Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Razor's Edge: Superstition Mountains

Date: Feb 27, 2010
Destination: Praying Hands Pillar (Superstition Mountains)
Who: Justin and Leonard
Details: I stole this route description from Climbing Magazine...describes it quite well :)
- Begin via a runout fourth-class gully to the notch below the arĂȘte proper. Pitch two offers slippery climbing past a few vintage bolts and fixed pins — stranding you at the two-bolt belay of Chicken Ledge. A look up at the third (crux) pitch ties your stomach in knots: the arĂȘte steepens, and fixed gear becomes less inspiring. You’ll hang onto the airy spine, using slippery volcanic edges, your only consolation the occasional nut or cam

...of course, all I could think of after reading this was "where do I sign up...lets go" :)

The longer I live in Arizona near the Superstition Mountains, the more they grow on me. I really enjoy biking out to them, hiking/camping, rock climbing, and just seeing them each day. The best part is being able to jump in the truck and be hiking at Lost Dutchman State Park (soon to be closed in June...a story for a different day...but very disappointing.)

The Praying Hands are a desert pillar just to the north side of the main cliff group. From the ground, the shortest vertical section it is 160' feet tall. I have read and dreamed about climbing this for the 10 years I have lived in Arizona. Finally I have a buddy who is crazy enough to head up it with me. The route is called the "Razor's Edge" rated 5.6 ... and the name fits! The 2nd and 3rd pitch are about 2-3 feet wide...with 100+ feet of vertical drop on both sides..."WIGGY." There are several old bolts, pitons, very few places for Trad gear and some bomber new bolts at the belay points.

Justin and I arrive at the trail head around 2:00pm...plenty of time to gear up and hike in...climb and get back before dark right? typical style.

Pulled this graph from my Garmin 305 when we got back home. Hike in is about 1.5 - 2 miles in...some elevation gain but nothing killer.

Hiking up to the hand. You can see the lone pillar "Praying Hands" on the left of the ridge line.

Took us about 45 minutes to make it to the base.

I was gearing up for the lead as Justin worked the iPhone picture editing magic...This is my rock climbing glamor shot...all I need is some funky big hair...and that ain't happening on the barren ground I call my scalp.

*** Before I go any farther here...I must warn that we didn't take to many photo's or any video. We spent most of the time wondering what the h@#$ we were doing...I thought quite often "I can't believe I thought this would be fun...this is phreaking scary...not many places for that bolt looks rusty...this is stupid...etc etc." of course when we were at the top and back on tera firma, it was "phreaking awesome" and I would totally do it again...The holds were good and the climbing was relatively easy...but the exposure played a few games with our heads.

I combined the first and second pitch into one long 160ft pitch. The rope drag was brutal towards the end but the holds were pretty solid and not to hard to find. This belay point is called "Chicken Ledge"...not to be confused with "pee your pants ledge" (but both of us nearly did :)

Wonder why they call it Chicken Ledge? You straddle this 2 foot wide ledge like the saddle on a horse...only there is 100+ feet of air between you and the ground on both

I am belaying Justin up to Chicken Ledge

Some other climbers on the route...better perspective of the belay and climbing the last pitch. should have seen it in color...there wasn't much in my pale face during this lead. A friend of ours said this last pitch was "WIGGY." We kind of laughed and thought it can't be that's only rated 5.6...well, I have a full dose understanding of what a "WIGGY" lead is...and will pay much closer attention to anyone describing a route I plan to do when they mention that term.

I was clipped into some "bomber" ancient lost arrow pitons here...I figure what the heck, get out the camera and take a picture back towards Justin....phreaking crazy!

These have probably been here a few years...give or take 50. There was a good few inches for my feet and a nice bucket hold.

Looking West across the valley as the sun is setting...time to get down.

Looking East back at the Supes...some cool looking caves.

Justin graciously took the first rappel. I was still a little frazzled from leading this crazy climb...and needed a few more deep breaths :)

A double rope rappel 160+ feet to the ground...took a while to get down :)

We packed it up pretty quick and made it back to the truck about 7:00pm...glad there was a full moon! It took us about 5 hours from truck to truck to knock off this climb. It was definitely an incredible adventure that I won't soon forget. Hopefully the post traumatic stress is over and I will sleep well again tonight:) as always, looking forward to "what's next."


  1. I love it. That looks awesome. Keep them coming.

  2. Have I mentioned? You guys are NUTS! Bet you'll listen to Mark next time!!!

  3. Ooh, my stomach did little flip flops looking at some of those pictures. I think you're right, "pee your pants" ledge might just better describe chicken ledge. :) Can't wait to see "what's next." How about a crazy drive to Wyoming with 3 kids in the car! lol

  4. Lenny! i am glad you had a great time with your buddy justin. I am more glad you made it home to me in one piece! I love you! you are nuts! but you already knew that ;)

  5. Whoa - beautiful scenery, but there are some things that you should never let your mama know you have done!

  6. Hey buddy I'm heading out there with some friends next week and planning to lead. Just started leading, so I'll have to start building my rack. Do you remember what I'll need to head up? I've got 8 draws, and no nuts or cams yet. Hoping I can get some good info and only purchase what I need.