Drive, drive, drive. Through the snowstorms of northern Oregon and the rains of the Willamette Valley. Slip chain-free through the checkpoints in the Siskiyous and dodge jackknifed tractor trailers in the Trinity Alps; snowstorms and spindrifts in northern Cali. Push through the dust storms of Central Valley. A DUI checkpoint outside of Bakersfield and automated photo radars in Phoenix. We pass border patrol checkpoints and a short 1560 miles (or 24 hours) after leaving home we arrive in Arizona's West Cochise Stronghold. A solid grade V push. Heads still buzzing with highway noise, we wake up to rain on the morning of day 2. Rain turns to snow overnight and day 3 finds us at the Sheepshead trailhead staring at the slabby formation now covered with 2 inches of the white shit. 25F is not psyching us up for climbing either. Blondie has fun playing in the snow for an hour and then we head back. On the evening of day 4 we’re back home. Thank goodness for audio books.
New Year's Wknd.
Three days later, we do it again. Arguably in inferior style as this time we resort to flying into Phoenix. Three days of beautiful, sunny weather and temperatures hovering in the upper 60’s. We have not climbed much since the early fall and even back then it was the "alien" European stuff. We feel stiff and generally out of it but have a great time nonetheless fondling the sun-bathed granite of the Cochise Stronghold. We go for (what we hope will be) the less ambitious ticks starting with the very fun Mystery Of The Desert (5.9) on Muttonhead Dome (three out of four stars). Easy approach and varied and well-protected climbing. Next, we do the semi-classic Warpath (5.9-). Good climbing (well protected where it counts & a bit runout where it’s easier) but a somewhat painful (90 minute?) approach as the trail seems to have disappeared in catclaw acacia growth. Now bushwhacking and a pint of blood seem to be the required toll. We do most of the El Cautivo line on Out-Of-Towners Dome (maybe??) but can’t be sure if we were actually on route. We finish off the outing on the Nightstalker (5.9) pitch (a hard crux move I thought…) on the cool-shaped Owl formation just as the weather begins to deteriorate. We kill the remaining hours of the outing checking out Saguaro N.M. and the bumpiest-flight-we’ve-endured-to-date takes us back to the snowy Portland. Our luggage joins us the following evening.
Early 2002: rained out (part of longer road-trip).
Jan. 2005: Moby Dick (3-day road trip from SLC).
Dec. 2005: Warpaint & Wasteland (part of weeklong road trip).
Dec. 2006: sprained ankle at base of a route. No climbing. (4-day road trip from Portland).
Feb. 2007: Peacemaker.
Nov. 2007: popped shoulder midway up P1 of Endgame. ER & no climbing.
Dec. 2007: Absinthe Of Mallet (4-day road trip from Portland ).
Dec. 2008: rained and then snowed out. No climbing (4-day road trip from Portland).
Jan. 2009: Couple of routes.