Route Guide - iPhone / Android - Partners - Forum - Photos - Deals - What's New - School of Rock
Login with Facebook
The Muttonhead
Routes Sorted
L to R R to L Alpha
Inevitable Awaits You, The S 
Mystery of the Desert T 
Oops I sharted T 
Seeing is Believing T 
Steep Short Green Streak S 
Tiny But Exciting S 
Tour Buses Welcome S 
Unknown (L side of SW face) S 
Unknown (R side of SW face) S 
unknown (se arete) S 

Mystery of the Desert 

YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a

Type:  Trad, 5 pitches
Consensus:  YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a [details]
FA: Scott Ayers and Mike Strassman
Page Views: 7,425
Submitted By: David C. Burke on Mar 7, 2007

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (71)
Your todo list:
Your stars:
Your rating: -none- [change]
Your ticklist: [add new tick]
Your opinion of this PAGE:    [0 people like this page.]
Joe Garcia leading P3 of Mystery of the Desert in ...


This is a great moderate climb with varied and fun climbing from start to finish.

P1 - (5.7) Start at a prominent left facing dihedral. Climb up to the dihedral and follow this feature until a good stance on a dike. You can belay here on gear or move left along the dike about fifteen feet to a two bolt anchor.

P2 The Wedge - (5.8) Continue up and slightly left along a crack to a roof that is well protected by some bolts. Surmount the roof and continue up to a wide crack. You can squeeze through the wedge or climb up and over it via an offwidth and three bolts for pro. On the other side of the wedge there is a two bolt anchor.

P3 The Veg - (5.7) Head up to a short slightly right leaning handcrack. Climb the crack and then follow three bolts up a low angle rib of rock to a nice slot with a couple of trees for the belay. The original route took the gully to the right of the rib which is basically a ramp filled with shrubs and trees, thus the name of this pitch.

P4 - (5.9) From the slot face climb up to a beautiful 5.9 layback crack. At the top of the crack traverse left along a thin dike protected by one bolt to a two bolt belay.

P5 - (5.8) From the two bolt belay climb a short face protected by two bolts to the top. There are some stout trees at the top for a belay.


This route starts at a left facing dihedral on the far left of the Southwest face of the Muttonhead. The dihedral start is in between two bolted lines. The descent is a walk off.


Gear up to three inches and bolts. Most of the anchors are two bolt with a few anchors off of sturdy trees.

Photos of Mystery of the Desert Slideshow Add Photo
Squeezing through the wedge
Squeezing through the wedge
Starting the traverse.
Starting the traverse.
Be sure to check out the Hootgoat Window at the top!
Be sure to check out the Hootgoat Window at the to...
The cool layback crack on pitch 4.
The cool layback crack on pitch 4.
The 3-bolt arete next to the "veg"
The 3-bolt arete next to the "veg"
Angel on top of the 4th pitch after pulling through the excellent 5.9 crack.
BETA PHOTO: Angel on top of the 4th pitch after pulling throug...
Kimberly prepares to mantle the dyke after the crux!
Kimberly prepares to mantle the dyke after the cru...
Kimberly says "hello" wedge!
Kimberly says "hello" wedge!
Hootgoat variation.  Not for the weak-kneed.
Hootgoat variation. Not for the weak-kneed.
Kimberly "on" the dyke!
Kimberly "on" the dyke!
Gets kind of thin.
Gets kind of thin.
Over the Wedge crack and through the Veg crap, to grandmother's house we go...  <br />And it cometh to pass that my partner did riseth over.  <br /> <br />April 2008
Over the Wedge crack and through the Veg crap, to ...
1st Pitch from the two bolt anchors left of the crack...Dashle ready to climb it.
1st Pitch from the two bolt anchors left of the cr...
Through the Wedge, Mystery of the Desert, Cochise Stronghold
Through the Wedge, Mystery of the Desert, Cochise ...
Another view of the Hootgoat window from the walk-off.
Another view of the Hootgoat window from the walk-...
Comments on Mystery of the Desert Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 30, 2014
By Jon Ruland
From: Tucson, AZ
Dec 13, 2007
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

can anyone tell me how the pro looks on this route? is it pretty good or are there some tricky placements before crux/difficult sections? are there enough bolts to give the leader some good peace of mind?

