We approached the sandstone rock face of Lady Mountain on a well-worn dirt path that quickly turned into a rugged, steep ascent through heavy brush. We employed our bouldering (rock climbing without equipment) and climbing skills for the next eight hours.
The climb up Lady Mountain started with an almost vertical scramble upward, making use of the aged Moki steps. This section was more intimidating than difficult. A look downward quickly revealed how high we had already ascended and how a slip would not end well. The group took turns providing help from the top and bottom as necessary.
We alternated between vertical climbs and skirting the mountain face. Rounding a rock wall on a narrow ledge two- or three-feet wide, we came to a daunting chimney (a crack in the rock with parallel vertical sides, wide enough for a climber’s body). It led to some of the most exposed areas of the climb.
Our best climbers took the initiative and carried the rope, which provided a measure of safety for the rest of us, to the preexisting anchor point and a safe point inside the chimney. Each of us took turns affixing the rope to our harnesses and taking the first steps across to the bottom of the chimney. Choosing good footholds and handholds was important when surmounting the lower section to a place where we could unhook and send the rope down for the next person in our group.
Once all had successfully ascended the chimney, we secured our gear and proceeded to skirt the narrow mountain edge toward the final part of our climb and lunch spot.
While the entire climb was physically demanding, the final section of the mountain to the top required stopping our progress and securing a rope once again. Good climbers can certainly ascend this 5.6 class climb without a rope, but we unseasoned climbers were happy for the help.
Once our group cleared the final obstacle, we made quick work of the mountainside with a stop at a recess in the rock. Some believed it was a nice bedding spot for generations of mountain lions and other local wildlife.
We grabbed a bite to eat, but noticed heavy clouds forming up-canyon and moving southwest right toward us.
We gathered trash and food items and quickly pushed toward the top to get ahead of the impending thunderstorm.
An endless staircase stood before us, which included constant switchbacks and ascension through rugged terrain. Even those in good physical condition stopped and caught their breath frequently as we made our way toward the top.
We soon caught a good glimpse of the pinnacle, but also saw that the storm clouds were almost directly above.