Coyote Tower (5.10c) Courthouse Butte, Arizona

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Bennett Barthelemy (leading) and Dana Ikeda feelin' sandstone-groovy on the cruz P2 of the 600-plus-foot Coyote Tower (5.10c), Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Bennett Barthelemy

Bennett Barthelemy (leading) and Dana Ikeda feelin

A sublime (and sane) Sedona sandstone spire

Over the last decade, the Flagstaff photographer John Burcham has amassed a neo-classic FFA quiver of adventure gems on Sedona, Arizona’s best towers and cliffs. The “adventure” begins in town, with gourmet dog-treat bakeries, alien-vortex jeep tours, and kitschy galleries. The local stone is exciting, too. Take the sport route Miami, which totally collapsed in 2006. Wrote Tim Toula in his 1995 Sedona guide, A Better Way to Die, “ . . . I’ve witnessed edges snap, hand jams explode, bolt studs wiggle, and bolt hangers revolve in the wind.” Fortunately, newer lines like Coyote often link solid rock with shiny, new bolts.

The 600-plus-foot Coyote Tower, established by Burcham in 1998, rope solo and with partners, offers great exposure and an easy, 40-minute approach. As a rule, Sedona multi-pitch routes — Coyote included — ascend bands of soft sandstone and exquisite Fort Apache limestone, with traversing to link features.

A right turn off highway 89A 100 yards north of Oak Creek will put you at the Bell Rock Pathway and Vista Trailhead. From here, take the first trail on the left, and then after a quarter-mile go right to contour along Courthouse Butte to its southeastern toe; now slabscramble diagonally left. Reach P1 by angling farther left, till you’re 200 feet below the tower and a bulgy apron. With a 70m rope, link the first bolted “sport” pitch (5.8) and the 50-foot fourth-class section. Burcham would routinely free-solo this, not wanting to drill till he knew the climb went.

Above, follow the beautiful crack through two nerve-rattling overhangs from fingers to fist (5.10 crux). On the next pitch, tunnel between the sub and main towers to surmount and then traverse the wildly exposed limestone band — beware the cactus! The vertiginous route continues with spacious belays, layback splitters, slightly suspect mud towers, and feet-cutting lunges. On nearly every pitch, you’ll negotiate 5.8 and harder moves — bizzlin’!

Over the last decade, the Flagstaff photographer John Burcham has amassed a neo-classic FFA quiver of adventure gems on Sedona, Arizona’s best towers and cliffs. The “adventure” begins in town, with gourmet dog-treat bakeries, alien-vortex jeep tours, and kitschy galleries. The local stone is exciting, too. Take the sport route Miami, which totally collapsed in 2006. Wrote Tim Toula in his 1995 Sedona guide, A Better Way to Die, “ . . . I’ve witnessed edges snap, hand jams explode, bolt studs wiggle, and bolt hangers revolve in the wind.” Fortunately, newer lines like Coyote often link solid rock with shiny, new bolts.

The 600-plus-foot Coyote Tower, established by Burcham in 1998, rope solo and with partners, offers great exposure and an easy, 40-minute approach. As a rule, Sedona multi-pitch routes — Coyote included — ascend bands of soft sandstone and exquisite Fort Apache limestone, with traversing to link features.

A right turn off highway 89A 100 yards north of Oak Creek will put you at the Bell Rock Pathway and Vista Trailhead. From here, take the first trail on the left, and then after a quarter-mile go right to contour along Courthouse Butte to its southeastern toe; now slabscramble diagonally left. Reach P1 by angling farther left, till you’re 200 feet below the tower and a bulgy apron. With a 70m rope, link the first bolted “sport” pitch (5.8) and the 50-foot fourth-class section. Burcham would routinely free-solo this, not wanting to drill till he knew the climb went.

Above, follow the beautiful crack through two nerve-rattling overhangs from fingers to fist (5.10 crux). On the next pitch, tunnel between the sub and main towers to surmount and then traverse the wildly exposed limestone band — beware the cactus! The vertiginous route continues with spacious belays, layback splitters, slightly suspect mud towers, and feet-cutting lunges. On nearly every pitch, you’ll negotiate 5.8 and harder moves — bizzlin’!

Sedona Tips:

  • Wear a helmet.

  • Place lots of pro.

  • Beware rockfall and snags when pulling rap lines.

  • Use long slings.

  • Bring a good topo—employees at Vertical Relief Climbing Center, in Flagstaff, often have good Beta.

  • Don't climb for at least two days after it rains.

The Beta

Guidebooks:Castles in the Sand, by David Bloom (sharpendbooks.com); and Climbing Arizona, by Stewart M. Green (falcon.com)

Guide Services: Terra Trax — (928) 284-5606, lifeisanadventure.net; guides also available through Vertical Relief Climbing Center

Equipment Shops: Babbitt’s Backcountry (Flagstaff) — (928) 774-4775, 12 E. Aspen Ave; Canyon Outfitters Inc. (Sedona) — (928) 282-5293, 2701 W. Highway 89A; and Vertical Relief Climbing Center (Flagstaff) — (928) 556-9909, 205 S. San Francisco St.

Season: Spring through autumn

Rack: Doubles up to 3” (one 4” piece helpful), eight QDs, six shoulder-length slings

Camping: Pay campgrounds along 89A up Oak Creek Canyon

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