We left the bus at the Granite Mountain campground and drove our Jeep to Sedona to climb The Mace: a super fun route on a great desert tower. When we got to the parking lot after a much-longer-than-expected drive from Prescott, the sun was shining on the climb! We thought it was on the north face! Not quite I guess… more like North-East. We figured it would be a good thing, since it was quite cold, though once we headed up the short approach, we started feeling pretty hot. We found the first pitch in full sun and by that time, the temperature at the base of the climb was quite comfortable. We ended up climbing the entire route in T-shirts, never wearing the fleece jackets and puff balls that Lucie carried in her pack.
Most of the route involves chimney climbing (sometimes in actual chimneys, other times in dihedrals and flares). It is surprisingly enjoyable! All belays have a single eyebolt, glued in place and looking pretty solid. There are also good placements to back that up if desired (in fact, one could say that the bolts are unnecessary… but welcome).
The first pitch (5.7) is easy, except for a couple of more interesting moves past a small overhang.
The 5.9 crack at the start of the second pitch is pretty tough: overhanging and a bit awkward. That pitch finishes with a 40 foot offwidth that is actually climbed mostly on face holds just to the left of it. I used a #5 Camalot for the first several moves (pushing it up with me), then placed a #3 Bigbro for the end.
The next pitch starts with a fun hand traverse (committing but easy) to a small ledge at the base of another flared crack/chimney. I found the starting moves in that flare to be challenging. The rest of the pitch is fun chimneying and stemming.
The crux pitch has a couple of hard moves, chimneying in a flared offwidth, first without feet, then with the feet on a thin diagonal overlap on the left wall. The pro at the crux is great: one bolt and a #4 Camalot. Then you just go for it on a couple of face moves above the overlap and to the top of the lower tower.
The last pitch starts with the famous step-across move: incredible exposure over the 4ft gap (which opens much wider below). One good bolt for pro on the opposite wall, then you shuffle right a few feet and commit to a couple of moves up a flake. Easy but the holds are small enough to catch your attention.
The summit area is large, flat and comfortable. The summit register is incredible: a one foot section of industrial strength 8" diameter (or so) stainless steel pipe, with a welded flange at the base. The whole contraption is held by four beefy bolts onto the summit sandstone. A large, removable stainless steel cap protects the summit register inside. Even though it had turned cloudy by the time we reached the top, we stayed well over an hour, enjoying the incredible views. There's also a lone cactus, growing straight out of the sandstone, and a small hanging garden with a bush, agave, and cactus. Beautiful.
We eventually resorted to rapping down. We did not dare trying the jump back down to the lower summit (not sure about risking a foot or ankle injury). Instead, we layed the ropes around the summit register/rap anchor (!) and rapped down into the chimney between the two towers. An impressive rap. It's about 150 feet to a large ledge in the chimney. From there, another short rap from a bolted anchor (single rap with a 50m rope) leads to the ground on the back side of the tower. A quick and easy 5 minute walk down and around to the other side and we're back at our packs.
Great climb. Great day.
We had dinner in Jerome on the way back. Such a cute town: old buildings clinging to the side of the mountain. Must have been a vibrant town a century ago. Too bad we cannot get a job in a place like this...
|The summit log and its unusual container, which also doubles as rap anchor.|
|The Mace is the striking leftmost tower of the group.|
|Short approach to the tower.|
|The Mace formation.|
|On the last pitch, one steps across the chimney from the lower to the higher tower to reach the summit.|
|Eric starting the first pitch (5.7).|
|Higher on pitch 1.|
|And higher still.|
|Looking back toward Sedona, its colorful formations... and oversized trophy houses!|
|Eric starting the 5.9 crack on pitch 2.|
|The crack becomes a chimney higher up.|
|Chimneying on pitch 2.|
|Pitch 2 ends with an offwidth section that can actually be climbed with mostly face holds on the left.|
|Typical belay anchor.|
|Views from belay at top of pitch 2.|
|Pitch 3 (5.9) starts with a fun hand traverse.|
|Looking up toward the flared section.|
|The flare on pitch 3.|
|The top of the pitch involves some more chimneying.|
|Self portrait at top of pitch 3.|
|Views from the belay.|
|Eric starting the crux pitch (pitch 4)...|
|...and being swallowed by the chimney|
|The belay at the end of pitch 4 - just before the famous step across.|
|Views from the belay ledge.|
|Eric looking down the void...|
|...between the two towers...|
|...before committing to the step across (yes, long legs help).|
|Higher on pitch 5, just a couple of feet from the summit.|
|The step across is trickier...|
|...for shorter people!|
|We're on the summit! Wee!|
|We spend some time reading,...|
|and writing in the summit log. It had only been 3 days since the most depressing day in US history... for a liberal.|
|After admiring ...|
|...from the top...|
|...and getting some well deserved rest on this great summit...|
|...we start rapping down the chimney between the two towers.|
|The rappels are pretty impressive.|
|Two raps (1 double and 1 single, with 50m ropes) will get you down.|
|At the base of the two raps.|