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The Sheepshead
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L to R R to L Alpha
Absinthe of Mallet T 
Animal Husbandry S 
Bantam of the Opera S 
Bruise the Rooster T 
Burning Calves S 
Climb Too Tough To Die, The T 
Dark Horse T 
Ewephoria T 
Get The Flock Out Of Here T 
Greedy Little Varmint T 
Hardskins of Our Forefathers T 
Ides of Middlemarch T 
Last Roundup, The T 
Mad Cow Disease T 
Peacemaker, The S 
Phony Pony T 
Stampede S 
Tombstone Stripper, The T 
Unmitigated Audacity S 

Absinthe of Mallet 

YDS: 5.10- French: 6a Ewbanks: 18 UIAA: VI+ ZA: 18 British: E1 5a

Type:  Trad, 7 pitches, Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.10- French: 6a Ewbanks: 18 UIAA: VI+ ZA: 18 British: E1 5a [details]
FA: Scott Ayers & Steve Grossman (P1-2). Scott Ayers & Brian Griffin (P3-5). Scott Ayers & Avi Steinburg (P6-7). (Original Version 1988)
Page Views: 24,567
Submitted By: Anthony Anagnostou on Dec 4, 2005

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climber near the top of absinthe - taken from the ...


Approach: About 30 min. Approach on the main sheepshead highway trail. Hike for a while, then 5 minutes or so after going through the second animal gate, see a less defined trail break uphill from the main trail (small cairns on sandy slab). Follow this (trail gets good quickly) up cairns. There is one cairned trail that breaks off right to another rock formation- ignore it. Eventually you will reach a big boulder near the cliff base. Walk left by the boulder (underneath it) and head up a few yards to the base of sheepshead. A slabby pillar that leads to a corner/bulge with a bolt is where the trail hits the rock. This is the start of Absinthe. A tree hides most of the short slab and shades the first half of the pitch.

50' climber's right along the base of the rock is a bolted slab. This is the start of Peacemaker.

P1. Start up left-facing dihedral left of slab, or paw up slab, to stance and clip bolt. Go up the corner and step right to another lip. See a bulge above with a bolt at the lip. Get there, clip it, fire it, and get to a ledge. Place pro high to protect second (cams in back of open flake and long runners) and walk right to 2-bolt ring anchor.

P2. Ignore bolts out right on polished slab, and ignore big ugly right-facing corner. You're headed straight up to crack/face climbing (a few bolts on face runouts) to 2 bolt anchor on ledge right of bush. The anchor bolts here are painted Metolius rap bolts (the oversized bolts you can rap off of) as are all the belay anchors for the rest of the climb. This is the most sustained pitch and probably the route's crux. The first cruxy move may be a little harder for shorter people. Classic pitch.

P3. Move the belay left to the second dihedral past a few bolts to a two bolt anchor. Very short pitch on distinctly easier climbing. If you have any draws left you could almost assuredly link this with P2 with a 60m.

P4. Go up the dihedral, clip a bolt, then move higher. Soon you will reach a stance to move left and clip a bolt on a bulge (find this bolt before you start climbing so you don't go past it). This clip will be harder for short people. Consider placing a cam high in the dihedral crack to protect the clip and then backclean it for ropedrag. Move above the bolt on stiff friction to a long stretch of 5.easy chickenhead climbing on the right side of the pillar (past one bolt). Belay at 2 bolt anchor on right side of pillar.

P5. Move up to a break in the rock, clip (or don't clip) a useless bolt, and pull over the broken bulge to another stretch of slab on the right side of the pillar (bolts). Keep an eye out right where you step into the gully near a tree and belay from a 2 bolt anchor on a small perch on the right side of the gully.

P6. Follow bolts on thin face/friction, past a bulge, to another anchor (can be tricky to see until near it). Another line of bolts appears farther right. Ignore 'em.

P7. Friction up the flawless green buttress to the top (more bolts). 2" and 3" cams make a great anchor, but all kinds of stuff will work with a little fiddling.

Descent: Walk off opposite side to cairned descent down gully in back. Elaborate cairn on summit marks the summit register and is right of the descent gully as walking from the Absinthe top-out. Follow trail down NW side of sheepshead, bearing left along rock whenever trail splits. About 15 minutes.

