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Reefer Madness 

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

Type:  Trad, 4 pitches, 400', Grade II
Original:  YDS: 5.10- French: 6a Ewbanks: 18 UIAA: VI+ ZA: 18 British: E1 5a R [details]
FA: Kem Johnson, Mark Axen, Rich Thompson (Direct: Paul Davidson, Steve Grossman, Randy Mettler)
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Page Views: 1,901
Submitted By: Charles Vernon on Jul 1, 2008

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mt. lemmon or the sierras??


This exhilarating route offers splitter cracks, runout slabs, an exposed hanging belay, and a door-sized loose flake that you have to gently climb around. A great taste of everything the Reef has to offer, at a "moderate" grade.

In my opinion this route hovers between PG-13 and R for sections of climbing on pitches 2 & 4 (direct finish).

(Note: pitch lengths listed below are just guesstimates on my part.)

P1 (regular): From the northwest corner of Aegir, traverse straight right along a weakness, doing battle with a bush, until you reach a small belay alcove with a large loose flake and obvious left-facing flake/corner above. Not great climbing, but interesting position. 5.7, ~100 ft.

P1 ("Reefer Direct"; recommended; not to be confused with the much harder "Direct Madness" which is on the north face): turn the right side of the roof band with fun moves on grainy rock, then move up and left to an engaging seam. Both the roof and seam are about 10- and have decent gear, but you have to work for it. Be sure to have a nut tool handy on lead. Easier but more runout climbing leads to the same belay alcove described above. 5.10-, ~90 ft.

P2: Climb up into the left-facing, leaning flake corner, doing everything you can not to touch the giant detached flake to the left of it. (This thing is gonna go one day, but surely not the day you're on it). Climb the fun 5.9 corner, then move up and right up easy ledges to a spicy 5.9 slab section (on good rock) with gear and ankle-busting ledges below your feet. Belay on a small ledge with a small tree and a block. 5.9 PG-13/R, ~80 ft.

P3: Move out left into the crack system which turns into a beautiful 1 inch splitter. Some of the best crack climbing on Mt. Lemmon. Set up an exposed hanging belay at the left edge of the huge roof that caps the west face of Aegir. 5.9, ~110 ft.

P4: (easy finish). Do a fun, exposed traverse to the right under the roof, and belay at its end (it would be easy to combine this with the previous pitch). Finish on the last pitch of Blockbuster Ballet by moving up and left, connecting flakes and cracks to the top. Both short pitches are about 5.7.

P4: (direct finish; recommended). From the hanging belay, climb straight up the exposed corner above. A well-protected 5.10- move yields to spicy 5.9 stemming with some shallow micro-nut placements. Continue up the easier remainder of the corner to the top, and belay with incredible exposure and views of Neptune. 5.10- PG-13/R, ~100-120 ft. This can be combined with P3 with a 70-meter rope. However, I thought the hanging belay was one of the coolest positions I've been in on Mt. Lemmon, and worth savoring.


The regular start begins at the northwest corner of Aegir just before you drop steeply downhill to gain the west face. Set a belay and poke around until you find the easy weakness that allows you to get established on the west face.

For the direct start, once you drop down to the west face, there is a long, low roof band. Start up the right end of the roof band where you can get some okay gear and good holds in horizontals. You are aiming for the left-leaning shallow corner/seam above this, which is usually visibly vegetated.


No fixed gear unless there are bail slings. Standard rack to a #3 camalot with an extra .5 & .75 camalot for the pitch 3 splitter. Micro-nuts and possibly micro-cams are useful on the last, direct pitch. A 48" sling or cordolette helps at a couple of the belays.

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By Paul Davidson
Jun 8, 2010

First ascent party spent a couple of hours under the roof waiting out a big rain storm. When it finally passed, Kym Johnson was so anxious to get outta dodge that he took off up the slab in rather wet condition. There's more to the story that I can't recall right now.
By 1Eric Rhicard
Oct 19, 2014

Reefer Direct is the way to go. Way better than traversing the ledge. You could easily combine pitch two and three by placing gear in the horizontal you use to move left. A half dozen shoulder lengths will keep the rope drag down.
By Charles Vernon
From: Tucson, AZ
Jun 20, 2016
rating: 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a R

I attempted this climb again recently, and the second pitch seemed like it has become looser. The door-sized flake was just as I remembered it (i.e., pretty terrifying), but not any worse. However, there is a flake wedged in the main crack which I used to jam and place pro behind which now seems to have partially broken off and is visibly loose. Maybe due to freeze-thaw action? It makes this section scarier and more committing, and I ended up backing off.

It's certainly possible that it hasn't gotten worse, and that my perception is due to age, fatherhood, etc., but I had led this pitch three times previously and never noticed an issue with loose rock in the main crack.

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