|Middle Rabbit Ear
The description below, found in NMSU archives, was created by the legendary Southwest Mountaineers. It is at a minimum twenty years old, but likely dates as far back as 1970’s. The rock itself may have changed since that time. The rating system certainly has. You will want to add at least a point to it. For comparison, the Normal Route, considered by many to be seriously sandbagged at 5.6, is listed in the same document as 5.5, the West Face as 5.6. So please treat what follows as a rough guide to an adventure, not as a solid and current info. If you do climb the route, sharing of what you learn would be appreciated.
This fine route, the only alternative to the great Vest Face Route in the whole West Face, started out to be a separate line up the West Face staying well to the right of it. However, after five beautiful pitches, it was unable to force the passage upward. Hence the name “Great Expectations.” As of now, this route can be considered a major variation of West Face, in which 3 beautiful pitches are substituted for the first two pitches of West Face.
Start on the west face of Middle Rabbit Ear at a point where an obvious traverse left over a busy ledge begins. (From the point you normally get onto the West Face to third class up to the first belay spot on West Face, go up along the west face some 200 to 300 feet.)
First Pitch: Traverse left on this busy ledge, dropping down where it becomes difficult, then up to a prominent little perch.
Second Pitch: This is the crux. A steep smooth face above. Go straight up a shallow crack directly above the belay for about 20 feet to the overhang. Then ooze right on minimal footholds with practically no handholds some 15 feet to a reasonable stance. Here you can put your first protection in (#4 stopper). An alternative way to do this pitch is to hand traverse right some 20 feet from the belay spot, then go up to a point just below an overhanging nose which forces you off, then ooze leftward under and around the nose for about 10 feet by good delicate balance technique (first led by Doug Roberts).
From the good stance, take heart – what lies above is easier. Go up and slightly to the right on holds which get progressively better some 25 feet. Get in protection and traverse left about 30 feet on easy rock to the belay stance.
Third Pitch: get as high as possible and mantle onto a good stance to the left. Go up about 30 bare feet on small holds, bearing let. Then a few easy moves lands you on the “great concave place” of the West Face description. Finish the climb as in West Face.
On the first ascent attempt of Great Expectations, we went one pitch farther, bearing to the right and then a pretty down-sloping traverse. You end up in a comfortable large region on the SW Face. However, above here the angle becomes severe and the protection seems a real problem.
Approach from Rabbit Ears Canyon
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