Climbing The Mace: Classic Arizona Rock Climb

How to Climb The Mace at Sedona

The Mace, a 300-foot-high sandstone pinnacle, is one of Arizona’s best and most popular tower climbs. The Original Route, first climbed in 1957, climaxes with an exciting and exposed step-across move over a gaping chimney to the highest summit. The other highlight is the long jump back to the lower summit (about 10 feet across the gap and 10 feet down), although it can be avoided by rappelling directly off the top. The Mace is the tallest of three side-by-side pinnacles on the east side of Cathedral Rock south of Sedona in central Arizona. Read more about Sedona climbs at Rock Climbing Around Sedona in Arizona.

How to Climb The Mace

The Mace is the tallest tower on the left in a group of three towers next to Cathedral Rock. Photograph copyright Stewart M. Green

The route, following cracks and chimneys up the northeast side of the formation, is generally well protected with solid belay stances and anchors. Allow at least half a day to approach, climb, and rappel the route, although the route has been climbed in one-and-a-half hours car to car.

1957 First Ascent of The Mace

The late 1950s saw the first ascents of a few Sedona classic climbs when several California climbers traveled through the area. Bob Kamps first noticed The Mace on a postcard while on a northern Arizona trip. In 1957, Kamps, along with Dave Rearick, TM Herbert, and Yvon Chouinard, stopped in Sedona on a desert climbing trip. On Sunday, December 30, Chouinard went to Mass at the local church. The other three decided that they weren’t going to wait around for the end of Mass and set off to The Mace. A few hours later they were perched atop the summit, celebrating the first ascent of this Arizona classic.

Finding The Mace

Access The Mace from the Cathedral Rock Trail south of Sedona. The Mace Map by Martha Morris/Stewart M. Green

From the intersection of Arizona Highway 89A and 179 in Sedona, drive 3.6 miles southeast on Arizona 179 to Back of Beyond Road at a roundabout. Make a right (southwest) turn here on Back of Beyond Road and drive 0.6 mile west to an obvious paved parking area and trailhead on the left (GPS: 34.825141 N / -111.788536 W). Hike south up the Cathedral Rock Trail for just over 1 mile to the base of The Mace, an obvious pinnacle on the left side of Cathedral Rock. The route is on the north side of the tower, facing the parking lot (Route base GPS: 34.818301 N / -111.790965 W). Hiking time is 20 to 30 minutes from car to cliff.

Route Description to Climb The Mace

Climbing topo of The Mace. Topo Drawing copyright Martha Morris/Stewart M. Green

Original Route (II 5.9+) 5 pitches.

Begin on the right side of the northeast face below a right-angling groove (GPS: 34.825141 N / -111.788536 W).

Pitch 1: Climb up right in the wide groove (5.6) to a band of gray limestone that forms a roof. Pull over the roof (5.7) by stemming and climb to a good belay ledge and a 2-bolt anchor. 100 feet.

Pitch 2: Jam a hand crack (5.9) that becomes a chimney. Work up left in a 5-inch to 6-inch off-width crack (protected with a #5 Camalot) on the right side of a pillar to an exposed ledge with a 2-bolt belay anchor atop the pillar. 100 feet.

Pitch 3: Make an airy face-climbing traverse left (5.7) past a bolt into a deep chimney/crack. Squeeze up the chimney system (5.8) to a belay ledge with an eyebolt anchor. 90 feet.

Pitch 4: The crux pitch. Stem up the chimney above to an off-width (4-inch) crack (5.9+) on the right wall that leads to the lower summit. A #4 Camalot and bolt protects the crux moves. 80 feet.

Pitch 5: A memorable pitch! Step across the airy gap and climb up and right past a bolt and a flake (5.8). Move up right to the flat summit and sign the register, which is bolted into the summit rock. 45 feet.

Descent: 2 double-rope rappels to the ground from the lower summit. First though, make the exciting 10-foot jump back across the exposed gap to the lower summit or rappel from bolts.

  • Rappel 1: Rappel 120 feet (2 ropes) from bolt anchors on the edge of the lower subsidiary summit down the airy gap between the towers to a notch.
  • Rappel 2: Scramble down left in the notch and rappel 110 feet with double ropes from bolt anchors to the saddle between The Mace and the main rock formation to the west.
  • Scramble around the tower base to the start of the route and the trail.

Rack: A good Mace rack includes a full set of Camalots (or equivalent cams) and doubles #3 and #4 Camalots ; #5 Camalot for pitch 2; some small cams; selection of medium to large wired nuts; and 2 ropes.