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