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Picture Rocks is an exciting little off-trail peak to bag when you don't have a lot of time. Picture Rocks is the distinctive peak guarding the eastern border of the north Tucson Mountain foothills. It is also the prominent peak just south of Contzen Pass.
Take off from the ubiquitous Ringtail trailhead as I described previously in my Cactus Canyon write-up. Follow this pleasant trail (as always) to its terminus at the Picture Rocks Wash. At the wash, turn left. All along the way, you are skirting around the base of Picture Rocks. Its western face is very steep, and while you could easily scramble over to its base from anywhere along this trail, it would be too steep to climb. The purpose of going all the way to the wash is to go around to the southern margin, which is still very steep, but from here, you can plot your route up. A small, broad saddle along the southeastern face serves as a break in the buttress that runs along the southern flank. This is where I recommend you aim.
I took the wash for just a short distance to plot my route. You can break out of the wash anywhere you please and start scrambling to the base. There is a small patch of prominent grey gravel about halfway up the southeast face. I aimed for this. The climb is VERY steep. Any steeper and you would not be able to stand. So be prepared to fall and skid and all that. From the grey gravel, patch look up and to your left. There is really only one way you can get up. There is a narrow chute to climb, and then you are pretty much there. There is a large chokestone in this chute. Please be wise and climb around (NOT ON) the stone to avoid any possible chance of dislodgement. This is the trickiest part of the climb. It is very exposed and requires a bit of tricky maneuvering. Once beyond this chute (with the palo verde tree stabbing you in the face as you pull yourself up), you are home free.
From the saddle, head left and up. There is a false summit. Beyond is the bi-domed summit of Picture Rocks with beautiful views of the Tucson Mountains and Contzen Pass below. Head down the way you came. Be careful at the chute, and again, please don't climb down with your weight on that chokestone. Cross country scramble back to the wash once you have descended the peak.
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