Rossiter calls this route "a near-classic," and for good reason. Consistent pitches, easy routefinding, and solid crack climbing is what this is all about. We had a smile after every pitch!
P1: Scramble up to the chimney that is The Mail Ridge, and go slightly right. Start climbing here. Go up the short left facing dihedral created by a large triangular block. Gain the top of said block, and move right into another left-facing dihedral with a slight bulge. Move over and follow the crack up (crux of pitch) to the nice ledge. Try belaying a little to the left of where you end up on this ledge.
P2: Attack the roof and follow the crack up the right-facing dihedral about 15 feet left of where the previous pitch left you. Follow up through a slot, and belay on an open face before you get to the large flake that continues on your path up the right side of the wall. 5.9.
P3: Follow this flake up - and what fun! Super-positive, and nice and airy. Use your extra #3 here to protect, as it's a little blank. Rossiter suggests moving left halfway up this flake and continuing on the arete, but I think it's just as fun to follow the flake up and out. Belay anywhere you want on the great break ledge at the end of this flake. 5.7.
P4: The crux pitch starts about 15 feet, 90 degrees to the left of the direction of travel you were maintaining as you finished the flake. It's a steep, slightly meandering hand crack that ends with a small roof, which you surmount by passing to the left and then stepping left once over to a great belay stance. Steep and sustained but with a number of good spots to place pro, this pitch is a blast! 5.10-.
P5: Shoot up and slightly right, following the crack from the belay stance up to the summit and enjoy the view! Maybe 5.5.
Pitches 2-3 and 4-5 are easily linked; many people find this better as a 3 pitch climb.
Standard rack up to #3.5 Camalot, plus an extra #2 and #3 Camalot for crux fourth pitch is nice (or else creative use of tri-cams).
From the summit, scramble down the notch. Work north & west, and walk all the way down to the trail, with one 4th class downclimb right above the ground. When in doubt, keep north - it's a good, well-worn path all the way. It is also possible to rappel Pony Express, but there's tons of loose rock and probably climbers below. Don't do it.
By Eric Thomas From: Colorado Jun 6, 2014 rating: 5.10-6a18VI+18E1 5a
As everyone has suggested, #2s are you friend for the crux pitch. The first fixed #3 looks good, but the second one is way deep (not worth it). Keep pushing past it, and don't waste your time on it knowing you still got your #2s.
By Ben Mottinger Founding Father Jan 1, 2001 rating: 5.95c17VI17HVS 5a
A #3 Camalot is a little too big for the handcrack on P4--several #2s are definitely preferable. Also, I just wanted to add that the pro for this climb is great--easy to place and well-protected at all the cruxes.
We did this route today. Every pitch was good. I led the crux pitch (combined it with the last pitch) and really thought it was more like 5.9. Another good feature of this route was that no one else was on it, or even near it.
I forgot how fun this route is! Pitches 2 and 3 can be linked comfortably with a 60, and probably still with a 50m rope. You might even be able to link 1, 2, and 3 with a 60m (belaying from ledge 40 feet off ground). Then, link 4 and 5 together; otherwise 5 is 40 feet of easy easy climbing after a 70 foot pitch.
As for the crux 4th pitch (I know I submitted the route, but I just have to comment).... just plug the cams and GO - jam jam slot the foot, gain the undercling and then streeeetcchhhh up and left and you're done with a beautiful sequence. The holds are good, the gear is fine, don't dally around. Yeehaw!
FWIW, after that you can traverse 5 feet right up clean and fun 5.7 unprotected face climbing to the top.
By Ben Mottinger Founding Father Sep 29, 2002 rating: 5.95c17VI17HVS 5a
The route compared to Perversion or Green Spur seems similar--the last pitch was a lot easier the 2nd time around, but the start of the second pitch is still burly.
The first time I tried this route, we got confused after the second pitch (having left the guidebook on the ground as usual). If you go too far left at the top of p 2, you will end up doing the top of "The Mail Ridge" or "Lightning Bolt Crack" instead.
Great route with great pro. P1 seemed stiff for its grade. The start of P2 felt technically harder than the crux P4 for me (which is hand size dependent). Good advice to not dally as P4 gets steeper and steeper as you near the top.
