Saturday morning, driving Catalina Highway and heading up the mountain where I pass dozens of cyclists going up and coming down. I am headed to mile marker 8 where I'll park at Prison Camp to begin a hike to Thimble Peak. Each parking lot I pass at other trail heads is over flowing with cars. The level of activity is exciting to see.
I have visited the base of Thimble one time but the climbing was too risky so I have been waiting for the hike to pop up on one of the many hiking notices I receive each day. This hike was led by Philip, a good guy who said it would be ok if I did my own thing while meeting him at the base of Thimble so I could share his gear for the climb. The hike would be 10 miles for my itinerary but 16 for Philip's group who were taking a different route after Thimble. In the above image, upper center, Sycamore Reservoir, surrounded by trees.
As I descend toward the reservoir, I approach a guy having a huge backpack and I ask, "wow, what's in there a deer?" Actually, yes. He and a friend had each gotten one and were carrying them out. Heavy! It's a long ascent to the bottom of the canyon but I finally reach it and....
....there is Thimble Peak in the distance.
I eventually catch the group and we follow a circuitous trail going in and out of side canyons, reach Bear Canyon Trail and then.....
....a grassy flat where we go off trail and begin a steep ascent to the base of the Thimble. Actually, there has been enough traffic over the years that there is a faint trail to follow so no route finding involved.
Views of Bear Canyon begin to open and notice the narrow strip of light in the distance. It was a cloudy day but some sun still shone once in awhile. The clouds were high and thin so no threat of rain, again.
Sabino Canyon to the right slowly comes into view.
Looking back, I can just make out Catalina Highway in the distance. Beautiful.
I reach the base of Thimble and give the climb another try but there is one spot that I lack the confidence or nerve to attempt so I climb down and wait for the group.
There they are and soon, Philip arrives with gear and free climbing expertise I lack. He....
....ascends, drops a rope that I use to clamber up, ungracefully. Rope, properly secured, makes a big diff, obviously.
Now I look at the next obstacle, a chain ladder. Never climbed one of those and kind of awkward but while Philip assists those who chose to continue up (several did not), I go up and.....
...wow, Blackett's Ridge. Many times I have stood there and wished I could also stand on top of Thimble and so now I have. A satisfying moment for sure. The clouds muted the usually spectacular color but still, not too bad.
A guy from WV joined me. He came back from serving in Iraq, discovered his wife had accumulated $35,000 in credit card debt during his absence, divorced her and moved to Tucson. Mount Lemmon in the background. We found an ammo can, signed the register (yeah the usual, my name and "GO BUCKEYES!") and then I descended the chain ladder of death. That was unnerving and I chose not to look to my right where the fall would be fatal.
I encouraged others go to up the ladder with calls of, "Go spider monkey go!!!" Bob, the guy on the left in brown, tried 3 times, came back down during each effort and then on the 4th, made it. Good for him, it's not easy.
A woman from the great state of Ohio, now living out here, finished the rope ascent and then I hopped in and descended. Philip was very patient and a very, very helpful guide.
Others chose to wait at the bottom and I don't blame them. The effort is very exciting but not for everyone. The time was 1:30pm. Knowing they still had to climb down, regroup and cover 11 more miles, I figured they would be hiking in the dark (sunset is 5:25pm now) and think it was 7-8:00pm before they reached their cars. They had light so no big deal but I had a football game to watch so was glad I chose the 10 total mile option....
....reaching my car before 3:30pm. Above I walked through Sycamore Canyon and soon reach a 1.2 mile final climb having an average grade of 10%. Ouch.
Someone from the group took the above image as they began their descent into Bear Canyon. Wow.