Bouldering in Soldier Canyon
Our group of 11 arrive at a small pullout at the first hairpin turn on Catalina Highway as it begins the long climb to Mount Lemmon. This being a popular parking spot for rock climbers, we were lucky to grab the coveted spots. We gear up and begin our hike just as two climbers head toward the canyon too.
In the 2 miles to our destination, simply the point at which we can go no farther, we will have gained 1700'. In the distance, the hairpin turn and all traffic noise soon disappears. I am anxious to arrive at the first major obstacle....
....the wall. This image was taken during our return but it gives perspective on the height of the wall. Too bad there was no water flow as that adds to the experience.
Above the hardy hikers all make it. The hikes I have been organizing have attracted some regulars who are very fun people to be around. Marc, Lorna, Katherine, Barry, Dee, Lorie, etc... with Amy in charge of the entertainment committee while I focus on the route finding. I become a little anxious prior to these hikes I suppose because hiking solo I just have to worry about me but the "what ifs" mount with others. These hikes tend to be a tad on the dangerous side, ha, ha.
The colors of the rocks with layering is amazing. New hiker, Mitch, has a background in geology so he provided some explanation which I won't pass on here as I trust all know how to use a search engine.
The group for which I am an organizer has 3200 members so I expect new people to join our hikes and all have been up to the required effort. Well, expect for this hike. A new guy was lagging behind significantly which caused some unneeded regroups. I've never had to instruct someone to turn around but told him it would be ok if he wanted to wait for our return. He declined and kept going which I respect but at some point it can impair the enjoyment of the others. I'm sure that line was crossed but everyone stayed patient and then after the hike, the guy quit his membership so that's that. Note the water in the concave area of the rock. That was about the extent of our water exposure.
There is more than one way around the many obstacles and Karyn on the right went one way while Amy and Lorie follow me. Usually that is a wise choice but not always.
Occasionally there would be breaks in the climbing but that never lasts long.
We arrived at the most significant obstacle where I decided to climb high on the west slope to avoid a mass of huge boulders in the middle. On the return, we went down the middle and that approach was more difficult.
Our hike continued and provided great but narrow views to the southwest.
At last, we enter a narrow section and Amy officially touches the end. I had read there was a way to exit the canyon to the east and pick up the Soldier Trail. Some of the group had become a little weary of the bouldering so I wanted to make a good faith effort to find a way out and pick up the trail option.
Mitch, having an extensive rock climbing background, offered to climb the wall and see if it was a viable exit option. I was curious so followed him. After some climbing, it appeared the exit was doable but we could not see far enough ahead to be certain so we returned. My reentry to the floor of the canyon.....
....was less than graceful but I made it.
We headed back the way we came. For perspective, note Mitch on the bottom right of the image and how he is dwarfed by the boulders. Some of us wondered how cataclysmic of an event is required to tear the boulders asunder from the cliffs above.
Upon entering a sunny area, we paused for a snack. Then.....
...we resumed our return. This section was made a little easier by an abundance of vines that we could grab and control our descent off yet another large boulder.
Check out the above. This is the section that I had avoided by climbing on the west side but I thought going through the middle would be fun. I was kinda wrong about that. That there is a route is a small miracle.
As we neared the end of our adventure, we saw a couple of rock climbers on one of the east walls and later encountered a few taking a break from a climb on the west wall. Fun experience but this is not for everyone and certainly not every week. A return to regular hiking comes soon.
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