Matt and Joanne’s Page

February 21, 2008

Superstition Mountains

Filed under: Climbing, Roadtrip — Tags: , — Matt Stamplis @ 10:56 am

The Superstition Mountains rise East of Phoenix and form some really impressive cliffs. Unfortunately, the rock is pretty lousy and loose rock is everywhere. Consider yourself lucky if you climb a single pitch without finding some loose rock. That being said, there’s no other climbers, fantastic winter weather, and plenty of adventure to be found here!

Here’s an impressive wall near the Peralta Trailhead. We camped in the parking lot here for 4 days. We were tempted to walk up and look for some potential routes but instead we decided just to stick to the routes that were in our guidebook.

The Superstition Mountains are home to the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine, a supposed fortune of gold hidden somewhere in the range. Do a search online and you can find some interesting information about the gold – people have come looking for it for over 100 years but no one’s found it yet. According to the legend, you can see Weaver’s Needle from near the gold mine so most people start their search there. Although we weren’t looking for gold, we still decided to check out Weaver’s Needle.

Here’s Weaver’s Needle poking up into the fog. We climbed it the day after it rained and the moisture was still hanging around. Consequently, we didn’t get much of a view at the summit!

Here’s our “view” on the summit of Weaver’s. This canister Joanne is displaying so nicely is the summit log. The climbing route to the top was really easy (just 1 5th class section) but a real enjoyable experience. We met three guys near the top who didn’t have a whole lot of experience (only 1 of them had done any climbing). We helped them down (their rope was too short) although their gung-ho leader slipped and took a nasty slide down the last 20 feet of the gully – ouch! Fortunately, he was OK.

After climbing a few routes on Barks Canyon Wall, we decided to move to the West side of the Superstition mountains and try some “real” adventure routes. The route names were almost as exciting as the routes: The Hand, The Tower, Grandfather Hobgoblin, Hobgoblin Rink. We quickly realized that many of these routes don’t get a whole lot of climbing traffic and would be ideal candidates for bolt replacement. Many of the bolts/anchors are really scary looking.

Matt’s hoping this rusty piece of metal is stronger than it looks…

Usually climbers are forced to evaluate the quality of fixed pro – sometimes it’s more obvious. This is the 1st bolt on the last pitch of Grandfather Hobgoblin. It seems like it would have taken less effort to just replace the bolt than to etch Bad Bolt into a hangar. But what do I know?

All in all, the climbing here tends to be scary and runout. I can’t say I’d “recommend” any of the routes to just anyone but if you’re looking for some adventure, it fits the bill.

Route Info + Beta!
Climbing Quality: Plain + simple: the rock is just not good enough to be “fun”. A solid lead head is a good idea for most routes. Our “top” picks: Weaver’s Needle 5.0, The Hand – Razor’s Edge 5.6, Grandfather Hobgoblin 5.9.

Camping: $12 for Lost Dutchman RV park, showers+water. Primitive camping near Peralta trailhead.

Rest Day Activities: Search for lost gold, check out the local tourist traps (“ghost” towns)

Weavers Needle (5.0) is a great mountaineering route. If you know which way to go, it’s 4th class but a rope will be useful since the last “pitch” to the summit is not obvious (have to walk way left to reach it – the direct finish that we did was low 5th class). Unless you are confident in your downclimbing, you’ll want 2 ropes for the raps down the gully. Even with 2 60-meter ropes you’ll still have a bit of downclimbing (tricky when wet). But at least this last part is unexposed (and we actually got to see someone take the fall here) so I can say with confidence that you’d survive a slip!

Razor’s Edge (5.6) is an easy and well protected route up The Hand. It climbs up a narrow and exposed arete in 2 pitches with a particularly memorable belay stance, made more exciting if you choose to swap leads. I don’t think we used anything but quickdraws for this route; still, a light rack is advisable. As a bonus, the bolts here are in good shape and would actually hold a fall.

