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Routes in Sabino Canyon

Colorado Crush T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Echo Dancer T 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
Hard to Swallow T 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Heart of a Rhombohedron T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b PG13
Kor Wall T 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Mission Control T 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Naked Prey, The T 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Tongue of Death T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a PG13
Yabbadabbadoo! T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Unsorted Routes:
Type: Trad, 550 ft, 5 pitches, Grade III
FA: to top of P2: MM, DB, '71 full route: JS, RR '78 direct: RR, HN, JS, '81
Page Views: 1,608 total, 22/month
Shared By: Charles Vernon on Nov 21, 2011
Admins: Greg Opland, Luke Bertelsen, JJ Schlick

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Colorado Crush is one of the best multi-pitch trad climbs around, with an easy approach to boot. I don't think it gets much traffic, which is a shame. It climbs the tallest part of the Acropolis, the first cliff you come to in Sabino Canyon (the Acropolis really should have its own page).

Kerry, per Steiger, says that "the dihedral pitch is excellent, but the rest of the not as good." I say bollocks. The direct start on P1 is superb, and pitches 3 and 4 are also very good-MUCH better than they look from the belays. Overall, the rock is high quality with just a short loose section at the top of pitch 3. Of course, due to neglect, the route is a little dirty and/or vegetated in places.

2015 edit: I reluctantly note, based on the comments here and my conversations with several people who have done the route, that not everybody...okay, virtually nobody else agrees with me that this route, particularly the upper pitches, is the second coming of Abracadaver.

Use the topo in Backcountry Rockclimbing. What follows are annotations-as usual, stop reading if beta gets your dander up:

1) We did the direct start. The description says "ingenuity is critical for protection before the bolt is reached." At some point, an unknown party replaced ingenuity with a bolt, of late 80s/early 90s vintage. You'll still get a mental challenge as the (now) 2nd bolt, protecting the crux slab move, is a rusty, ancient spinner. The lower bolt looks better and with an alert belayer, should keep you off the ledge if the top bolt fails.

Aside from the protection, the actual climbing moves are really fun on this short pitch. The original start is a long traversing 5.6 pitch that does not look as high quality as the direct, but who knows.

2) One of the best crack pitches in the Catalinas. Doubles of hand size are unnecessary, as the crack pinches down for nuts periodically.

3) A wild rope-stretcher, particularly if you do it as shown on the topo. Next time I would break it into two, belaying just below the awesome stemming crux (although this might leave you a little more exposed to rockfall at the belay). Lots of micro-routefinding, traversing, and some moderate runouts on this pitch.

4) Much wilder (and better) than the "5.6 chimney" notation on the topo might imply! I'll leave it at that. Another long pitch.


The route starts in the middle of the Acropolis, which is a long, 300'-500' high cliff whose western end is visible from the parking lot. Take the road from the visitor center to the first shuttle stop, then take the Phoneline trail until below the route. Head uphill 5 minutes from the trail to the base. This approach is 45 min.-1 hr of pleasant hiking.

Descent: you can walk (i.e. thornwhack) down around the west end of the cliff back to the base of the climb, but a much better alternative would be to avoid leaving anything at the base and plan on taking the Blacketts Ridge trail, which is 100 yards uphill from where you top out, back to its junction with the Phoneline trail and then back to the parking lot from there.


Standard rack. A number 4 friend was useful in spots but not necessary.


Charles Vernon
Tucson, AZ
Charles Vernon   Tucson, AZ
Excellent point. It should be noted that you can do the "best" pitch and then rap from the top of pitch 2 with two ropes, all the way to the ground. You'll probably have to leave some webbing.

The point about my being so hard-core is also a very good point.

[Edit]: In seriousness, perhaps my memory of this route is faulty. When posting on this site I am usually careful to note loose rock, runouts, poor quality climbing, etc. so as not to sandbag or mislead. Mar 29, 2013
That is because you are so hard core Charles. I know I did the dihedral but don't recall if we went to the top. All in all I can say this climb is... I don't recall anything else. Mar 28, 2013
Charles Vernon
Tucson, AZ
Charles Vernon   Tucson, AZ

[edit-this was in response to someone who has since removed their comment] Mar 28, 2013
Pitch 2 has got to be one of the finest 5.9 pitches in the Catalinas: fingers, hands, fists, stemming, liebacks, and it's longer than it looks. I don't think the other pitches are as good, but it is worth the pretty casual hike (on a hiker's trail!) up to the Acropolis. As Charles says, breaking pitch 3 into 2 pitches would probably be a good idea. We did not do this, and my partner was shouldering some big-time rope drag. Mar 11, 2013
But I love the photo! Like a lot of Sabino rock, looks cool, climbs baaadddd... Nov 28, 2011
Can't really say the climbing is better than 2 stars, but I will give it a 3rd star just based on how cool it looks, and the position and views. Nov 22, 2011