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Climbing Late December -- Mt Lemmon vs Cochise Stronghold from Tucson


Original Post
George K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0

Me and my partner are coming to Tucson, Arizona for Christmas/NY climbing (5 days total). We'll be renting a car and bringing lots of gear (70m rope, 12 alpine draws, double set of BD cams #0.3-#4, 2xDMM wallnuts).  We are both intermediary climbers (5.9 sport lead, 5.6-5.7 trad lead) and have done about ten multi-pitches so far (mostly trad 5.6s or sport 5.8/5.9). 

What would be the best way to spend the 5 days? Would it be 2 days in Lemmon and then 3 days in Cochise?  

Also, what about layering? We are thinking base layer, fleece, puffy + hard shell. Would that be too much?

Daniel Evans · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 85

Mt. Lemmon will be colder than Cochise due to it being at a much higher elevation (it's a mountain). I would bring all of the layers you mentioned though, as the temps at Cochise drop pretty fast once the sun goes down. A lot of the climbs in Cochise have potential for long days, and possible nighttime descents depending how you plan your day and where you climb--so it is wise to bring some sort of active insulation piece with a beanie in a small pack (don't forget a headlamp). During the day, most of the routes are in the sun though so climbing in base layers might be a little too warm. You'll have to check the forecast for Mt. Lemmon, especially if you plan to climb on the summit crags. If it is in the 40's, you may want to wear a baselayer up there on the climb (likely more windy here also).

If it were me, I would spend more time at Cochise and pick 1-2 climbs to do at the summit of Mt Lemmon. Check out Twice as Nice (5.8-): https://www.mountainproject.com/route/106263991/twice-as-nice. That's the route I did on the summit. It's easy and well protected with one short crux.

l rs · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 405
George K wrote:

Not sure you'll find anything in Cochise that you CAN climb at those grades. I would say entry into Cochise is solid 5.9, even on the routes graded easier.  Having just been there over Thanksgiving I can say with certainly that finding climbs requires alot of effort and with the days being short and the approaches long, you may be hard pressed to do more than hike. Stellar place though!

Daniel Evans · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 85

Ahh ya, Leslie makes a good point. Most of the routes at Cochise are mixed and pretty much start out at solid 5.8/5.9. You might enjoy Lemmon more. 

George K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0

Thank you guys! I am capturing all the hikes you are suggesting :)

Is there any good larger-ish multi-pitches? Like a 3-6 pitch sport\trad climb that's recomended? 

Daniel Evans · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 85

Not at Cochise in the grade range you are looking to climb, other than maybe "What's My Line" but it requires you to tension traverse on lead, and have your follower lower out or swing. The route I listed above, Twice as Nice, might be your best option if the weather cooperates, but it is only 2 pitches. 

Scott M. McNamara · · Tucson, Arizona · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 55

Here is my take (for what it is worth): 

Temperatures

Depending on the elevation, the day, the sun/shade aspect and the wind--- Mt. Lemmon, could be warmer than the Stronghold.  

The way the weather is going this year (much warmer than normal) I think you will just need to experiment when you get here.

Ratings

In both places the ratings may tend to feel close to correct or somewhat conservative depending upon where you are from.  

Some, but not most, of the older trad routes (in both areas) may feel run out.

Moderate Climbs

Both places have some, but not a great deal, climbing in the grades you seek.  

It might be wise to search for stars in the grades you are looking for, determine if the weather accommodates and the route invites you to climb it.  

You might also consider if you will be able to find the route or the area---for a first time visitor this can be a big problem---for example, finding and allocating sufficient time to do  “What’s My Line” in the Stronghold can be quite an adventure.

Safety

For some of the bigger routes in the Stronghold, it might not be unwise to climb with two ropes.  

Some of the bigger trad or semi-trad routes in the Stronghold may feel somewhat committing—a second rope, a head lamp, and a wind jacket can make an important difference.

Correctly placing trad gear in both places is important and frequently involves more than just “plugging and chugging” a splitter.


Have fun!









Charles Vernon · · mind & body in Colorado, he… · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 2,604

Scott gives a lot of good advice. My 2 cents: the recommendation to climb at the Mt. Lemmon summit (Twice as Nice) is a bit strange to me. That will literally be the highest, and one of the coldest spots to climb in all of Southern Arizona. It would be doable on an unseasonably warm day but not something I would plan on or seek out.

I'd also add that the low-lying sport climbing areas in the Stronghold (mainly I'm thinking of Zappa Dome, Isle of You, and Sweet Rock) have plenty of routes at 5.9 and under for a couple days' climbing. The climbing isn't world class or anything but it's pretty fun and the camping and scenery are great. 

