Matt and Joanne’s Page

February 3, 2008

Cochise Stronghold

Filed under: Climbing, Roadtrip — Tags: , — Matt Stamplis @ 11:17 am

Cochise Stronghold is named for the Apache chief who hid among the Dragoon Mountains in Southeast Arizona, avoiding the US and Mexican authorities while raiding local settlements. He eventually died of natural causes and was buried somewhere hidden among the rocks of his Stronghold. The climbing here is definitely much more “out there” than Joshua Tree: a 1 hour approach is relatively short here. And the routes tend to be intimidating and a bit scary at times. But the rewards for completing a route in such a beautiful and remote area are huge!

These are the Rockfellow Domes, the most prominent features in Cochise. It’s a long, uphill hike to get to the climbs up here. Unfortunately we didn’t get to summit any of these pinnacles. We made an attempt on Endgame, a fun-looking route on End Pinnacle but it was a little too cold. At the top of the 1st pitch I couldn’t feel my fingers at all and we decided it would be more fun to walk all the way back to the car.

This was the view from our camping spot. There was actually a $10/night campground but it had no water, just a pit toilet so we decided why pay for that when we can just camp off the road. It was a nice spot but Joanne describes it as a “hell-hole” with no facilities. That’s maybe why we only stayed here for 5-6 days 🙂

One of our favorite routes was called What’s My Line? It goes up the prominent dome on the right side of the above picture. When we were walking to it we thought – “Wow, that looks awfully steep and blank and hard to climb”

A closer look, however, shows a big “rash” going all the way up the dome. And this is what makes climbing in Cochise so unique. Many of the routes climb on these “chickenhead” features which makes for some really bizarre climbing.

Here’s Joanne starting up the 2nd pitch of “What’s My Line?” You can see there’s huge handholds everywhere!

Of course, I said the climbing here was a little intimidating. Even though the climbing on this route is easy it’s a little spicy because the only protection you have is tying off these chickenheads, some of which are a bit sketchy and more “slopey” than you might want.

Here’s a nice chickenhead anchor, Joanne and I were hanging 300 feet off the ground, suspended only by these chickenheads – much fun 🙂 Actually, they’re probably about as good of an anchor as you’ll find anywhere.

More wild chickenhead climbing!

Here’s Joanne doing the final traverse on What’s My Line? We were rewarded on the summit with a great view.

Route Info + Beta!
Best Time to Climb? Almost year round except for extremes in Summer and Winter.

Climbing Quality: Amazing setting, best chickenheads on Earth, high adventure factor, no crowds. Not for the faint-hearted or for those who hate hiking up hills. Our top picks: What’s My Line? 5.6 A0, Wasteland 5.8-

Camping: No water. $10/night for a pit toilet in the East Stronghold. Free camping is easy to find.

Rest Day Activities: Hike up one of the canyons, search for Cochise’s grave.

The approach to Cochise Dome and What’s My Line? (5.6 A0) is pretty epic. I wasn’t watching the clock but I think it took 2-3 hours for us to reach the base of the route. As you get closer to the route, expect to get lost once or twice trying to find the best way through giant boulder fields. Fortunately, you’re hiking through some of the most beautiful terrain so time passes quickly. The final canyon that slices up through the dome to reach the start of the route is a pretty incredible “hike” by itself, though you might feel the need for a rope at the end.

Committing to the pendulum is mildly terrifying as you step off of a comfortable ledge to an exposed position on the face. The whole first pitch protects a bit sparsely as most of the chickenheads seem a bit “slopey” and will reject most of your efforts to wrap a sling around them. This all changes on the second pitch which is simply incredible: huge chickenheads that just beg to be slung everywhere you look!

The Wasteland (5.8-) is similar to What’s My Line? with a couple pitches of slinging chicken heads. Perhaps it’s not quite as wild as What’s My Line but the climbing is more diverse and has the advantage of a “short” 45 minute approach. Expect route finding issues on pitch 1. My only advice is to not follow the right-facing corner: I found it to be wet and rotten with some scary moves required to get on route. I think the route is supposed to go someplace left of this corner. Once you are past this pitch, enjoy, as the rest of the route protects beautifully!

Owl Rock (5.9) is a fun 1-pitch route on a cool-looking leaning tower. And with one of the shortest approaches here, it might get more traffic than anything else in the area. The route manages to wrap up the “Cochise experience” into a single climb, with a few chickenheads, a little bit of spiciness, a free-hanging rappel, and a great setting.

Enjoy: this is a special place and of all the places we visited during our travels, this is the one we hope to return to first!

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1 Comment »

  1. WOW! what a cool climb and the gear just makes me want to go there. Glad to hear from you guys and keep us informed.

    Comment by Matt Spohn — March 12, 2008 @ 4:17 pm


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