Member Trip Report

MEETINGS & ACTIVITIES    trip menu    search   calendar


Camelback Mountain Sport Climbing

Phoenix, Arizona

December 30, 2006

Author: Larry Earley

The Falcon Rock Climbing Guide to Arizona states that Camelback Mountain has a reputation for rotten rock and I would have to say that this statement is the ultimate understatement of the climbing world. I was getting my first visit to Camelback with a chance to do some brand new climbs. Manny Rangel was going to show me several new routes that have been climbed only a few times. Bolted sport climbs on the Headwall up to 200’ long. We had along a brave 5.11+ leader from Spokane who volunteered to lead some new Camelback classic climbs. These climbs will go down in history as test pieces for climbing courage. Many routes we did were only 5.9 but many 5.12 leaders will fail in the future due to fear of death and lost limbs. After a full day on the Headwall I can honestly say that the cobbles in matrix rock (not really rock) have on average a 20% chance of breaking off by hand and foot at any moment. The intense fear of leading is matched by the fear of belaying under a leader. Helmets are mandatory but body armor from Iraq is definitely highly recommended.

Larry Earley seconding pitch 2 of Spice Box 10b.
Looks ok from a distance. Ha!

We started on the new Rain of Terror (5.9). Actually we were sandbagged right off the bat by Manny calling it a 5.8. Our Spokane leader was gripped half way up and made the crux with only two key foot holds coming loose. Maybe the climb was 5.8 but it’s a 9 now. I was up next and barely made it on toprope. It has nine bolts and was 90’ long. It was raining pebbles all day. Just to the right is Sleazy Street (5.7). Again we were told it was a 5.6 at first. This climb is rock solid by Camelback standards. These climbs have 7.5” glue in bolts which are as big as you can get. Sleazy Street has 8 bolts and is also 90’.

We next moved on to our main goal, which was the newest climb Spice Box (10b). It is F rated for fear. No bolted sport climb is more a terror than this one. It is 3 pitches and over 200’ tall. Pitch 1 is actually a great little 5.2 with two bolts and 40’ long. You end up on a nice ledge, which could be a killing field. Above you is pitch 2 with the crux. Pitch 2 is 105’ long with 11 bolts. It is sustained 5.9 with a solid 10b section of 25 feet. Pro is good but don’t let that fool you. After four of us climbed Spice Box it is definitely 10d. No fewer than 30 broken holds and a hail storm of raining rock left us shell shocked. I was lucky to belay our Spokane leader from under the initial overhang. There was literally a hundred pounds of rock on the ledge after his lead. I would break off much more on my try.

Unknown climber on Ghastly Rubberfat 10b.

We finished up on Donamatrix (5.9) left of Spice Box. It is two pitches of 5.9 that we combined into one pitch 200’ with 16 bolts. This climb was really solid except at the crux. Ha Ha Ha!!! A few loose key holds at a slightly overhung section will test your boldness. Our Spokane leader again was slow and careful at the crux.

If these test pieces of fear are not enough then there is also Ghastly Rubberfat (10b) and the really hard Cameltoe (11c). None of these climbs are in any guidebook yet but more information is available at www.rockclimbing.com.

Camelback rock is somewhat simlar to El Rito sport climbing. It is granite cobbles in a fine silt (dirt) matrix. Next time you are in Phoenix and need a thrill then give these test pieces a try.


Send your trip reports, comments, updates, and suggestions about this site to
Jan Studebaker

Website Design by Jemez Web Factory