Cochise Stronghold



The Sheepshead

Cochise Stronghold a day after Christmas in 2008.

Though we live in Oregon, we’ve made a few trips down to Cochise Stronghold (score card below). Both road trips – a solid 26 hour push each way (we’ve done this on a 3-day weekend once or twice) – and outings involving flying into Phoenix. We’ve had some amazing climbing as well as some disappointments (weather, injuries, more injuriesetc…).


Dreamscape Buttress

Dreamscape Buttress on Westworld Dome.

Days Of Future Passed

Summit of End Pinnacle.

  • Geir Hundal has produced a very nice book of topos which can be ordered on his webiste here – highly accurate and beautifully drawn.
  • Tanya Bok has written the most recent guidebook to the Stronghold (two volumes). Full of great photos and nice topos, it’ll most definitely psyche you up for a trip to the borderlands. You can order the books on her website.
  • The now out-of-print guidebook to the southern Arizona backcountry climbs by Bob Kerry is available for free online here. In addition to being informative (if a bit dated), it’s also a pretty nice read.

Trip Reports Chronologically

The Climb Too Tough To Die

The Climb Too Tough To Die on Sheepshead.


Owl Rock.

Listing By Route And Area

East Stronghold

Days Of Future Passed

Days Of Future Passed on End Pinnacle.


Endgame on End Pinnacle.

Steeper, prouder, and more challenging climbs are to be found here…in general. Things can get cold and windy especially up by the Rockfellows area. Charming looking but established ($$) camping. Seems our top choice lines are all located on this side too.

Beeline (Stronghold Dome)


West Stronghold

Cragaholic's Dream

Cragaholic’s Dream on Squaretop.

Unnamed (right of Stampede)

Phony Pony on Sheepshead.

Seemingly sunnier and warmer side of the Stronghold. Tightly bolted and longish climbs can be found on the Sheepshead formation (retrobolted by the FAist(s)?). Very charming primitive camping can be found along the west side access road. The multi-pitch routes on the Sheepshead – though fun – seem kind of repetitive after a while. Think there’s only one more line of interest to us on Sheepshead. More to do on some of the other formations. Get your passports ready for the border patrol checkpoint on the state highway just north of the Middlemarch Road junction.

Cochise Stronghold

Sheepshead area.

Not Sheepshead

Warpaint on Westworld Dome.

Our Running Score

Days Of Future Passed

Days Of Future Passed on End Pinnacle.

Early 2002: rained out (part of longer road-trip).
Jan. 2005: Moby Dick (3-day road trip from SLC).
Dec. 2005: Warpaint & Wasteland (part of weeklong road trip).
Dec. 2006: sprained ankle at base of a route. No climbing. (4-day road trip from Portland).
Feb. 2007: Peacemaker.
Nov. 2007: popped shoulder midway up P1 of Endgame. ER & no climbing.
Dec. 2007: Absinthe Of Mallet (4-day road trip from Portland ).
Dec. 2008: rained and then snowed out. No climbing (4-day road trip from Portland).
Jan. 2009: Couple of routes (3-day weekend flying in).
Jan. 2009: Two routes over a weekend.
Dec. 2009: Great fun 2 day (flying) outing!
Dec. 2010: Great three days during a weeklong roadtrip.
Feb. 2011: Quick trip.
Nov. 2012: Quick in & out.
Dec. 2012: Quick in & out.
Feb. 2017: Quickie #16.
Us: 12
Cochise: 4

The Four Star Superclassics

Forest Lawn

Forest Lawn on Rockfellow Dome.

A short list (OK, only 4…perhaps more will be added in the future) of what we think are the ultimate classics in the Stronghold…stuff we’d travel to climb even if we lived half way across the world. Great climbing, excellent positions, unique lines, and few bolts. Subjective? No, not really:

  • What’s My Line (5.6 A0) on Cochise Dome. Also known as “The Great Chicken Head Highway.” Though the climbing is not hard, the line sweeps up a beautiful face on one of the most prominent formations in the heart of the Stronghold. Three pitches of steep yet very positive plate pulling – you feel sad once it’s over. Best 5.6 we’ve done anywhere? In a word, yes!
  • Forest Lawn (5.9) on Bastion Towers. OK so we would not travel halfway around the world for a single pitch route but you should not miss this gem when in the area. Perfect splitter fingers in beautiful and improbably colorful rock! Climbs like a dream too.

Abracadaver on Rockfellow Dome.

  • Days Of Future Passed (5.9 A0) on End Pinnacle. A direct plumb line that starts wide and eventually tapers down to nothing…i.e. thin face climbing. When the grade eases up a bit, things get pretty runout. Very memorable four pitches of climbing. The reportedly 5.10 start proved proved pretty damn tricky (but is easily cheated on via a bolt).
  • Abracadaver (5.11-) on Rockfellow Dome. A direct line up the best looking face in the Stronghold. Expect a bit of everything on this five pitch gem.

Chicken-Heads And Alligator Plates



Dreamscape Buttress

Dreamscape Buttress.

The chicken-head and its smaller cousin the alligator plate are the iconic Cochise climbing features. These four routes offer probably the best (most moderate?) exposure to those features: What’s My Line (5.6), Moby Dick (5.8), Ewephoria (5.8), Dreamscape Buttress (5.9), and Endgame (5.10a).


West Cochise Stronghold

West Cochise Stronghold – from Whale Dome (on the left) to Squaretop on the right (Jan. 2005).