Cathedral Rock Scrambles

This morning we hiked up to Devil’s Bridge and became suitably enamoured with what this section of Arizona has to offer. After stopping off in the civic heart of Sedona for hydration and the procurement of a Stetson (obviously), we drove out about 15 minutes to the trialhead at Cathedral Rock for some more.

This is Cathedral Rock. At this point we’re probably about half way from the trailhead to the base, so it’s not a long hike at all in terms of distance. Gradient is where it’s at here. As you can probably see.

Once you’ve sauntered through the forest for a bit you get to this rocky plateau before the ground starts going up the way. From here, if you look towards the Rock, the sun shining from behind does that thing where you can see all its separate rays if you take a photo…

… and if you look the other way, it’s kind of like you’re standing on a weird, cratered lunar surface looking out over a giant and very proximate alien planet. Cool stuff all around then.

Then comes the part where you actually have to start climbing. And it’s a decent climb. You’re probably going to want a backpack for that water bottle so you can use your hands. I didn’t have one so it was more of a knuckles and wrists kind of climb and when it got really steep I had to stick it in my mouth – there’s a fun part where you have to wedge your feet in a v-shaped crevice and hoist yourself up the rock, dodging people coming the other way. The rest is steep, but can be conquered legs-only. Thankfully.

There’s gnarly desert trees (juniper maybe?) twisting out of the rocksides as we near the top. And also, as we glanced up, crazy lunatics free soloing the towering red cliffs above us. That’s climbing without ropes. We probably wouldn’t have looked up at that particular spot if it hadn’t been for the yelling…

There were two guys on the cliff face, wedged into a crevice that ran from the ground right up to the top. One of the guys had made it to a kind of ledge about thirty feet above his buddy and was having a well-deserved breather. His friend below wasn’t having such a good time. He was clinging on to the rock, making zero progress, and screaming about how he was about to die…

I’ll zoom up on the top section of that second pic for ya so you can have a better look… remember, no ropes…

We stopped and stared up at them. It was pretty chilling, not being able to stop watching while being mostly certain you’re about to see a dude fall to his death. His pal fired up some lighthearted banter, telling some bizarrely unrelated anecdotes that we realised must have been in an effort to distract him and calm him down. Top Guy’s tactic seemed to be effective, as Bottom Guy started yelling less and began inching up towards his partner, presumably chuckling away to himself remembering that time Janet had too much tequila and stole that guy’s maracas in Acapulco.

We resumed what now seemed like our leisurely stroll up the hill, added free climbing to the list of things we were not going to do in Arizona, and postulated about how the hell they were going to get down once they’d reached the top.

But it was us that reached our top first, where there’s a wooden sign that says END OF TRAIL and then the best views you’ve ever seen in your life.

It may have been the “end of trail”, but this is the wilderness and you can’t make us stick to your federally mandated routes when we’ve heard on the grapevine from some people we just met that that there’s some really cool shit just round the corner and up a gully. So we posed on the edge of some rocks for a bit…

… and then went round the corner and up a gully to see what all the fuss was about (there was a pinnacle). YUSSS.

You can get truly up close and personal with the pinnacle if you go just a bit further off-trail. This scramble was made all the more exciting by the fact that there was a tarantula hawk flying around. You do not want to be stung by a tarantula hawk, especially not on the edge of a cliff. Anyway, it made for a lovely couples pinnacle photo for the Facebook, and nobody died. Apologies that it’s a portrait photo and you’ll have to scroll. That’s kind of the way with pinnacles.

While up by the pinnacle, we met a guy from Las Vegas who told us how he had been advised to come to Sedona by his shaman to find vortices of energy that apparently you find in the area, one of which was supposedly right here at Cathedral Rock. We walked down the rock with him, and he told us the scoop on the whole Sedona spirituality thing which was actually quite interesting.

Also on the descent, we were pleased to note that almost-dead climber guy had made it up to the ledge with his friend and they were both chilling and enjoying nobody being in any immediate danger. Lucky us were done exercising for the day, and could look forward to spending the next hour in the hotel pool with a beer and a culturally relevant koozie before driving up to the Grand Canyon for tomorrow’s adventures.

So, Sedona. For a place that we came to mostly because it was in a song we like, you’ve been blooming magical. And whether that’s because we’re sitting on one of your crazy vortices or because you’re a desert paradise with sunshine for days and rock formations straight outta star trek, who knows. We’ll be back.

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