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Courthouse Rock / East Face
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mini location map2018-02-10
11 by photographer avataroutandback
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Courthouse Rock / East FaceSouthwest, AZ
Southwest, AZ
Climbing avatar Feb 10 2018
Climbing3.00 Miles 1,300 AEG
Climbing3.00 Miles   11 Hrs   30 Mns   0.26 mph
1,300 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
What a great trip! Three of us decided to take advantage of the February weather and have a little adventure out at Courthouse Rock. We camped near the parking area to get an early start and enjoyed listening to owls all night. No coyotes, though, oddly.

Saturday morning we were up at 5 a.m. and started hiking at the first glimmer of light around 6:45 a.m. Twenty minutes later we were roping up at the base of the gully.

For the sake of time, two of us decided to swing leads, with the third climber tied in between. Of course, that meant the poor guy never got a break since he was always either climbing or belaying, but then again he didn't have to face the ridiculously run-out leads, so I think it's a fair trade.

The climbing up the gully is easy (pitches vary from 5.2 to 5.5) but there are very few opportunities for protection and what little there is doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, so you don't want a new leader on this. Also the holds have a tendency to break off without warning, which is exciting.

Oh, and you also have to do some recon to locate the bolted belay anchors. But once you find the anchors, they're terrific. In general, look for anchors on the right side of the gully. The one for the fourth pitch is easy to miss (or at least it was for me — I overshot it and had to downclimb and hunt) because it's tucked to the right of a large black flake, while the bolts (there are three) are about 12 feet to the left, where you can't see the anchor. Either ignore the bolts and stay right the whole time, placing protection if you can, or follow the bolts then move sharply right to the edge of the black rock after you clip the third.

Even with the route-finding, we finished the first five pitches before noon, so we ate a snack (and gave our middle climber a much-needed rest), then hiked a quarter-mile or so through the cholla field and up to the base of the summit block. That's easy navigation, especially if you stay high and out of the scree. Locating the base of the sixth pitch was a bit of a challenge, but as you face the summit block look up and just a bit to the west of center. There are three diagonal ledges that angle to the east, then west, then east, with a fairly level ledge on top. Scramble to that upper ledge and there's a narrow chimney on the west side that you can't see until you get up there. That's the start of the sixth pitch. You could probably climb the chunky face to the right of the chimney, then go left, but I just went up the chimney itself, which was fun. There's a bolt above the chimney that isn't visible from below (are you sensing a theme here?), then you go up and left over an arete, then duck around a large boulder to the right (that takes a little nerve) to find a bolted anchor on a sloping ledge. Once we were all up there, we dropped our ropes and harnesses and headed up the final scramble to the summit, which wasn't hard but was very exposed. There's a really cool gap in the summit block that cuts it from north to south and makes a nice frame for the other peaks below.

Made the summit by 2, so we ate a quick snack and snapped some photos on top, then reversed the whole thing. Scramble, rappel, hike, rappel, rappel, rappel, rappel, rappel, then hike back out.

By the time we got to the car, there was a pretty great Arizona sunset going on, so we enjoyed some post-climb chow and watched the show, then headed back home.

Now that I know the route, I would absolutely do this climb again (and probably a lot faster, too). It's a great little adventure, but you definitely need to be prepared for a long day of back-country travels. Bring helmets, headlamps, and all the beta you can find.
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