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Athlete's Feat 

YDS: 5.11a French: 6c Ewbanks: 22 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 22 British: E3 5c

   
Type:  Trad, 5 pitches, Grade II
Consensus:  YDS: 5.11a/b French: 6c Ewbanks: 23 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 23 British: E3 5c [details]
FA: FA:Stan Shepard and Don Davis, 1961. FFA: Royal Robbins and Pat Ament, 1964.
Page Views: 13,928
Submitted By: Charles Vernon on Apr 25, 2001

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (72)
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BETA PHOTO: Athlete's Feat - Still hard 40 years after the FFA...

Seasonal Raptor Closure MORE INFO >>>

Description 

This is one of the very best climbs around Boulder, and a great testpiece for the very solid 5.10 leader (which I, apparently, am not!). It starts just west of the SE corner of Castle rock - just left of Country Club Crack.

The first pitch (right off the road) is identified by a pointy boulder with a bolt above it and a ledge above that. From there, the route moves left and follows an obvious, large, zig-zag right facing dihedral.

P1: mantle onto the ledge above the pointy boulder (clipping a bolt on the ledge--make sure you don't blow the clip). This felt hard for 5.11a. Belay from a 2-bolt anchor about 10 feet left.

P2: ascend a bulging corner with a flared crack, above the belay, thuggish 5.10d. It has excellent protection which is very awkward to place.

P3: ascend the very short, overhanging corner by 5.10 jamming or liebacking, but be careful of some loose flakes up high in the wide crack, which appear at first glance to offer good placements for medium Friends. A #4 Camalot gives good pro; a #5 would sew it up. This pitch is about 40 feet.

P4: climb the slabby corner which is much harder than it looks (Lumpy-style), 5.10b. Belay from bolts to the left. (One can do two rappels to the ground from here, with a 60 meter rope.)

P5: climb the 5.9+ crack above the belay or the 5.8 corner to the left, reaching the summit.

Protection 

The pitches are short, but you'll want to bring a full rack, and I highly recommend a #4 Camalot for pitch three.


Photos of Athlete's Feat Slideshow Add Photo
The main thing I remember about our ascent in 1975 was the 4th pitch which was much harder than it was supposed to be. EBs, painters pants, 60/40. Not sure how it was protected in those days with no cams. There may have been some more pins.
The main thing I remember about our ascent in 1975...
The mantle may have been 10+ when I first climbed this in 1975 when this photo was taken. Since then a key hold has broken and the foot holds have become way more polished.
The mantle may have been 10+ when I first climbed ...
Chuck going back up for another try at the 10+ P2 layback. The crux is transitioning from the layback to a mediocre jam at Chuck's high piece and then pulling over to stand on a good foothold on the left. It's not too bad on TR, but hard to stop and place gear. The piece above Chuck's right knee is a fixed hybrid Alien, and the piece above that is a big fixed stopper (fixed as ot 6/27/04).
Chuck going back up for another try at the 10+ P2 ...
The 11+ mantle. You can see the 2nd bolt a bit right and a bit above the center of the photo. The lighter area right of the bolt is the "bucket" pinch that Steve Levin mentions in his comments.
The 11+ mantle. You can see the 2nd bolt a bit rig...
Athlete's Feat and Country Club Crack.
BETA PHOTO: Athlete's Feat and Country Club Crack.
Chuck just about done struggling with the finish to P3. As with P2, the crux is not the overhanging layback, but getting established on the lower angle rock above.  The piece above Chuck is a good green Alien. A good idea to keep the rope from running over the top cams if the second should fall. Shortest approach in Boulder! That's our car below. Just like the old days when you could park at the base of the Bastille.
Chuck just about done struggling with the finish t...
Climber laybacking the short 10+ third pitch.
Climber laybacking the short 10+ third pitch.
Rich Farnham attempting to lead P2.  Photo by Clint Dillard.
Rich Farnham attempting to lead P2. Photo by Clin...
It is never too late to climb a classic. Ivan Rezucha finishes 'Athlete's Feat (5.11)' on Castle Rock on an 'evening' ascent. Photo by Tony Bubb, 2005.
It is never too late to climb a classic. Ivan Rezu...
Kate mantling the crux on the first pitch of Athlete's Feat
Kate mantling the crux on the first pitch of Athle...
Chuck above the deceptive P4 10b. Doesn't this look sooo easy? But it's sooo hard. Very insecure. Small but good gear. Aliens, etc.
Chuck above the deceptive P4 10b. Doesn't this loo...