By M.Morley Administrator From: Sacramento, CA Apr 9, 2003
Another bit of info to add to the "For What It's Worth" file: Pitch 1 and 2 combine nicely at roughly 160 ft.
By David Houston From: Boulder, Colorado Apr 17, 2003 rating: 5.10a6a18VI+18E1 5a
All pitches are good and most are excellent. If done in four pitches they are all pretty short.
I have to weigh in on the 5.10a/b side of the fence for a rating. Did Morning Thunder yesterday (5.9+) and found it significantly easier.
Re: the descent. From Rossiter: "downclimb ... north, down a steep gully to the sw" at which point you'll see a decent size tree with a sling/rope, rings ... You can reach the ground with double ropes from this tree. This way you avoid crossing the slab. Worked well.
Great route over all. Good pro and easy route finding to an airy summit.
By Ron Olsen From: Boulder, CO May 26, 2003 rating: 5.10a6a18VI+18E1 5a
A great climb. I like to have 3 #2 Camalots for the fourth pitch. Stemming is the key to success here. On the descent, you can rappel with a single 60m rope from the tree mentioned in the comment aboveall the way to the rap station atop the first pitch of Pony Express. Another one-rope rap gets you to the ground.
I agree that this is a classic, but would encourage people to descend via the 'walk-off' rather than rappel down over the ever-popular Pony Express. The walk-off angles down west from the notch. Other than some short easy down-climbing sections it is straightforward. Avoid anything that looks like a hanging scree slope.
...don't know about this "almost classic" stuff: it's a sure-nuff full-on classic in my book. All pitches are way good! There's a lost cam half-way up pitch 4-- wouldn't bother with it unless you just wanna add to your pump. The walk off to the north, as mentioned above, is straight-forward and probably quicker than messing with rappels.
Good advice to walk off instead of rap. This rappel is potential suicide or [homicide] as this is directly above one of the most popular areas on the West Ridge. There's a ton of loosely hanging plates and flakes all down the first rap and the 1st rappel tree is [sketchy] to get to.
The cam Tobias mentions is a #3 Camalot. I worked on it for about 20 minutes today but it's well stuck and still there as of today (6/15/03). Kudos to whomever can un-stick it.
Good climb. I thought the crux was on the first pitch at the overhang. Every pitch is excellent and well protected.
By Guy H. From: Fort Collins CO Oct 5, 2003 rating: 5.10a6a18VI+18E1 5a
You only need the #4 Friend for the 3rd pitch which is only 5.7. With a small runout on the 3rd pitch, you can also leave the #3 Camalot on the ground. A single set of Camalots to #2, with 2 #3 Friends was perfect for the crux pitch. I thought the rap from the tree was fairly clean. I would think that you would knock more rocks down by downclimbing.
We linked pitches 2&3, and 4&5, making it a nice 3-pitch routes with challenges on all pitches.
I thought P1 was hard for 5.8, but I always seem to think that at the West Ridge. I had a harder time with the start of P2 than with P4, although I did not lead P4. P2 was reminiscent of Break on Through, although with bigger hand and foot holds.
Would have been nice to have a larger cam, or two, on P3 to protect the flake (I left my 3.5 at the belay below). I ended up slinging some horns and running it out, which was kinda fun with all that exposure.
P4 didn't seem to have any specific crux, it was just very sustained. Luckily my hands fit it well and maybe my downgrade is inappropriate on those grounds. For some reason, we didn't bring any #3 Camalots. Instead we skipped from #2 to #3.5 Friend. I don't know what we were thinking, getting on a climb called Handcracker with this gear. Anyway, Mike Flanagan led the crux pitch and had trouble with gear. #2 was too small, #3.5 (Friend) was too big. He had to get creative. Moral of the story--bring at least 1, if not 2, # 3 Camalots or, maybe as someone suggested above, #3 Friends.
The stuck cam was gone as of yesterday.
We forgot to glean descent beta from the book before leaving the ground. There is a rap sling on the tree to the right of the summit. We rapped the overhanging face below, then scrambled over to the rap descent for Long John, which was like 3 or 4 more raps, with lots of sketch loose rock, etc. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Just climbed this route today. Climbed the fourth pitch without jamming, using only flakes, edges and stems, so if you're not into jamming it, don't despair, it's doable - use sharp holds and good body position. Descend CAREFULLY down gully and look for rap slings and rings on tree at right. Lower rope and rap to Pony Express rap station with much care, a lot of loose rock up there and a lot of climbers below... Fun route!
