The west expanse of the Reef of Rocks as seen from...
There are three formations here, Neptune. Aegir, and Posieden with routes on the upper and lower sections. The north facing walls are known as the red walls and tend to have steeper harder routes. This is an area that still gives me butterflys on the approach. Most of the routes are trad and it takes a long run out with something to hit on the way down before it gets an R. Many of the routes would be considered at least PG-13 these days. This place has seen two fatalities so you need to be careful. Some of the climbs are fantastic and the views are spectacular. You will rarely find others climbing at the Reef due to it's intimidating nature. So if it is adventure you want it is worth a visit. Best time to climb here is May to October. It can be dicey in July and August due to the summer thunderstorms so an early start is a good idea. As for dogs, people take them but they need to be sure footed as a mistake can be bad. My dog took a 30 footer and was fortunate enough to escape with some scrapes and bruises. It did ruin the day for the four of us and we all headed home early.
Drive to the ski area on mMt. Lemmon. Continue past the parking area through a usually open gate and park at or just past the left hand hairpin turn. It is less than a quarter mile past the ski area parking. At the lower end of the guardrail follow trail down the ridge for 20 minutes or until the trail begins to switchback. Most folks stash packs and rack up at this point. Follow the switch backs down the N. side of Neptune which will be on your left. Descend until possible to get on a large ledge that leads (short scary third class section) around to the west side of the formation. This ledge divides the formations into upper and lower faces. To reach the lower faces drop down one of the gullies or rap from something. It might take more than one rope.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Reef of Rocks:
Follow the great hands to finger crack to a small roof. There are good jams to be found the whole way, but the only true crack moves are the fingerlocks leading to the roof. Great pro the entire way. Pull the roof (don't fall here), clip a bolt and continue to the anchors. This is a must do for Mt. Lemmon. This climb would be a classic almost anywhere. ...[more]Browse More Classics in AZ
Impressions from first trip out there: Give yourself some extra time the first time you go down there. The start of the trail is thin on cairns and littered with debris from the fire. We put in a few more.
Once you get to the right area to descend, the only part of the formations you'll be able to see is the north face of Neptune, with a big widish splitter corner towards the right side. Watch for this because there are more cairns that keep going to the lower areas of the Reef that are in Kerry's guidebook. The acess to all three Sea God areas is by this gully next to Neptune.
Since there's very few bolts or bolted belays, pay close attention to the topos to not get off route, we brought a photocopy of the relevant page along to jog our memories.
another impression from first trip: with the long approach capped by the gully of death, i think i can see why nobody climbs here.
although it really wouldn't be all that bad without the gully of death. if you could rappel in from the top of the reef--maybe set up 3 rappel stations on each formation--i think this would be a more popular area. i've never done anything like this before but i volunteer my assistance if someone wants to do this.
I thought it was kind of cool to have to use a little more self-reliance to find the route, set up gear belays, etc..I waited a couple of years to go down there after starting to trad climb
But thankfully we didn't epic and end up on some old school 10+ X death slab instead of the route we wanted.
Presumably any rap station might also become a belay station on an existing route, so any would-be bolter would have to get permission from the FAs to add them, on the Sheepshead for example, the FA himself (Scott) added the bolted belay staions.
Watch out for Rick D, he'll be coming to get you hehe
the lack of bolts and subsequent self-reliance was very cool; hiking down the gully of death was not.
and you are right, it would be tricky to set rappel stations that could not also be used as belay stations. my guess is that it might be difficult to get the permission of the old-school traddies who put up these badass lines to potentially soften up their route for the rest of us. still, if it can be done then it seems like it would be a great benefit to the tucson climbing community because the reef is a very cool place.
I guess that was you "Guy's" I saw hiking in sunday morning? I was riding my bike up the access road. Still working on getting that old knee strong again. I doubt anything will change out there? Talking about making an old hardcore trad area more accessable most likely won't happen here, but you never know who is willing to make it happen.
Considering we went down the wrong gully which truly was a death gully we should probably reserve judgment on how bad the correct gully is. At least no one had to cut their arm off with a Swiss Army knife. :-)
Careful of the monsoon storms. They can sneak up on you out here. We started up Warm and Free today in clear skies, and right before we were about to head up Rapture it turned dark in a matter of minutes. It blew through and barely spit on us, but I can imagine it could have been a little crazy if it had full on stormed.
I thought the approach wasn't that bad. The extra rock carins really helped out, thanks guys. What this area needs is a good dose of chainsaw! The gully we went down was steep and exposed 4th class, but if your leading 5.8 trad this shouldn't be a problem in the least. I cherished the committing nature of the area, the awe of going around the crouton separator was inspiring. Should a rap station go in, something going down Aegir could go down those slabs. Maybe putting up a 5.5X or something? Just my 2.
The find route is a little tough and definitely has changed since SQII was printed. Nearing the top of the road you will pass some stored ski lift equipment on your left and come around a left hairpin. Right before the guard rail there is a convenient pull off on the right immediately next to an obvious marked hiking trail. From this point you want to hike back down the road maybe 50 yards. You will encounter a faint trail on the left that moves through a ton of fallen trees and debris. The trail is visible only by utilizing frequent cairns for the first bit. You will then pick up the main trail.
Follow the main trail keeping the first formations you encounter on your left. Follow cairns on the ridge down to an obvious campsite on a small mesa. From here you can continue left down the big obvious gulley on our left to Neptune and Aegir. These are the big prominent faces where you'll say "Oh shit that's gotta be something!" As of Sep 2012 there are fixed lines beginning about halfway down the gulley. Not necessary but super helpful. Be prepared to pass a knot or two.
If you are looking to go to Neptune/Aegir and you hit the second campsite and have not yet begun to descend a large gulley you have gone too far. This other route is marked with cairns and one could easily continue too far following these cairns.
Plan for about 45 minutes in and at least an hour out unless you are a total gangster.
To add to the directions, you can use the link below for an overhead view of the approach in Google Earth. The overhead shows the commonly-used approach to Neptune. The return trip has a bit of a punch, there is an 1100 foot elevation gain.