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Routes in West Face/ Southwest Arete

Born of Water T,S 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Cloud Man Got Angry T,S 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Crystal Line T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Forbes Route (East Approach) T 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
Forbes Route (West Approach) T 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a
I'itoi Dance T 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Watcher of the Skies S 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
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Type: Trad, 3 pitches, Grade II
FA: Dr. R.H. Forbes & Sr. Lorenzo Montoya, 1898
Page Views: 1,789 total · 31/month
Shared By: Hans Schenk on Feb 10, 2014
Admins: Luke Bertelsen, JJ Schlick, Greg Opland

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Caution: Human and Drug Trafficking Details


This is the classic Forbes Route. The climb consists of three easy roped pitches with hiking in-between.

From the saddle of Thomas Canyon, head southwest up to the prominent notch.

Pitch 1: This pitch ascends the chimney with a chockstone. The pro is sparse, but the climbing is not difficult. There are two belay bolts at the top of this 40 foot pitch. From the top, hike along the rock wall on your left to the south about 100 yards to a nice west-facing slab.

Pitch 2: Climb the slab directly following the meager crack for 150 feet. The crack will take some small to medium cams, and nuts. The climbing is easy and a bit runout near the top. Belay at the two belay bolts. From the belay, hike right (south) and bushwhack through an oak forest for about 100 feet to get to the base of the third pitch.

Pitch 3: This is the famous Ladder Pitch. It is approximately 120 feet in length. When I climbed the route, there were two 1/4 inch bolts, two brackets I had to sling, the first 25 feet were unprotected, and the belay/rappel was the trunk of a tree. Apparently the 1/4 inch bolts have been replaced, and there are belay/rappel bolts at the top of the pitch now.

From the top of Pitch 3, head right (west), then turn south. Climb a short rock with a chockstone. Then follow the vague hiking trails up the gully, through the oaks, and eventually to the summit. Be careful when you exit the gully, and when you are routefinding on the way down. The oaks can hide the edge of the cliffs!

For descent, just retrace your steps and rappel all three pitches.


From Tucson, drive west on Highway 86 (Ajo Way) to Three Points (Robles Junction) and head south on Highway 286. Head south for 30 miles and take the first right after milepost 16. Stay on the dirt road for 2.7 miles, and take the first dirt road that forks right. This road heads through some washes and may require a 4-wheel or high clearance vehicle depending on the season. The road eventually ends at a gate with a sign directing you to the trailhead. Follow the trail for about 90 minutes to the saddle. The trail can be hard to follow at times, so if you think you are lost, backtrack a bit and keep your eye peeled for cairns.


There are solid anchors at the top of each pitch. There are a couple bolts on the ladder pitch. The other two pitches take gear, and can be a bit runout at times.

When I did this, I brought 2 ropes (for the rappels) when standard rope length was 50m. Now you could probably get away with a single 60m or 70m rope. Just watch the ends (knots). For pro: small to medium cams, nuts, slings. There are a couple spots that take Tri-cams so consider bringing a few of the smaller sizes.


J Mo
Tucson, AZ
J Mo   Tucson, AZ
You mean double strand not double rope. A single 70 works great.

Edit- after 2nd trip up, my partner wanted to kill me for taking a 70. See below. Its easy terrain so you may want a shorter rope and down climb some to save weight. Haven't done it yet this way so can't confirm if 35 meter rope would do? Jan 31, 2016
Derek Field
Derek Field   California
Not sure where the 5.6 grade is coming from... there is nothing harder than class-4 on the entire route. Definitely suitable for non-climbers or hikers. Anyone able to lead actual 5.6 trad routes can safely do without rope here. Leave the gear behind, your legs will thank you on the approach/descent. Take a single 60-meter rope to rappel the three steeper pitches. Mar 23, 2016
Hans Schenk
Hans Schenk  
Derek, the 5.6 rating came from the Backcountry Rockclimbing in Southern Arizona book by Bob Kerry (copyright 1997), page 133. May 10, 2016
Derek Field
Derek Field   California
Hans, I meant that I don't see where the Kerry guidebook came up with that rating in the first place. Sep 6, 2016
Hans Schenk
Hans Schenk  
Derek - Gotcha! Thanks for the clarification. Sep 8, 2016

More About Forbes Route (East Approach)