Table Tooth, Arizona, December 2022

On Saturday, December 31, I joined Dave Kohnke, Peyton Kohnke, and Annie Fahey for a Southern Arizona Hiking Club climb of Table Tooth above Pima Canyon, near Tucson. Table Tooth has only 280 feet of prominence, but is a rock tower requiring some exposed scrambling high above the canyon.

Table Mountain and Table Tooth across Pima Canyon to the NNW from Valentine Peak
Table Mountain and Table Tooth across Pima Canyon to the NNW from Valentine Peak

I climbed Table Tooth four years earlier, and found an alternative route gaining the exposed summit ridge that avoided the most difficult part of the climb. Dave hoped I could share that with him on this day, and I hoped I could remember how to find it.

The Wolf's Teeth rise far above the floor of Pima Canyon
The Wolf’s Teeth rise far above the floor of Pima Canyon
Our first view of Table Tooth above on the left from the floor of Pima Canyon
Our first view of Table Tooth above on the left from the floor of Pima Canyon

We expected a long day and started hiking from the Pima Canyon Trailhead at 6:30am in pre-dawn darkness with headlamps. This was my third hike up the lower canyon in the past month and I was becoming familiar with the rocky trail and frequent wash crossings. Eventually, we arrived at our last wash crossing, left the trail, and followed the rocky wash upwards.

We climb towards the notch above in the center skyline; Table Tooth is visible to the left.
We climb towards the notch above in the center skyline; Table Tooth is visible to the left.
Table Tooth still high above from the south slopes
Table Tooth still high above from the south slopes

After taking a left fork we left the wash and started traversing up more directly towards a notch high on the ridge above us. We climbed a steep ridge more directly, then traversed over to another ridge and climbed higher. Deep grass hid many foot placements as we climbed and I expected a slow and careful descent later in the day.

Peyton Kohnke and Annie Fahey at the notch
Peyton Kohnke and Annie Fahey at the notch
From the notch we traverse up to the left to enter a ramp rising between rock walls.
From the notch we traverse up to the left to enter a ramp rising between rock walls.

We eventually reached the notch on the west-east ridgeline high above Pima Canyon. After a break we traversed upward into a ramp leading higher between cliffs.

This alternative route avoids climbing the wall higher to the left in the ramp. Turn left just beyond the tree.
This alternative route avoids climbing the wall higher to the left in the ramp. Turn left just beyond the tree.

We passed what I thought might be my alternative route on our right as we climbed higher in this ramp, but I was not sure. We continued to the end of the ramp below a steep wall, the crux of the climb. I decided our route was below us and we descended back to it. This route around the cliffs was a bit more exposed than I remembered from four years earlier. But it went well for us and was certainly easier than the wall higher on the ramp.

The exposed summit ridge rises on the right, Table Mountain rises to the left.
The exposed summit ridge rises on the right, Table Mountain rises to the left.
The summit of Table Tooth is on the right; Table Mountain is above to the left.
The summit of Table Tooth is on the right; Table Mountain is above to the left.

We climbed up easier rock, passing the top of the steep wall we had avoided, and climbed the exposed east ridge leading west towards the summit. There were deep drops on either side of us, but the climbing was easy on good, firm rock.

Annie Fahey, Peyton Kohnke, and Dave Kohnke on the summit of Table Tooth.
Annie Fahey, Peyton Kohnke, and Dave Kohnke on the summit of Table Tooth.

Soon we were on the roomy and scenic summit. We enjoyed the views, rested, and signed the summit registry.

Table Mountain rises immediately above Table Tooth to the southwest.
Table Mountain rises immediately above Table Tooth to the southwest.
Mount Lemmon (L) and Cathedral Rock (R) visible on the distant skyline from Table Tooth.
Mount Lemmon (L) and Cathedral Rock (R) visible on the distant skyline from Table Tooth.
Cathedral Rock and Mount Kimball to the east from Table Tooth.
Cathedral Rock and Mount Kimball to the east from Table Tooth.

Table Mountain rose above us immediately to our southwest. There were so many great views around us. Annie and I took some photos, but we knew we had a long descent so before long we started our descent.

We begin our descent down the east ridge from the summit.
We begin our descent down the east ridge from the summit.

The descent of the east ridge went well and we returned safely to the notch. From the notch we descended the tedious steep grassy slopes and occasional rock slabs to the floor of the canyon. We followed washes back to the trail and took a welcome break there.

Then we started the long hike out to the trailhead. On the way out Peyton spotted a coatimundi climbing on rocks above us, but I could not get a photo of it. We returned to our cars about 4pm. It had been a successful climb with good companions.

About Paul McClellan

I had the good fortune to have spent most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, where I discovered the joys and addiction of hiking and climbing in the Cascade Range and other mountain ranges in the Western United States.
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