Notes: This Cochise classic had a reputation as a death route because of the sparse bolting on the long stretches of face. It was recently retrobolted (by Scott Ayers, the FA, so don't you dare chop anything..) so it no longer deserves an 'R' rating. The climbing is still a bit spicy is you are used to indian creek or Urioste red rocks pro, but it's standard fare for Cochise. The rating is on for Cochise 9+, but it can feel stiff if you're used to softer areas. The route is much more serious feeling than Peacemaker (6p 10a) just to its right.

Also- Scott adjusted the finishing pitches for a much better finish. Apparently the last few pitches used to be a little lackluster. Now they're great fun. This route description describes the new finish (obviously)..

Finally, be forewarned that Scott is a straight-bolter. Just because the bolt line is railroad-straight, it doesnt mean that you won't be traversing back and forth and all over the place to find the path of least resistance. You can't fall asleep and follow his routes like a sport climb, and in return you'll get little or no rope drag through the face pitches.

Props to Scott for putting up this Cochise classic, and for adding impeccable bolts to allow mere mortals safe passage.


Rack: 14 draws, a half dozen of which should be extendable. 1 set of nuts, and a single set of blue alien to #3 camalot (double on white alien size). If you place a lot of pro, you might consider a few extra cams for the second pitch. An additional green and yellow alien, as well as an additional #.75 and #1 camalot would leave you plenty of options.

Photos of Absinthe of Mallet Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Tricky moves on the traverse right on the upper pa...
BETA PHOTO: Tricky moves on the traverse right on the upper pa...
Rock Climbing Photo: Start up dihedral to first bolt.
Start up dihedral to first bolt.
Rock Climbing Photo: Leading P3 of Absinthe of Mallet.  Photo by James ...
Leading P3 of Absinthe of Mallet. Photo by James ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Approaching Absinthe of Mallet in the snow.  Decem...
Approaching Absinthe of Mallet in the snow. Decem...
Rock Climbing Photo: P.Ross top of Absinth of Mallat looking towards th...
P.Ross top of Absinth of Mallat looking towards th...
Rock Climbing Photo: Justin York, near the top of Too Tough Too Die, wa...
BETA PHOTO: Justin York, near the top of Too Tough Too Die, wa...
Rock Climbing Photo: Another shot of the last pitch
BETA PHOTO: Another shot of the last pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: My attempt at a topo, if somebody notices anything...
BETA PHOTO: My attempt at a topo, if somebody notices anything...
Rock Climbing Photo: The final P7, another long friction pitch. Bring c...
BETA PHOTO: The final P7, another long friction pitch. Bring c...
Rock Climbing Photo: P6, a long friction pitch.
BETA PHOTO: P6, a long friction pitch.

Comments on Absinthe of Mallet Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 20, 2016
By manuel rangel
From: Tempe, Arizona
Jan 27, 2006

I did Scott's new finish but I had no idea he did the FA on this stellar route. The description didn't seem like the route I did except for the last two arete pitches. I ran the 2nd and 3rd pitches together with a 60m rope. I totally missed seeing the anchors on the 2nd pitch. Bring a long sling for wrapping round the 4'-5' diameter horn before the slab at the end of the 3rd pitch. I thought it was a very difficult face above this. To find the new arete finish, look to your right for an oak tree in the gulley; the rap hangers are just right of it.
By 1Eric Rhicard
May 10, 2006
rating: 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

I thought Steve Grossman or Mike Strassman had something to do with the FA. Did Scott solo this route? Some one must have held his rope. That person is equally important in these endeavors and should be included in the FA info.
By 1Eric Rhicard
May 18, 2006
rating: 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

I looked up the FA team. Steve Grossman and Brian Griffin were in on the FA too.
By Mike
From: Phoenix
Sep 18, 2006

Definitely do the new bolted finish!
By tom selleck
Nov 27, 2006

Good route. Climbs the longest possible aspect of Sheepshead, that makes it cool. A one of each rack is sufficient for this route. I wish I had known about the alternate finishes the chimney was a little ho-hum.
By Christian
From: Casa do Cacete
Jan 7, 2007
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

We did this in early January and it was about 32F in the parking lot. I started up the first pitch around 8AM and it was in the shade the entire time. My hands were pretty much frozen and completely numb about halfway up, but thankfully there's a good stance where you can stop and put some gloves on and warm your hands up for a few minutes.

Or just wait and start about an hour later, when it's warmer and at least the top part of the first pitch will be in the sun (we started early after talking to a party of three in the parking lot who had the same route in mind).