By John Peterson
Dec 13, 2007

The only pitch where the pro seemed a little sparse was #2. In the bolted sections the bolts are plenty close. Definitely nothing seemed all that scary but I didn't lead P2. None of the cruxes were hard to protect.

By Jon Ruland
From: Tucson, AZ
Dec 14, 2007
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

great, thanks for the info.

By Phil Persson
From: Denver, Colorado
Apr 13, 2008

Did this over Beanfest weekend, 4-12-08, wonderful route. Fun, mostly moderate climbing with good pro and minimal rotefinding. Surprised this doesn't see more action considering I think it rank's close to classics on Sheepshead like 'Too Tough to Die', 'Absinthe of Mallet', ect.. The infamous 'Wedge' on PIII is pretty unique... squueze through the heinous chimmney if you can fit... or sprice it up with a strenuous chimmney/OW section protected by 3 bolts for some nice peace of mind. The last pitch with it's excellent hand crack is also really fun.

By Aerili
From: Salt Lake City, UT
May 14, 2008

I would love to know who has actually "squeezed through" The Wedge. Don't be shy!

By Fletch
From: Scottsdale
May 21, 2008

No lie! I tried to "engage the wedge." First I took off my rack and started with it ahead of me. Then my helmet got stuck. Then I got the claustrophobic panic and said "F*ck it! I'm going OW!!" And for those of you who know me, you know I don't enjoy OW. OW = Other Way!(and no, I can't take credit for making that up--I stold it from someone.)

All that aside, it was a great route, that I have now climbed several times.

By Meghan
From: Sierra Vista, AZ
Dec 14, 2008

...Eric Deschamps and I did go through the chimney... after taking our helmets and everything else besides harnesses off. Even just my knot got stuck over and over again and I'm a bony, small, person. It was great fun, though!! Good route.

By Daryl Allan
From: Sierra Vista, AZ
Dec 14, 2008

How'd you get your britches off without taking off your harness?

By Meghan
From: Sierra Vista, AZ
Dec 14, 2008

...OK, so we took off all our GEAR except harnesses... Thanks for pointing out my sloppy language... but it would have been much more humorous if it really was EVERYTHING but the harness. That would be a funny stunt to pull. YOU get to be the one going through the squeeze chimney. I'll handle the camera this time!

By rpc
Jan 7, 2009

nice route. so what's the deal with the bolted crack line that heads off right from the base of the wedge?

By Geir
From: Tucson, AZ
Jan 7, 2009
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

That is the third pitch of "The Inevitable Awaits You".

By JJ Schlick
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 19, 2009

A friend and I did this line last weekend, and I thought it was a pretty good romp. Pitches 1 and 2 have more good gear than you can see from their respective beginnings. Both of us squeezed through the "Wedge"... I am 6'2 and 170 pounds. It took a while, but I made it through.

By Jon Ruland
From: Tucson, AZ
Mar 16, 2009
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

be sure to do p6 to summit the formation. standing on the summit is an experience you'll not soon forget, plus that last pitch is a solid 3 stars by itself.

be aware that there is some sketchy gear on the route and the first pitch is 5.9R if you start in the dihedral. if you use the 2 bolts from the other route 5 feet to the right and move into the dihedral afterward it's a pretty safe 5.8.

By kait boyle
Mar 20, 2009

I did this route in 4 pitches and slightly different than described above.

P1- climb left facing dihedral (40' 5.9R- to avoid this climb bolt line to left 5.10b or right 5.9 and then step in to crack) traverse left across dike, past 2 bolt anchor, and up crack to the roof. Pull the roof to 2 bolt anchor. ~140'

P2-The well discussed squeeze- if you get sucked into the bolted crack on the right, and still want to stay on Mystery of the Desert-move left after 3 bolts to stem over the squeeze to the anchor. 50' 5.7

P3- traverse left of belay on face to short hand crack to the bolted slab left of the veg. step onto more face to climb the hand crack and traverse left along dike to 2 bolt anchor 5.9 180 '

P4- climb bolted 5.8 face to top. ~80'

By Geir
From: Tucson, AZ
Nov 26, 2009
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

be aware there is no gear for the first 15' or so of pitch 1 on 5.8 terrain. a safer alternative is to start on the bolted route immediately to the right of mystery, and then traverse left on to mystery after the 3rd bolt.

