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Elevation: 4,816 ft 1,468 m
GPS: 31.7244, -110.93887
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Shared By: James DeRoussel on Nov 3, 2003 · Updates
Admins: adrian montaƱo, Greg Opland, Brian Boyd, JJ Schlick, Kemper Brightman, Luke Bertelsen

Description Suggest change

Elephant Head is a prominent 1000'+ formation on the western edge of the Santa Rita Mountains just south of Tucson. While the area is most popular for bikers and hikers, some adventurous climbing can be done here and in the surrounding area.

A handful of routes ascend the various faces of Elephant Head, and all are a relatively serious undertaking with 'epic' potential. Routefinding can be difficult due to minimal traffic on these routes. Rock quality ranges from excellent to utterly horrible, depending on the terrain. While there are routes ascending the north, west and south sides of the mountain, descents are typically made down the hiker's route, via the saddle east of Elephant Head.

West Gully Rappels- Designed for a 70m rope but can be done comfortably with a 60m and some short 5.4 or less down climbing over good landings. From the summit register head NW, veer right and scramble down green lichen covered rock to a large ledge where the upper section of the West Gully begins. Continue west along the base of the lichen covered wall and down the gully about 30m to the first rap with anchors on the right.

R1) A short(8m) vertical rappel but continue rappelling under the scrub oak to the end of the rope and the gully opens up a bit. 35m

R2) Anchors are on the left (south) side of a large white boulder. Drop or only gently toss the ropes, if they catch on the jagged buttress on the left side of the rappel, pull them back up from the top as the buttress can’t be reached on rappel. 30m

Hike straight downhill, the gully opens up even more, past a couple ocotillo to a small group of large white boulders.

R3) Anchors are on the upper of the two biggest boulders. 35m

Continue hiking straight down between the large oak trees past another set of ocotillo. At the base of an easy slab just past the ocotillo follow a bushy ramp left (south). At the end of the ramp go past one more bush to anchors at nice ledge.

R4) Rappel to the end of the rope and step into the middle section of the West Gully as needed. 30-35m

Scramble down the gully 100+m to where the gully breaks left (south) and the top of the headwall that caps the lower section of the West Gully.

R5) Anchors are at the lip on the right just above the polished water line. Rappel down and left to a scooped ledge with the cable. 30m

R6) An easy rappel past a smaller ledge to anchors at a sloper stance. 29m

R7) Continue straight down to anchors above a small broken ledge with grass and a couple bushes. 33m

R8) Rappel to the end of the rope, trending right, into the bushy cleft at the bottom. 30-35m

Scramble past the small seep/pool on easy slabs to the top of the last rappel, +-150m.

R9) Anchors are knee-high just to the left (south) side of the watercourse on a small scoop. Rappel to the end of the rope, trending left, and onto the steep bushy ramp at the base. 30-35m

Scramble down more easy slabs. About 20m from the lowest point of the last short cliff, cut left on a faint trail/ledge between the rock and a lone ocotillo to reach the base of the climb.

Due to its relatively low elevation, this area is only climbable from autumn to late spring, unless you like heat and punishment.

Getting There Suggest change

From Tucson, drive I-19 south to exit 56 (Canoa Rd.)near Green Valley. Exit left and drive south on the east frontage road to Elephant Head Rd. Turn left and follow this road through several curves and turns. When it turns to dirt, keep going. At 1.5 miles, take the left fork of the road thru a gate. Drive another 0.4 miles and take a right at crossroad that leads into wash. Park when the road gets really bad. This approach should place you just below the south face. A high clearance vehicle is definitely recommended for this drive.

6 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Elephant Head

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
3rd 1- 1 I 1 M 1a
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Hiker's Route
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Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Hiker's Route S Face
 5
3rd 1- 1 I 1 M 1a Trad
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