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South Face

5.7+ X, Trad, 800 ft, 5 pitches, Grade II,  Avg: 2.4 from 8 votes
FA: Kip Metzger and ?
Arizona > Southern Arizona > Cochise Stronghold > W Stronghold > Whale Dome

Description

Between Moby Dick and Dem Bones:

P1: Start by the Madrone tree just up from the _guard_ rock near the bottom of the Moby Dick gully. Follow the quasi-buttress, chicken-headed path to a good ledge and belay here on gear.

P2: Follow the chicken head highway till it runs out (breathe...) then run it out to a semi-hanging stance on very large chicken heads.

P3: Continue upward along the path of least resistance to another good ledge.

P4: Continue up the direct route on giant c-h's till they run out. Prepare for an extremely long run out heading for the dike composed of large knife-like plates then laterally to the left to the belay station (two bolts) on the last pitch of Moby Dick.

P5: Finish on the last pitch of Moby Dick

Protection

Take slings for chicken head hiking and small to medium stoppers, tri-cams, and Aliens.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Mark finishing up the 4th pitch. Easy runout climbing. As you can see by the large amount of slack I couldn't keep up with his climbing.
[Hide Photo] Mark finishing up the 4th pitch. Easy runout climbing. As you can see by the large amount of slack I couldn't keep up with his climbing.
Mark placing a low ball (his first piece) about 20 feet up the third pitch. A fall here will pendulum into the belayer.
[Hide Photo] Mark placing a low ball (his first piece) about 20 feet up the third pitch. A fall here will pendulum into the belayer.
Kimberly loving the toprope!
[Hide Photo] Kimberly loving the toprope!
Mark about halfway up the first pitch.
[Hide Photo] Mark about halfway up the first pitch.
Bill starting the first pitch. Squeezing under the branch makes the first few feet harder.
[Hide Photo] Bill starting the first pitch. Squeezing under the branch makes the first few feet harder.
Crazy-huge chicken heads up high!
[Hide Photo] Crazy-huge chicken heads up high!
Mark starting up the third pitch. It traverses right to ascend the steep chickenheads on the right side of the photo. Easy climbing but don't fall or you'll kill your belayer!
[Hide Photo] Mark starting up the third pitch. It traverses right to ascend the steep chickenheads on the right side of the photo. Easy climbing but don't fall or you'll kill your belayer!
A cool shot of Bill on the third pitch. If it wasn't for the 25 MPH winds it would have been a perfect day.
[Hide Photo] A cool shot of Bill on the third pitch. If it wasn't for the 25 MPH winds it would have been a perfect day.
Looking down the second pitch. The first belay is the top of the big flake just above mid photo. A 15 foot sling around the point of it serves as the anchor.
[Hide Photo] Looking down the second pitch. The first belay is the top of the big flake just above mid photo. A 15 foot sling around the point of it serves as the anchor.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Steve Pulver
Williston, ND
  5.7+ PG13
[Hide Comment] P4 can be done by traversing farther to the right instead of taking the direct route. This is slightly steeper but no scarey runouts; chickenheads can be used for protection. Aug 26, 2004
1Eric Rhicard
Tucson
 
[Hide Comment] Took all of my 70 meter rope to reach the belay ledge and fins at the end of pitch 3. It was a little hard to be sure we were on the route so we stuck to the easiest possible line. Pitch four we angled left on the plates then moved right on gator skin to a thin dike the quickly got bigger and a lot easier. Lots of fun unless you blow it, then you are dead! Dec 30, 2008
R.Owen
Morenci
[Hide Comment] The approach trail was a bit hard to find all the parts on the way up (more obvious on the way down), but river bed will work just as well when dry. Only gear used was stoppers bigger than BD #8 (single set), a BD 0.75 cam equivalent and a BD 2.0 cam equivalent. Plenty of slings of course! Probably more placements exist, but I hate mucking about with gear while thinking about the cheese grater fall. Well worth effort if you are comfortable with the runout. Nov 17, 2010
Bill Lawry
Albuquerque, NM
[Hide Comment] Getting there:

As of Arpil 2011, there is a huge fallen tree spanning the main approach drainage just below Whale Dome (4 foot diameter?). One can pass beneath this and then up on the Whale Dome side into the steep vague drainage that leads to Moby Dick.

The vague drainage will narrow after passing the base of the huge 'guard' rock on the left. Look for a kind of person+ sized easy slot heading right along the base of Whale Dome with the madrona tree in it. You've ascended past this slot (by 50 feet?) if you get to a point where the vague drainage to Moby Dick is spanned by an economy-car sized boulder. The base of the climb is at the slots madrona tree.

About P1: The madronna branch at the crux is dieing or dead and so provides psychological pro. Suggest a bolt as noted again in this .

And here's a different way to do P2/P3/P4 ...

About P2: We ended pitch 1 at the top of the giant flake which made our P2 rather longish with some run-out up high before the unprotected traverse. We set out top-of-P2 belay just before the unprotected traverse. Next time I'd go higher on P1 just to keep the rope length down on P2 (reduce the stretch should the leader fall in the P2 runout sections).

About our P3: Our's started by making the unprotected traverse up and then right, right off the belay, building a belay anchor where the chicken head's run out. This seemed about right for our P3 - besides, this way, a 60 meter rope won't reach the anchor bolts just before the last pitch. Apr 26, 2011
Brian Benedon
Tucson
[Hide Comment] I'm glad I didn't know it was rated X when I climbed it back in 97, I would not have climbed it if I had known, don't tell my mom.

