The Fin P300 RS
Brins Butte P300 RS
Brins Mesa

Sat, Oct 8, 2022

With: Tom Becht
Iris Ma
Tom Grundy
Eric Smith

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


The Fin

On our first day in Sedona proper, we decided to head directly to what we expected would be the hardest climb of the trip, a 5.7 climb of The Fin. This was primarily to get it done before Eric had too much time to let it get into his head and change his mind. The Fin is a striking figure that looks to have cliffs on all sides. There is a fortuitous ramp that runs diagonally up to the left on the south side that gets one most of the way to the summit ridge. Two relatively short pitches then lead up the edge of the ridge on the west side to reach easier ground.

The starting point is the Jordon Road TH (at least, that's what Google Maps calls it), about half a mile southwest of the summit. For such a short distance, it would take us quite a few hours to get five of us to the summit. We made very little use of the trail system, leaving it to start cross-country almost immediately. A promising use trail petered out all to quickly as we found our way across a small drainage and then uphill to the base of the South Face, roughly in its middle. There is quite a bit of class 3 scrambling on sandstone slabs and rock to get us to the start of the more serious stuff, marked by some flagging on a pine tree. From the tree, the route goes up a sandstone dryfall, rather steeply. In his book, Rambles & Scrambles, Purcell mentions that some folks might prefer a rope here. We kept our gear in our packs and went up cautiously without using it. Above this, we traversed crumbly slopes, went up a narrow gully, and then proceeded to the base of the ramp, now in plain sight. The ramp is mostly standard class 3, albeit a bit airy, with a class 4-ish dihedral somewhere above the middle of the ramp. An hour and ten minutes after starting out, we'd reached the top of the ramp. Time to get out the gear.

If this had been the route to its summit, it would be rated a really good scramble. But there was more work to be done here. The start of the climb is pretty obvious, the route less so. Per usual, we let TomG work out the route on lead, and as usual, he did a pretty good job sussing it out, quickly finding that the easier route goes to the left of the edge, not directly up it. He set up a belay once above this first step, primarily to keep it short so we could get everyone up on the two ropes we carried without having to toss either back down. TomG then belayed Iris up (where she could did a little dance), followed by the rest of us, in turn. Once I had joined them as the last in line, TomG went up on the second pitch, finishing it quickly. His speedy work of it belied the crux of the route, a steep and somewhat slippery sandstone slab that confounded the rest of us, for at least a minute or two. A bolt in the middle of this section helps to protect the leader, but of course it had been cleaned by the time I came up last, once again.

We left the ropes at the top of the second belay, and returned to scrambling the rest of the way to the top. This was a fun bit with some stiff class 3 and some engaging exposure. Finally, by 10:30a, we had five at the summit - over three hours to go half a mile. Quite the summit, and with some pretty spectacular views, though to be fair, most Sedona summits do. I recognized about half of the names in the two-page register, at the bottom of which we added our own names. We did not spend much time at the summit as Eric, in particular, was not able to relax until we had gotten back off this thing. The others lingered a bit longer while Eric and I started the scramble back to the ropes. Once we had reconvened the whole group, we set up for the first of four rappels that would take us down the South Face. The 1st three raps were fairly short. We first rapped down to the top of the 1st pitch, the 2nd rap then off the South Face into the ramp we had climbed earlier. Our landing spot was only a short distance below the top of the ramp, so while the others were coming down, I made several quick trips up to retrieve boots and other gear we had left there. We then scrambled down the ramp to a belay sling around a tree above the short dihedral. It seemed safer to rap rather than downclimb this, and since we had all the gear out, it didn't take much extra time. A 4th rap exited us from the ramp to the right, down the South Face a second time. This bypassed much of the earlier scrambling on the lower half of the ramp.

I was curious about finding a shorter way off the bottom half of the mountain, suggesting we head west/southwest instead of retracing our ascent route to the south. There were some ducks that suggested this might be the more regular route, but it led to some cliffs lower down that needed to be worked through. TomB and I turned south and zig-zagged our way down in that direction while TomG led the others off the west side on an easier line. TomB and I had nearly worked our way to the easy ground below when we got stopped by a last 15-foot section of cliff. For this I got out a 20-foot length of webbing, using a small tree to sling around and allow us to lower ourselves down the short face. This worked quite nicely, the webbing just long enough to get us down without having to drop. After TomB followed, I retrieved the webbing, tossed it in the pack, and we headed off to find the others. After descending through forest and along a dry creekbed for about 10min, we emerged at the TH where we found the others had beaten us back by a few minutes.

Brins Butte - Brins Mesa

In contrast to the technical morning agenda, the afternoon was considerably tamer, to two named summits that could be accessed from the same trailhead we used for The Fin. Eric decided he'd had enough adventure for the day and stayed at the cars to read and put a dent in the beer supply. The rest of us followed the Brins Mesa Trail north and northwest for a mile and change to where it goes over a broad saddle on the mesa above Mormon Canyon. Good use trails then lead left and right to our summits. We headed to Brins Butte first, following the social trail up through a rock band that requires some class 2-3 scrambling, nothing tricky. The summit has more than 400ft of prominence and good views overlooking the broader area, including a fine one of Morning Glory Spire just to the south (tomorrow's adventure). After returning back down the same route to the trail junction, we took the other social trail northeast up to Brins Mesa, an LoJ-only point with little prominence. This was an easier effort, with only a smidgen of scrambling at the very end. The point sits up against the base of the far higher, and more massive Wilson Mtn. I wondered out loud if it were possible to descend the mesa to the north and then down a steep drainage that would lead back to Mormon Canyon and our trailhead. TomG was the only one who showed any interest, but that was enough to get us off on one last adventure for the day, while TomB and Iris elected to return back via the trail system.

From the top of Brins Mesa, it wasn't at all clear that there was an exit off the mesa to the north. But after descending steps and ledges for a few minutes, we found several options, none harder than stiff class 3. Once off the mesa, the canyon drops quickly, a messy affair of rock, downfall and other debris as we slipped and slid our way down. After dropping 200ft, we reached easier ground in the bottom of the dry creekbed which we would follow south for almost two miles. At one point we noted a prominent duck leading out of the creekbed, to what we guessed was a climbing route. After later research, it appears this is to the feature called Goliath, found on PB, SummitPost and elsewhere. The hike down the creekbed wasn't a piece of cake, but it held no unexpected dryfalls or other serious obstacles. It was a fun bit of Wilderness scrambling, only modestly brushy, and good fun, too. We eventually popped back up on the Brins Mesa Trail with only a few minutes left to return to the TH. TomB and Iris had beaten us back, as expected, but not by much. It was now 4:20p and time to call it a day as we headed back to our campsite off the USFS's Loy Butte Rd...


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