A long, fun backcountry climb that has fantastic views and exposure! The Bob Kerry guide gives it three stars.
Between the approach, climb and descent, expect to spend a long day on the rock. Bring plenty of water and if you stray during the approach, climb, or descent (which is easy to do), expect to be in the dark and prepare accordingly.
See the following for just such an experience:
Note that there is a tradition of taking I'itoi a gift at the summit. If you are planning to take a gift for I'itoi, you might choose a gift that I'itoi can hand back out to stranded climbers. This might include lighters, waterproof matches, rain panchos, space blankets, flashlights, etc.
Climb straight up. The first 30 or 40 feet are 5.easy to a 5.4 bulge. Pull the bulge and continue up the easy face. There is a tree to the left that can be used as a belay/rap station, or continue straight upward to a large ledge and an easy 4th class scramble up another 30 feet in a chimney to a notch with a vertical wall section on the right and lots of exposure to the left. There is a solid dead tree trunk here that can be used as a belay anchor.
Climb the verical wall (5.6) via stemming or using good foot and hand holds. The few moves here may seem a bit tougher than 5.6. The massive exposure to the left of the route also adds to the experience. 30 feet of climbing gets you over the vertical section and back onto easy scrambling to a huge ledge for belaying.
Scramble up the 4th class chimney past a shady tree to a belay ledge with blocky rocks.
A couple of 5.6 lieback moves early in the pitch yield to lots of scrambling for 120 feet to what Bob Kerry describes as a 'spacious' vegetated ledge. Compared to previous ledges in the climb, this ledge is small, but roomy enough for 2-3 people. This ledge can be used for a belay; however, continuing another short 25 feet left via a traverse brings you to two anchor bolts and skips the short 25 foot traverse pitch in the Kerry guide. These bolts are a bit manky but there is good opportunity for placing pro and establishing a solid anchor here. Belaying here also helps with rope drag on the next fun pitch.
A fun 5.easy lieback pitch climbs up for about 80 feet at which point you move right and start 3rd class scrambling. At that point, find any comfortable place to belay once you get to the easy stuff. From here, continue 3rd class scrambling and bushwacking until you reach a notch or gap. Move left along the notch and scramble down. There is more awesome exposure here to the left and some may choose to be belayed down from the point to the notch.
Easy face climbing from the left part of the notch for about 20 feet quickly yields to a scramble all the way to the summit.
In general on this climb, follow the path of least resistance and you won't go wrong.
The approach can be a bit tricky - both to find the Lion's Ledge and to also to find the start of the climb. The start of the climb is located on the southeast portion of the Lion's Ledge. However, you do not actually start the climb from the Lion's Ledge - you have to scramble up about 100 feet in a notch between a huge rock that is separated from the main east wall and the Lion's Ledge. Look for a 50 foot tall huge rock formation that is separated from the main wall on the far southest part of Lion's Ledge. You can scramble up the notch between this rock and the main wall from either either side of the separated rock formation.
At the top of the notch is the dead tree with rap slings described in Bob Kerry's guide. From this point, scramble up and left (south) another 20 feet or so through some brush to a belay ledge. The first pitch starts here - not from the notch but from above it.
If approaching from the east, drop your packs and gear up at the east saddle. From the west, drop your packs and gear up at the base of the Great Ramp.
A light rack consisting of some small & medium cams, standard stoppers and some small to medium tricams.
There are a couple of options for descending - either down the Forbes/Montoya Route or back down the Southeast Arete. The advantage of descending the Forbes route is that it puts you closest to your final car destination without having to backtrack/bushwhack back down the Lion's Ledge.
If descending the single-rope Forbes/Montoya route, you can descend either back to the east saddle at the head of Thomas Canyon or to the west and The Great Ramp. You will need to decide which direction you are going at the bottom of the Forbes route Ladder Pitch. No matter what direction you go on Forbes, there are numerous opportunities to take the wrong direction on what are well-used trails during the descent, with the result of ending up in a location far away from where you wanted to go. Be sure to allow for enough time and daylight to possibly have to backtrack during the descent if you are not familiar with the route.
You can also descend back down the Southeast Arete Route. Kerry's guide describes this as a two rope descent, but while climbing the route, it looked like there were possibly ample opportunities to use trees or boulders for a single 60m rope rappel (?).
Forbes/Montoya Route Descent
From the summit, look north to the Kitt Peak observatory. The trail for Forbes route starts slightly to the right of the direction toward Kitt Peak on the opposite side of the summit from where you top out on the Southest Arete climb. It is a trail that winds through bushes and then starts skirting the base of a wall to the left. Follow along this wall for a few hundred yards ignoring any temptation to go toward ravines or trails to the right.
After skirting the wall on the left for a few hundred yards, the trail will turn right and drop down a large steep gulley filled with loose rubble. Follow the gulley down and stay to the right when you get to a large rock formation (kind of like a waterfall). You will have to downclimb about 15 feet on the right to get to the bottom of the rock. It can look a bit tricky but there are good foot and hand holds.
Immediately after the downclimb, continue following the trail descending to the right. Scramble and downclimb the ravine for about 100 yards and you will reach the top of the Ladder Pitch of the Forbes/Montoya route. There are old pieces of metal still stuck in the rock from when the CCC installed the hardware during the 1930's. There are two new, solid rap anchors with chains here to the right behind an overhanging tree. Rappel all the way to the base of this section.
