Forbes Route (West Approach)
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An ascent of the Forbes Route is an outing not to be missed, earning three stars not for the technical climbing, but for the experience as a whole. The mountain will make you earn its summit; with a lengthy approach, unmarked trails, fickle weather by Southern Arizona standards, and virtually unprotected yet straightforward climbing, it defines the classic Arizona mountaineering experience. Hikers who know how to belay and rappel can ascend this route if accompanied by an experienced climber.
The drive: To approach from the west, take Highway 86 to Sells. Turn south on what is probably the largest intersecting road in town. If you drive through Sells and start to think you missed the turn, you probably did. You should be heading towards the tiny town of Topawa. Babo will dominate your view to the left until you finally reach a sign pointing to the left for "Baboquivari Peak." There is a building/office on the east side of the road here. Turn east(left) and follow the dirt road until it forks, take the right fork, and follow it to its end at the Babo trailhead. My 2WD sedan made it fine, though I would have liked a bit more ground clearance. Bob Kerry's guide states the campground has water, tables, shelters, and is beautifully maintained. We found no running water, no shelter, and the place looked positively UNmaintained. Plan to bring all your own water, food, and stove if you expect to do dinner and camping. Supposedly there is a $3 use fee, but after 15 minutes of searching for where to pay both at the site and at the office back by the road, we gave up. Hope you're stocked up on good karma.
The hike: Unlike Forbes' and Montoya's first ascent, I recommend you do not do this in July. The hike in could be brutally hot between April and October. Late Fall or early Spring will yield comfortable hiking weather, just bring some warm clothes for the summit. The trail begins from the campground's parking lot, and climbs relentlessly towards the peak. The trail is only indistinct in a few spots, and even then only briefly. The views of Babo and the surrounding land grow en route. After about 4 miles and 2500ft of elevation gain, the trail will intersect The Great Ramp, an appropriately named feature that leads up and left and provides non-technical access to Babo's upper reaches. Some 3rd class climbing is engaged here, and a few old metal brackets still exist along the route. Continue up trough a small section of trees until you reach the base of the ladder pitch, with its distinctive metal brackets.
The climb: Rope up, clip the pathetic bolts if you choose, and don't fall. There are small ledges the whole way up and the climbing probably never exceeds 5.5, and then only for a couple of moves. A small tree with multiple loops of webbing stands at about 100 feet of rope. This is your anchor. There is also yet another ancient bolt several feet to the left of the tree, if you're nervous about using a single natural anchor. Chances are the bolt will fail well before the tree will, though. Belay your partner, exit right, and ditch the rope; you won't need it for the rest of the climb. Note your progress as you continue up as there are a couple spots where it may be easy to take the wrong line on the descent. Follow a worn trail to a spot that seemingly dead-ends. Look left and scramble this 10ft rock face and hike the remaining trail to the flat summit. The view is amazing. Chances are you'll have it all to yourself too.
The descent: Follow the trail back through the brush and downclimb the 10ft rock section. This is the hardest part of the entire climb. Return to the tree and use your judgment on the integrity of the webbing and rap rings. As you rap back down the pitch, you'll be smiling because you remembered to bring a 60m rope. The hike back down The Great Ramp can be tough after a long day. If it's wet or snow covered, a belay from those occasional old brackets may not be unreasonable in spots. Crank back to your car and don't forget to take a picture of the towering peak as you're driving away.
Three or four quickdraws, webbing, rap ring, and a 60m rope. Pro consists of old bolts and even older metal brackets. A solitary 8-inch tree provides the top anchor.
|Photos of Forbes Route (West Approach) Slideshow
BETA PHOTO: Steph seconding the ladder pitch in less-than-opti...
|Comments on Forbes Route (West Approach)
|By Nick Kuhn|
May 11, 2004
For some reason, Bob's comments on this route show up under the Homepage's Comments link, but not under this route description. His own trip report is an excellent, thorough description of the approach, hike, and climb, especially under less than ideal conditions. Lots of pics, too. Here's the link: www.climbaz.com/climbs/baboquivari/forbes.html
|By Anonymous Coward|
Sep 13, 2004
This looks like a really cool climb. Would it be too chilly to do around X-mas time?
|By Nick Kuhn|
Sep 16, 2004
Well, temps are subjective, aren't they? Babo will probably be warmer than a Colorado 14er and colder than Mendoza Canyon. Excluding a winter storm, I would anticipate summit temps in the 30s-40s (~20 degrees cooler than Tucson). However, even with recent good weather, snow and ice can linger on the Great Ramp and the technical pitch. It's not uncommon for winter parties to pack ice axes and crampons and use them. Adds some spice to desert climbing...
