Montezuma's Head


By: Carol Snyder


I have wanted to climb this peak since 1994, when Erik Siering and Bob Summer- told me about their exciting climb. So I was delighted when Terry Flood, my co-leader, Jack Miller and I started out for Organ Pipe Cactus Monument in Southern Arizona. We arrived early Saturday (after driving most of the way Friday night). I had planned to meet some friends at the campground but they were already off climbing something, so we went to the Visitor's Center to get addition information on Montezuma's Head. We discovered that there are several routes up the spire. There are descriptions of Montezuma's Revenge 5.7, the NW Chimney Route 5.6, SW Face 5.4, and South Face 5.9. We decided to stay with our original plan and climb the route Bob and Erik did, which is low 5`h class. Since it was still early, we drove out Puerto Blanco loop to where it looked like we could start hiking toward Pinkley Peak (3145 ft.), the high point in the Puerto Blanco range. Jack soon became well aquainted with Cholla. The peak was a good warm up and we enjoyed the exercise as well as the beauty of the Sonora Desert. By the time we got back to camp our friends had also returned. Dave Jurasevich, the author of the guide book used by the Desert Peak Section and Andy Bates, a sports climber from Tucson were going to be guest on our climb of Monty. Both Dave and Andy have completed the list of every range high point in Arizona.

Sunday morning, we drove to a convenient turnout between milepost 62 and 63 on Highway 85. Just like Bob said in his report, from here Monty is visible and you head straight for it. The approach is four miles across many gullies and washes through a lush desert landscape. When we reached the base of the peak, we headed up the western slopes of the north summit and about halfway up contoured southeast below a yellow cliff band to the wide saddle between the north summit the Montezuma's Head. This avoids the cliffs directly beneath the saddle.

From the saddle, we headed south up class 2 sloping slabs and brushy terrain to the base of a prominent chute on the right side of the north face of Monty. The area near the base of the chute is blanketed.with sticker bushes. Bob' wrote " It is a full-length pitch of class 4 with some easier and harder moves mixed in. The rock is obnoxiously loose and protection is psychological at best -small pockets to place a friend and an occasional micro-arch of rock to tie off. We found the rock was rotten more than loose and indeed protection was merely psychological. (Here I realized that Erik was correct when he warned me against having more than four people climb. We had five.)

We went up about 50 feet from the top of the chute to two exposed steps that brought us on to a broad slanting slope halfway up the north face. From there we went east up the slope. Here we had some trouble finding where we were to start the 5d' class pitch. We spent about '/x hour looking for the fixed piton mentioned in Bob's report. By this time it was 3:30 p.m. and we decided it would be wise to start back since we still had three rappels to do. However, before we start down, we continued to explore the possibilities and we found the alcove at the eastern end of the slope. And facing the alcove, Andy climbed a ramp sloping upward from lower right to upper left, reaching a fixed piton about 20 feet above the ground. This is the piton used as a belay anchor for the following pitch. Now we knew the route.

We returned to rappel the two exposed steps on the northwest side of the peak using a good boulder anchor. Descending another 50 feet on easy ground, we reached the top of the ascent chute and a good boulder anchor on its west side. An 80-foot rappel, with a 55 meter rope, brought us within a step of the ground. We retraced our path from here to the saddle between Montezuma's Head and. the north summit and down to the base of the peak, where the four mile hike across the flats brought us back to our cars just at dusk. We all enjoyed the adventure and vowed to return to summit Monty some other day. We would do this by either two rope teams with a total of four people or backpack to the base of the peak to enable an early morning start.

Monday morning, Jack decided to have breakfast in Gila Bend instead of climbing another Arizona peak. (I think he was getting tired of the Cholla). But six of us set out to climb a peak named Hat Mt. in the Sauceda Mountain Range. We didn't have much information about it. Mark Adrian, one of our friends had tried to climb it solo. He thought there was a route that he rated high 3`d class. We told Jack we would meet him in three hours. Six hours later we returned triumphant.

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