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Courthouse Rock / East Face
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mini location map2010-04-10
30 by photographer avatarsuzaz
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Courthouse Rock / East FaceSouthwest, AZ
Southwest, AZ
Climbing avatar Apr 10 2010
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This was a beautiful day near the Tonopah desert in the Eagletail Mountain Area. The Eagletail Mountains are named for the bare granite pinnacles that resemble bird's feathers. And on the near side of this range a stark monolith of rock, huge and sheer-sided, rises majestically out of the desert floor and demands your attention. This is Courthouse Rock, a 2874ft guardian that is an irresistable magnet for climbers during the winter when the temperatures are moderate. This adventure tackles a 1300ft climbing challenge.

This trip has been in the planning process for awhile and was rescheduled once because of rain. I loved this climb. I might be making the shift from hiker to climber because I find myself becoming a fan of short approaches. This approach was 20-30 mins max. The climb had just the right mix of adventure, challenge and views. (honestly I'm not fond of ultra difficult routes) I thought it was a fun multi-pitch climb. I suspect it would be difficult to route find here without someone that had climbed it previously. Some of the anchor stations or belay points along the standard route are easy to find but others are not. We lost lots of time on a couple of pitches while looking for anchor stations. It was a lot of work to move a lot of people up a lot of pitches with a lot of rope. I learned lots.

We did the Mountaineer Route on the East Face. The route has approximately 7 pitches for the 1300 feet of rock climbing to get to the top. We completed 5 of those pitches and opted to bail after the first five pitches due to time concerns. I left my house at 3am and returned at 11:45pm, it was a full day....240 mile drive for me. (6 hours of driving and 15 hours of climbing) Planning another attempt for the Fall because it was already heating up.

The rock here has been lovingly referred to as crappy rock... meaning it breaks apart easily. I kind of like it because there are lots of little shelves to hold and/or step on....just gotta make sure they are solid before you fully weight them. I think there were only 2 bolts on the entire route (those were on pitch 3, I believe) and very few places to actually place gear. I only had a 5-6 holds flake away throughout the day. Certainly lots of loose rocks flying around. Helmets are a must on this route.

(still need to double check this with the other climbers and match it up to photos) Seems like it would be a lovely idea to GPS the anchor points....but nobody in the climbing world does that.
The approach--This was a straight walk to the base of the rock with no obvious route markings. We were near a wash as we got a little closer and did catch a foot path for the last part of the approach. We headed towards the shadowed gully/large crack in the rock. 33o27.72'N 113o21.46'W and elevation 1910ft is where the climbing begins.

Pitch 1--From the base it's pretty much straight up to a little landing hidden behind a rock wall. The anchors for the first pitch are not easily found unless you start up the right ridge. It is the second longitudinal ridge to the right of the streambed by about 20ft; it is also the ridge that appears easiest to climb. Climb about 50ft up along the left side of the arete and then transition about 6ft right onto the arete itself where there is one slightly awkward move (5.3) just below a bolted belay station in a wall to your left. It is probably best to bypass this station, to proceed up an easy gully and then climb left onto a prominent outcropping where there is a second belay station on a big ledge about 170ft from the start.
Pitch 2--This route starts out as more of a scramble and turns a corner to go up a bit of a gully. The anchor stations is to the right.It is a short pitch proceeds left along a ledge and climbs a short chimney in the streamcourse to a broad, recessed platform in the main streambed of the gully. The belay station is on a ledge above the streambed on the right. This easy (5.2) second pitch is only about 50ft.
Pitch 3--This pitch seemed straight forward until it takes a turn. We added a redirect piece to help swing the rope around the corner. The anchor station is near a small saguaro. The third pitch is also easy (5.2) and climbs about 160ft directly up the watercourse. It begins at about 2020ft and you should reach this point after 1hr of climbing. A jog to the right and a traverse back left take you to the broad recessed ledge at the top of the third pitch where there is a bolted belay station.
Pitch 4--This is a smaller ledge with room for about 3 people. The fourth pitch (5.5) proceeds up the center of the rockwall for about 160ft. There is a partially bolted route to the left of the center; this includes one key bolt (in the middle of a blackened face and visible from the bottom of the pitch) just below the crux in which the move is back to the right and up to the top of the pitch. Some recommend climbing to the key bolt, hooking in, descending about 10ft and then swinging over to the right where there are more features. However, our preferred alternative is to climb straight up the center about 12ft to the right of the bolts. The climbing there is much easier; the problem is in finding a way to install adequate protection over the central part of the climb. Nearing the top there are several ledges and cracks that allow for more comfortable climbing. The top of this 160ft fourth pitch (at 5.5 the most difficult pitch on the ascent) is a bolted anchor station on a small but secure ledge. You should reach this 2230ft elevation about 3hr after the morning start.
Pitch 5--The fifth pitch (5.2) proceeds up a more gently sloping and flat rock face to a bolted belay station just below the shoulder ridge of Courthouse Rock. A nice dihedral crack provides protection for the first 25ft. Beyond this secure anchor points are hard to find but it is easy friction climbing straight up about 120ft to the bolted anchor station at the top of the great gully. You should reach this point after 3.5hr of climbing.This pitch was more of a challenge for the lead climber because it wasn't very protectable.
It's a short scramble to the left of the anchor station and then to the right through a bowl and around a saguaro to top of the ridge.

This as far as we made it due to time concerns so the info from here is only what I have been told or could real experience there.
After Pitch 5 it is a traverse or walk across the saddle to the rock area that leads up the final tower. This walk is far enough that you will likely want to switch out of your climbing shoes back into hiking shoes. There is a fair amount of scree and cholla bobs all over the place.
Pitch 6-- short climb up what appears to be like a staircase. Drop packs and harness here.
Pitch 7--Scramble to the top.
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