Saturday, February 4, 2017

Tucson Bouldering: Redington Pass (aka Tanque Verde)

Sometimes areas seem to get more spray/attention than warranted while other more deserving ones are ignored and neglected.  I've never fully understood why this is but I've seen it the world over and in Tucson the great neglected area seemed to be a charming little place with the duel name of Redington Pass and/or Tanque Verde.

I actually remembered this area from an exploratory hike I did when passing through Tucson 14 years ago and never forgot the giant water-polished boulders.  For this trip I asked some locals about the place and I was told it wasn't very good, they had never been and/or the other areas where much better.  I started thinking my memories from all those years ago was wrong but fortunately I ignored the naysayers and went back to do some ground truthing only to discover that my memory had indeed served me well.

Redington Pass turned out to be my favorite of the lower elevation areas around Tucson as the climbing, rock and setting are all exceptional and the access is casual.  Several of the best problems I did around Tucson were here and to my surprise the best of them where first ascents.  It boggled my mind that such good problems had been overlooked for so long but hopefully that will change.  I'd venture to say that Tanque Verde is not to be missed for the visiting boulder and is considerably better than the heavily trafficked Hairpin at the base of Mt Lemmon.

If you do go to Tanque Verde be aware that this is a nudist spot so you can let it all hang out or at the very least not be bothered if others do.  Perhaps the reason the place is under the radar is because folks are scared off by birthday suits.........
Here are some photos

Climbing rocks and building sand castles.  Redington actually ended up being an optimal place for the family as this spot is next to the main cluster of boulders.  Not a bad way to spend a winter's day.

The waterfall just downstream from the bouldering.  When we first visited this area we hiked up the canyon be we later realized there is a well established trail that drops you above this waterfall and right at the boulders.  The canyon was a nice hike but the trail make the approach easier.

Prairie on a rad steep line out the belly of a massive boulder.  This problem was just big moves on jugs from the stand and I added an obvious sit-start that is considerably harder.  It is once again surprising that this is a first ascent but unless I hear otherwise I'm calling it Pants Off Dance Off.  There are a couple impressive projects to the right that could be proper hard and definitely worthy.  

The Pictured Boulder is a little further up canyon and had a couple impressive lines on it with the two best being listed as projects.  Three of us spent the better part of 3 hours trying to figure out beta on the best one and in the end managed to crack the improbable sequence and establish Don't Get Chicked.

Jesse discovered that if you lay your leg on the starting self you can reach/use the horrible holds higher up and Prairie cracked the best beta for the final crux move.  I thought Prairie was going to do this thing before me (thus the name) but she had to return two days later for her ascent.

Another line just to the right of Don't Get Chicked brought be back to the Pictured Boulder and ended up being just as good as its neighbor but very different climbing.  There wasn't as much subtleties on this one as it just took some big pulls on decent holds.  I also sit-started this one under the big rail and realized Chicked could be started here as well.  I called the problem Don't Get Dicked.

Of the established problems at Redington Pass my favorite might be Red Arete for its unassuming nature and fantastic climbing.  It packs quite a lot of climbing in a small space and offered some pleasing movement.

Prairie on the steep beginning of Red Arete and then navigating the polished pinches that make the crux.

Tall Smooth White One was the name appropriately given to this massive boulder.  Apparently the lines hadn't been done on this block which seems hard to believe as 3 of the 4 problems I did were in the lower grades.  Maybe the height has scared people off but it still seems presumptuous to claim the first ascents without a more thorough survey of the locals. 

These are the two best problems we did on the Tall Smooth White One and they are sweet.  The one on the left had just enough hold on perfect rock and is by far the hardest of the 4 problems we did (I'm calling it Clothing Optional if it hasn't been done before).  The photo on the right shows Prairie using some of the amazing water polished features of the other problem we dubbed Smoothie.

A parting shot overlooking Tanque Verde.  Will be psyched to get back to this awesome spot.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Wilderness of Rocks: Tucson's Bouldering Wonderland

Wilderness of Rocks was my favorite overall area around Tucson and the place has potential to put Tucson bouldering on the map.  While other Tucson areas are small Wilderness of Rocks is massive as the rock is seemingly endless with the granite offering a variety of features and styles reminiscent of Black Mountain.  The good stuff that has been done is unquestionably world class and only a small fraction of the stone has been explored.  The best is likely yet to come and if you like exploring you could spend a lifetime establishing 3 star problems.

Logistically Wilderness of Rocks takes a bit more effort than most areas as you first drive to the end of the Catalina Hwy (45ish minute drive from Tucson) and then hike at least an hour.  This is also considered a "summer area" as it provides manageable mountain temperatures when Tucson is roasting below but most winters should provide some ideal climbing days.  Of course the high elevation means you can expect Wilderness of Rocks to get shut down much of the winter but fortunately a couple sunny winter day can melt enough snow to make a lot of stuff climbable, but expect to hike through a bit of snow.

Unfortunately I only managed two days in Wilderness of Rocks and I actually spent both days in the same sector but I did of course do some exploring and could very easily have spent a my entire trip here without coming close to seeing everything.  Here are some photos from my days climbing in the Dog Park sector

The Sky Boulder is an amazing piece of rock ringed with great problems.  Nothing quite like starting your climbing day with a warm-up on granite "alligator skin"

Jetpack is one of the establish problems on the steep side of the Sky Boulder.  It's a bit of a one move wonder (dyno of the lip) but still a quality problems.  

