Ratings and Overview
Grade II, Class 5.6
Gain of 4214'
The majority of the route is scrambling.
The Forbes Route is named for 1st ascender Dr. Forbes.
This is the standard descent for the South Arete and most other climbs as well as the most popular ascent route.
In most winters, there will be snow and ice on this route (or water spray). Summers, on the other hand, would be nice on the summit but deadly hot on the lower reaches of the approach. Therefore, March-May and October-November are the seasons. Either way, pack water.
Rack : 2 cams (one small - #2 Metolius); 5 quickdraws.
Bring water, pants, tweezers.
Get a permit from the Tohono O' Odham nation. See mainpage for approach directions.
Because the Forbes is the down route for all climbs, it will be described from the top down followed by the bottom up.
From the summit, work north and slightly east down ledges to the top of the Chockstone Gully which is sandy, not too steep and descends NW. Downclimb the right side (looking down) of the chockstone and then ascend to the right slightly to pass over a small notch. Descend at Class 4 to the rappel chains. This rap (Ladder Pitch) requires two ropes. A single 60m rope is said to surpass most of the rappel difficulties - with danger of rapping off the end. A 50m appeared about 20 feet short to me. In fact, there has been a death here so, be sure you knot your ends. You can rap to the midway bolts if need be. To reach the ground from there you can sling the newest bolt (3/8" with Metolius hanger) and backup with the old one. Descend left though bushes to the top of the slabs of the Great Ramp. This goes easiest (Class 4) at its left edge, looking down. Descent photos:
Ladder Pitch raps:
Descending upper slabs of the Great Ramp:
From the parking area near the bathrooms, hike up the draw until the trail becomes definite. It then contours south around lower summits, gaining 2100 feet through several desert biomes to a flat area below the final push to the summit massif. The trail becomes bushier as it heads to the Great Ramp which spans diagonally from lower right to middle left on the face. The Great Ramp is the cleanest rock of the climb. If you climb it on the right, near the wall, it goes at Class 4 (a few moves, it's mostly Class 3) but to the left it is more continuous, cleaner and enjoyable at easy 5 (friction slab) before easing back to Class 3. Bushwhack around a corner past the top of the slabs to find the Ladder Pitch. Rope up here. A few moves up on the left is a fixed pin (hard to clip) followed by a pocket that takes a #2 Metolius SLCD. Traverse up and right for two 5.6 moves and past two sets of double bolts. The first is a new 3/8" Metolius and an old SMC. The second is a buttonhead next to a Leeper so don't depend on them (they don't protect any moves anyway - they may have been used for rappel at one time). Another pin is passed on the way to the chains. It's a full pitch, mostly easy 5. If there are no novices (for the next pitch), and no one behind you, you might leave your rope at the chains for rappel. Scramble up some Class 4 moves over a notch and slightly down to the base of the Chockstone Gully. The left side of the chockstone goes at a couple moves of easy 5 with the right side being more difficult. Bushwhack to the top of the gully and work up ledges south to the summit.
The Forbes Route from the upper trail. The Great Ramp and the Ladder Pitch are visible.
Looking up the Great Ramp.
Crux of the Great Ramp (Class 4):
Climber passing the crux of the Ladder Pitch
Looking down the Ladder Pitch from the belay