baboquivari peak beta :: SE arete and forbes
when adam, jill, and i set out to climb baboquivari we uncovered a lot of bad beta, and a lot of outdated beta. this is not a route guide. its just to set the record straight.
we used the falcon arizona guide as our main resource, with occasional peeks at various internet TRs and whatnot. whereever info is left out, consider it filled in in the falcon guide. HOWEVER- thats not the guidebook id reccomend for arizona. the bob kerry backcountry guide is better. frankly, i think the falcon guide blows. but i digress.
approach: the road starts out decent dirt, and ends up awful dirt. when we went through last week we had to stop about a half mile short of the locked ranch gate, but we had a teeny little rental econobox. a good truck should take whatever the road can dish out, and a higher clearance car shouldnt have much trouble in the hands of an able driver. a minivan got in that afternoon, if that helps.
after the locked gate, its a pretty straightforward path past a ranch and then to the saddle to the right of babo as you approach. you end up in a clearing with a big fire ring at the saddle. from here you look for the trail towards babo which as of a week ago (its april 1, 2005 as i write) had survey tape flagging every 20 yards or so. this trail is a little loose, and fairly steep at times, but it doesnt last long. follow flags (if they stick around) and cairns (i built a bunch, but didnt do the whole thing) until they run out. after about 10 minutes walking you get to a slabby featured face on your right which looks like it provides easy access to the upper ledge. ignore it. it eventually cliffs out after sketchy traversing (although if you do get suckered in there is a decent rap station off a tree after a while where all the suckers like me rapped off). the flags continue on rough trail, leading you to the lion's ledge, the obvious mid-face bushy ledge that traverses the entire face. once youre on the lions ledge, you cant lose your way. its a sheer drop to your left (not really exposed, you have bushes and trees around you) and a cliff to your right. this is a really sweet approach, traversing the ledge, and i think it is a lot of what makes the SE arete a great climb.
about halfway along the ledge, under the prominent water streak visible from the approach, there is a water run, which has three buckets to catch the drips. this was a wet winter, and the thing was positively pouring. other guides say it runs 'most years'. if you want to take a chance and bring less water (and a little iodine..) thats a safe bet right now, but who knows about other drier years. keep going on the ledge until you get to a big separated boulder, sort of like a big flake lodged in the ground, parallel to the cliff face. you can walk on good paths below or above (with a bit of scrambling) this separated flake. the climb starts here. a good trail continues (from people like me looking around to make sure this is where the climb starts) beyond this point, but the trails diverge repeatedly, and soon you are around the other side of the arete in ugly looking territory.
pitches: you can link P1/2 pretty easily. the others didnt seem like good linking candidates either because of drag or length. rope drag is consistently a problem, so get used to it. the other pitches are pretty much as described, except for P5, which the falcon guide totally fucks up. it reads "traverse 25' left to two bolt belay anchor". it should read "climb up cracks and broken rock around 150'. stop under steeper unappealing rock and traverse up and left around 30', to two bolt belay anchor under obvious clean dihedral". there is one good modern bolt there, and one manky homemade buttonhead POS.
climbing strategy: if you are a very strong team, you could free solo the route without too much stress. the rock is generally good. there are a few loose blocks which are pretty easy to avoid, and a couple tempting handholds which are questionable, but again, you can avoid them. the actual climbing is very easy. it is largely a 4th class route, rarely with big exposure, with occasional short sections of very easy 5.0-5.2ish climbing, and two distinct 5.6 moves which give it its 5.6 rating- one straightforward, one a little balancey. if you are looking for a little more security, i venture to guess that a strong team could simulclimb the whole route without too much stress, stopping at cruxes for a real belay. if i were to do it again, i might solo it, or take a 60m half rope, double it and shorten it just a bit, and simulclimb on that. running out of pro wont be a problem, as the climbing is mostly ledgy 4th class and feels secure. belay the cruxes on a doubled half rope. then, when you rappel the forbes route, you have all the rope you need.
descent: first off, you only need one rope. a 60m gets you down the longest rappel with no problem. for some reason the bogus falcon guide thinks you need two ropes. with a 50m rope youd have to do a little downclimbing on slabby hard 4th class, but if you slipped you woudlnt fall off the mountain, just down to the ledge. second, the falcon guide has all its directions reversed, in my opinion. the falcon guide talks through the descent (hiking/rapping the forbes route) as if you were coming up it. for instance, after you rap the top rappel, the 'ladder pitch', the falcon guide says "at the base of the pitch, scramble left along the cliff's base to some slabs. downclimb right to a two bolt anchor and rappel.". that is correct, but only if you hike backwards. if you face out from the mountain (as you will, becuase its only hiking- the forbes route is mostly 2nd class), it shoudl really read "at the base of the pitch, scramble right along the cliff's base to some slabs. downclimb left to a two bolt anchor and rap.". all the directions are backwards like this, although i suppose bright falcon owners will figure this out soon enough.
here is my nutshell descent beta: from summit, find the cairned trail opposite the summit from where you topped out on the SE arete. follow it down, and then left, and eventually right again to the top of the ladder pitch. (tree, two huge metal brackets, and two new bolts with rap slings). rappel 100' to ledge, and then hug cliff base right for a minute, then drop down gully left to two manky bolt anchor. there is a third beefy bolt with a nut but no hanger. bring a hanger and a wrench, or an old small wired nut youre willing to part with, or some thin accessory cord, so you can add the third bolt to the anchor. short rappel gets you to another ledge, where you walk right , hugging the cliff base, and find a steep gully on your right. there is another rap anchor here. another short rap down this chimney gets you to a long wandering hike with cairns at the tricky spots back to the saddle and the fire ring.
our times were as follows, with two strong leaders and a not as strong third climber, climbing with the two seconds tied into the same rope and climbing together, and many many breaks for lunch, views, routefinding, shit-talking, pictures, and general silliness.
left car at wash in dirt road at 5:50am, got to saddle/fire-ring at 7:40. got to start of climb at 9:50. summit at 1:00. back to the saddle by 3:15, and back to the car by 5:15.
all in all, the southeast arete is a great climb. a classic. its got a singular and seriously nifty approach, fun secure climbing on good (not excellent) rock, and a fun summit with great views. contrary to some TRs and beta we got, it is not a heinous bushwhack. there is a little bush pushing, but its nothing vicious. there is little serious climbing, and therefore little need for protection. if i were to climb it again, id probably carry five shoulder slings, four double length slings, a set of nuts, with a couple bigger RPs, and cams to 2.5". also- rockfall was not a problem, despite the falcon guide's warning. the forbes route looks like a fun hike with a few 4th class steps, and is reputed to have the occasional 'move' in there somewhere. you could downclimb it, but i woudl be happy to carry a rope to rappel the three raps with a minimum of stress.
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