I don't remember it that way though. My only concern were the single head belay stations.
I chose to simule climb all but the 1st and last pitches so we could keep a few pieces between us. Feb 23, 2014
bikesrockswaves
Tucson, Arizona
  5.7 R
[Hide Comment] 1) Not an "X" route. The hardest and scariest move is the first 20' of the route; if you can get off the ground, you should be fine, as long as you're comfy on regular 20' runouts on good rock. However, not for a 5.7 leader, though if swinging w/ stronger leader, probably Pitch 2 and final pitch okay for *solid* 5.7/5.8 trad leader. Pretty reasonable and spectacularly perfect climb for solid .9/.10 trad climbers. (The slab part of P4 is basically 5.4 R/X on perfect, sticky stone, a fun romp if you don't mind a 80' runout.) Generally, just follow the line of least resistance and maximum radness, and that's the route.

2) Rack: Light single rack w/ lotsa lotsa long runners. Maybe two .75 & .5 BD C4s.

3) South Face Direct Finish / "Mobius Strip" Variation. The mega-cool way to finish this classic route is to run straight up the vertical wall midway between Moby Dick and Dem Bones (which are about 60' apart). Move straight up into hanging copper colored dinner plates, then angle slightly right, then back up & left. 5.7+. Good gear once you sling the first dinner plate. Can combine w/ P4 w/ 80m rope (maybe w/ 70?) (LC & JHS) Feb 4, 2015
Jerry Cagle
Tucson, AZ
  5.8 X
[Hide Comment] Get it straight. R, X, etc have nothing to do with the difficulty or with likelihood of a fall. They are a consequence of lack of viable protection.

From safeclimbing.org

"Danger ratings

However, all the various rating systems do not describe the danger level faced by the leader should the leader fall (which is one reason why the YDS should not be used in climbing gyms). Various rating systems were introduced to include some description of the potential falls. These ratings which describe danger and psychological difficulty are not nearly as refined as the ones describing physical difficulty. Currently, the most widely used is the R, R/X, and X ratings. These crudely describe the danger level.

R runout, where a fall would likely result in serious injury
R/X very runout, where a fall at the wrong place will likely result in at least serious injury and possibly death
X extremely runout, where a fall at the wrong place will likely result in death" Feb 18, 2015
[Hide Comment] Crap I thought R/X meant really excellent. No wonder I've always been so scared on the really excellent routes I've done. Feb 19, 2015
jbak .
tucson,az
[Hide Comment] Ha !... solid humor Jim.

Jerry I guess you are right technically. But whenever I see an R or X rating my first (mental) question is: how hard are the stretches with bad pro ? It is definitely germaine to the idea of attempting the route. Feb 19, 2015
Jerry Cagle
Tucson, AZ
  5.8 X
[Hide Comment] Good one, Jimbo. John, the "danger" ratings are intended to add a degree of objectivity to the route description. How hard the moves are is highly subjective. How hard for who? Alex Honnold? It's about how big your hospital bill or your funeral expenses might be... The difficulty rating tells you how hard the moves are, you don't need to fine-tune the danger rating based on the difficulty. That (highly subjective) information is given in the difficulty rating. Feb 25, 2015
[Hide Comment] Jerry, I'm a little confused on your comment. Are you saying that difficulty grades are subjective and danger grades are objective? It seems to me that both are subjective and if there is a difference that difficulty grades might be more objective. If I look at a climb on MP that has been rated by at least 25 people I usually find that about 90% of them rate the climb within one letter grade of the consensus, while the danger ratings (i.e. no rating, PG13, R, & X ratings) can be all over the place. Feb 26, 2015
jbak .
tucson,az
[Hide Comment] ah-ha...my lawyer speaks ! I knew that $200K retainer was good for something ! Feb 26, 2015
[Hide Comment] You bet! The Master Debater doesn't come cheap. Feb 26, 2015
[Hide Comment] Oh dear. This whole time I've been doing X routes assuming it meant I was supposed to be naked and doing sexy things. On R routes I just swear a lot, with plenty of eff bombs, and occasionally throw in some violence or moderate nudity. I'm a little embarrased...

I've got to back up Jerry Cagle - the danger rating is about the risk involved in a fall at the wrong time. It's not about the probability of a fall at the wrong time. Just because you weren't scared, doesn't mean that it's not an R or X route.

As someone who trains a lot of new climbers, and sees their challenges, it's very helpful to include appropriate danger ratings, even if the climbing at that particular point in the route wasn't hard. Holds break. Bats come flying out of cracks. Squirrels do menacing things. Stuff happens.

As to Joe's observation that the danger rating is all over the place from the crowd-sourced data, I suspect that's because some people are very comfortable on easy (to them) terrain, no matter how runout it is, and so they may not have even noticed the consequences of a fall - the fall was improbable and they have a cool head, so they just cruise through without noting that they're in the no-fall zone.

The REALLY useful data of where the R or X section overlaps with the grade at that section is sometimes hard to come by, but that doesn't mean we should not include that there in fact is an R or X (no-fall) section.

If any climber wants that data, and isn't averse to thorough beta that decreases the "adventure" aspect, then it's available in at least one of the guidebooks for the area. Geir does a great job of noting where the no-fall zones are in Toofast Topos and what the grade of the R or X section is. Not sure about Tanya's book, maybe it does too. Jan 6, 2020