I would agree with others that What's My Line, the classic 5.6 in Cochise, is pretty hairy for someone at their limit on 5.6/5.7 trad. You might check out the Standard Route on Chimney Rock on Lemmon for a fun, if wandering trad multi-pitch adventure (the hardest moves are a bit sandbagged, but are bolted), though it's not a classic like What's My Line. Also, Finger Rock in the Catalinas, or the Forbes Route on Baboquivari are nice, big adventure days, although they don't really qualify as "multi-pitch" and mostly involve a lot of hiking.

JD · · Vanlifer · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 95

go to cochise....you could totally lead this on trad/sport and have a great day. also checkout the classic on Whale Dome. awesome rap.


https://www.mountainproject.com/v/105861181

Joven · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 15
Dan Evans wrote:

Not at Cochise in the grade range you are looking to climb, other than maybe "What's My Line" but it requires you to tension traverse on lead, and have your follower lower out or swing. The route I listed above, Twice as Nice, might be your best option if the weather cooperates, but it is only 2 pitches. 

Also—

4-Course Meal, 4p w/ only a few .7 moves down low.

Moby Dick .8, but only a few moves above .7 on p1. If you can ya do exposure/runout this is classic. 

Edit: the camping is just so awesome at the Stronghold. Pull up anywhere and you’re golden. And on the east side some crags (Rattlesnake, Zappa, Lewbowski) have some easy moderates that could lead at the .7 grade, then attach TR setups on more difficult climbs.

Daniel Evans · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 85

Pitch 1 of Moby Dick is a sand bag at 5.8. Lol. I wouldn't recommend that route to someone leading 5.7 trad.

George K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0

Thank you for all your advice guys! 

I think we might be ok at 5.9 trad... it's just the 5.7/5.8 is where the "comfort zone" lies :).  

Regarding two ropes -- we have 2 thick ropes (9.7 and 9.8mm... 50 and 70m)... would it be worthwile to bring both?

As for guidebooks, there seems to be 3 (west, east cochise, lemmon), but they seem to be fairly expensive ($40 each...). Which one is recomended? 

walmongr · · Gilbert AZ · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 125

I would go to Cochise! Way better their are a few pretty easy multi-pitches in West Stronghold  with short non cryptic approaches! Sheepshead has Ewephoria 5.8 mostly bolts except pitch-1. Peacemaker is an easy 10 that is very well bolt protected and if you had to could pull on a draw or to if above your head but a very fun route!  Also Mystery of the Desert on mutton has only a few moves of 9. Moby Dick is another very moderate route with a little longer drive and approach.. East Stronghold has less with longer approaches and fewer "easy routes"  Wasteland and Whats my line are 2 that come to mind. Pick of the Tanya Bok guide it has tons of stuff not on MP or in the Toofast guides..  depending on aspect of route will dictate what to wear 55 and sunny is short sleeves and 55 with a breeze in the shade is puffy time for me!! 

jg fox · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 5
George K wrote:

Thank you for all your advice guys! 

I think we might be ok at 5.9 trad... it's just the 5.7/5.8 is where the "comfort zone" lies :).  

Regarding two ropes -- we have 2 thick ropes (9.7 and 9.8mm... 50 and 70m)... would it be worthwile to bring both?

As for guidebooks, there seems to be 3 (west, east cochise, lemmon), but they seem to be fairly expensive ($40 each...). Which one is recomended? 

The Lemmon guidebook (Squeezing the Lemon) is worth the money, it has the most routes than any other guidebook I own and I collect guidebooks as a hobby.

I would take the 9.8 70m, 50 meter ropes are bit prohibitive.

I would not try and push your trad limit at Cochise.  Cochise is a very adventurous place and can be unforgiving if you fall.  Decomposing granite is common in some places of West Stronghold, not exactly confidence inspiring rock at the 5.9 level.

Have fun, enjoy Tucson, I wish I were still there!

Live Perched · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

My wife and I have some experience with being out of towners in Cochise and Mt Lemmon.

Best thoughts I can offer:

1. Approaches are tricky... double the times in the guidebook on your first approach and if not used to adventure climbing or trail finding avoid approaches listed as exceeding 10 minutes. 

2. Grades are totally inconsistent...both areas are huge and were developed by different groups with widely differing ideas about sandbagging over decades. 

3. R/X ratings are under used. Assume PG13 as a base case.

4. Hitchcock Pinnacle, Golden Egg on Goose head and Ridgeline are fun and very easy to find.  

5. When you read comments about death crawls and seldom visited crags assume understatement not hyperbole.

6. There is more climbing here than anybody can manage in a lifetime.  Enjoy! 






Evan Crumpecker · · Colorado Springs · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 180

Yea, might want to temper your expectations at Cochise, like others have said it may not be the best place to push your grade. Plenty of runouts and sandbags and difficult route-finding there. I'm not saying don't go, just might be a good idea to jump on something well below your 'pushing it' grade first so you get an idea what you're getting yourself into.

I'll probably be cragging at Mt Lemmon myself that week, maybe we'll see you around!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Arizona & New Mexico
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