Hurt Butt Buttress
Cochise Stronghold

hurt butt buttress
Hurt Butt Buttress

On Thanksgiving weekend 1999, Hal Murray, Martin and Morresa Meyer and I visited Cochise Stronghold.

Hal scanned the guidebook "Backcountry Rockclimbing in Southern Arizona" and found a mention of a 7 pitch, fifth class climb up the southeast buttress of peak 7015 The name of the climb was "Hurt Butt Buttress." The name wasn't very inspiring but the guidebook promised a "delightful ridge" with "many route finding puzzles." This sounded like just our type of adventure so we decided to go for it.

In the morning we slept in until 7 AM and hit the bottom of the climbers trail at 8:30 AM. The trail was fairly seep, including a few stretches up a dry water polished cascade. We scoffed at the large number of rock ducks marking the trail but presciently refrained from knocking them over.

We guessed at our likely descent route, and left our large packs on top of a rock underneath a stone that looked like a Hershey's kiss. Our headlamps were left behind since we thought we would be back to our packs long before dark and we were travelling light with one small pack for each rope of two climbers.

We didn't know where the route started so we spent a couple of hours wandering through thick bush, Arizona bush comes armed with sharp spines, soon we were all sporting new body piercings. Hal wanted a look at the east side of the ridge so we worked our way up the drainage, and I do mean worked. Once we got there the east side didn't look interesting, too low angled and treed down low and too steep above, so we cut back to the west through a deep notch filed with trees. There were mumbles of mutiny until I spotted great looking rock above. It was nearly noon when Hal and Morresa began simultaneous leads.

hurt butt pitch 1
Hal leads the first pitch, the small ceiling is to his left.

Hal lead up the low angle, low pro, first pitch heading toward a small ceiling, day glow green lichen decorated the right side of the ceiling. He went right above this ceiling while Morresa set up her belay underneath it.

At the ceiling Martin and I took over the lead. The route was climbable just about everywhere. I chose to traverse the higher of two horizontal dikes above the ceiling while Martin went left below the ceiling and then up to rejoin me. The rock was solid with great texture for climbing and reasonable though not ample protection. Four pitches took a fast 20 minutes each. We stayed right of deeper gullies, until we arrived at a deep notch. We climbed down into the notch and belayed. While there Martin spotted a whole herd of a dozen coatamundi walking down a steep granite slab below the summit. What an amazing sight.

I lead left down the gully and across to the base of the tower just south of the highest summit. Three wonderful pitches brought us to the summit of the tower. I found a devious climbing route down into the notch beyond, the climbing was varied and interesting. Martin and Morresa rappelled from a sling and biners that others had left behind. An easy corner pitch brought us to the region of the summit, and one final layback pitch brought us to the summit. The sun was getting low since it was 4 PM. We had taken 11 pitches to get here.

Going down was not trivial. We climbed down to the north and west then back to the south, wandering down slabs, descending into boulder caves. At one point we found ourselves on the very same slabs we had seen the coatamundi descending earlier in the day. The sun set at 5 PM and found us high above our packs. We worked our way down wishing we had brought our headlamps. It got darker and darker, the bush got thicker and our shins got poked by "shin daggers." Just in the last bit of light I spotted the Hershey kiss and beneath it our packs. Whew, we arrived at our packs and turned on our lights, just in time. From the dark cliffs behind us a voice from an even later party called out, "are we having fun yet?" I replied "yes! much, and you?" I got no reply.

After snacking we headed down the wash toward the descent trail. It was much harder to find the trail at night. I was very happy to find the rock ducks which confirmed me I was on the right path. The path down the waterfall/cascade seemed steeper and more exposed at night. We slowly made our way down the trail. I was leading when my lamp burned out, luckily Martin had a spare bulb that fit my lamp, (I hadn't replaced my spare the last time my lamp burned out.) Morresa took a fall and landed hard on her butt ...thus the climb lived up to its name! When we reached the road we rejoiced, it was a fine adventurous climb, and now it was time for dinner and some fine wine.

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Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty

© 1999

10 Dec 99