The Crack of Doom was one of the first 5.10's done in the Valley and has a lot of history and lore surrounding it. To this day it remains something of a feared testpiece. It certainly takes a very imposing line up a steep chimney system. Most of the wide climbing however is in the 5.8-5.9 range, with just a short section of 10a at the end. Overall, this is an excellent climb on clean rock that protects well with modern big cams and deserves much more traffic than it receives.
The best approach is from Hwy 140. Park at one or two pullouts downstream from the Cookie pullout. The river crossing is only possible during times of very low water. Find the Monster Boulder and pick up a trail from it's right side. This faint trail marked with cairns will wind up past some large boulders and then contour east up the hillside to the base of the Worst Error Pinnacle. From here contour back right following skirting 5th class ledges. Scramble up a gully and some ledges until you encounter a fixed rope. Hand-over-hand up the rope to access the ledge system which leads back left to the west side of Elephant Rock. Here you will find a very large and obvious recess with large crack systems at either side. Crack of Doom is on the left and Crack of Despair is on the right.
Pitch 1 (5.9 or 5.10b): There are two starting variations. We chose the 5.10 start in the corner. For this climb up a bit of easy terrain to reach a steep 4.5" crack. Make a couple offwidth moves to reach a chockstone "jug" at the top and then crank up and over that on thin fingerlocks (10b). After that is a short chimney/pod and then an enjoyable jam crack that varies from thin-hands to fists.
The alternative is 5.9 liebacking and jamming up a the flakes just a few feet to the left of the corner. Both starts look like they offer quality climbing. Belay at a horn with slings on it at a good ledge.
Pitch 2: This is a long pitch up a remarkable chimney system. The first part is very straightforward, and is protected solely by a #6 Camalot. Climb up to a piton in a second crack out left, then chimney, stem, and offwidth up the double-cracks in a wide chimney. Scramble over some chock-stones and belay at a ledge in the back of a deep chimney.
Pitch 3: Another long pitch. Ascend the easy chimney working your way towards the back of it. Above is a "narrows" which is pretty intimidating but can be protected by a #5 or #6 if you enter into the squeeze while you're still towards the back of the chimney. Much wiggling will lead you to a ledge. You can stop here if you want a tight belay for the final crux, or just continue to the top. The crux is a left-facing corner that starts out as a bombay chimney and then moves over a bulge on awkward fingers and thin-hands. The rock is quite rotten for the last few feet and provides a rather unpleasant finish to an otherwise excellent climb. Scramble up ramps and belay at a tree.
Most people will want to stay roped up for the descent. Scramble up more forested ramps but don't go to high. Your goal is to traverse straight across the face over to ledges on the East Face of the rock. We took a path across a sort of slabby section that felt 4th Class +. Maybe 20ft below it looked like there were some bigger knobs which may have been easier. Scramble across ledges to the top of Real Error. We rapped (2 ropes needed) off a Bay tree on a ledge (which had no previous slings, but worked out good) all the way down to another large ledge with a tree at the start of Straight Error (a striking 10c splitter). From here one more rappel leads to the ground. The "ground" is really a bunch of 3rd class ledges and we found it best to keep rappelling the full 200ft, as far as we could. We had no trouble pulling our ropes.
Pro to 6"
Extra 6" or larger is optional.
Crack Of Doom ( left) and Despair (right)
From: San Jose
Sep 29, 2012
This is probably one of the best routes I climbed. The rating is irrelevant on this climb.
We took single rack up to #6 plus #9 Giant which was heavily used on p2 and p3.
did not use #5.
P1 is about 80 ft, P2 -140ft, p3- 135ft and p4 is short. We rappel with one 80m rope. We did some rappel improvements with webbing and biners. This way it is possible to make Doom and Despair in same day, but we did not. Climbing crack of Doom took a lot of time and energy.
On approach we did not find fixed rope ( mentioned in description just few days ago) and did scary class 5 slabs. How we missed it?
we approach toward Pink Dream and from there pick up easiest way on class 5 slabs toward Doom and Despair . Did we missed safer approach?
By Bryan G
Oct 2, 2012
You don't want to go on the Pink Dream/Worst Error approach ledge at all, just pass by it and keep hiking uphill to the southwest for another few hundred feet. You want to access the higher approach ledge-system from it's far right side. It's definitely more exposed than the Pink Dream approach, but shouldn't be more than 3rd class if you do it right.