South Dome (Lake Havasu)

January 4, 2022


Lake Havasu, AZ

“South Dome” is the unofficial name of the tower/spire immediately to the south of “Gold Dome” in an area riddled with pointy peaks that require technical rock climbing. The main problem of this area is the lack of official names. If not because of Adam’s suggestion I don’t think I’ll ever come here to do these peaks as these peaks simply do not “stand out” on the topo maps. From climbing perspective “South Dome” is harder than “Gold Dome” with the easiest route requiring at least a few 5th class steps. The route-finding is also complicated and confusing, such that it’s very possible that one ventures onto harder terrain than absolutely needed. Adam, Sean and I got off-route from basically the start of the scrambling portions and that might have resulted in a new route being set. I did not however do much research about the history of this peak’s climbing so I wouldn’t claim a “first ascent” of the route. But one thing I’m sure, this peak is seldom climbed even via the easiest possible route.

Earlier in the day Adam, Sean and I had climbed “Gold Dome” which turned out to be one of our favourate desert peaks to date. Sean and I climbed a harder route on the side of the central west face chasm while Adam went around to ascend the south gully. From the summit of “Gold Dome” our next objective, “South Dome” appeared daunting and impossible, but Adam and Sean ensured that the 5th class portion was “only nearing the summit”.

Ascents of Gold Dome, South Dome, Havasuper Peak. GPX DL

From the broad basin between “Gold Dome” and “South Dome” I mostly just followed Adam and Sean’s lead scrambling on talus and boulders up into the valley between “South Dome” and a subsidiary tower to its north. This section went fairly easily but then all the sudden we were confused about our position. Sean recalled the terrain immediately to our right resembling the climbing portions in Stav Basis’ trip report and subsequently soloed a pitch of stiff 4th class slabs. I donned rock shoes, dragged the rope up and belayed Adam from a rock horn a fair ways to the left of this pitch’s exit. Little did we know that from this point we were officially off-route, but in the end I was very happy about our adventurous climb of this peak. We then traversed and scrambled a mix of class 3 and 4 terrain out towards climber’s right with exposure until we wrapped around a buttress to see there’s nothing but 5th class climbing ahead.

South Dome with our ascent route roughly drawn…
Sean soloing the initial slab pitch. Off route right from the start..
Me dragging the rope up that slab pitch. Photo by Adam W.
Adam working around some exposed terrain out climber’s right
At the base of the 30-m sustained class 5 pitch.

At this point I thought we were probably off-route, but the pitch ahead looked somewhat doable. Meanwhile Sean went far to the climber’s right to try out his line, which looked to be class 5 as well. I took the rope out again and started soloing the pitch. About 1/3 of the way up I realized that it’s harder than appeared but not much farther up I found a small rock horn to finally put in one piece of pro. At this point Sean had backed off from this route saying there’s one committing move higher up on questionable rock that he didn’t want to do without a rope. Meanwhile I faced a step that if I made the move then I was committed to finish this pitch as there’s no down-climbing from that spot. It took me about 10 minutes to make the commitment and higher up near an open-book feature I found another rock horn to put in the second piece of pro. The boulder move out of this corner to the left was the hardest in this pitch and took me a couple more minutes to make the commitment and after that, with only a few more meters of rope left I found a bomber boulder to belay Adam and Sean up.

Sean attempted to solo a line to the right of my crux pitch
Me leading the crux pitch.
Adam starting up the crux pitch. Sean’s photo

The terrain ahead appeared easy. We all thought that we must have finished the technical portions as what we had just done was a sustained pitch of class 5 climbing and the reference trip report said the climbing was “near the summit”. We left the rope and the anchor behind and I even decided to just scramble the rest in rock shoes, leaving the trail shoes behind. Little did we know that more climbing was yet to come, and what we had just done was entirely off-route and the trip report’s class 5 was on a different spot lower down. The route towards the summit block was mostly straightforward but the summit block started to look daunting again. None of us could find an obvious attack but Sean and I scrambled out climber’s right and committed to an uber-exposed 4th class corner that felt awkward even with rock shoes. Adam didn’t like this option and eventually found his way by pulling up an overhanging, but protected boulder move. Reaching this summit felt exciting and satisfactory afterwards but we had to find out a way to descend, with only one 30 m rope and limited amount of slings. The worst case we could rappel off that crux pitch in two 15-m rappels but I would rather not to. Adam and Sean turned on their cell phone data and read Stav’s trip report cautiously for one more time.

Sean after finishing the crux pitch.
The terrain above the crux was mostly class 2 for a while
The terrain started to look more seriously again near the summit
Sean following me soloing a pitch of uber exposed class 4
Summit Panorama from South Dome. Click to view large size.
Adam approaching the summit of South Dome
Colorado River which also forms Lake Havasu here
Lots of small but pointy summits in this region called The Needles
“Havasuper Peak” in the foreground would be our last objective in this day
Looking back at “Gold Dome”
Tumarion Peak is the only officially-named summit in the area
Me on the summit of South Dome with Gold Dome behind
Another photo of me on the summit of South Dome

Adam confirmed that Stav’s group had climbed his route so we followed Adam’s lead descending to that overhanging lip. Adam dropped in first. I down-climbed and Sean simply just jumped the step. We then descended to the top of our exploratory pitch and cleaned the anchor and rope. We traversed down-climber’s right to the top of a grotto-feature that Sean confirmed was in Stav’s trip report. Sean volunteered to down-climb but Adam and I opted to rappel. I wrapped the rope itself around a boulder so we did not need to leave any sling behind. We then did a second rappel off the “class 5 pitch” in Stav’s trip report, leaving one sling behind. At the bottom of this pitch we found an exposed but easy ledge to traverse out down-climber’s right and after that we had descended onto easy terrain. We soon descended past the start of our first slab pitch and realized that we had basically climbed a new route and misinterpreted the entire “beta”. The class 5 climbing was also nowhere “near the summit” but rather the first pitch of the “correct route”, although that overhanging boulder move near the top itself was definitely class 5, but not long/exposed. We continued the descent to the bottom of the bowl and carried on towards “Havasuper Peak“.

Adam down-climbing into the overhanging lip
Adam on the first rappel into the grotto feature
Me rappelling into that grotto feature step
Sean leading down the second rappel, off the on-route crux
Descending easy terrain now with Havasuper Peak ahead
Looking back towards South Dome