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Areas in The Fortress

Northwest Face 1 / 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 3
Orifice Wall 1 / 19 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 20
Southeast Face 4 / 16 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 19
Access Issue: Potentially unavailable to climbing February through July if raptors are breeding here. Details

Description

The Fortress is one of the best and most varied crags on Mount Lemmon. The Southeast Face boasts amazing sport and traditional multi-pitch routes. The Orifice Wall, which is a sharp contrast to the face routes, boasts some of the hardest and steepest routes in the region. The Fortress along with the other summit crags should not be missed.

Be sure to observe the season closure from March 15 to June 30 peregrine falcon nesting.

Getting There

Drive up Mount Lemmon Highway (Catalina Highway) for approximately 22.5 miles. Turn right on Ski Run Road, immediately prior to entering the town of Summerhaven, and follow this road approximately 4.5 miles. While on Ski Run Road continue through the Ski Valley parking lot where the road narrows and winds up the last section of the mountain. Upon reaching the closed gate of the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter Observatory turn left into a parking lot. A restroom and free camping can be found here. There is no running water.

Hike around fenced-in generators on a narrow trail used by climbers and hikers alike (Photo 1 below). In a couple minutes, at the SkyCenter Observatory sign a fork will be encountered (Photo 2 below). The Fortress can be reached by following either the access road (left) or Meadow Trail (right). The latter is more scenic and less rocky but slightly longer.

If you take the access road, follow the rocky road downhill past both a trail turnoff and a lookout point. The view will open and a metal shed will appear. Near the shed is a spring on the left (downhill) side of the trail. I believe the spring is safe to drink and always running. Continue past the shed and the turn off for Rappel Rock. Hike past the where the Meadow Trail rejoins the access road.

Turn left onto a climber's trail immediately after the green electrical box on your right (Photo 3 below). Hike past the west face of The Murray Wall to the Fortress. The Southeast Face is on your left; the Northwest Face is on your right.

Expect the drive to take 45-60 minutes and the hike to take 20-30 minutes.

Fortress Approach Photo 1: Trailhead

Fortress Approach Photo 2: Fork. The access road is on the left; the Meadow Trail is on the right.

Fortress Approach Photo 3: Turnoff. The turnoff is just past the electrical box on the left side.

42 Total Climbs

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Location: The Fortress Change
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Classic Climbing Routes at The Fortress

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 30
Fisherman's Elbow
Sport 3 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 115
Steel Crazy
Sport 4 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 19
The Rupley Route
Trad 4 pitches
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
 48
Fort Stress
Sport 4 pitches
5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c
 14
Sir Clipalot
Sport 3 pitches
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
 68
Unattended Consequences
Sport
5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
 30
Disfigured Foreigner
Sport
5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
 45
Gettin' Off The Porch
Sport
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
 62
Hard Day at The Orifice
Sport
5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b
 47
Orifice Politics
Sport
5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c
 35
Eureka
Sport
5.13- 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E7 6c
 24
Coup de' tat
Sport
5.13- 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E7 6c
 7
Heel-A Monster
Sport
5.13b 8a 29 IX+ 30 E7 6c
 19
Granite of the Apes
Sport
5.13 8a 29 X- 30 E7 6c
 11
In Search of Silence
Sport
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Fisherman's Elbow Northwest Face
 30
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Sport 3 pitches
Steel Crazy Southeast Face
 115
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport 4 pitches
The Rupley Route Southeast Face
 19
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 4 pitches
Fort Stress Southeast Face
 48
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Sport 4 pitches
Sir Clipalot Southeast Face
 14
5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c Sport 3 pitches
Unattended Consequences Orifice Wall
 68
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport
Disfigured Foreigner Orifice Wall
 30
5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport
Gettin' Off The Porch Orifice Wall
 45
5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport
Hard Day at The Orifice Orifice Wall
 62
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b Sport
Orifice Politics Orifice Wall
 47
5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b Sport
Eureka Orifice Wall
 35
5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c Sport
Coup de' tat Orifice Wall
 24
5.13- 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E7 6c Sport
Heel-A Monster Orifice Wall
 7
5.13- 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E7 6c Sport
Granite of the Apes Orifice Wall
 19
5.13b 8a 29 IX+ 30 E7 6c Sport
In Search of Silence Orifice Wall
 11
5.13 8a 29 X- 30 E7 6c Sport
More Classic Climbs in The Fortress »

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Photos

Christian
Casa do Cacete
Christian   Casa do Cacete
Instructions for getting off the Fortress:

After topping out, head north into flat and vegetated area. Locate gully between the West Pillar where most of the routes top out and the East Pillar. From the top of the West Pillar, the climbing up onto the East Pillar (where you can walk down from) looks substantially harder than it actually is when you're looking up at it from within the gully.

