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Brazos Cliffs
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Cat Burglar T 

Cat Burglar 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b

Type:  Trad, 14 pitches, 2000', Grade IV
Consensus:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: Don Liska and Larry Campbell, 1971
Season: spring, summer, fall
Page Views: 3,126
Submitted By: scotthsu on Oct 10, 2008

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BETA PHOTO: Hand-drawn topo of Cat Burglar (5.7) by Norbert En...

The Cliffs are on private property. Access is restricted. MORE INFO >>>


This is a ~2000' climb just to the left of the "Great Couloir," a prominent cleft running the whole height of the cliffs just to the left of the highest part of the Brazos Cliffs (see photo at right).

We did 11 roped/belayed pitches using double 50 m ropes, and simul-climbed several hundred feet more before unroping at the top. I will try to describe the roped pitches here, but please also look at the attached photos and their captions. In particular, take a look at the attached hand-drawn topo by Norbert Ensslin (a senior member of the Los Alamos Mountaineers).

Approach the base of the Great Couloir. There are two possible starts to the route: (a) "direct start" to the left of the Great Couloir and (b) the Great Couloir start. We did the latter.

Direct start:

p1: climb up a buttress with featured rock (to the left of the Great Couloir) up to a tree on the skyline (see photo)

p2: continue up clean rock to another large tree at a good ledge (see photo)

Continue with p4 below.

Great Couloir start:

p1: climb the start of the Great Couloir almost a full rope length; snow/ice probable near the very bottom early season (see photo)

p2: continue up solid rock with some vegetation (see photo); a 60 m rope here would have allowed us to reach a better belay spot.

p3: traverse left a bit and continue up solid rock to the big tree at the top of p2 of the direct start (see photo)

p4: from the tree, head slightly right then up crack system; go up to the right of a roof then back left onto the top of the roof; belay on a small ledge or from inside a small cutout about 10 feet above the ledge. This pitch is sustained 5.7 and exciting.

p5: continue up a crack system and pass by the left side of the prominent "boxcar" feature; stem on some small features; medium/large hexcentrics and small/medium tri-cams proved useful; belay near the top of the boxcar.

p6: traverse left about 80 ft. to some brush (recommend simul-climbing this pitch); continue on some 4th class scrambling (that can also be simul-climbed) to a notch with a tree that is the start of the "Cat Burglar" pitch

p7 (Cat Burglar pitch): climb up the exposed face toward the left of a big roof; upper part of the pitch has scarce protection.

p8: traverse left past a tree, then up a bulge; past the bulge, there is an exposed traverse up and left taking big protection; the next belay is on a small perch with a tree.

p9: head up a chute and then some stemming in a left-facing dihedral ending at another big tree for belay.

p10: some tricky climbing up a small right-facing dihedral up to a small roof, then up and beyond a tree into a wide chute to a small belay stance taking small pro in cracks on the right wall of the wide chute.

p11: continue up the wide chute, then right and up around a roof up to a little notch in the rock.

p12-14: we simul-climbed 3rd-4th class; the ridge started to flatten out and approach the summit; we unroped just a short scramble from the summit plateau; the last bit of scrambling was mostly 3rd class along the ridge with a couple of exposed 4th class moves.

Descent: Walk toward the left (west) down a moderate wide slope, being careful not to angle too far left, lest you get cliffed out. The trick is to stay right far enough to enter the descent gully while avoiding cliffs. Descend about 2,000 feet in a steep gully on mixed scree & talus. Stay to the left of the gully to hike on dirt rather than scree. When the gully flattens out and becomes consistently forested, angle right or you will miss the dirt road like we did and end up on the lower dirt road by the Rio Brazos and lots of extra bushwhacking.

approach ~1-1.5 hours
climb 6-12 hours depending on your climbing speed and routefinding abilities
descent ~1.5-2 hours


Take Route 512 east from US84, about 7 miles to pullout parking on N side of road (between some trees and a garbage dumpster; near a row of condos), just before the split to Corkins Lodge. Hike east along road, bear left at Corkins Lodge sign, walk north a few hundred yards, then bear right near A-frame house and continue hiking another mile or so to turnaround at end of dirt road. The dirt road gets very rough and rutted toward the end (unpassable even with high clearance 4WD), and it is all private property so no public parking. Total walking time to turnaround is about 1/2 to 3/4 hour. Hike east another 100 yards past turnaround, then turn north uphill toward base of cliffs, lots of bushwhacking and talus/scree scrambling, fairly steep terrain near base of cliffs, which are ~500 feet above end of road (just a guess).


full trad rack including set of stoppers and cams to ~4", 10-12 double length runners, emergency rap gear, 60m double ropes recommended.

