What's my Line?

Cochise Stronghold

what's my line dome
What's My Line? climbs this dome starting about 1/3 of the way up the left edge.

"What's my line?" was advertised as a 3 pitch 5.6 A0, the guidebook "Rockclimbing Arizona" said it was "Arizona's best moderate route." That was high praise indeed, so Hal Murray, Martin Meyer and I headed off up the trail to climb it. After the previous day's adventure we paid more attention to the trail as we climbed. We dropped our packs at the base of the descent route and bushwhacked up to the start of the climb. It was quite a bushwhack involving some short 4'th class scrambling in a chimney system. After a while we found ourselves at the spectacular base of the climb, half-way up a steep wall on a ledge. My next move as leader would be to step out onto that wall, always a hard transition from a comfy ledge.

I started my lead by threading the rope through two screw gate biners, then had Hal lower me toward the chickenheads, this was the A0 aid move in the rating. I was disappointed to find the chickenheads just out of reach to my right. Rather than pendulum, I climbed 5.8+ over to them. (Martin and Hal both did the pendulum and found it just fine.) I sure was happy to get my hands on those wonderful holds. The climbing was steep but the chickenheads were good. I managed to tie off two of them in the next 50 feet, then I found a place to tie off three at the same time so I set a belay. I used slip knots in 9 mm webbing to cinch off the chicken heads, I pointed out to Martin that there were 4 ways to cinch off each chickenhead and that one of those ways was always the best. I made some bomber cinches and was happy. What a spectacular place, it was hard to believe a 5.6 route ascended this steep wall.

Martin followed me up. We were close enough to Hal that we could throw Martin's rope to him, of course this meant that Martin had to untie from the rope &emdash; geep! that's always a nerve wracking thing to do. Two ropes allowed us to lower Hal on one rope while belaying him on the other. Soon we were all together at the first belay.

Hal lead the second pitch finding a three bolt belay from another route about 50 feet above us, we later learned that I was supposed to climb up to the level of these bolts, but stopping short made for easier rope handling for Hal. He ran it out to near the end of the rope where he found a great nest of chickenheads, he set three stoppers between chickenheads for a secure belay.

Martin then I followed him up. It was my turn to lead again. More chickenheads rose toward the sky. These were easy to tie off. Then, just before the final traverse to the left the chickenheads ended and the climb became thin face moves. The angle eased off though so I felt good climbing up the the headwall above - where the largest chickenhead on the climb awaited my protection. After a short traverse to the left I found a wonderful slot which took three camalots for my next belay.

From here, Hal lead a traverse to the left, he found exciting moves high in the sky, we were all glad that there was a bolt to protect the most interesting section.

Martin lead a neat crack to the summit plateau. It had taken us 5 pitches! The guide mentioned that we could continue to the true summit so I lead the extremely sharp crystalline rock past a bolt to the true summit.

We made three rappels to the gully behind the dome, then followed the well beaten dirt rail down and back to our packs. We actually made it back to camp before dark for a change. This was a great fun route. But it was definitely not a route for beginning 5.6 leaders!

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Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty

© 1999

10 Dec 99