Comments on Athlete's Feat Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Mar 17, 2014
By Steve Levin
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 17, 2001

This route was free climbed in 1964 in Kroenhopher boots, with pitons for pro- a very impressive ascent. The first pitch mantel was a bit easier before the right hand "bucket hold" broke. There are several ways to do this mantel, the easiest (for me) is to match on the bucket hold (now a rounded pinch) before throwing your left foot up above the bulge. The mantel is certainly more difficult for shorter folks. Avoid this and all other Castle Rock routes when it is hot out, unless you like climbing on greased soap stone. Pitches 1 & 2, and 3 & 4 can be combined if you so desire. There is (as of 11-2000) a dangerous block fracturing off the flake on the 5.9 5th pitch just waiting for the unsuspecting leader to pull on it. If you elect to rap off from the top of the 4th pitch it is fun to catch a TR on the Boot Lead and the wall above (just leave QDs and lockers on the anchor and the last person up can clean them for the rap).
By Bill Wright
Jun 14, 2002

I just recently did this route got the mantle clean (on TR) for the first time. I not sure what "bucket hold" Steve is talking about, but this is how I did it. Undercling with the left hand as usual and obvious. I can then make a big reach (six feet tall) and get the crummy pinch over the roof with my right hand. Feet are very tricky at this point and you have to really pay attention so you don't slip off. Then I put my left hand on the tiny, painful crimp on the lip of the roof. I quickly switch this to mantle position and then get my left foot up on an edge BELOW the lip of the roof. Once there I press out the mantle and struggle to get my right foot over the lip.

I used to think this mantle move was harder than the Country Club Crack start, but now I think they are pretty similar in difficulty. Each one is very difficult and solid 5.11 (especially when compared to sport route ratings in this canyon) and each one involves a "trick". Tough, fun stuff.

Also, I led the third pitch with a single #3 Camalot. This might be a little bold, though I'm not known to do such things, but I think it is the easiest way to do this pitch. Lieback up to the foothold and get a jam. Place the #3 Camalot and get ready to gun for the top. Lieback the rest of the way until you can reach over the top and thankfully get a hand jam. Don't blow it up here, but if you do it this way the entire pitch will take about two minutes to lead.
By TBD
Jul 15, 2002

Holy sandbag! IMO, every pitch is difficult for the given ratings. Very worth doing though.
By Joe Collins
Jul 15, 2002

Agreed on the sandbag thing, especially pitches 1, 3, and 4... probably just the high polish factor though. Still, if you can lead this whole route clean, then you should be able to get up Astroman.
By Bill Wright
Jul 15, 2002

It is very gratifying to hear such comments, as I recently returned to this route and got crushed. I couldn't do the first pitch crux for the life of me. Then I got hammered leading the second pitch and fell off the third pitch (following, thankfully). At that point the fourth pitch felt utterly desperate. My partner, who cruised everything put the crux move and eventually got that, called the 4th pitch the hardest on the route (not counting the crux move).

I think this route is a lot harder than CCC when taken in their entirety. They have similarly hard, crux starts and while CCC has a harder crack crux and a more sustained section of climbing, it doesn't have as many very hard sections as this route.

Back to the drawing board on this one for me...
By Steve Levin
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 16, 2002

Bill, I was being generous by calling your well-described "lousey pinch" the bucket hold. That's what I match on before getting my feet up. If one can't reach the pinch from the undercling, it is necessary to match on a tiny crimp on the lip, then reach with the right. I'm glad I have it hideously wired.

