One of the prominent features, as you gaze at the Catalina Mountains, is Finger Rock, which you can barely see, a narrow spine of rock in the gap between the Rock Guard on the right and some unnamed feature on the left. So small, so distant and yet, that would be today's destination. I had been up there once before but upon arriving at the base of the Guard, found a wall that I could not believe was to be climbed and so turned around. The hump shaped mountain center right is Mount Kimball, a good hike with disappointing views as it is heavily covered in trees and brush.
Although I had not hiked with Philip, our leader, he was nice enough to allow me to sign up with a group of 15, comprised of young and old, men and women, fit and not so much. Philip, like all good hike leaders, goes to great lengths to warn those who sign up via the "Tucson Hiking Meetup Group" what they will encounter (7.5 miles of steep hiking with exposure and scrambling). To their credit, all but 1 made it to the base of the Guard and 6 made it to the top.
After 3 miles of steep walking over long stretches of slick rock at the edge of a gorge, we arrived at a saddle and waited for those who were unable to maintain the pace. Group hikes are like group rides. During a group ride the conversation is about bikes, gear and rides/routes/destinations. During hikes, the conversation is about shoes, gear and hikes/routes/destinations. The pace had been kind of slow but not unexpected for larger groups.
I was getting antsy as the pause lasted for awhile. I may like to linger during rest stops on our rides but when hiking, I like to keep going and not stop. However, there was nothing wrong with the views, to the south and southwest. Finally, Philip announced we were good to go, we had regrouped and the next 1.5 miles, after dipping into a side canyon, would be an average grade of 20% to a saddle below the Guard. He also invited those of us who wanted to pick up the pace to go ahead and I was glad to do so..
No one elected to come with me but that was ok and soon saw another tarantula spider. I'd hate to look down and find one crawling up my leg or on my shirt. He was aggressive and would walk toward me. I could almost sense his need to bite me.
I reached the saddle, now with fine views to the north. I hung a left and continued up yet another steep slope, pausing once in awhile to see how the group was progressing below. During one such pause, just at the base of the Guard, I heard an obvious growl, yelled an expletive and turned to see what animal was preparing to attack. What the....it was some guy with a big grin on his face! I said, "Dude, speak something like hello but don't growl like an animal. You scared the sh*t out of me." As it turns out, he was a good guy and we got along well as we debated if, arriving again at a wall, that could really be the way forward. It had to be so I scaled the obstruction and he followed.
Wow, Finger Rock from a different perspective.
After climbing the wall, there were another couple of similar obstacles that required all hands and feet to scale. There were some cairns to mark the way but not a lot as we frequently paused to figure out where next to go
There were some narrow corridors you could walk through to sheer drops but with great views.
Finally, we reached the top of the Guard and could stare directly at Finger Rock but it blends in so well, it is difficult to discern its outline so.....
.....Ken, a fellow hiker from the Meetup group allowed me to borrow his image which allows you to see the Finger against the similar background.
It was very neat to stand at the top, on a small space with several hundred foot drops all around. It's good my wife can not see what I do out here. I retreated a bit to find some of our group confused as to the way ahead and yelled down to climb this chute, which they did and soon joined me at the top.
There to the east is Mount Kimball, or Kimball Mountain, whatever. It is a little higher than us. I still have a long list of hikes yet to do but I also have a list of hikes I have done, glad I did them but would not do again. Kimball is on the latter list, along with Mt Wrightson, last week's Rincon Peak climb for sure, Romero Pass, a few others. Then there are hikes I have done that I would do again and again, Flat Iron for sure, Weavers Needle, Sombrero Peak, Picketpost (I did that the day after Finger Rock, awesome), Pusch Peak, Blackett's Ridge, any hike in the Grand Canyon, etc....
The six of us descended and found the balance of the group waiting. The wait lingered so I began edging down when abruptly someone said they had to keep going or their legs would cramp and so three of us took off, finishing with 7.5 miles and 3800' of climbing.