PANTHER PEAK BOULDERS
High on a hillside in the Tucson Mountains resides a cluster of behemoth boulders, volcanic rocks of impressive shapes and sizes that cleaved off from the cliffbands above. The boulders are visible from Picture Rocks Rd. a few miles away, but seem almost too big, too imposing, too far away. Even as you approach nearer and nearer, the thought of climbing them seems daunting. Once you reach the boulders, and get your mind wrapped around them, they start to beckon. Good looking lines are obvious, and around every corner. You look a little closer and realize just how featured the rock is - full of cobbles, pockets and crimps, all of them seeming to have a killer thumb catch on them. Starting to climb, you find yourself moving gymnastically and dynamically up a steep overhang. After a few grunts pulling over the lip on sharp volcanic jugs, you are then standing on top of a boulder, overlooking a gorgeous expanse of Sonoran Desert. Welcome to the Panther Peak Boulders.
Development of this area has only begun this fall, but this place is GOOD. And it is going to be GREAT. There is a lot of work to be done yet - lots of lines to be found, cleaned and climbed. Fresh boulders are frequently covered in a heavy layer of choss and dirt, and they require a fair amount of work to be cleaned up. Once cleaned up a little and climbed a few times, most climbs are pretty solid and ready to go. Some of the boulders, even after cleaning and scrubbing, still look unappealing and a little ugly - but it is the striking lines, dynamic movement and uniqueness of the holds that really make this place special. The rock is highly featured, and even the steepest walls have lines that go at a fairly moderate grade. Highballs abound, although due to the fragile nature of much of the rock cleaning and inspecting on rappel is highly recommended. Another huge plus is that most of the landings are close to perfect, so a pad and a spotter and you are ready to go. Or if you are on a solo mission, there are lots of short and steep walls that are perfect for just you and your pad.
There are now more than 25 established problems here, so if you want to come check the place out and just climb what has been done, you can make a solid day of it. If you want to come out and scrub some boulders and establish your own problems, there is still so much to do it is hard to know where to start. For the adventurous boulderer interested in exploring and seeking out an amazing line, this is the place. Once Panther is developed there will be well over 100 problems (a very conservative estimate), and many of them as good as anything else in Southern Arizona. After a half-dozen visits now, I feel pretty sure this place is destined to be the best bouldering area in Tucson.
GETTING THERE: Take I-10 North to Ina Rd. Go west on Ina, and then at a four way stop sign after about 2 miles, turn left onto Wade Rd. Wade will become Picture Rocks Rd., which will take you through the pass and into Saguaro National Park. You will start seeing houses and trailers and a couple of streets, and you will turn right on Van Ark Rd. After a mile or so, you will turn right onto Ina Rd, which at this point will be a dirt road. Follow Ina all the way down to where it takes a sharp right turn and becomes N Desert View Dr. Park at the pullout at this intersection, and enter the trail through the gate. A satellite view of the parking can be seen here.
APPROACH: From the parking area, walk through the fence onto the well-maintained and well-traveled trail. Almost immediately you make a right turn, then continue on this trail all the way to the big wash. At the wash you turn right (or south, in the direction of Picture Rocks Rd.). Make a note of the where the trail exits into the wash and the little cairn - you don't want to miss this turn on your way back. Follow the wash to the fence that crosses the wash, going around the fence on the right. Keep going up the wash another 100 yds or so, and you will see a fairly conspicuous cairn. Turn left here, ducking through the bushes, and follow a faint trail and a few cairns up a small hill and onto the flat basin. On the flat basin, follow a faint trail and occasional cairns. You will see the steep gully and the boulders in the distance, so even if you lose the trail, head in that direction. As you hit the steep gully, you will cross the gully and the trail will stay in the right side of the gully all the way to the boulders. Follow the trail up, watching your step on loose rocks as you climb the hill. As you near the main cluster of boulders, you will see a house-sized boulder in the gully. About 100 feet before you reach this boulder, it is easiest if you head straight uphill. This will take you to Monkey Skull and the Beast, and give you easy access to the rest of the boulders.
This may sound confusing, and your first time you may get a little off course, but the boulders are very obvious on the hillside, so you shouldn't get completely lost. Check out this map from Chris Prewitt to help you out: Panther approach satellite view (major props to Chris for finding this place, and being willing to share the goods!).
SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS: On Friday 11/13 there was a large number of bees following us from boulder to boulder. We left them alone and they left us alone, but beware, and be prepared if you are allergic.
These boulders are within the boundary of Saguaro National Park. Please follow all park rules, and keep impact to a bare minimum.
These boulders are very new, and all holds should be considered a little suspect. Make sure you have a spotter anticipating a broken hold, and considering the trajectory of your body in case of rock breakage.
While these rocks sometimes require aggressive cleaning to make them climbable, please no manufacturing holds. No chipping and no gluing.
Long Way Home (v1) - Split Boulder
Cig Machine (v3) - Split Boulder
Ninja Parade (v3) - Meatwad
Nautilus (v3) - Beast Boulder
Quivering Beast (v3) - Beast Boulder
Fat Hunk of Burning Love (v4 R) - HUB
Righteous Beast (v6+) - Beast Boulder
Video - Welcome to Panther Peak
HD version available here: Welcome To Panther Peak