Montezuma’s Head, Arizona

(Cabeza de Montezuma)

3634 feet   1108 meters


  A desert spire roughly one thousand feet high that is located ten miles north of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Visitor Center in southern Arizona. The spire is a four mile hike from Route 85 (the main north-south road through the park).



  Park directly west of the spire on highway 85, about ten miles north of the visitor center. There are two pullouts on the eastern side of the road in this vicinity. The first three miles of the approach hike are quite flat and straightforward. The last mile climbs over a ridge and descends into a hidden valley, then climbs to the base of the actual spire.


The Spire:

  From the summit register and my observations, it appears routes have been done on the N, NW, SW, and S faces of the formation. There is a small cairn marking the summit, with a summit register (an aluminum tube) stored within the cairn. This information was last updated in April 2003.  Check with park officials for more current formation.


The Climbs:

Ricardo Cabeza   5.9?   FA: unknown

  Not much is known about this route, except that there are obvious chimney lines very near to the now defunct SE rappel/descent route. The following description appears to have been done.

  Follow The SW Face Route up the yellow ramp, and right to the cave-like formation. Move further right to the base of a steep chimney.

1) Climb the right facing (E) chimney to a ledge with a belay bolt (same belay as The SW Face Route). 60 ft; 5.8?

2) Climb straight up the face above, passing two ledges to the midheight meadow. 30 ft; 5.1

3) Move left about 200 ft until below a ledge 15 feet up with a saguaro cactus, and directly below a left facing corner system.

4) Follow one of the cracks or corner systems to the summit of the spire. 100 ft; 5.9?


The SW Face   5.4   FA: unknown  circa 1940s

  Perhaps the original route to the summit; it involves lots of scrambling and traversing to avoid the major difficulties.

  From the floor of the hidden valley mentioned in the approach description, hike up the west face of the tower's base to brown cliffs. Continue straight uphill to a yellow ramp leading up left, and follow this to its top. Traverse straight right (SE) under a steep wall for about 500 ft, passing a small pinnacle enroute.

1) Start just left of a cave-like formation, turn a corner, then climb up a ramp/waterchute (V1) to a single bolt belay on a ledge above. 50 ft; 5.3

2) Go up and left (N), passing two short steps to reach the midheight meadow. 80 ft; 5.1

3) There are many options from here. The easiest route is to traverse about 200 ft left (N) and follow the upper portion of The NW Chimney Route to the summit (5.4).

4) On the NW corner of the tower an obvious ledge system can be seen leading up and left (east). Climb up in the back of an alcove to the ledge, then follow this left past a good ring piton (5.4 traverse move past pin) to another step.  Surmount this (bolt & fixed wire), and continue left to a large, sheltered ledge in a corner (sling thread & Friends in pockets for the belay). 100 ft; 5.4

5) Move left (E) around the corner into a chimney, then straight up lower angled rock (passing a two bolt anchor) to a shallow right leaning corner and the summit. 150 ft; 5.4

V1 The left-hand chimney has a bush growing at the base and is 5.6.


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