Gap: Sunny Days in the Cochise Stronghold

F-Rock.

By Isabel Lucas

F-Rock has spent the last 10 days exploring the Cochise Stronghold of southern Arizona. After an eventful approach in our bus and trailer, which involved shoveling and help from campground neighbors, we made it to our backcountry basecamp. Complete with “groovers” and a fire pit, we settled into camp. We began our multi-pitch curriculum the very next day with ground school. After mastering clove hitches and rappel setups, many of us took our skills to the air, completing up-up-downs with an instructor. After a couple more days of experiencing Cochise crags, our first group of multi-pitchers was ready to go! They headed to Moby Dick – a classic route with 6 pitches and a free-hanging rappel. When they returned to camp, the remaining students had created a “Jeopardy”-like scavenger hunt, having been left to their own devices.

The following day we had our longest solo yet – 22 hours. Students got creative in their entertainment methods – practicing Kung fu, doing 500 push-ups, and befriending grasshoppers. Despite being apart from one another, we all watched the full moon rise over the cliffs as we curled up in our sleeping bags. After a brief commotion due to a sudden noise in the night, the desert grasses of Cochise quieted down and we slept under the stars.

In the second half of our adventures, more students completed their first multi-pitches, and a few even led a pitch on our last full climbing day. Others continued working on their lead climbing, anchor cleaning, and granite slab technique. In all, we left Cochise with many more skills and goals accomplished than when we arrived.

I had aimed to complete my first ever multi-pitch In Cochise. With a lot of help from instructor Dave and loads of encouragement from my peers, I eventually made it up the five pitches of “Ewephoria.” Despite early scrapes and bruises, several falls, and nervousness from being hundreds of feet in the air, I managed to climb, scramble, and haul myself to the top. The view from the dome was-in a word-Euphoric! The vast desert and surrounding sky islands were on full display, illuminated by the bright, warm sun. After taking in the view with fellow passersby and their dogs (Octavia and Kit), we slowly walked down to the base of the climb where a bag of gluten-free Oreos awaited me (my reward and sustenance after my longest day on the wall). Arriving back at camp, my incredible tent mates Page and Tru had made a creamy pot of cheesy pasta for dinner- the perfect end to a challenging, but satisfying day.

Cochise was the first F-Rock expedition without rain, snow, or hail! The warm, sunny desert weather made for many nights spent watching sunsets over the hill and gathered comfortably around a fire. As we journeyed back to Prescott for a Thanksgiving day transition, we were filled with gratitude for the environment we’d inhabited and the many memories we made there.