Grandfather Hobgoblin (5.9) is mostly moderate mid-5th class with 1 “bolt-protected” 5.9 section on the last pitch. The rock is even pretty good (less loose rock than some of the other routes) but the approach (and descent) up (and then down) the aptly named Suction Gully is miserable. As with everything here, the grade on the last pitch may be a bit old school and the “bad bolts” make it seem harder: we nabbed a few bail biners off this route. Bring two ropes: I recall doing 2 or 3 straight-forwards double rope rappels to get back to the base. Take time to enjoy the rappel anchors on the way down!

The routes on Bark’s Canyon Wall have better than usual rock for the Superstitions but pro wasn’t always perfect. I remember some confusing route finding on The Long Lead (5.8). On the 2nd pitch I stepped right into a solid corner system with 5.8 stemming but mostly non-existent protection for 20 feet. I was reluctant to commit to the moves since the only chalk I saw avoided this section by traversing left. But then Joanne gave me confidence by giving me the best advice you can give to a confused climber: “Stop following chalk and climb like you’re on the first ascent”. I decided the direct approach was a more aesthetic line, pulled the moves, and gave a whoop when I found a place to throw some protection in!

Stroke It Gently (5.10a) (also on Bark’s Canyon Wall) has an awesome looking crescent crack that can be seen during the approach. I discovered this to be one of those routes that was probably more fun to look at than climb: the crack (like most cracks here) is flared and the moves felt awkward.

Whatever route you climb, when you reach the summit of Bark’s Canyon Wall, the only descent is off the backside. Stay roped and traverse right along the top of the wall until you find the bolts (thanks to the unknown soul who replaced one of them!). One rope and one rappel lead you to a convoluted walk off. We followed faint trails with some scrambling to wrap around the formation to end up on left side of the wall (that’s climbers left). Somewhere around an hour or so of bush whacking will lead you back to the base.

Hobgoblin Rink – The Kudo Route (5.7R) starts with a couple fun pitches but gets scarier and looser towards the top starting with a terribly loose 3rd pitch chimney and culminating in the final (4th) pitch where a fall on the crux 4th pitch is almost unthinkable. The old school 5.7 face climbing crux comes 15′ above your last pro, a shaky pink tricam in a pocket. If that blows, you’re probably going for a 100+ foot ride. Whee!

And if you think The Tower (5.8R) might be a fun climb, you might want to reconsider unless you’re looking for an unprotected 5.8 start off the ground (which really wasn’t too bad – hey there’s a tree down there to catch you!). What really got me, though, was the 30-foot runouts on sketchy 5.7 face climbing above sketchier pro on the 2nd pitch (yikes!). There’s a possibility I may have wandered a bit far left on this pitch as I had to delicately move right on terrifyingly loose flakes to get into the final groove. Joanne followed with a different sequence and said “it’s not too bad”. A double-rope rappel will lead you to the saddle behind the formation and solid ground!

After a week of climbing here, you may find yourself wanting to climb something a little bit less “out there”…


  1. Rink Kudo is an amazing route. I’m curious what kind of pro you encountered on the last pitch. As I recall, there was nothing to speak of, and the rope drag at the top after going around that corner was ridiculous, with the crux being an unprotected, very steep, almost inverted move or two right below the summit. Surprisingly, the rock is good right there, but you don’t want to trust it by then, after the other three pitches. The ledge at the beginning of the fourth pitch is also a memorable place.

    Comment by Ray — July 19, 2008 @ 9:15 pm

  2. Rink Kudo definitely had some good climbing – the first 2 pitches are well protected and fun. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I do recall a lot of rope drag going around that corner on the final pitch. Unfortunately that’s the only logical place that I can recall to belay. When we were standing on that small ledge this helicopter kept buzzing around us – a bit annoying!

    The crux moves for me were maybe halfway through the final pitch – I don’t remember any hard moves right below the summit but maybe I traversed around to the left of the summit block? For the crux, the only decent piece of gear I remember was a pink tricam in a pocket about 15′ below me. I remember not wanting to fall – fortunately, like you said, the rock is mostly solid on that pitch!

    Comment by Matt Stamplis — July 23, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

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