Prescott Promises Invigorating Climbs

by Blake Herzog

It’s been said that Arizona has more exposed rock than any other state, and few places in the state have so many vertical faces ideal for rock climbing within easy access to each other as Greater Prescott.

It’s a temptation drawing more and more climbers as their numbers grow past 10 million nationwide. 

Climbing rewards you with an unparalleled workout, breathtaking views and a vibrant community of fans where you’re bound to find friends. There are four categories of rock climbing; three can be readily found here: 

Trad: (traditional) Climbers plan their routes and carry their own anchors and other protective equipment. 

Sport: Climbers use pre-placed bolts or climb short distances with a crash pad underneath, as in a climbing gym. 

Bouldering: Climbers ascend boulders or other rock formations that top out at about 20 feet without the use of ropes or harnesses. 

This sport is not one to be entered into lightly. It poses unique dangers even when ropes and other equipment are used and can leave environmental damage when not done correctly. 

Mac McCaleb, owner and lead guide of Granite Mountain Guides and past president of the Prescott Climbers Coalition, said there are a few distinct routes people tend to take into the sport. 

“The first path would be to start by going indoors to a local gym and then gaining mentorship from other, very experienced climbers or hiring a guide service to acquire education before moving outside on your own,” he says. 

There are many great beginner climbs, and most are found in the Granite Dells.

Photo by Blushing Cactus Photography

Hiring a guide service to educate new climbers outdoors can help them see for themselves whether it’s something they want to pursue, McCaleb says. 

He said climbers should minimize their impact on their surroundings by following the Climber’s Pact, which can be found at www.accessfund.org/learn/the-climbers-pact

McCaleb says there are a wealth of climbing destinations in Greater Prescott for all skill levels and types of climbing:

“There are many great beginner climbs, and most are found in the Granite Dells. The main areas include: Time Zone Wall, The Pavilion Wall, and Shady Grove,” he says.

Trad climbers should look at additional spots in the Dells or head to Thumb Butte or venture north to Sullivan’s Canyon outside Paulden. 

Groom Creek’s elevation and ample shade make it a favorite bouldering haunt. 

Granite Mountain is a favorite spot for experienced climbers from throughout the state and the rest of the U.S., McCaleb says. It’s open July 15 to Feb. 1 and closed the rest of the year to protect peregrine falcon breeding. 

McCaleb recommends several sources for additional local information: Kevin Keith’s The Granite Dells Climbing Guide and Marty Karabin’s fold-out informational topographic map Groom Creek Bouldering. Both can be picked up at The Hike Shack in downtown Prescott. 

There are several good online sources too, including the Prescott Climbers Coalition Facebook page at www.facebook.com/prescottclimbers