Best Free-Solo Rock Climb (2010)


"Now that's extreme!" a young Camelback Mountain hiker shouted to his buddies as he watched us free-solo climb up a cliff. Now, we don't free-solo — which means rock-climbing without the aid of ropes or a partner — to hear such accolades. But it made us feel damned cool, even though the cliff we were on wasn't really extreme, by the standards of experienced rock climbers. We're not experts (never climbed El Capitan or spent the night on a "porta-ledge"), but we've attained a skill level that allows us to free-solo comfortably on some climbing routes. The cliff at Camelback that psyched the onlooker is one such route. It's the north-facing corner near the top of the first saddle on the Echo Canyon trail. The cliff is just one way to the top of the Headwall climbing area, which includes the popular Rappel Gully route (see "Best Place to Learn Rappeling") a few yards south. While many climbers rope up for this section, we've seen just as many "free" it, as we typically do. Needless to say, this kind of activity can be dangerous — even death-defying. But it's also liberating and focuses your mind like nothing else. Just watch out for loose rock and remember the number-one rule of free-soloing: It's all up to you.


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