Young Bigness is aptly named as the crux requires a massive move that took some effort on my part.  I believe this is the hardest established problem on the boulder but there are a couple good looking projects (like the one to the left) that will take it up a few notches.

 Before going to the Dog Park I'd seen some photos of one particular problem that I desperately wanted to check out and I didn't disappoint.  The locals had established a left exit called Surfing but I was struck by the obvious line up the rail and sent a good portion of my day (and all my skin) flailing on it.  It was the reason I went back to this area and after a bit more work and with the help of Alex we cracked the beta and sent one after the other.  It's been dubbed Minnie's Haberdashery and is alone worth the hike.

On the left is Alex doing the crux during the FA of Minnies Haberdashery and on the right is Prairie trying Surfing.

I saw so many amazing unclimbed boulders but time restraints limited me to only establish a few.  We dubbed this beautiful swooping slab Pressure Drop and it was harder (and therefore spicier) than I had expected.  I ended up bailing a little right at this point but the line I'd like to do would take the non-crimp I have my left-hand on with the right-hand and do a terrifying slab dyno.   I also did the striking arete on the left side this boulder. 

Jefe on just another amazing boulder he cleaned up.  This one is called Creep Show.

Stev on Creep Show.  

 On the way out from the Dog Park we walked through another sector (Magic Forest) and had just enough time to bang out a cool sloper problem called Hell Bitch.  I would not recommend this problem to those of shorter stature as a couple moves are a no-go if you can't reach from the big feet.  On the right is Prairie trying to dyno where taller folks just stand up. 

 Psyched to get back to this place.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tucson Bouldering: Things to Consider

Here is the first of several posts I'm hoping to do about my recent trip to the States and the climbing around Tucson, AZ.  Hope you enjoy

Recently I had a great four weeks in the USA where the vast majority of my time was spent around Tucson in Southern Arizona.  I took my usual systematic approach to trying to see as much of the bouldering as possible, ticking the best problems along the way, and I feel I did pretty well during my short time.  It was a blast and the bouldering actually blew away my expectations and I'll venture to say this corner of Arizona should be a winter destination.  Seriously, there is so much good bouldering already established (and other climbing for that matter) and the locals have only scratched the surface.  There is tons of development to do and not just in the remote areas as several of the best problems I did were FAs in well established areas with easy access.  The climate, quality/quantity of climbing, and the convenience of having family in the area will likely make Tucson my new winter spot.  Good times.

Until I get around to going through all my photos/videos from the trip here are a few things to consider if you decide to take a bouldering trip to Tucson.

  1. Mt Lemmon and the Catalina Hwy.  Mt Lemmon technically refers to the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains just north of Tucson but is it used more broadly by climbers to reference the area that holds the majority of the bouldering (and rope climbing).  The Catalina Hwy is what makes much of the climbing in this area possible as it winds up the mountain, gaining several thousand feet in the process and providing access to the bouldering on "Lemmon".
     Looking down on Tucson from Wilderness of Rocks up towards the top of Mt Lemmon
  2. Lots of bouldering but widely dispersed.  While the total amount of bouldering around Tucson is impressive, most of the individual areas are quite small and cater more to the cherry-picking hard-man than the high volume moderate climber.  The exception to this rule is Wilderness of Rocks which is an expansive area where you could post up for days.  Unfortunately W.o.R requires an hour plus approach and is mostly underdeveloped.
  3. Adjustable Climate.  Tucson is an ideal winter spot as you can expect to climb in a t-shirt in the dead of winter.  You also can "pick your conditions" to a degree as the climbing high up in the Catalinas is considerably cooler if things get too warm at the lower areas.  We were pretty lucky as the higher stuff (like Wilderness of Rocks) was climbable most days but in some years snow levels might limit climbing to the lower elevations.
    Only a 30ish minute drive separated our snowman and sandcastle
  4. Variety of climbing.  The bouldering around Tucson is actually quite varied as you can pull on steep pocketed volcanic, thrash your tips on granite, or slap some water-polished gneiss.  The rock on Mt Lemmon alone varies between areas so don't get discouraged if you visit one place and decide it's not for you.  In general I'd say Wilderness of Rocks offers some of the best stone if you don't count the water-polished stuff in the narrow canyons.  And of course there is heaps of rope climbing which is meant to be pretty good (if you're into that kind of thing).
  5. Potential.  Those that know me are aware that I like having the option to find new stuff and areas with potential have massive appeal to me.  The developed climbing around Tucson will keep most people entertained for a fair amount of time but the surface has only been scratched, especially if you are willing to hike.  Hopefully the locals are getting after it as I'm excite to see what they have found for my return next winter.
  6. Old Pueblo Bouldering.  I almost forgot to mention a great resource for Tucson bouldering.  Old Pueblo Boulder ( is a database for the bouldering around Tucson and while it is far from complete it still provides loads of good information with the map feature and photos of boulders being particularly useful. The site has over 1600 boulder problems thus far and while there are some glaring omissions (like the Dog Park and Gnarnia) it is quite an undertaking and I found the site very helpful and would like to extend a big THANK YOU to those that created Old Pueblo.  
    This shot only shows a few of the boulders to be found at Cochise Stronghold, a little over 1 hour from Tucson.