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Routes in The Sheepshead

Absinthe of Mallet T 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Animal Husbandry S 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Bantam of the Opera S 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Bruise the Rooster T 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Burning Calves S 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Climb Too Tough To Die, The T 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13
Dark Horse T 5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b
Ewephoria T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Get The Flock Out Of Here T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Greedy Little Varmint T 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Hardskins of Our Forefathers T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a R
Ides of Middlemarch T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Last Roundup, The T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Mad Cow Disease T 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
Peacemaker, The S 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Phony Pony T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Stampede S 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Tombstone Stripper, The T 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Unmitigated Audacity S 5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b

Description

The Sheepshead, this area's namesake, is the huge sweeping dome visible during most of the drive in on Middlemarch Road. It is by far the most prominent and aesthetic piece of rock in the immediate area, though there are a multitude of quality routes on the smaller neighboring domes.

Over 40 routes ascend this vast expanse of granite, most being of moderate to high difficulty (5.9-5.11, Class III). There are some incredible multi-pitch climbs with fantastic exposure. The rock quality is great for the most part, but does contain the occasional loose feature. Routefinding is generally difficult, even with a good topo. Expect scary climbing and frequent runouts on moderate terrain.

For those willing to put in a full day, The Sheepshead offers true adventure climbing.

Getting There

From Tucson, had east on I-10 to exit #303 (Tombstone/Bisbee). Turn right (south) on Arizona Highway 80 and drive for about 20 miles. Just before Tombstone, turn left onto Middlemarch Road. Follow this rough gravel road for almost ten miles to Forest Road 687. Make a left, towards the West Stronghold and follow this dirt road north. Make the first right turn on a dirt road that leads past a windmill to the road's end. Park and hike across the grassy field toward the obvious domes.

When you approach the treeline across the grassy field, trend right toward a major drainage, keeping south of the smaller hills. A trail should vaguely follow this drainage course, leading up the valley below The Sheepshead. If you cannot pick up a trail, just follow the path of least resistance. Make sure you close any gates you may pass along the way.

The trail/drainage course will take you to a point directly under but far below the base of the dome. At this point, a small climber's trail will head off right, up the slope towards Sheepshead. Navigate the brush and slabs up to the base of the climbs.

Allow an hour for the approach. Plan for a long day.

19 Total Climbs

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Location: The Sheepshead Change
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Classic Climbing Routes at The Sheepshead

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Ewephoria
Trad 5 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Ides of Middlemarch
Trad 5 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
The Peacemaker
Sport 7 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Phony Pony
Trad 5 pitches
5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Absinthe of Mallet
Trad 7 pitches
5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13
The Climb Too Tough To Die
Trad 6 pitches
5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Bruise the Rooster
Trad 2 pitches
5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b
Dark Horse
Trad 6 pitches
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Animal Husbandry
Sport 2 pitches
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Unmitigated Audacity
Sport 7 pitches
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Get The Flock Out Of Here
Trad 5 pitches
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
The Last Roundup
Trad 6 pitches
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Bantam of the Opera
Sport 2 pitches
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Stampede
Sport 7 pitches
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
Mad Cow Disease
Trad 6 pitches
Ewephoria 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 5 pitches
Ides of Middlemarch 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 5 pitches
The Peacemaker 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport 7 pitches
Phony Pony 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 5 pitches
Absinthe of Mallet 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 7 pitches
The Climb Too Tough To Die 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13 Trad 6 pitches
Bruise the Rooster 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 2 pitches
Dark Horse 5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b Trad 6 pitches
Animal Husbandry 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b Sport 2 pitches
Unmitigated Audacity 5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Sport 7 pitches
Get The Flock Out Of Here 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b Trad 5 pitches
The Last Roundup 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b Trad 6 pitches
Bantam of the Opera 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b Sport 2 pitches
Stampede 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport 7 pitches
Mad Cow Disease 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c Trad 6 pitches
More Classic Climbs in The Sheepshead »

