Finger Rock, visible from most of Tucson, is aptly named. This 100' tall free standing tower points skyward, just below and east of Prominent Point on Pusch Ridge. It is perhaps the most recognizable feature from the Tucson valley.
The silhouette of Finger Rock alone is enough to entice most climbers, but only those willing to tackle the daunting approach. An attempt on Finger Rock will put all but the fastest parties in for a long day of very hard work.
Parties who successfully summit will be either highly rewarded or permanently traumatized. The exposure atop Finger Rock is extreme. The teetering flake that caps the pinnacle adds to the excitement.
Approach starts from Finger Rock Trailhead at the north end of Alvernon Way.
Follow Finger Rock trail northward for just under three miles. After crossing some steep slabs near the edge of the cliff, the trail flattens out onto a large, open promontory above the canyon bottom. Here the trail turns eastward.
Do not follow the trail as it turns east toward Mt. Kimball. Instead hike northward, down a steep path and across the wash. A faint route marked by cairns (hopefully) will contour back uphill and around the back side of Finger Rock Guard, the large formation immediately east of Finger Rock. As you approach the formations proper, the trail splits, up and left to the Guard, and down and right to the Finger.
Take the right trail ten minutes until it dead ends at the northwest face of Finger Rock.
Allow at least three hours for the approach, and a little less for the deproach. This hike is difficult, steep, and loose in many places. Plan on a full day of hard work.
If your legs and brain are still responsive after the hike up to Finger Rock, you might as well climb it. After all that hard work, it'd be a waste not to, right?The technical route up Finger Rock begins in the western saddle between Prominent Point and Finger Rock itself. The climbing starts up the north-northeast face of the Finger, immediately above the trail's end:Climb up easily protected flake, past small bulge and cracks, to a ledge with two small trees (~50').From ledge, continue up ea...[more]Browse More Classics in AZ
I've done this now three times. The best roundtrip time was 6 hours, the longest, 9 hours.
A little beta: The Finger Rock Canyon trail stays fairly well tucked in until one gets to the 5000 foot level, where it then has spectacular views of Tucson down canyon leave the trail here heading roughly NW to a rapid descent of 500 vert. to the canyon floor, then up the other side. One is headed 700+ vert. to the saddle between Finger Rock Guard (FG) and what will become Mt.Kimball. There have become many dead end CAIRNED routes in here, good routefinding essential. It's even tough on the way down...I don't know why.
Once In the saddle a trail now leads NWish but this is not the one you want...it may dead end or be an alternate but I would think it cliffs out below Finger Rock(FR). The true trail is more SWish and instead of contouring, ascends the flank of FG with a view of FR canyon, some switchbacks until finally starting around the N side of FG. Just as you round the corner to spy FR it drops down(for FR) There are two parallel downclimbs, one blocked by a tree to some degree, but I found this one more to my liking, then a further descent(short) and then stay with the rock on your L (of FG). If there is one piece of advice: on the way in keep the rock on your left hand sice close. This avoids the unfun bushwhack. You'll stay with the rock of FG on your L within 6 feet always and begin to gain elevation to the saddle between FG and FR. You don't need to go this high, about 30 vert. shy of the saddle see the trail contouring to the rock of FR, it's faint here and a few false routes will confuse, but it's that lowest part of FR proper you'll want, then put your L hand on the rock of FR and ascend to the saddle between FR and the main massif(if you can call it that). You've now just come up the back side or away from the city side to get to this saddle. Interestingly as of Nov '08 there was a large cairn at the west end of FG-FR saddle, looked exposed and not much fun so I can't comment,maybe others can.
You're now at the climb. Take in the view from the saddle, come back to the base of FR look up and start up the steps, there is an immediate step across which will spook some because of the drop off but the hands are good, just get the feet right. You've gone 15-20 feet left and are now looking up the back, sloping part of FR. There is an obvious weakness, almost like climbing a Vee shaped chute. It's probably 4th to low 5th. The only time I've used pro here was Dec 27 after a hard freeze and ice made things SLICK.At the end of the chute 60 vert long is the belay tree with a variety of webbing. Bring your own. In "08 it all looked less than good with one 1/2 through burned from a pulled rope. The real climbing starts here. It's only 30 more feet to the chains just 6 feet below the top. The climbing is 5.6 at its hardest except for one 5.7 "kip up" move with excellent quartz hands. The handholds here will retain ice even multi days after a storm, may need something to chip with. This crux is at the one bolt and is well protected. Usually a piece is places beween the tree belay and here 3/4 or 1" camelot(old style before the C4s) a piece of pro after the bolt is optional as the climbing is easy. My first time I didn't know the chains were so close and I had a piece in; when it was icy: thank you Jesus. As of '08 the chains are long and the bolts look good. A 60 metre rope will get you to the saddle between FR and the main massif with 10 feet to spare. The top summit block wouldn't rock for me this time. I've always rapped to the saddle, I suppose with a large group all at the tree one could have a sling shot belay and rap from there but one cold day I brought up two more to the chains lowered each then rapped myself from the chains. The rap has two places with a little air under your feet, but not bad. Not a place, though, for a newbie's first rap....The famous John McCall did jumps on the top and probably would have done a handstand had we not reeled him in. I'll stand but the jumping up and down is out. But what a view!
I like this climb in Nov and DEc. I routinely hike FR canyon even in summer with a start in darkness but the thought of a long day with the walk out in the direct sun keeps me in these months. For clothing in these months bring long climbing pants, fleece,windshell, GLOVES and HAT and I like the throwitover everything parka to stay warm while getting the harness on and flaking the rope. It's mostly in the shade, you're above 6000 feet and the wind is always blowing. Yes in early Nov once it was pleasant with a windshirt only but...
Keep on eye on the trail as you retrace your steps, especially from the saddle of FG - Kimball as you descend to the canyon floor, damn if I can never get this perfect. Oh yes, in winter the canyon floor can have a nice ice rink, I've been across on all fours but I had visions of sliding down canyon. Good luck, and I hope this has helped.kas
The parking area for Finger Rock has a sign stating it is open from sunrise to sunset. There is a number listed for "overnight permits" (520-877-6000). Their office opens at 8am, so we called from the trail. They informed us that if we were parked there after sunset, we are at the mercy of the Tucson City Police who can ticket and/or have us towed.
To get an overnight permit, you need to either go into their office, or apply over the phone and receive your permit via email or fax (takes 2-3 days)... then place it on your dash.
We decided to just hike fast and were able to finish the approach, climb and descent with a couple hours of light left.
It's worth the hike. How can you consider your self a local if you have not climbed the Finger? I've done it a half dozen times or so, twice up the direct gully approach, with and without a rope. Rated 5.6 in the guide book. You can get down in two raps with 100' of cord, and a sling. The best time I've heard of is 4hrs round trip, by Jeff Siegel. I did it once in 4 1/2hrs solo. 4 hrs one way is more like it. Check it out from the scope at the mall, 2nd level, at Ina and Campbell. Do Billy Goat on the way. If you want more climbing.