If one can climb both Athlete's Feat and Country Club Crack in direct sun this time of year, I'd think you'd be ready to solo Astroman...
By Anonymous Coward
Aug 28, 2002

Hey [Willie], sounds like [Charles] might not have gotten the redpoint on this one.
By Brian T. Wandzilak
Aug 29, 2002

This is by far the hardest route I have ever tried. The sad thing is that me and some friends from Nebraska only did the first pitch. It was blast trying it and if you can get someone to put it up on TR for you try it out. Although after flailing around it may just be easier to lead it.
By Rich Farnham
Aug 7, 2003

CAUTION!!! There is a wasp's nest about two-thirds of the way up pitch 4. Three or four wasps started swarming around my partner as she led it. She lowered quickly until they left her alone, and then went back and down-aided to get the gear out. The nest is right in the crack and is unavoidable, but you can rappel off from the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd belay of this route, so you can still do the first few pitches. It's probably best to just wait for the wasps to vacate in the fall.As for climbing it in summer, it can be done. This time of year the first pitch gets sun at about 9 AM, and you better be done with it by then or it becomes virtually impossible. The rest of the pitches aren't as bad on a hot day.All things considered, this is one of the better routes I've done in the canyon. Royal sure knows how to pick 'em.
By Anonymous Coward
May 20, 2004

as of a couple days ago, no fuzzy little winged needles on the fourth pitch. Very good route, the fixed alien and nut most-definately helps with the second pitch.
By Ivan Rezucha
From: Fort Collins, CO
Jun 27, 2004
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a

After a humiliating day on (and much off) Athlete's Feat, it was reassuring to read some of the comments above about people getting _crushed_ by this route. If I had read the comments this morning, I would have gone back to bed. To complete the humiliation, as we topped out, we got hit by a lightning storm and pouring rain.

I first did this route with my brother Paul and Rich Perch (a long time Grand Tetons climbing ranger and now a ranger in Canyonlands) in 1975 during a short stopover in Boulder on the way to Yosemite. Although we didn't have to wear Kroenhopher's (spelling doesn't look right), neither did we have cams and fancy nuts. Basic stoppers and hexes. But there were probably some fixed pins.

The key hold on the P1 mantle probably hadn't broken yet. Don't remember much about P2 and P3. We may have taken a few falls, but we were young and foolish and may have just went for it without much gear. I do remember P4 and how surprisingly hard it was.

Today, after a few half-hearted efforts we aided P1. Highly recommended (to aid it). I got partly up using the technique Bill Wright mentions on 6/14/02, but didn't have the motivation, and perhaps not the strength, to follow through with the mantle. What seemed most promising to me was this, not mentioned above: There is a good crimp for your right hand on the _lip_ out right. Best hold on this pitch. Left hand to the big pinch, but use it as a layback. Now that you are to the right, there are no footholds. I leaned out and walked my feet up and then threw my left foot high onto the small but positive hold on the lip to the left. Started to pull onto the foot, but couldn't quite make it.

I won't say much about pitches 2-4, other than that 2 and 3 weren't pretty. Can we say we did _Upper Athlete's Feat_?

With rain threatening I started up the easy-looking P5 9 variation. Ran into trouble with some bird shit on the _ledge_. Not too bad, but psyched me out. Wasn't sure what to do here, and ended up hand traversing left to join up with the top of the 8 variation. The 9 variation apparently continues up the left curving crack. There are also some flakes angling a bit right that look climbable.
By Ivan Rezucha
From: Fort Collins, CO
Jun 27, 2004
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a

And some excerpts from Jim Erickson's 1980 Rocky Heights guide:

A classic Robbins pun, a classic route, and the most continuous free climb in the country in 1964 [but perhaps not the technically hardest?]. The first pitch, which was originally more serious [see mention of piton in previous comment], now has a bolt above the bulge for protection, thanks to some idiots who didn't believe it could be climbed free. A broken hold has increased its standards a little.....History: In 1964 Royal Robbins and Pat Ament climbed the entire route free, with pitches one and two extracting some tries.
By Ivan Rezucha
From: Fort Collins, CO
Jun 27, 2004
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a

Some excerpts from the description of Athelete's Feat in the 1970 High Over Boulder guidebook by Pat Ament and Cleveland McCarty (Royal Robbins and Pat Ament did the FFA of Athlete's Feat):

...Involving some of the most severe and sustained 5th class climbing in the Boulder area, with three leads of 5.10 and two 5.9, this route incites respect in all acrobats with a lust for maximum difficulty....

