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Superstition Mtns - NW / Hand
6 Photosets

mini location map2017-03-25
6 by photographer avatarDennisWilliams
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Superstition Mtns - NW / HandPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Climbing avatar Mar 25 2017
Climbing4.00 Miles 1,200 AEG
Climbing4.00 Miles   5 Hrs   30 Mns   1.14 mph
1,200 ft AEG   2 Hrs    Break25 LBS Pack
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
 The Razors Edge 5.6SportG3 Pitches
I hope you like air.
The Razor's Edge.

After going up Weaver's earlier this month my friend Jack recommended I take the intro outdoor rock climbing class offered by the AMC. A curriculum of two 3.5 hour classroom sessions, a Saturday / Sunday two day rock climbing extravaganza first at the McDowells and then at Queen Creek, then two 3.5 hour rock gym sessions practicing self rescue (a.k.a. fun with prusiks, and they are no fun at all), and finally a graduation climb. There were eight grad climbs to chose from; easy single pitch to multi-pitch, slabs, cracks, tough routes in the McDowells, on Pinnacle Peak, the Praying Monk. But of all those on offer The Razor's Edge on The Hand in my beloved Superstitions was the only one to pique my interest. It was not the most difficult, being rated at 5.6. Some of the slab climbs in the McDowells were rated up to 5.9 (well beyond my present capability). The Razor's Edge is renowned for it's extreme exposure and that is the attraction. Man, they are not kidding!

The Hand is the furthest of a group of rock spires detached from the very northwest corner of the Supers. It is accessed from the Lost Dutchman State Park at the Cholla Trailhed via the Treasure Loop trail. It is the one that appears to be slightly bent over toward the south, because it is. Rising almost 200 vertical feet from the little saddle that separates it from the group it is usually climbed in 3 pitches, as we did. We were a party of six; four students and two instructors.

It must be remembered that the following observations are those of a novice climber. The first pitch is really a short scramble that can be done without ropes but it is easier to gear up at the bottom where there is room to move around. There is certainly no room to spare at any of the stopping points along the way up. It begins to get exciting at the top of the first pitch where the route narrows down to maybe six feet in width and the drop off on either side becomes noticeable. The second pitch offers some fairly vertical stuff with excellent holds all the way as the route further narrows and your heart rate goes up. The top of the second pitch is referred to as the "chicken ledge". There is room for about three climbers to wedge in there with their ropes and gear. We wedged in five. At that location the route is about three feet in width and you actually straddle the rock like sitting a horse. The drops on either side are vertical and about seventy feet. You could drop a rock and it will not bounce until reaching the bottom. The third pitch is really exciting. Curl your toes, speed your breathing, guts in a knot, and make your heart race. The route is straight up the edge of the rock wall and at points is no more than two and a half feet wide, hence the name. You can actually wrap your arms around the route and it gets pretty close to vertical. Even though the holds are excellent your world shrinks down to a very small chunk of rock right in front of you. Nothing else focuses your attention like that. It becomes just too frightening to look anywhere else. As you go up the drops on either side grow to one hundred fifty feet. That is a whole lot of air around you and very little solid ground, and none of it to stand on. Topping out you once again sit astride a fin of rock, now over one hundred sixty feet off the deck. Vertical drops on either side. The descent is a real treat. How often do you get a one hundred sixty foot free hanging rappel? Trust your training, trust your gear, and step backward off into space. The wind blew us all around on the way down, occasionally bumping the rock face. Thrilling!

A smaller party could have done it much more quickly. With such a large group there was necessarily a lot of waiting for climbers to come up and to manage all the rope and gear safely. Short bursts of climbing exhilaration in between long periods of jittery anticipation mixed with dread. There were about twenty total students in the class and a high level of interest in The Hand as the grad climb. I think the instructors limited our climbing party knowing there was very little room on the route. Maybe they drew lots. There were certainly better climbers (compared to me, at least) that wanted The Hand. Prior to the grad climb the lead instructor looked each of us four right in the eyes and said "No freaking out! Barring extreme emergency the only way down is to go up." As it happened we all made it up without showing overt panic. At the very least we all hid it well. If you want to test your response to what is called exposure this climb will do. The instructors did a fine job of getting us all up there and back down without so much as a chipped fingernail. Saw a nice rattler on the hike back out. An exceptionally fine day. Deluxe!

There is an excellent drone video on YouTube made in 2015 showing the route for The Razor's Edge on The Hand.
"Morbius! Something approaches from the southwest!"

- Robby
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