(Little) Granite Mountain 3,526′
Total Time: 5:40 (with a large chunk of rock climbing a part of that)
Distance: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,300′
Crux: Class 2-3 (5.7 for Blue Sky on Pasta Wall)
Trailhead: McDowell Preserve Granite Mountain Trailhead- no services
In the less traveled northern portion of McDowell Sonoran Preserve sits a series of small summits separate from the rest of the range, including Cone Peak, Slant Mountain (Brown’s Peak), Cholla Mountain and Granite Mountain, the highest of the four. Known in the climbing community as “Little Granite Mountain” in contradistinction to the larger Granite Mountain near Prescott, the slopes of the smaller summit offer a number of small granite crags that see far less traffic compared to the main range to the south. Aside from Pinnacle Peak and the unofficially named Sven Towers, Granite Mountain was one of the last summits in the McDowells I had yet to climb, and thought I would make a day of some cross country hiking to the summit followed by some solo top-roping at one of the crags near the base. I left after morning rush hour traffic had died down and reached the Granite Mountain Trailhead about 35 minutes from home. From the parking lot, you could see ‘The Loaf’ and ‘Bobcat Boulder,’ two of the better known climbing areas on the eastern slopes. I started along the Bootleggers Trail angling NW towards the Granite Mountain loop trail, passing through Morning Glory Boulders as I approached the base of the mountain.
I briefly turned onto the Saddlehorn Trail before reaching another junction with the Granite Mountain Loop trail where I cached my pack and climbing gear behind an obvious pinnacle (with an interesting bolted route up that looked fun).
With just a water bottle in hand, I continued north along the Granite Mountain Loop trail with plans to hike the use trail past ‘The Loaf’ and ‘Bobcat Boulder’, then traverse the long southern ridgeline of Granite Mountain from there to the summit. The use trail to the two crags was well defined (although no climbers out on this Friday morning), and I had an relatively easy time reaching the saddle along the ridgeline, providing views of the other three summits in the Northern McDowells to the west.
The cross country along the ridgeline was initially straightforward thanks to fellow climber’s use trails to the top of the Loaf, either set up top anchors or descend from the top of the climbs without rappelling (many would require double ropes). But once I was past the top of the crag, my use trail options became non-existent, and I fought my way up through Palo Verde and brush along the ridge. The ridgeline briefly dipped beyond a false summit, then became a jumble of boulders that could have been a fun class 3 line, but had just a bit too much looseness to really be fun.
The summit had a rather striking 10′ summit block that had a few class 3-4 options to surmount, and I scrambled the remaining distance to the top. There were two different small summit registers at the top, and I signed into the one which seemed to have the most recent dates. Interestingly, I had missed Scott Surgent by only a few days, a fellow AZ peakbagger with a similar trip report website that I often reference before my outings. I took in the views across the Northern McDowells and had a short break at the top.
I decided I would try to find a less brushy line off the top and thought that the gully descending between the major southern and eastern ridgelines of Granite Mountain might work a bit better. Dropping off, I found an initial cairn or two providing some encouragement. However, heading down the sandy slopes, I quickly lost anything resembling a trail and found myself bushwacking through thorns and cacti once more. It wasn’t until I was near the bottom of the drainage that the brush opened up and I followed this back to where it intersects with the main trail not far from the turn off for ‘The Loaf’. 15 minutes of hiking brought me back to my cached pack (thankfully not terrorized by rodents), and I continued along the Granite Mountain Loop trail south. My plan was to climb the various sport/trad routes on Pasta Wall, ranging in difficulty from 5.3- 5.7 via a fixed top rope, using a WildCountry Ropeman 2 backed up with a prussik on a second rope. It would be my first time solo toproping. The Pasta Wall is one the closest crags to the trailhead, and after weaving around several washes, I spotted the cairned use trail and headed upslope to the wall. Some scrambling on the west side got me to the fairly new bolted anchors at the top of the climbs and I spent the next few hours climbing the 7 routes on the wall, repeating one that I fell the first time on. Without going into gory detail on each one, the routes are, from left to right:
It took several hours to build the anchor, set up my TR system, climb, rebuild an anchor for the next climb, and rappel back down to the base for each pitch. But certainly good practice and a nice way to get in some laps without a partner (which I often don’t have on random weekdays off). Having climbed out the wall, I packed up my climbing gear and headed back to the trailhead on a nice 3 miles hike through the desert. It had been a productive day, one that I would pay for in the form of exhaustion during my night call a few hours later….