Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chochise Stronghold

Sheepshead Rock, The Stronghold

Here it is, Chochise Stronghold, or at least the Sheepshead section of it. Shortly after moving out here I was in contact with a bona fide mountain climbing and he asked if I had been out to "the Stronghold" yet, that was when I started obsessing over the place. The Stronghold is one of the best places to climb in Arizona. It is part of the Dragoon Mountains in Chochise County, and was where the last Apaches held out against the U.S. government. It is large concentration of exposed rock domes with a tremendous amount of established trad and sport multi-pitch climbs. My dream has been to get a few people together to spend a weekend here, just exploring and climbing, but no one seems to ever have the time. Finally, 3 other climbers and myself decided to day trip and climb the 760 ft Ewephoria(5.8) on Sheepshead rock(the largest dome in the photo above).
We met in an empty food store parking lot at 4 am in Tucson, loaded into one car and drove off into the pitch black desert. After an hour or so of easy highway driving we turned onto a dirt road, wound through the darkness for another half an hour. Our directions told us to turn down an unmarked road that lead to a windmill. Fortunately for us the cloudy skies made it impossible to see anything, we took a chance and got lucky. As we got our gear ready the skies began to get lighter and we could finally see the rock. It was amazing, and an hour long hike away.
We took our time on the climb. Two teams of two yo-yoing up each pitch always slows you down, but we had all day. At the top of the third pitch we got a little lost, with a sport, a mixed, and a trad option, non of which had chains in site, we took our time to figure things out. As we did, we noticed an impending wall of rain coming our way. As it moved closer across the fields the winds picked up until we could barely here each other. By this time Kyle had decided to figure out the trad route, which look the easiest, in order to get us off the rock and on the decent trail. We all expected to get soaked before getting off the rock. We hurried up final pitch, snapped a few shots at the top and started down the trail. Have way down the wind stopped, and the sun came out. We hiked back to our car through an amazing boulder strewn field filled with horses. I wouldn't have believed the place existed if I hadn't seen it myself. I can't wait for the next trip down there.

6 am approach
Kyle on the final pitch(the storm was the other way)
The valley southwest(?) of the Stronghold.

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