- ** NOTE: It is at this point that you need to decide which direction you are going to continue descending the Forbes route: to the west and the Great Ramp or to the east and the saddle. ***
If you are going to the west (to the Great Ramp), follow the drainage and trail descending to the left to the Great Ramp.
If you are going to the east (to the saddle at the head of Thomas Canyon), stay right along the base of the wall through brush and trees and follow the trail north onto the visible slabs ahead. Walk along the slabs moving slightly downward and you will see two anchor bolts (with slings) on the slabs. Rappel down from here.
- ** Note: A 60m rope will not reach the bottom of this rappel. Be sure to tie knots in the end of your rope or prepare accordingly. The last 20 feet or so are an easy downclimb - there are plenty of hand and foot holds, but be prepared. ***
Continue descending right (north) skirting the rock wall on the right to a notch. There are two anchor bolts at the notch on the left. Rappel or downclimb the short chimney with a large chockstone to solid ground and follow the gulley down to the trail leading to the east saddle at the head of Thomas Canyon. For me, the Forbes-east descent took about 2 hours to get from the summit back to the east saddle.
More information on the descent via Forbes route to the west and the Great Ramp (along with more Southeast Arete beta) can be found here:
|By tom selleck|
Apr 23, 2008
Great day. Probably best approached from the reservation side.
|By Don P. Morris|
Nov 1, 2009
Joanna McComb is a dear friend of mine, and we have done lots of climbs together, many of which she dragged me up, but she was not a member of the first ascent party of the SE arete. She certainly could have been, but she was not yet in Tucson when the route was first done.
|By Scott M. McNamara|
From: Tucson, Arizona
Nov 2, 2009
Would you be so kind as to tell us the story of your first ascent?
|By Nick Smolinske|
Dec 22, 2010
This is a fantastic climb. Did it in 5 pitches, and never found the liebacks, so I think we took a different route for much of the climb. But still, it was 5.6 or so. We pretty much went straight up the middle of the arete. So if you get lost, just keep climbing and aim for the middle of and you'll be fine.
We got a little lost of the Forbes descent, but wound up backtracking and finding the anchor. The key is to make a hard right after the waterfall-like downclimb in the description.
|By Jerry Robertson|
Jun 17, 2012
It was not Joanna on this first ascent. It was me, and I lead it
|By Danger Charles|
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Aug 24, 2012
Amazing climb and summit in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
East approach was extremely overgrown in August, lost the trail after two big cairns when the gully becomes rocky. Bushwhacked up the gully and slope to the north (very difficult going) to the saddle. Once there and toward the lions ledge, the trail was obvious and well-cairned. Weather was a bit humid, but we had cloud cover the whole time, and only a light sprinkle on the wall.
Did the climb with around a 40m rope (got chopped by a falling block during a rappel on the approach... dont ask...) and managed to rap the Forbes with around a 50m rope. Definitely dont need more than 1 60m. Webbing at anchors is still in pretty decent condition.
Check the Babo page for updated East approach instructions and access. (There's a no trespassing sign at the gate)
|By Alex Wood|
From: Flagstaff, Arizona
Mar 5, 2013
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b
Awesome climb! We did it from the West and wondered around lost for awhile on the approach. A few things to add. When at the campground, go the the furthest end of the campground and park here. Then head up the hill to your right through the bushes and the trail will be right there. Some folks out there that day were lost from the get go because they couldn't find it. They also said they saw two drug smugglers with 80 pounds of weed- yikes. Like said before, the trail is really distinct and you can't really loose it.
When at the WEST saddle, the Great Ramp (huge forested ledge) is easily visible and this is where the trail takes you (do not deviate left or right at the saddle on high use trails, those are drug/trafficking trails?) The trail goes up an burnt out area for a long time. There will be two "psuedo-aretes" you will pass, but keep going along the edge until you come to a distinct sharp corner (right before this is a really overgrown patch of pines that you have to fight through).
If you see the east wall and the Lions Ledge you have gone to far. The notch where the route starts is best accessed from the west side. Scamper up (low 4th class) and get to a flat area. The route starts 10 ft over on the right. Scrape passed bushes and access another opening and look for the natural "X" feature in the rock that mark the start. Hopefully this saves you a few hours of wondering around.
|By Arthur E|
From: Madison, WI
Apr 15, 2013
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b
This is an awesome climb and a great part of a fun day out on the mountain. We left the Babo campground on the western side a little after dawn and got back about and hour or so after sunset. This was primarily due to some issues finding the Forbes route on the descent. The beta in the route description is very good, but here's a little more info:
When on the summit and looking north to Kitt Peak you might notice an old iron rod sticking out of the rock about thirty feet from the summit shrine. The Forbes/Montoya trail starts to the right (looking north) of this rod. Once you get to the base of the wall mentioned above there will be cairns, so if you don't see any try again.
The downclimb near the waterfall shaped formation in the rock filled gulley really isn't so bad. Farther down the gulley is a much harder drop of about 10 feet or so on the side of a large boulder. After getting past the boulder hug the wall immediately to the right behind some trees. This trail quickly leads to another brief downclimb before the start of the ladder pitch. If you don't go right and continue down the same gulley you will find yourself on an exposed ledge above the great ramp. There is a manky sling here. If you get to this sling then you need to climb back up and head (climber's) left through the trees.