Excellent must-do route!
By Daniel Cohn
Mar 6, 2007
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

Just did this. It took all day long and it would have been nice to have a head lamp for the descent. I would still give the route an 'R' for the original finish. The low angle slab at the top of the 7th pitch in the in Kerry guide (the last big pitch before the chimney) is hard to protect because there are just a few chicken heads and then they stop. You have to run it out and a fall, while unlikely, wouldn't be much fun. Make sure you have some long runners for this section.
By Eric Foster
From: Chandler/Flagstaff, AZ
May 4, 2007

great job with the description here
By Jon Ruland
From: Tucson, AZ
Feb 3, 2008
rating: 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

am i the only one who thinks the last pitch felt like 10b?

btw that last pitch is classic.

EDIT 12/7/14
ok fine 10- is fair.

also, pitch 3 is just a dumb 40-foot 5.4 belay transition and pitch 5 is terrible, but they are necessary to get to the rest of the climbing which is stellar.
By Jon Ruland
From: Tucson, AZ
Feb 3, 2008
rating: 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

topo for this climb available at
By ttriche
From: Altadena, CA
Dec 1, 2008

The crux on the 2nd pitch is very cool once you puzzle it out -- great vision on the part of the FAists. Come to think of it, the entire 2nd pitch was cool. I was completely cashed out after finishing it, we decided there was no way we would finish the climb at the pace I was going on that pitch. It was worth it anyways. We climbed Peacemaker the next day and it just didn't compare (mentally) to the challenge we found on Absinthe. Definitely worth bringing some small gear for that.
By adrian korosec
From: tucson,az
Mar 1, 2009

Can anyone tell me what variation I climbed? I climbed the right facing corner above the top of pitch 1. Instead of staying in the corner proper, I climbed the discontinuous crack a couple feet right of the corner with Peacemaker just a few feet further to my right. I ended up at Absinthe anchors of P2.

Good pitch.
By Geir
From: Tucson, AZ
Apr 2, 2009
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b

A new topo for this climb is now available. You can download it by clicking this link:

By Mike Dudley
From: Vegas
Aug 5, 2009

Geir awesome topo thanks a bunch for putting in the time on it.
By Geir
From: Tucson, AZ
Aug 6, 2009
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b

you're welcome, mike! thanks for your comments. :)
By Aerili
From: Los Alamos, NM
Jan 6, 2010
rating: 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

The start of p2 is difficult to protect if you are not at least possibly 5'8" or taller. Really good footwork and balance will allow you to do the moves cleanly, but good luck with getting in gear that doesn't take up your one single handhold off the belay!

As for gear, I used only one C3 once, but my partner and I used a #4 a couple times; ymmv.

Pitch 7 seemed easier than I remembered--even when climbing directly between most bolts. If you are good at slab, move quickly, and make your clips on long runners, it's not as gripping as they all say! :)

By roman d
From: Pasadena, CA
Jan 7, 2010

I got sucked into the big right-facing corner on P2, and followed it up until I could traverse left to the big grainy finger and rejoin the actual route. I thought the climbing on this was super fun, if poorly protected (much wide liebacking).

Above where I traversed back to the main route, the corner thinned and went past two old pins. Anybody know where that leads?
By Geir
From: Tucson, AZ
Jan 7, 2010
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b

hey roman- i'm pretty sure that was one of the original belay anchors for absinthe.

also, i updated the topo to include that right-facing corner to help make sure that others don't get off route in that spot. thanks for the beta!
By Buzz Burrell
From: Boulder
Mar 26, 2010

Started hard and stayed hard, bottom to top; experts at steep friction would feel otherwise. A full selection of BD C3's really helps.
By arjunmh
From: Phoenix & Prescott, AZ
Mar 22, 2011
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b

Wow, this is a stellar climb! Easier for me than Ides, but perhaps that's b/c I'd scoped the route pretty well and knew of the various ways to get off route. The cruxes were terrific and well protected, though the 2nd-to=last pitch will feel runout to folks not comfortable with slab dancing.
By Scrivm
May 6, 2012

Rack: stoppers. singles green alien through #2 camalot. double up on yellow alien-#1 camalot, #3 optional. Shoulder length draws and a double length here and there for the second is a good idea too.

