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Superstition Mtns - NW / Flatiron
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mini location map2020-12-16
8 by photographer avatarDennisWilliams
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Superstition Mtns - NW / FlatironPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Climbing avatar Dec 16 2020
Climbing6.00 Miles 3,000 AEG
Climbing6.00 Miles
3,000 ft AEG35 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
••••• Field Of Dreams 5.10dTradG5 Pitches450 ft
Mixed route with some bolts on all pitches but predominantly gear. Varied movement with a bit more crack climbing than typical for the region.
The culmination of several months of planning and training, this climb had been my stretch goal for the last half year.

I look up at it every day. The Flatiron of the Superstitions. I have been there any number of times as a destination or as part of a Ridgeline hike. This would be different. Straight up the prow on a route called Field of Dreams. My partner Angel and I picked this one because of the beautiful location, the difficulty, the splendid line right up the nose, and the added challenge of the approach. Also, all of the bolts on the route were put in prior to the expansion of the wilderness in 1984 to include the Flatiron. No new bolts may be added, forever. The bolts use old steel hangers rusting slowly into oblivion so the climb, in it's present form, will be gone in another decade or two. The climb begins after the 3 miles and 3000' of AEG humping your gear up there: rope, harness, helmet, shoes, trad gear, anchor materials, extra clothes, food, and a lot of extra water. In all probably 35 lbs in the pack.

The old cliche applies. If your dreams don't scare you they aren't big enough. This one was plenty big enough for me. Started thinking about it last June. Knew it was at or beyond my skill at that time so began to train up and maybe shed a few pounds. Climbed quite a bit over the covid shutdown and pushed it. We had chosen a date around Thanksgiving but had to postpone so Angel could finish up some classes. Definitely felt the pressure as the day approached. A much better climber than I, Angel put a brave face on it but confessed afterward that he had been nervous about it too. Silent jitters as we hiked in and then geared up at the base. Cold and breezy, as it would be all day. Time to go.

Angel led the first pitch. It is around 125' of 5.10c/d. The guide says 150' but I think that's being generous. Some bolts but mostly gear. The crux comes near the finish after pulling a small roof. Hand and finger jams were useful and it was good that I had practiced some crack climbing beforehand to get a little more proficiency in that style. I could have used a lot more as I found it tough and was happy to follow and not lead.

I led the next two pitches. P2 is 50' of easy class 5 to move up the anchor, and P3 is 80' of 5.9. Many parties run the two together but I chose to be conservative and did them serially. When I looked up at P3 I saw 4 bolts and thought "piece of cake". Then the bolts ran out and I soon found myself following a rather stingy finger crack up past several so-so gear placements. At one point I had to hang on a nut placement to shake it out. It is difficult to feel comfortable with 200' of air under your feet while hanging on a tiny piece of aluminum wedged in a crack. If it blows you can only hope that the next pieces, more nuts and cams, will hold. That was the most challenging segment for me. During the pitch Angel saw a banana peel come falling down past us. Objects thrown from the top by visitors are another hazard. Finished up P3 and got Angel up on belay.

Angel led P4, 150' of 5.10c/d. The crux required some odd stemming positions and movement and was tough. As before I was glad somebody else had led it. As the second climber you climb on top-rope and it is easier to trust sketchy holds and move up knowing that if you blow it you will only fall a foot or two. It is another thing entirely to move up maybe 10' beyond your last placement on those same sketchy holds and find a stance to clip a bolt or place gear and then get the rope clipped in, all the while the clock ticking on your ability to hold on. But then, that is both the primal excitement and the gut wrenching terror that can be lead climbing. That's why they call it "the sharp end of the rope".

Pitch 5 is really just an easy class 5 scramble up the last 40' to the summit. Popping up out of nowhere gave quite the surprise to the eight or so hikers already up there. "You came from where?!!!." That, of course, is a nice pay-off at the end of a challenging and wonderful climb. Hiking out we were already discussing possibilities for our next big stretch goal. The selection will require great scenery, climbing challenge at or slightly beyond our abilities so as to push us forward, and the thought of standing at the base while gearing up must be a little terrifying.

You may wonder why I take the time to detail such an event on what is ostensibly a hiking website. Yes, there are many climbers out there and many good trip logs of climbs are posted here but it must be 100 to 1. Why not post on a climbing site? It is because climbers already know what I'm talking about. That would be preaching to the choir. Hiking and climbing share many of the same motivations and values. It may take just one little nudge to get someone to take the leap, so to speak, and try climbing. So I address you, dear reader, yes you. Come. Anybody. Any age (and in this I know whereof I speak). You can have experiences as intense as anything in your youthful past, indeed, moreso. Now what would you not give, for that?
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