[Check this out about P1! No bolts.] Climb to the top of the flake, place a piton to the left (above your head) [but below the slab!] for protection, and climb up and over a severe bulge to the bench....

The second lead is one of the most difficult 5th class pitches in the region...

The third lead (5.10) is the shortest (although it refuses to let the party rest). It was first led free in 1964 by Dave Rearick [same year as the FFA]. Layback up a severe, overhanging bong-bong crack [for you youngsters, bongs are big angle pitons], and make a difficult exit move....

The fourth lead does not ease off. Climb straight up the deceptively easy-looking corner above...
By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Jun 9, 2005
rating: 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c

Fun and in your face climbing. Most of the real cruxes are short, but to me the 10b and 5.9 pitches run togehter presented the most challenge. They are consistently insecure and seem harder than their respective grades, particularly finishing up 'direct' from the last set up chains, going up on a crack to the steep flake to the right. This is one of the better routes at Castle.

After climbing this again in the cold, I think that the difficulty is very weather dependant. Cruisable in the right temps, close to impossible if too hot or cold.
By Anonymous Coward
Jul 6, 2005

There is graffiti in black sraypaint that reads Deb I You-05' about twenty feet from the base of the crack-very ugly. the same thing is tagged across the road on the low-angled climbs... Access Fund, please scrub this stupidity off the side of this tower.
By Peter Franzen
Administrator
From: Phoenix, AZ
Jan 31, 2006
rating: 5.11a/b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c

Fun route, but be careful when plugging in cams just off the 2nd belay. Apparently there were some loose flakes in there when I did it, and when I fell just after the bulge I pulled a solid-feeling #2 Camalot which extended the fall all the way back to the belay ledge. My partner says he saw a bunch of rock fragments fly out when the cam blew. I wasn't injured or anything, but it was the first piece of gear that I ever had pull out on me.
By Rich Farnham
Oct 14, 2006

Well, I have always wondered how solid that fixed Alien on P2 was. As we climbed it today, I clipped it (and backed it up--I've never really liked it) and kept going. It didn't appear to be any different than I remembered. As my partner climbed up to it, the motion of the rope as he approached was enough to cause it to fall out of the crack. Kind of scary. I'm pretty sure I fell on this cam a few years ago, and I know I've seen others fall on it.
The cam is mutilated. The cams don't even move anymore.
By Rob Dillon
Jun 15, 2007

From Pat Ament, writing on Supertopo:

There is a route on Boulder Canyon's Castle Rock called Athlete's Feat. The name was given by Robbins when he and I did the route all free (now rathed one pitch of 5.11 and four of 5.10, pretty stiff for 1964, no chalk, Spiders for shoes). Anyway the route had been mostly aided before but not named. The first pitch is an amazing, smooth, bulging wall. Robbins did a finger-tip undercling up and left, on vertical rock, with his fingers under a thin flake, then -- while holding with the right hand under the cling, reached up and right, above him, with his left hand, leaning backward, to get his left finger tips on a small hold at the upper lip of the bulge. The feet aren't on much. For protection he had only a scary-looking bugaboo piton hammered straight up under the thin flake. Below is a big spike of granite that might impale you if you fell. He pulls up on the left finger-tip hold and reaches above the bulge. There is mostly nothing up there but a steep smooth slab and a not-so-good hold to pinch for the right hand. To make a long story short, he does a wild, sloping mantel up onto that smooth, slanting surface, a really bold lead way above his pro, with a ground fall likely onto that spike probably if he failed. Years later I was strolling along the road, came around the corner, and saw a guy standing in aid on that section. He'd already placed a bolt and was drilling another one above that one, right where the master had carved with me such a beautiful Michelangelo of an ascent. I tried not to go crazy and simply said to the leader, "What are you doing?" He replied, "Puttng up a new route." I replied, "I hate to tell you, but that route goes all free. It has been led without protection." The answer came back to me, "Oh SURE it was, SURE it was done free." I realized I could do or say nothing, so walked away. A few days later the two climbers were spreading it all over town, "Ament was up at Castle Rock trying to tell everyone how to climb." Anyway, for a long time subsequent free climbers used those bolts for protection. I think the top bolt is still used, creating in essence a top-rope for the bold, crux move. Not many know what a brilliant lead that was back in the stone age...
Fred Flintstone
By Darko Sarenac
From: boulder, co
Sep 20, 2007

