Arizona has plenty of boulders, mountains and canyons to challenge even the most adventurous climbers. The opportunities are so plentiful and diverse that author Amy C. Balfour writes in her guidebook "Arizona": "If Dr. Seuss had designed a rock-climbing playground, it would look a lot like Arizona."
The book "Rock Climbing Arizona" gives a general overview of what Arizona has to offer rock climbers. Around the Phoenix metro area are the McDowell Mountains and the loose sandstone walls of Camelback Mountain. Outside of Phoenix to the east are the volcanic cliffs in the Superstition Mountains and in Queen Creek Canyon, which is reputed to be one of Arizona's top sport climbing areas. Farther south around Tucson are Mount Lemmon and the Cochise Stronghold, where you can, according to "Rock Climbing Arizona," climb "chickenhead-festooned domes." Up north around Flagstaff are the basalt-lined San Francisco Peaks and the nearby Jacks Canyon. Going south of Flagstaff there's more sandstone at The Mace, a classic spire climb. And even more south around Prescott you'll find Granite Mountain and Granite Dells.
Arizona's rock-climbing community is another valuable resource for discovering where to climb. It can even help the newbie or novice learn how to climb. For example, the Arizona Climbing and Adventure School (climbingschool.com) -- featured in publications such as "National Geographic" and "The New York Times" -- offers detailed instruction for all level of rock climbing. Through the school, which is based in Carefree, Arizona, climbers can learn about rappelling, bouldering, multi-pitch climbing and more. Additionally, the Arizona Rock Climbing Club (azrockclimbing.com), although not a climbing school, hosts monthly meetings and organizes climbing trips for club members.
Stewart M. Green, the author of "Rock Climbing Arizona," soberly warns: Climbing is a sport where you may be seriously injured or die. He cautions that every climber must use his own good judgment and an honest assessment of personal experience and climbing ability. Hazards typical to rock climbing are falling rocks, failed holds, equipment failure and weather hazards. Dangers specific to Arizona include flash flooding and lightning strikes during the summer season; the crumbly nature of sandstone that increases the risk of slips and falls; and the notoriously hot summer temperatures, oftentimes well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Climbers should be observant and sure to drink at least a gallon of water a day while climbing.
Before tackling the boulders and spires of Arizona's outdoors, you might want to try climbing indoors at a rock-climbing gym. Arizona has numerous options throughout the Phoenix metro area. One gym, the Climbmax Gym (climbmaxclimbinggym.com) in Tempe -- which claims to be the largest in Arizona -- offers 15,000 feet of climbing space including a replica cave that you can climb through. The building is air-conditioned with padded floors and has a design that caters to the full range of climbing skills. For those ready for the outdoors, though, check with local authorities or climbers to see if you need a permit to climb in your desired area.
- "Arizona"; Amy C. Balfour; 2011
- "Rock Climbing Arizona"; Stewart M. Green; 1999
- Arizona Climbing and Adventure School: Rock Climbing Instruction
- Arizona Rock Climbing Club: Rock Climbing Club
- Arizona Vacation Planner: Sedona Travel Tips
- IndoorClimbing.com: Arizona Rock Climbing Walls and Gyms
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