By Bill Lawry
From: New Mexico
Dec 1, 2009
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

The Wedge: NO need to engage it except as needed to clip the first bolt. Instead, I can assure that one and only one of the following techniques can significantly ease the difficulty (height independent!):

  • gaston;
  • layback;
  • stem;
  • heel hook;
  • dyno;
  • figure four.

Edit: I'm just sayin, there is an easier way than using offwidth techniques. (just say "no" to spelunking)

By ccmski
From: Prescott, AZ
Dec 3, 2009
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

I climbed this route in 4 pitches, but would do it in 3 next time:
P1: up the dihedral and over the roof to a 2 bolt belay
p2: through the wedge and up the veg to a belay below the corner
p3: up the corner, across the dike, then past the belay and up two bolts to the top
optional p4- from the large notch, follow bolts up a lichen covered face with a few gear placements to the top of Muttonhead. Rappel this pitch back to the notch and follow the standard walk-off

the Wedge isn't as bad as people make it out to be- just take your gear off, chose a direction for your head, and move with your breath

By Hendrixson
From: Tucson, AZ
Mar 21, 2010
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Pitch 4 contains a difficult to protect 20 foot traverse. As mentioned above there is one bolt and then anchors. While not too bad this could be stressful for a less experienced follower.

For the recorded I engaged the wedge. 6'0 and 175 lbs.

By Geir
From: Tucson, AZ
Oct 9, 2010
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

a topo for this climb can be downloaded at this link:

By Angel Mangual
From: Sierra Vista, AZ
Nov 1, 2010

Good job Dashle! Thank you Joe for recommending the hootgoat variation, we did it and it was AWESOME! We couldn't decide which way to go until we reach the anchors and then we traverse right through the dike and up the cave...I recommend gearing at the base of Ewphoria, so when you hike down your stuff is right there, instead of going back to the base of Mystery of the Dessert.

By Benjamin Smith
Apr 27, 2011

Engage the Wedge! Do it before the obesity epidemic in America kills the wedge forever ;)

By Catherine Conner
From: Phoenix, AZ
Jan 10, 2012
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

This climb was great-a lot of variety-face, crack, roof, offwidth...

Excellent-I would say go for it, the cruxes do not last for too long and have good pro (I did Geir's recommendation for P1)-and yet there is something a little spicy for each pitch...

It was a really good day, and I would do it again!

By jefe
Oct 28, 2012

This is a fun climb.
The Wedge is a hoax, don't sweat it.
The layback pitch is stellar- perfect rock and great moves. Worth doing the route for this pitch alone.

By Steve Pulver
From: Williston, ND
Jan 24, 2013

got a cam stuck last weekend. Hopefully I'll be back in the next week or two to claim it. If not, I guess its yours.

By Erik Hanschen
Mar 4, 2013

Did this over the weekend- one bolt of the anchor after the Wedge is loose. Down not out right?

By Bane
From: Flagstaff AZ
Dec 2, 2013

For the record:
6'3 185 pounds
Squeezed through like jelly between two slabs of rye bread

By 1Eric Rhicard
Feb 12, 2014

This relates to the condition report posted a bout a loose bolt. Studs almost always wiggle as the hole is a bit bigger than the stud. The Beauty is that the more you pull on the stud the tighter it gets.

By Daryl Allan
From: Sierra Vista, AZ
Jul 30, 2014

I am perplexed as to how all you skinny bastards are fitting through that wedge. I got my fat ass stuck, shredded my shirt, broke my sunglasses and scratched my arms all to hell before finally getting back out and I'm only 170 pounds and just shy of 6 feet tall.