Second pitch didn't seem all that cruxy to me, there's good gear at your feet and then right in your face too... Don't loose sleep over it. Awesome route!
By Bill Olszewski
From: Colorado Springs, CO
Oct 28, 2012
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

I guess we got off route on P5; I anchored at the big tree on the big ledge. We went up and left from there, is that the next to last pitch of Climb Too Tough to Die? Finished in the chimney, bolted left face. I'm assuming that is the original finish. Really loved leading that first pitch!
By Jim Donini
Dec 22, 2012

Some nice movement but kind of contrived. I think Unknown 15 ft. left of Peacemaker is a better climb.
By bikesrockswaves
From: Tucson, Arizona
Jan 6, 2013

Classic 9+/10-. Mostly easier, but solid P1&P2 (new#s)and start to P3. Could be heady there if you're not solid on the grade. Some notes:

Route is now changed such that the old "2nd belay" is gone -- nicely so -- making for a stellar combined, 55m-ish pitch P2, the queen pitch on the route. Bolt or two added to support this direct line, which are tastefully done. New combined pitch now ends at two-bolt belay. (Savvy 70m-doubles and you can actually combine pitch one to go straight from the ground to newP2bolts/old P3.)

Follow the silly/unnecessary (if you made it to here already) bolt line from there up 5.4 to shift belays for the (newly numbered) Pitch 3, which you can take ~50m or so to 2 bolt anchor up in chickenheads.

Higher up (P4?) there is now a good option to cut out left to a bolted line which avoids some of the less stellar upper climbing.

The way to finish from the tree ledge is definitely the left bolted line on the overhanging wall left of the chimney (though this could have easily gone trad, would have been cooler; no rack needed as bolted now). This is a fun line, leaves you finishing nicely positioned on a high arete. This is mostly a balancey 5.8/5.9 type thing, under the roof.

Light rack is all that is required, not even a #3BD, including a couple small (not micro) TCU type pieces. All belays are bolted. I think we did the whole think in six pitches, not counting if you went from the ground to top-of-old-P3.
By Sun2Stone Meyer
From: Phoenix,AZ
Dec 11, 2013

An opportunity to climb the route with Geir H. and Nestor G
Temps at 52 deg , but got the sun by pitch two. Excited to excel leading the final 7th thin slab. five stars. Chris M
By Anthony Anagnostou
From: nyc
Mar 9, 2014

it recently came to my attention that Scott Ayers is making a new guidebook and he put the original topo online:
By Kevin Kent
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 10, 2015

For the life of me I can't understand the anchor placement at the top of P4. It's an ok stance but there is huge ledge 20 feet higher (I would recommend belaying here, you can use the bolt and a #3). I suppose it's to facilitate a rappel but even then it's not in the best spot if you ask me.

I didn't do this but I think linking the last 2 slab pitches would be doable with a 70m rope and 15(?) draws (at most 15 feet of very easy simulclimbing for the 2nd) and would avoid the hanging belay (again placed in a dumb spot, there is a much better stance 25' below).
By Ryan Petronella
Aug 19, 2015

A lot of things to say about this route. Just climbed it today and it is by far my favorite route on the Sheepshead. My partner and I left at 5:30 and got up by 6:15, and were able to summit before we hit sun about 4 hours later. We did a variation that may save some time with a 70m. I lead the first pitch but instead of traversing right to the first bolts (didn't exactly know the beta for it) I kept going up the solid 3-4 inch layback/stemming crack for about 50 feet. I'd definitely bring out a 4 and maybe a 5, I ended up running this section a good 50 feet out trying to find a place to jam a 3 (spicy). We linked the first 2 pitches with about 15 feet of rope left on a 70m, and then linked 3 and 4 together as well. We simul climbed up to the anchors below pitch 6 (real easy going), climbed 6 but belayed from the biggest tree on the ledge (shared with Ewephoria), and finished on the super exposed The Climb Too Tough To Die. Would have loved to climb it before it was retrobolted... at times seemed a little excessive, but overall stellar climb!
By Josh Tokioka
From: Cedar City, UT
Apr 17, 2016

We linked pitches six and seven while climbing this. As Kevin Kent guessed, linking the last two pitches with a 70m will lead to about 25ft of simulclimbing. Not bad though, makes for a killer slab pitch!
By Joshua Munoz
May 20, 2016
rating: 5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b PG13

On pitch 2 I got off route and stayed going straight up the crack between Absinthe and Unknown left of Peacemaker. Traversed over left once I got even with the bolts for the end of pitch 2. Some scary runout cracks. Anyone know the rating to that line?

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