Phony Pony, 5.10-, 5 Pitches

Phony Pony, 5.10-, 5 Pitches

Page Type: Route
Lat/Lon: 31.87005°N / 109.99269°W
Route Type: Trad Climbing
Season: Spring, Fall, Winter
Time Required: Most of a day
Rock Difficulty: 5.10 (YDS)
Number of Pitches: 5



4th Pitch (crux)

Dow leading the crux 4th pitch (5.10)

Most of the routes on Sheepshead are bolted lines that feature more slab and face climbing than trad. Phony Pony is definitely an exception, offering one of the finer 5.10 trad pitches in the park via its (what should be classic) 2nd pitch. The crux of the entire route however is several meters of bolted face climbing on the 4th pitch which is sandbagged for a few meters even by Cochise standards. The 1st, 3rd and 5th pitches are all at a lessor grade. The 5th pitch does offer another stellar trad pitch, but at 5.8 vs 5.10. It features a beautiful wide flaring corner to the summit at this end of Sheepshead which is not near the main summit top out re: most of the other routes on the massive. Phony Pony sports its own ascent and descent in a quiet, much more remote section (southeast) of the massive as opposed to where the popular routes are located out on the west face. This route is full on at the grade in comparison to Too Tough to Die for example. Phony Pony is a definite step or two or three up in difficulty despite both routes being called 5.10- in the new guide (2017).

5th Pitch

5th Pitch, 5.8

The first pitch of Phony Pony is best combined with the beautiful corner/flake that makes up the 2nd pitch for a combined 200’ of climbing split between bolts and gear. If you are going to combine these two as I recommend, extending your placements and clips would be mandatory to avoid rope drag on moves at the grade near the top of pitch 2. The 3rd pitch is steep and has one solid move near the end. It is easy to bypass the fixed belay atop pitch 3 if you are not paying attention. This 3rd pitch pulls off the face you have been climbing onto a sloping fixed belay stance out left before tackling the crux of the climb on the 4th pitch which is kind of back in line with the route.  This 4th pitch has a stout 5.10 move after a clip or two. Posts on and I both agree, whether a hold broke (rock is of a lessor quality on this section) or not, there is a tough sequence for the grade to get through early on in the 4th pitch. Once you get through the well protected crux, the climbing is still steep, but with positive features. The next belay is on a tree shaded comfortable ledge. To reach the 5th pitch, you traverse past a bolt up and right to enter a hidden wide flaring corner that is climbed and eventually vacated up and left onto the face through a bolt or two to the small summit at this end of Sheepshead.

From the main staging/camping area for Sheepshead, hike up the trail as though you are heading for the west face where the more popular climbs on Sheepshead are located.  Before you reach the actual west wall, look for a drainage coming down from between Sheepshead’s south face and a feature to the south named Crisis Center. Hitting the west face and trying to hug it along the south face all the way back to the start of Phony Pony does not work.  Therefore, once in the wash/gully/drainage well below the south face, continue up the drainage with little to no evidence of human traffic (2017). You start to scramble up steeper ground through trees and boulders to the very east end of the south face. You are looking for a large dead tree (2017) on the left side of the gully. Near its base is a short wall with two bolts, this is the start of Phony Pony.

Route Description

Phony Pony, 500’+/-, 5.10-
1st/2nd Pitches- 200’- 5.10-/ This combined pitch makes for one of the finest 5.10 pitches in all of Cochise and my favorite for the grade on Sheepshead for sure. If you are going to combine the first two pitches as I did, extend your placements so as to avoid rope drag as the final meters of pitch 2 involve calculated face climbing near or at the grade. The first pitch to the first fixed anchor is more like 85’ vs 65’ posted in the new guide (2017). The 2nd pitch is 115’ on the mark. From the gully stem up past two bolts and climb through another up to the anchor (5.7+ on the first pitch in the guide). From this first anchor, step down a meter and traverse right (5.10-) via a slab move to the short right arête and climb it up through bolts to the obvious left facing dihedral. Climb the dihedral (gear) as it eventually opens up to flaring chimney. Excellent climbing to the top which pulls out onto face. Climb through two stacked mini roofs (5.10-) through bolts which lead into the massive right facing corner.  Then up another meter or two to the fixed anchor out right.

3rd Pitch- 100’- 5.9/ Short run out on easy ground gets you to the bolt line (I placed no gear on this pitch). Some intricate face moves at the grade lead you up to easier ground and then one last move at the grade via a slab mantle up and right. It is easy to miss the fixed station up and left on a sloping ledge as the bolts keep going straight ahead after this mantle.

4th Pitch- 120’- 5.10/ This is the crux pitch of the route. Move back up and right clipping several bolts. The crux move of the route is an off balance reach (more difficult for short leaders) sequence between the 2nd and 3rd or 3rd and 4th bolt. Once you make it past this steep face section, the holds are larger but the steepness remains for several meters. The climbing eases up to a diagonal crack (only gear I placed on this pitch (#1). Then through one more bolt on slab up to a fantastic ledge with a beautiful shaded fixed belay.

5th Pitch- 100’- 5.8/ Climb up the slab through two bolts to the hidden off width dihedral way out right. Climb the beautiful flaring corner with heal-toe and chicken wing up to where you can pull out onto the left face via jugs. I placed two medium pieces in the dihedral. Climb through one remaining bolt on easy jugs to the top fixed rap anchor.

Climbing Sequence


Rap down pitch 5. Rap straight down (climbers right of the route) to another fixed rap at about 80’. Rap 100’ down to climbers left at the lower treed ledge and swing out left to a fixed rap on a small ledge. Rap 100’ down to the gully proper. Cross the gully and rap off slings on a large tree another 100’ down the gully which lands you just meters from your packs.

Essential Gear

Single gear to C4#2 and I might not have used the #2. The guide states (overkill) from doubles to #2 and single #3-#5. If you are exclusively a sport climber, that might be appropriate, however the two dihedrals you climb are both below the grade and take smaller gear in the appropriate places. 60m single gets you down the raps. SE facing, the lower gully (first two pitches) get good am shade from the opposing wall. From there you are basked in sun.