Along with some classics next door (like Absinthe Of Mallet and Ides Of Middlemarch), this line climbs the tallest aspect of Sheepshead’s largest face (west face). It is essentially a long sport climb featuring a mix of slab climbing and crimping but I was happy to have a small rack (because I suck). I’m guessing that the line was put up by the local legend Scott Ayers and company but no guidebook currently in publication has a description of this route. I’ve adopted a more ambiguous rating of “5.10-“ – my only source for information to date has been rockclimbing.com’s description of this line (which is rated there as 5.10a). For reference, I thought that the route was as hard as most of Warpaint on Westworld Dome (rated 5.10c) – exception being perhaps the start of pitch 5 of Warpaint (harder than anything on this line).
Follow directions on main Sheepshead page to reach the base of the formation’s west face. From where the climbers’ path deposits you (at start of Absinthe Of Mallet), hike 50 feet right along base of rock to where you see a well bolted slab.
New Topo!Great topo of this route available here courtesy of Geir Hundal's website. This page is the best resource for Cochise climbing!
Look for a line of bolts about 50 right of the start of Absinthe Of Mallet. Follow bolts up for 7 pitches to the summit of Sheepshead with some variations possible on the last 2 pitches. All belays are well bolted and with the exception of last two, all belays are rap ready.
Pitch 1: 5.9, 170 feet. Follow the well bolted slab past a small overlap. More slab above leads to a low angle chimney on left. Step in, move up 6 feet, clip one more bolt and exit up onto a small ledge with bolts.
Pitch 2: 5.10-, 80 feet. Move up and past a hard section (2 bolts up) just left of a tiny roof (route crux possibly). Pass a small roof/bulge (in green rock) and move up on good jugs and progressively easier terrain. Belay on small stance.
Pitch 3: 5.10-, 120 feet. Move right, and proceed up a low angle groove toward a ramp/slab. Step up and follow the right trending ramp (harder than it looks). Near top, move and above ramp following bolts. Some cruxy sections finish the pitch on a small ledge.
Pitch 4: 5.10-, 120 feet. Move up the green and steep but well featured wall just above belay. Two or three bolts up, you come to a high angle slab with an undercut beneath it. Looks improbable for a 5.10- route – look around, it’s not that bad actually (easier than P2 crux IMHO). More crimping leads to a good ledge level with some bushes.
Pitch 5: 5.9, 100 feet. Few harder moves lead up to a huge ledge with some trees off to your right. Go up above tree to very top of this ledge system and belay bolts.
Pitch 6: 5.9, 100 feet. There’s a line of bolts going straight up the steeper (well featured) wall above belay ledge and another one going up and slightly right. We took the former option. Belay at slanting stance off to the right in less then 100 feet.
Pitch 7: 5.7, 180 feet. Again, there’s a line of bolts going up a steep looking slab to the right. Alternatively we stepped back left and followed easier ground up and past a bolted belay anchor then 4th class terrain to the summit of Sheepshead. Note that you could run pitch 6 to these bolts but then you’d still have to do another roped pitch to summit anyway.
This is the easiest descent we’ve done in Cochise!
From flat slab/unroping spot, head toward the large summit cairn clearly visible 100 feet away.
Scramble left (north) and you should pick up many cairns marking the path. Going is never harder than class 3 (mostly 2) and never exposed. Soon you reach a saddle (visible on left side of Sheepshead when you approach the climb) between Sheepshead and Muttonhead Domes.
Drop left (west) from saddle shadowing the side of Sheepshead down the well cairned, easy gully. Trail will veer left near the base of east face and traverse over back to the start of the climb.
Total descent time is 15 to 25 minutes. No bushwhack required.
Climbers better than me can do this purely with quick draws (about 15 or so). I was happy to have some gear (too much as we had not beta on this line). I’d recommend a set of cams from blue Alien to #1 or #2 Camalot. I did not place any nuts.