To get into the gully, downclimb into it by going back south, then east, then north again into the cleft. Head north into the gully about 2/3 of the way until you see a riblike formation of rock on your left. Across from the rib you can see the obvious weakness heading up the East Pillar. There's an initial dynamic move, maybe about 5.8, to get established on the slab, then about 20 feet of easy 5th classing to get out (5.2-5.3?)..

After getting your bearings the first time, you can pretty much head diagonally straight from the top-outs to the downclimb into the gully.

PS there's another option about 15 feet further climber's left, which involves a small traverse left then super juggy holds up and out... (avoids the 5.8 move onto the face climber's right on the first option)..haven't done it but I guess most people think it's easier.. Jul 18, 2007
Braxtron
...
Braxtron   ...
I say the Orifice wall should be called Hardbody wall and the its next new route called 'Chesthair Turtleneck.' Jul 25, 2008
Luke Bertelsen
Tucson, AZ
Luke Bertelsen   Tucson, AZ  
I know there was a lot of action up at the Orifice wall last season. Anyone care to list the routes from right to left as you approach the big ledge? A few of the route descriptions don't really give much info as to where each given route is compared to the other routes.

Thanks. Jun 25, 2009
1Eric Rhicard
Tucson
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
Weather up top is fantastic. Perfect temps on the sunny sides and at the Orifice. Get up there Luis Oct 14, 2009
Joe Kreidel
San Antonio, TX
Joe Kreidel   San Antonio, TX
The routes from right to left:

(First three start along the cable route)

The Brightest Fire 11c
Huck Fin 12
Disfigured Foreigner 12-

(Next three routes are after the cable)

Oedipus Complex 12-
Old red tagged project?
Gettin Off The Porch 12-

(The remaining routes all start down the stepped slab, on the lower tier)

Coup de'tat 13-/Orifice Politics 12c
Project?
Hard Day At The Orifice 12b
Eureka 13- Jul 14, 2010
Hendrixson
Littleton, CO
Hendrixson   Littleton, CO
Anyone know what route this is? I thought we were on either Twice As Nice or Fisherman's Elbow but neither description matches. Perhaps it is "Nice BBDs" with a third pitch added? The location seems about right anyway.

Descending the west side of the Fortress one encounters two bolted lines. The rightmost of the routes consists of three pitches:

1) The first pitch ascends bright white rock for 80ft until a ledge with anchors is reached. The climbing is ~5.9.

2) The second pitch climbs bulgy, black and green rock. This rock is reminiscent of the rock on the Orifice Wall. The anchors for this pitch are immediately below a ledge. Scars in the rock show that they had been moved a foot or two lower at some point. I am tempted to say the route ended here at one time. The climbing is ~5.10 and 80ft or so.

3) The third pitch crosses two ledges and is significantly easier than the first two pitches. The rock is standard Fortress rock with plenty of good holds. The climbing is ~5.8 and 100ft or so. Sep 4, 2010
Meghan
Sierra Vista, AZ
Meghan   Sierra Vista, AZ
Someone has scattered rat poison around the base of The Orifice, presumably to kill the mice that occasionally raid lunches. This is obviously NOT COOL. Whomever did it obviously wasn't thinking about the squirrels, chipmunks, birds, reptiles that eat them, and other people's dogs. We may not like for animals to get into our things, but this is their habitat-- even the mice-- not ours. Not that any rangers would ever know about it, but this would also be a great way to get access to a crag taken away. Everyone there today was on the same page that this is VERY bad form by some fellow climber. Whoever you are, please don't be an embarrassment to our sport or a menace to the environment again. Oct 17, 2011
Geir
Tucson, AZ
Geir   Tucson, AZ
Ah crap. This mess will need to be cleaned up. Thanks for the info Meghan. Oct 17, 2011
Jon Ruland
Tucson, AZ
Jon Ruland   Tucson, AZ
speaking of cleaning up a mess (yeah yeah i know it was last year) can we clean up all these routes into separate categories? e.g. orifice wall, fortress south face, etc. right now it's confusing as all hell. Jul 6, 2012
Red
Tacoma, Toyota
Red   Tacoma, Toyota
Jon, PM one of these three administrators: Greg Opland, James DeRoussel, JJ Schlick
I'd say James would be your best bet since he created this page. Jul 10, 2012
JJ Schlick
Flagstaff, AZ
JJ Schlick   Flagstaff, AZ  
I can help with that. If you guys want to create new "areas" within this one, and tell me which routes go where, I can relocate them to your new areas. PM and let me know. Jul 10, 2012
JJ Schlick
Flagstaff, AZ
JJ Schlick   Flagstaff, AZ  
Now that I think about it, it will be more work than I thought. But we just did it for the Winslow Wall, so... Jul 10, 2012
1Eric Rhicard
Tucson
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
Of course Jon could just start climbing them all and then like those who have climbed most of them he would not be so confused. Gotta spoon feed these kids everything. You know where Steel Crazy starts so work in either direction from there. It isn't that hard. Better yet ask someone to color code the hangers. Better yet we should chop 3 routes after the first one on the right then 3 more after route 5 and so on. Less routes means less confusion. No No never mind, Think of it as a puzzle Jon or a video game where you actually have to play with your body to win.