Photos of Cat Burglar Slideshow Add Photo
Ken head out up to the left of the boxcar. His choice for best pitch. As with most of the good pitches there were about three good lines to choose from across the face. But, you couldn't always get back to where you wanted to be at 5.7. So venturing out meant a 5.8 to 5.10 move to get back to where you needed to be. But, the climbing was almost always fun for the grade.
Ken head out up to the left of the boxcar. His cho...
Direct start of Cat Burglar (Great Couloir is on the right).  I think the trees at the top of this photograph mark the top of the 1st pitch of the direct start.
BETA PHOTO: Direct start of Cat Burglar (Great Couloir is on t...
David Rogers scrambling up to the base of the Great Couloir, where we roped up.  The boxcar is just visible high above.  Our route went up the right side along the big crack above the highest patch of snow.
BETA PHOTO: David Rogers scrambling up to the base of the Grea...
Pitch 2 from the lower start.
Pitch 2 from the lower start.
P2 of the Great Couloir start looking up from the belay.  We should have scrambled up to the left about 30-50 feet higher and set our belay there so that 50 m ropes would reach a good belay spot.  Also, this would have joined the direct route after 2 pitches rather than 3.  The upper part of this pitch (above tree on skyline) gets harder and slightly runout.
BETA PHOTO: P2 of the Great Couloir start looking up from the ...
Main Brazos Cliffs from the approach hike.  The Cat Burglar route goes up the steep left-angling ridge in the middle of the picture.  The "boxcar" feature is visible about 3/4 of the way to the top.  The route goes just to the left of the boxcar.
BETA PHOTO: Main Brazos Cliffs from the approach hike. The Ca...
P3 ending at the tree on the skyline.  The tree is the top of P2 of the direct route.  This was a good pitch of clean climbing.
BETA PHOTO: P3 ending at the tree on the skyline. The tree is...
Ken on the smooth quartize 5th class scrabble to the base.
Ken on the smooth quartize 5th class scrabble to t...
One of the upper traverse pitches. You could begin simulclimbing if you landed on these pitches at a belay but for us it did not happen. These traverses are composed of 100 ton blocks to small blocks detached and resting in place. So just remember to bring your plastic buddha, think light thoughts and pray!
One of the upper traverse pitches. You could begin...
Cleaning end of pitch 3. Darn good pitch. We argued which pitch was the best, which says something.
Cleaning end of pitch 3. Darn good pitch. We argue...
About halfway up the boxcar pitch (our P5) right below the boxcar roof, which is just out of sight to the right of the photograph.
BETA PHOTO: About halfway up the boxcar pitch (our P5) right b...
Start of Cat Burglar pitch (P7).
BETA PHOTO: Start of Cat Burglar pitch (P7).
Look to the shadows for the route lines. The evening light makes each route line distinctive. Easy street, east of easy and cat burglar can all be found in the shadows. While all the longest lines that head to the top are less than vertical and therefore in the 5.7 range, there is a plethera of vertical lines on this rock (1 to 4 pitch). Since the rock is so full of features and solid there is the possibility that these lines could be really good.
BETA PHOTO: Look to the shadows for the route lines. The eveni...

Comments on Cat Burglar Add Comment
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By Kerr Adams
From: Albuquerque, NM
Sep 18, 2012
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

A few little bits of information I feel like sharing from my recent ascent that could prove useful for people.

1. Bring a GPS and make the road head for the way back. we ended up walking back in the dark and although I was able to take us right to the road, a GPS would have been nice for re-assurance.

2. On the first 5.7 section don't be tempted to go past the roof and continue up and to the right,(another party told me to do so) It ends up being a 5.7+/5.8 crack that dead ends at a rap anchor. The route is pretty clear on the topo but i thought i would just share that. (The rap anchor has been backed up further with some cord)

3. If you're short on time, you can actually simul climb the last roped pitch (or unrope) by staying to the right. Or, if you have the time, you can climb the nice looking crack on the right facing corner further to the left. Ditch the rope after that. You'll see what i mean when you're there.

4. For the direct start...The first few pitches have webbing wrapped around trees. the rest are gear/tree anchors. We cut the webbing that was around the tree on one of the pitches before the cat burglar pitch. Pretty ratty

5. A lot of the rock is loose. I did my best to clean it as we went. Just a heads up.
By Kerr Adams
From: Albuquerque, NM
Sep 18, 2012
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b


To me, the approach descriptions sounds more like a sharp turn north rather than a gradual one. We did the approach in the dark and end up to the left of the descent gully. Think of the approach more like a rising traverse. or just do it when you can see [laughs].

Here are some coordinates that may be helpful. They are mapping coordinates that you have to put into google maps. when you do, click on the green arrow and select "What's here" to get proper GPS coordinates.

Base of Great Couloir/Cat Burglar:

Approach, midway:

Road Head:
By Tadz Kostrubala
May 27, 2013
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b PG13

No much chimney action so bring your pack instead of leaving it at the base. Definitely do the direct start first couple pitches are good. If you are a 5.9+ or better climber you might take the risk to seek out the best looking climbing. We did and it resulted in a fun day. Had to come down and around a couple times but not bad. Stay on the skyline in the upper pitches, nothing pinnacles you just look for the most exposed face and climb. Descent is loose talus so take your time. Enjoy!