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J F M A M J J A S O N D
J F M A M J J A S O N D
Chad A. Brown
Lawrence, Kansas
Chad A. Brown   Lawrence, Kansas
What is the recommended descent beta? (Only doing 1 route in a day) Is it recommended to double rap the route we climb or is there a walk off or designated rappel? Dec 15, 2015
Luis Cisneros
Tucson
Luis Cisneros   Tucson
uh? You mean that the fat bolts are not safe for direct contact with the rope (without leaver bins) right? When we did the multiple routes we set single fixed ropes to lockers on the hangers. Oct 21, 2014
Do not try and rappel the Sheepshead. The fat metolious hangers are there for emergency raps but they are not set up for or intended to be rappelled. The day they did multiple routes and rappelled I remember them ending at the base of Peacemaker but I think they were single line rappels.

Here is a belay view photo so you can get to the base of the route.
Mar 7, 2014
cool images of the Sheepshead via Bing Maps:

binged.it/YEgSKF Feb 6, 2013
rob bauer
Golden, CO
rob bauer   Golden, CO
Well, I did just two routes in a day and it was awesome! Too late for me, but is there an "insiders" route rap? Thought I was doing pretty well until I stuck a rope which pushed things back a bit. It certainly was possible with twin 50's, but it wasn't slick. Suggestions other than walking down? Where was the route y'all did with the fixed line(s)? Apr 8, 2012
Daryl Allan
Sierra Vista, AZ
Daryl Allan   Sierra Vista, AZ
Very kind words, John. If you ever happen to run across Scott Ayers, pass that big 'thank you' onto him directly. The trails are a combined effort for sure. I rarely, if ever, see Scott and his better half out climbing without their trusty hedge clippers. Happy climbing! d Oct 6, 2010
Toofast  
(panting, wagging tail) Mar 15, 2010
John Wilder
Las Vegas, NV
John Wilder   Las Vegas, NV
I just wanted to post a note and say a big THANK YOU to the folks who have been maintaining the trails and the routes in this area- it was so easy to find and climb the routes, feel safe while clipping the new and well installed hardware, and then find and descend on a well maintained, well built trail system.

Thanks guys, seriously- climbing areas around the country could use more folks like you. Mar 15, 2010
Luis Cisneros
Tucson
Luis Cisneros   Tucson
I second Geir's comment... the lower angle of this rock make it easy to find any number of ways to climb it... just dump a bunch of steel, pretty much at random, and some friction route will come out. I think the classic routes (say, mostly the ones that actually have names) are great and somewhat preserve the adventure character of the Stronghold, they are mixed and pretty natural lines. Now, by the precedent set by The Peacemaker, the new lines may be great fun (haven't climb them), but the over-bolting squeeze job in recent years has gone way too far. The fact that some people get confused in some of these lines, ending up clipping bolts or anchors from different routes in a single pitch, is a good indication of the problem. Nov 18, 2009
Geir
Tucson, AZ
Geir   Tucson, AZ
eMurdock wrote:The Sheepshead is like a vertical track. Lots of bolts and all fixed belays. At one time I was not a big fan of the development but now I just view it for what it is: a speed climbing venue. Where else can you climb so much on a big cliff in a stellar location with a super light rack and a really low risk level?
Eric,

I agree that the high number of heavily bolted routes on the Sheepshead do make it a speed climbing venue.

However, I personally dislike the proximity of the heavily bolted lines on the Sheepshead. I am not opposed to developing traditional lines close together, but it ruins the backcountry feel of Cochise routes for me when I run into other bolted lines right next to the route I am on. This is only my opinion, of course, but I feel that the Southwest and West faces of the Sheepshead are overdeveloped.