WHAT WOULD DON BULAND SAY ABOUT THIS JON? Haha!

If only someone would do a guidebook. Oh wait someone is working on one.

Okay now go back to the first paragraph. Jul 10, 2012
Steve Pulver
Williston, ND
Steve Pulver   Williston, ND
JJ, the obvious answer here is to promote Rhicard to administrator status and let him organize the entire mountain. (seriously) Jul 12, 2012
JJ Schlick
Flagstaff, AZ
JJ Schlick   Flagstaff, AZ  
Hey Steve, I actually proposed the idea of "guest admin" privileges to Andy not so long ago for cases as such. I'll look into it, but Richard would probably need some stronger coffee for such a task... Jul 12, 2012
Geir
Tucson, AZ
Geir   Tucson, AZ
+1 for Eric fixing the area up. Jul 12, 2012
Joe Kreidel
San Antonio, TX
Joe Kreidel   San Antonio, TX
Isn't Eric already organizing the entire mountain? Jul 12, 2012
Peter Franzen
Phoenix, AZ
Peter Franzen   Phoenix, AZ  
Just chiming in here because I'd love to see some organization for this area as well. I was up there yesterday for the first time, and between this site and Squeezing The Lemmon II there was essentially no useful information for The Fortress. We found some cool climbs (a bunch of nice vertical sport climbs at the base of the Right Fortress) but I have no idea what they were.

Putting "dead tree" on a topo is f'ing useless if I can see 15 dead trees from any given place at the base of a wall. Sep 16, 2012
Geir
Tucson, AZ
Geir   Tucson, AZ
Peter,

The guidebook was printed in 1997. In 2003 there was a huge fire that killed a bunch of trees. I think this area was part of what was burned, hence the multitude of dead trees.

I agree it would be nice if this area were subdivided and reorganized, though. Edit: reorganized on MP, that is. Sep 17, 2012
Jimbo  
Interesting. First time I went down to the Fortress with STL II I had no trouble figuring out what was what. Sometimes I did actually have to match features on the topo with the actual rock in front of me.
It does seem the ability to read a guide book has diminished in the last ten years. Not sure why that is. Maybe too much info being spoon fed to the masses has decreased the ability and desire to figure stuff out your self. Sep 18, 2012
Orifice Wall is the best-equipped cliff I've ever seen, with chain draws and confidence-inspiring steel carabiners on almost ever bolt. The routes are a blast, too. Bravo!!! Aug 11, 2013
jaspur Chafer
tucson,az
jaspur Chafer   tucson,az
Picked up a pas and a biner at the ledge before the guide wire to the orifice today. If it's yours pm me with a description and I'll get it back to you Jul 18, 2016
Vernon W
San Jose, CA
Vernon W   San Jose, CA
Experienced a brutal attempt to climb here today. First, we learned that the car gate up to the Skycenter from the ski lodge is closed during the winter. This forced us to hike on foot around the gate and up the street for 1.5 steep miles with our gear. We eventually reached the parking lot where the approach starts. The instructions from here to the summit are superb. However, after taking the climber's trail immediately left of the green electrical box, we found that the path down to the fortress was non-existent (at least to our eyes). We scrambled down fighting through a lot of debris, loose rock, fallen trees, and brush. We learned later that there was a significant fire and landslide in 2017 that may have caused this? Has anyone climbed here recently and can you confirm if the trail to the fortress is still standing intact? We eventually bailed out of frustration and went to climb at the Crag of Humanity area nearer the base of the mountain. Not the biggest fan of Mt Lemmon climbing unfortunately... Headed over to Flagstaff now to see what AZ has to offer! Jan 12, 2018
Luke Bertelsen
Tucson, AZ
Luke Bertelsen   Tucson, AZ  
Vernon, seems like you could have troubleshot your plan to climb at the Fortress a little better. The gate is closed every year, there is a trail over to the Fortress, and there was not a fire in 2017. The Southern AZ climbing community is really great about sharing info and even showing you around if you reach out. I hope you have better luck in Flag, and a better climbing experience if you ever get back this way. There is a lifetime of amazing climbing on Lemmon and surrounding Tucson. Jan 13, 2018
1Eric Rhicard
Tucson
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
Two guys from Tempe AZ just did the Same thing Vernon. They flailed around til 1:30 got on the route they wanted to do and finished it as the sun was setting. You were so close. Sorry you didn't get there. Really not the season for the Summit crags. Trails around hear are pretty thin and it does take a bit of outdoor navigating skill to find the easiest path. I still get it wrong. Wouldn't blame the mountain though. Good luck if you ever do get back. Jan 13, 2018

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