas

Embarking from Salt Lake City, it was a long 12 hours of driving to reach Cochise Stronghold in southern Arizona. I'd been hearing about this place since I was a teenager, but with so many other places to go, had never made the very out-of-the-way trek to check it out. We were rewarded with impeccable granite, blue skies, a remote setting, and no one in sight for miles.

Sheep's Head dome, guarding the entrance to Cochise Stronghold

Whale Dome. We climbed Dem Bones, an incredible 5.10R that ascends the mottled, heavily chicken headed face just right of the sun-shade line

Sarah on the scenic approach

Top of the first, crux pitch

Leading pitch 2

Without a doubt, these were the windiest conditions I've ever endured in my entire life. Patagonia has nothing on Cochise in a wind storm! While leading the upper pitches (insecure friction climbing with essentially no protection), I was genuinely worried that I would be blown off of the climb. Sarah was being repeatedly picked up and dropped onto the belay anchor, which was nothing more than a couple of tied off chicken heads. Not able to rappel (for fear of our ropes being blown sideways and getting stuck), we struggled upwards, sprinting to big holds in between wind gusts.

Tombstone formation. Stacked with great routes!

Oreos, beer, a big fluffy Mammut jacket, and a great sunset from on top of Hitchcock Spire on Mt. Lemmon

New Wave Wall, Mt. Lemmon

We stopped and checked out the Totem Pole on the way home. This very aptly named spire is unfortunately closed to climbing. For now as close as you'll get to the summit is watching Clint Eastwood climb it in The Eiger Sanction. Still, it was an inspring site.

Chris Thomas

No comments: