Pitfalls of Hesitation, 5.10***, 3 Pitches

Pitfalls of Hesitation, 5.10***, 3 Pitches

Page Type Page Type: Route
Additional Information Route Type: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.10 (YDS)
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 3
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2nd Pitch
2nd Pitch

Pitfalls of Hesitation, 5.10, is one of just a few classic multi pitch trad climbs available on Mount Lemmon.  It is located on one of the more striking features on the entire mountain, Hawk’s Bill Spire.  Hawk’s Bill is a colorful (lichen colored) tower that makes for a great vista to the north off the main road.    It is a bit of a grunt and bushwhack to get there from below (relative only to Lemmon, otherwise not a big deal) which adds to the ambience and serenity of this climb.  It is supposedly easier to get there from above from higher up on the road switchbacks. 

Pitfalls offers three full-on pitches at or just below the grade.   The first two have sustained and unique 5.10 cruxes whereas the third offers easier climbing but involves more intricate route finding, exposure and protection.   The entire route is a clean, sans one old piton, trad route with rap/belay anchors but no protection bolts.  The FAer’s discussed it as a four-pitch route, but most everyone climbs it in three pitches modern day.  The first pitch starts out with runout/exposure below grade up a short face to gain a blunt arete and then up to a defined roof corner.  Pulling the roof to the left is exposed and physical but adequately protected.  The second pitch offers several variations.  The left most variation ends up making a wild zig zag traverse through several roofs to a belay on the left arete.  The final pitch is steep and airy with sparse pro, but offers fairly positive rock.  There are two fixed raps atop the tower, the one on the right (east) needs double 60m ropes to reach the gully, otherwise it stops in space (raps over a large roof).  The one on the left essentially raps the route.

The local guide, 3rd edition, discusses two options for reaching Hawk’s Bill Spire:  One from the top and one from the bottom (featured on its topo).  We used the bottom approach.  From approximately mile post 10, walk the road through the rock walled slot and look to gain an ever slight to nonexistent trail heading northwest toward the feature, which is out of sight. You can hike a relatively straight line and gain elevation which gets you to an overlook where you can see multiple spires straight ahead (Frijole, Sandwich, Queso).  Descend a brushy gully and circumvent these spires at their base to reach the obvious Hawk’s Bill spire which shares a gully with Aves Tower to the west. The route climbs up the left side of the south face, ending on the west face.  Scramble up to the base of the gully between the two features and climb the 30’ face on the right via sparse pro to gain the blunt arete that leads up to the corner/roof.  You can also drop down to Bear Canyon Creek from the road at mile marker 10 (culvert) and hike down creek until you reach a gully to the north that leads up to the north to the base of this collection of spires.

Route Description

1st Pitch- 80’-5.10/ Scramble up the gully a bit.  Climb the face with one or two horizontal pieces of protection, below grade, to reach the blunt arete above.  Easy climbing to the base of the obvious roof corner above.  Climb the corner and make the roof traverse left (crux), laybacking up and over it to a hanging fixed belay/rap. 

2nd Pitch- 100’-5.10/ There are several variations.  The left most served us well.  Stem straight up and traverse left to the left most crack.  Make intricate steep face moves around the crack up to below a series of stacked roofs.  Traverse left and then back right gaining one of the roofs and hunch across to the right, pulling up and then making an airy traverse back left to a semi hanging fixed rap/belay.  Use plenty of extension if using this left variation to avoid rope drag. 

3rd Pitch- 70’-5.9/ Take on a committing (blind) start up and left onto the west face.  Route finding and gear placement is at a premium but the climbing is via positive face climbing albeit steep.  There is one older piton (2020) you pass.  Trends left at first then back right.  A slow trending process following the more positive ground.  Gear belay on top.  The rap is climbers left.  The rap out right is for the 5.12+ route and requires double 60m ropes to reach the gully, otherwise you will be left hanging in space.


Rap back to the top of pitch 2.  Rap to the gully and downclimb or rap back to the top of pitch one to rap all the way back to your packs. 

Essential Gear

Single rack to #3 with extra small pieces, off set cams and/or a good set of wires.  Alpine slings for extension on the traverses.  This route is mostly south facing, but catches all and any wind it appears from reading other route logs.  It was chilly enough in mid February.



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