Finger Rock North of Tucson

  • Updated: December 30, 2013
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

December 30th, 2013
Finger Rock (6,475')
8.6 miles, 4,000'

This was the 4th day of an extended New Years 2014 Trip out to the Tucson area. We'd spent all day underground in Crystal Cave, used Peppersauce Cave as a recovery day, attempted Elephant Head, and then Finger Rock before planning to finish with Cave of the Bells. And we probably would have done that one if wasn't for a slight animal encounter the last night.

Finger Rock is the tiny spindle in the picture above.  It's not usually the sort of peak I go for but had the reputation for being a fun 5.6-5.8 climb with a relatively short approach.  This meant we could run into town and pick up the cave permit we needed in the morning.

We started the day by driving in to Tucson painfully early in order to be there right when the permit office opened so we could pick up the key for Cave of The Bells and get on our way.

At least there was coffee.

The permit office is located inside a federal building where you have to go through a metal detector and have your bags scanned TSA style.  Our very threatening looking 5 ft 4 Blondie wasn't thinking and tried to step through the scanner and grab her bag before being told to and I briefly thought I was going to see her tased by a rather large uniformed black woman.  Instead we got away with a boisterous scoulding.

We went upstairs to the permit office and while they made us feel better about the security guard we ran into another problem.  They had two keys for Bells and both were apparently still out.  Fortunately while we were making using the bathroom and talking about how we would change our plans one of them walked through the door.

Crisis averted and key in hand we hurried to the trailhead for Finger Rock.

Free parking but the sunrise to sunset bit worried me since it was a late start and we expected to be back after dark.  I ended up calling the phone number on the sign and a very helpful person on the other end had us write a permit number on a sheet of paper and leave it in the windshield and we were set.

The first part of the route is on trail.

As you climb up the canyon you get a nice view looking back at the city.  I love the feel of Arizona.

At this point we left the trail and followed a use trail up and over the ridge.

Things got more interesting on the back side.  Occasional snow patches and a steep hillside made for slow going.  Also my knees were killing me after yesterday and I was having a bit less fun at this point.

That's Finger sticking up ahead.

With the pain in the ass approach over it was *finally* time to climb.

Jen led the pitch while I belayed.

Jeff following on the first pitch

We did it as two pitches.  The climbing wasn't hard and fairly fun unless your knees were screaming at you the entire time.

Jen leading the second pitch

Me following on the second pitch

Striking a pose on the summit of Finger Rock

Bringing Jeff up the second pitch

Not much room on the summit

We hustled down in our best attempt to make it back to the trail before it got dark.  We almost made it...

From here we just had to stroll down the trail while enjoying the city lights.  The trail down was just painful on my knees due to the large steps.

This was supposed to be the second to last day and so after getting back to our vehicles and (with some difficulty) finding food we spent the next hour or two driving south along 83 and then splitting off to the west along a surprisingly rough Jeep road.

We fell asleep right outside Cave of the Bells excited for the next morning. 5 or so hours in the cave and then we'd make the long drive back to Orange County.

Then at 3 am I woke up to yelling.  Jeff was being attacked by something...

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