What a classic climb! I wish though I had read some of the comments before embarking with my wife. I figured a bit of 11a and then a fun 5.10. It took me about 10 times to get the crux move on p.1. If it wasn't for Bob D'Antonio and a group of his friends shouting beta, I would probably still be there trying various possibilities. On p.2, the move from the layback into to the crack was hardish (a fist jam above the chalked hold in the crack worked for me). The p.3 exit was very physical. My last piece was about half way down the crack. Scary. It may be helpful to bring no. 5 Camalot, just for the peace of mind. Now to pitch 4. This was the scariest, most insecure pitch I've climbed in a while. The gear is good (small up to 0.75), but the rock is polished and the moves are sketchy. For me too, this was the hardest pitch (not counting p.1), though it would be very hard to choose the hardest move. I suppose every move is 5.10a or something. Now to my question, how were pitches 3 and 4 protected before cams?
By natedawg
Jun 18, 2008

I was on this thing with a buddy a few years back, when I got on top he said "something bit me!" Sure enough, he had two little holes on his calf that were oozing blood. He was convinced that it was a bat and paid for the rabies series - $1200 - ouch! With all of the photo's you guys post of this climb, I'm surprised there isn't one of the hibernacula. Watch out!
By Brian Adzima
From: the Paris of Appalachia
Sep 23, 2008

Was on CCC today, looks like the last pitch of Athlete's Feat, is now sporting a set of anchors, still some mank at the end of the third.
By Eric Goltz
From: Boulder, CO
Sep 2, 2010

Thanks to chains at the end of every pitch, you can easily get off this with one rope as of summer 2010.
By Rick Linkert
Jan 23, 2012

I just stumbled across this thread and thought I would add a bit of amusing history.

I climbed Athlete's Feat in the fall of 1973; at the time it still had a bit of a reputation. Years of mantling in Yosemite were helpful on the first pitch. The second pitch was scream. There was an old "sucker" piton beat into the horizontal crack. The problem was that it was beat so far into the crack that it would not accept a carabiner - any carabiner. And I tried every style I had on the rack. By the time I figured out what was going on, my arms were pretty flamed. I got some nut in and kept chugging to the belay. My partner was pretty amused. I remember that pro in the pre-cam era was a bit sketchy on the wide pitches.
By Dwight Jugornot
From: Arvada, Co.
Nov 16, 2013
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a

Few routes deliver such sustained and varied climbing at the grade. Pitch 4 was the easiest for me on account of I have reasonable balance, and pitch 1 was sorta easy (but my solution was very height-dependent). Pitch 2 and 4 were just ass kickers - because I kinda suck at picking the right pro while pumped and reaching around a semi-blind corner! Best skill for the send is gonna be efficient pro placement (and choice), 'cause the moves are sustained. What a blast!
By Gregger Man
Feb 16, 2014

Replaced the 2nd bolt on P1 today by cleanly extracting the stud and installing a 1/2" x 3" SS PowerBolt and SS Fixe hanger.
By Jay Samuelson
From: Denver CO
Feb 16, 2014

Thanks for your time and efforts, Gregger Man!
By mike c
From: nederland
Mar 17, 2014
rating: 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b

Hmmm. I'm surprised it's not greasier. It's not too bad when it's cooler out....