That said, congrats to Luis and Nick for an excellent effort on this linkup! I look forward to seeing the "big 8" happen! Nov 17, 2009
Steve Pulver
Williston, ND
Steve Pulver   Williston, ND
Were the routes all done during daylight? 6 routes seems really impressive. Nov 17, 2009
Luis Cisneros
Tucson
Luis Cisneros   Tucson
Scott has done 5 routes running down the descent, which is a very impressive record... We opted for the fixed line 'soft' style basically to save our knees and time to do more pitches. We were moving somewhat fast and steady, but not really rushing up to our limit. If the interest is only speed, there is a lot of room for improvement... In any case, yeah, agree, Sheepshead is an awesome playground for this kind of stuff... the big 8 is totally feasible... Nov 17, 2009
eMurdock
Tucson, Arizona
eMurdock   Tucson, Arizona
Nice work Luis!! You sure Scott A hasn't climbed 6 or more routes. Seems like he may have, maybe not? Dean Brault and I did 3 routes in ~4 hours without simul-climbing (and running off the descent) about 5 or 6 years ago, so I can see how 8 would be possible with a fixed rappel. I remember Dean looking at me and shaking his head after I got up to the belay on the first pitch. My heart rate was up from climbing fast. He said I needed to climb faster. Dean was so smooth but I was pretty exhausted from the effort; more from the super fast following than the leading.

The Sheepshead is like a vertical track. Lots of bolts and all fixed belays. At one time I was not a big fan of the development but now I just view it for what it is: a speed climbing venue. Where else can you climb so much on a big cliff in a stellar location with a super light rack and a really low risk level? Nov 17, 2009
Luis Cisneros
Tucson
Luis Cisneros   Tucson
... no simul-climbing at all, and actually, that is one of the main things we can do to make it faster. But I feel that I need to be a bit more familiar with the routes to do this. Nov 17, 2009
Charles Vernon
Tucson, AZ
Charles Vernon   Tucson, AZ
Wow! How much simul-climbing did you do? Nov 16, 2009
Luis Cisneros
Tucson
Luis Cisneros   Tucson
In the past November 1st Nick Erhardt and I completed 6 climbs in a day: The Peacemaker, Absinthe of Mallet, Ides of Middlemarch, The Climb Too Tough to Die, Right of Stampede and Ewephoria, making 36 pitches... We did use a fixed line to rap down and it was great fun... I dare to say that at 8 climbs could be done with enough motivation and foot pain tolerance, but as it is for now, I think this is the current record of number of pitches in a day for this crag. Nov 16, 2009
Geir
Tucson, AZ
Geir   Tucson, AZ
For those of you who have Google Earth, I have posted two files that may be helpful for you.

The first has driving directions to the Sheepshead.

The second has the approach and most of the major multipitch lines. Both of these can be viewed in 3D from any aspect and printed.

You can download the files from geir.com/googleearth/strong…

Google Earth can be downloaded for free at googleearth.com Oct 8, 2009
Charlie King
Tucson, AZ
Charlie King   Tucson, AZ
Some of the newer routes on the Sheepshead posted here are not entirely acurate. Some the pitches contain some accurate information but the combination of the pitches for the routes that are listed are not the combination of pitches the first accessionsts ascended these routes or intended these routes to go. Sep 23, 2008
Jordan Ramey
Calgary, Alberta
Jordan Ramey   Calgary, Alberta
Better / Faster approach: Nice and fast mostly flat trail that avoids the sticker bushes and any bushwacking.

When driving down the last stretch of road past the water tanks, stay left and park by the barb wire gate with the reflective sign. There is a super well traveled trail starting at this gate all the way to the Sheepshead. Go through the gate (close it behind you!) and follow this trail across the grassy field. You'll pass a cattle water tub within the first couple hundred yards. You'll eventually cross the wash and end up on another grassy field. Finally you'll come to a second barb wire gate. Go through and close it behind you. You'll be right at the start of the steep section that is well marked with cairns.

You really can't get lost on this trail, it is that well traveled. Takes about 30-45 minutes to reach Absinthe of Mallet this way. It is very very noticable from anywhere on the Sheepshead. Dec 19, 2007
Christian
Casa do Cacete
Christian   Casa do Cacete
Scott was prescient and knew that someday we'd be doing Absinthe in the morning and shooting a round of golf just down the road in the afternoon..:-) Apr 13, 2007
Eric D
Gnarnia
Eric D   Gnarnia
Beautiful dome, though someone drilled bolts everywhere on the upper section. Too many bolts for a wilderness climbing area. Apr 13, 2007
Sergio P
Idaho Springs, CO
Sergio P   Idaho Springs, CO
There is camping right at the trailhead Apr 1, 2007

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