Jul 9, 2007
The Forbes route is a great outing in a fantastic place but the 5.6 rating is a bit much. Anyone who has any actual climbing experience can easily 3rd-class the route. After a winter storm it's a whole different deal though.
|By James DeRoussel|
From: Tucson, AZ
Mar 30, 2008
On 3/29/08, there were two new-ish 3/8" bolts on the ladder pitch and a two bolt/chain anchor atop the pitch. Don't know who installed it, but this new hardware eliminates the need to use either the tree or the old sketchy hardware.
|By Clay Allred|
From: Moab UT
Mar 26, 2009
Baboquivari was awesome. First I respect the land very much and am grateful that the nation there is willing to let outsiders come in and climb their sacred mountain. It was very very beautiful. I have just a couple thoughts about the mountain climb.
- We entered and signed the form with no fee, that was nice.
- The trail head on the south side of the campground was pretty easy to find then the rest of the hike is totally obvious.
- My wife and I climbed the ladder section roped up but without rock shoes and it was easy, maybe a 5.5-5.6 move in there.
- The protection on route stinks but the anchors are bomber. Nice setup.
When it come to Babo I say do it. It's great. Keep in mind it is a 5,263 foot climb to 7,730 so it is a workout. I think it took us 3 hours to go up and 2 to come down.
|By Brendan Leonard|
From: Denver, Hollarado
Apr 27, 2009
We climbed the Forbes Route on April 12, after it had poured rain on and off in Tucson the day before. The night before, the summit pyramid was obscured by a cloud, which we didn't realize meant it was snowing up there. The Great Ramp was dry, but pellets of snow and ice were dropping off the top onto us. Above the Great Ramp, we encountered about 4-6 inches of snow all the way to the Ladder Pitch, which was running in water and looked to have a little snow on the route.
All of the decent-sized holds on the route were covered in snow and ice, and I led it, chipping out ice and snow with a big locker the whole way up. Pretty harrowing. The exit right from the belay anchor was covered in enough snow that we roped up for it, and then the last scramble up the gully to the summit was socked in with snow, too. To descend, we rapped that gully (I assume it's usually just a scramble down), then did another rap down to the Ladder Pitch anchor, and the final rap off the route.
What's normally probably a big day turned into a really big day for us, on account of the snow. I'd caution that if you can see snow on the west face of the peak in the morning, the Ladder Pitch might be scary, and dangerous. We had a blast, though.
|By Don P. Morris|
Nov 1, 2009
Sorry to have to say it, but what you climbed and described here is not the Forbes (Forbes-Montoya) route, although the technical pitch on this route is in common with the Forbes Route. Your description is the Standard Route,basically the old CCC trail built in the 1930's that erected the two stairways (long ago the Great Ramp had a staircase) that allowed relatively easy access to the top. The first time I did Babo the lower staircase was still intact and there were remnants of the upper staircase in place.
The Forbes route ascends from the north saddle of Bobo to a prominent notch (ist pitch about 5.2) to a brushy ledge. You then climb a sloping face on your left (50 feet, maybe 5.2). Then you brush over to the trail and climb the longest pitch.
I wouldn't recommend reaching the north saddle from the trail. It is a yucky bushwack. It is easy to camp in the north saddle and you can get water from the spring on Lion's Ledge or from Juniper seep along the trail that leads from the ranch below to the North saddle.
Green's Rock Climbing Arizona has good descriptions as well.
|By hair mama san|
Feb 8, 2011
New bolts have been added so the ladder pitch is much safer. Babo Park sign is standing. Go past the high school and look for promient road on the left. Camp ground is well kept with tables, bathrooms, running water, and firepits. Trail is easy to follow once you get off the desert floor. Many cow trails mislead hikers untill you reach a sign for the trail.
|By Eric Sophiea|
Oct 11, 2012
Fire Info/Trail & Climb Condition: On October 10th we went up the Standard Route (trail to the Great Ramp then the Forbes Ladder Pitch) from the Tohono O'odham (West) side of the mountain. This part of the mountain burned this summer. It appears that we were the first group to hike this way since the fire (one other group signed the register but they came from the East up the SE Arete.
Trail: The fire has cause downed trees/branches, erosion and a lot of overgrowth that has obscurred/obliterated much of the trail. Be ready for challenging route finding on the trail all the way to the Great Ramp.
Great Ramp: The scree on the lower section of the Great Ramp was never good, but now it's very unstable because of the burned areas. We had a lot of rockfall. Helmets are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Forbes Ladder Pitch: The oak at the top of the climb (the old belay tree) burned and appears dead, though it may come back from the base. Do not count on this tree being stable for belay or hand lines. The anchors at the top are still bomber.
Final scramble and Peak: Much of the final scramble is completely devegetated and very loose soil. It will be very sensitive to erosion. Be conscious of where you walk to hopefully minimize our impact here while it hopefully recovers. The peak burned only at the North and West Edges right up to the Cairn/Shrine but the offerings and shrine were untouched. Weird.