Signal Peak


By: Garnet Roehm


It looks like this route may also be a first ascent. Ted Brasket, Bob Martin, and Rusty Baillie, who are all long-time Arizona Climbers, had no knowledge of this route. On my third time on this route however I did find an old broken sling 100' below where one should rope up in the canyon. Maybe there has been another party on what I call Chillable Red. Or possibly there could have been another team attempting the vertical sidewalls of the canyon or maybe the sling was from a party that realized that they were off-route and were bailing off. (Which I've been told has happened.) This route is noteworthy for its direct line straight up from the Palm Canyon trailhead to the 4100+' level followed by a series of ledges and ramps that traverse up and across the west face of the west summit. There is a forty-foot vertical section in a corner that I rated at 5.7 that takes you out of the very end of the canyon and puts you on the ledge/ramp system. The vertical section could be climbed at a lower grade to the immediate left of the corner, however it would be without any protection as it is a crackless face. However be advised that the 2nd class slab above the 5th class rock, the "Dog House" clog and the 2nd class slopes immediately below it are wrought with loose rock. Like Indianhead's SW face, this route is not recommended for regular DPS outing. This is not necessarily because of the amount of technical climbing difficulties as an experienced group could negotiate the two back-to-back 100-foot crux pitches of mixed climbing The problem is that it would be very difficult to stage any group larger than a couple out of harms way at the base of the 40' pitch. For anyone after 2 people staged in this slot canyon it could be like hanging out in front of the pins at a busy bowling alley. The climb is recommended for a group of two or three.

February 24, 1993: Old climbing buddy Andy Butcher from our days in Alaska and I are in Palm Canyon with a USGS map with some lines on it that I got over the phone from Rob Langsdorf. Well, before we knew it we were scratching our heads looking at that map and deciding that we were off route. We were a few hundred feet up the straight east extension of Palm Canyon. We realized this is considered a side canyon draining to, but not the actual Palm Canyon that dog-legged to the south below us. Probably because our years of climbing in Alaska without route descriptions where we generally always just followed the best line that looked doable to us, Andy said "yeah" to my query about checking out the upper reaches of this side canyon.

The canyon gets steeper and narrower as one ascends. It ends at a cliff face that looks a bit daunting and the base of the face is blocked by a clog of dog house sized boulders jammed into the bottom of this slot that the upper reaches of this canyon has become. It looks like an easy third class scramble-"not" in my 14 year-old son's vernacular. It is below- well below the "Dog House Clog" where roping up should be done (not above it as I'm not too proud to say I've done twice now.) Andy thanked me for the belay even though minutes before he was telling me not to waste my time, in spite of the fact that he had just watched me sweat my way up the thing. To him (to practically anyone), it had looked easier than climbing a ladder.

The belay I used to bring up the second on Dog House Clog pitch should not be used to protect the leader for the 40' of class 5 above us because of the bowling alley thing. A better belay to protect the belayer from rock fall is to step over a few feet into the corner, place a small cam there and back it up with one or two .75 camelots which have to be placed after making the first move up the corner. All of what we could see above was that the route stepped back 40' above us for a ways then there seemed to be nothing but lots of sky and vertical or overhanging face. Do we want to go up there? We have pro and plenty of sling material but no bolt kit. (New bolts are not permitted in the Wildlife Refuge anyway.) In-kicks the ages old corundum of-if we get up there and can't go anywhere, can we safely get back down to here? This is, of course run of the mill smart climbing. When you are on a new route, climbing off-route or climbing on anything that challenges your ability, all of this is amplified and with every upward move, the terrain is reevaluated from the new view. Do I continue up or do I bail? One has to use their best judgment and hoping we are using ours, we climb on.

The rock in the corner is not loose with a decent crack for placing pro; it goes with about a 5.7 rating. It's a bit easier for folks that are about 6 foot or more tall. To its left is that crack-less face that looks like it would go easier yet but without any protection. So we climb the corner all the way up.

We are delighted to see the beginning of what becomes a series of south tending ledges and ramps that traverse the west face of the west and lower but significant summit, (that probably hasn't been climbed yet!). Soon there is an exposed 3rd class section that goes better on a lower line. After that (or was it before?) there is a wide vegetated ramp with an undercut headwall that forms a cave-like feature. Inside the cave I found what I think is a Woodrat midden pressed solid into the very back, made up of either their own poop or desert bighorn sheep poop and other natural debris. I'm obviously not a scientist but this stuff was almost 2 feet thick! I took photos and a small sample to give to a friend at the University of Arizona.

Before getting to the notch at 4400+' and joining the Rusty Bailey and DPS A routes, we climb up the sloped rock face on the right side of a vegetated gully doing a few 4th class moves, If one were to bushwhack up the gully proper it looked like it would probably be a nasty 3rd class bushwhack.

TaaDaa! A little more ramp and ledge and we find ourselves at the 4400+' notch (findable on USGS 7.5 map) that we have to descend a bit to cross. After the notch traverse a short distance on west facing slope, (we are now on the upper part of the other routes), climb a slope with a few 3rd class moves to the ridgeline mentioned in the DPS route A description. After this short, mild and weird divide between a mild mountain slope and a great-north-draining-killer-ravine, we hiked the 2nd class slopes to the summit.

My descents by default (I was looking for the DPS route!) have all been by the Rusty Baillie route, which is just to the south of the DPS route A route. I recommend two 100' ropes or a single 200'er to descend it. If anyone wishes to repeat Chillable Red, a 200'er is recommended (along with two 25' slings for a descent). I have more detailed protection notes that I can give you.

I've done Chillable Red three times (2-24-93, 12-23-01,216-02) with different partners and here are their most notable comments: Andy Butcher-"Are we off route?", Ted Brasket-"This is the best desert mountaineering route I've done", and Barry Olm-"Do you know where we are?"

The Route was named after Ted Brasket's favorite inexpensive box wine and Ted has already shortened it to just "Chillable".

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