PLEASE DON'T RAP DOWN ONTO PONY EXPRESS. A walk-off, with a short easy down-climbing section, begins in the notch to the west of the summit and angles west. It's faster, and safer for everyone, if you use this.
By Stich From: Colorado Springs, Colorado Sep 8, 2004
Scott Conner and I climbed this route a week or so ago. Great climb! He showed me the excellent walkoff that keeps you on the same side of the ridge and deposits you a bit uphill of your pack. It took us less than 15 minutes to descend. Highly recommended.
We climbed this last Sunday and I have to say it is a great climb. We did it in three pitches linking pitches 2-3 and pitches 4-5. This worked out perfect with a 60M rope.
I felt pitch one was stout for 5.8.
The crux of pitch two proved hard to protect if you are too short to stem to the good holds. The cracks eats gear but if you can't let go to place it, it's not much good. At 6ft I was able to stem just fine.
The flake pitch we thought was wild! we had no large gear to protect so it proved to be pretty run out...
And finally the crux 5.10 pitch is simply awesome. The best jamming crack I have found in Eldo.
There is currently a fixed stopper at the top of the arching crack.
By Ron Olsen From: Boulder, CO Oct 22, 2004 rating: 5.10a6a18VI+18E1 5a
Warren Teissier writes: "I felt pitch one was stout for 5.8." Scott Conner writes: "P1 seemed stiff for its grade."
The 5.8 rating may have been true many years ago, but isn't now. In 1987, there used to be a breadbox-sized flake to the right of the crux hand crack; I pulled it off and took a short fall while leading the pitch. Without this flake, the move is a lot harder than 5.8; I'd call it solid 5.9+.
I like to place a #2 Camalot or #3 Friend low in the short hand crack and get a left-hand jam above the piece.
For me, this move is as hard (or harder) than the crux on pitch 4.
Does anyone know what the walk-off potential for this route is like if one goes EAST from the summit? Specifically, I like to link this up with the Yellow Spur sometime. Does that put you near the base of the Spur?
And I just thought P1 was the most sandbagged 5.8 I'd ever climbed. I definitely got a bit of a surprise when I reached the difficult section.
It's about the same level as the upper pitch though, so no real problems if you are a 5.10 climber, although my partner did fall on toprope! He probably wasn't expecting it either, since I didn't mention anything, but did make sure I wasn't belaying directly off my harness (as I do when I'm fairly confident my second won't fall).
By Ernie Port From: Boulder, Colorado Jun 20, 2005 rating: 5.10a6a18VI+18E1 5a
Stellar route with all kinds of interesting moves, and is appropriately named. My first time on it. Agree with Ron and Warren, in that P1 has a stout jam out from under a bulge that is more like (9+), but is easy to protect well. The start of P2 got my attention...launched up and stemmed out right to a big edge to start the business...this crack takes ~1" pro. Combining 2 & 3, we worked the outside edges of the giant flakes, lots of fun here...the #4 cam is nice to have at this point, but the climbing is moderate thru there and can get by without it.As Ron mentioned, save two #2 Camalots for the business on the upper P4 crack. Trying to place #3s that didn't quite fit pumped me out at that crux...not a place to fiddle with gear. Didn't feel a lot of exposure on this route, as your climbing off roomy ledges...felt most at start of P2. Worthy of time & effort... got to do this one again.
This route is not to be missed. Lots of crack climbing of all different sizes. Regarding the descent: the first tree with rap slings is very sketchy to get to and there are huge loose boulders all over the place-don't go there. Instead if one continues another 100' to the west there is a much bigger tree with rap anchors on it. One double rope rap will put you on the ground just west of the Pony Express area. Rapping from this tree is a good idea because you stay high thus avoiding most of the really loose stuff, the tree is bigger, and it is not directly above the most popular area of the West Ridge. Also, when I was down-climbing off the summit it looked like it would be very easy to get to the Redgarden trail from there. Has anyone done this? Just wondering.
By Rob Kepley From: Westminster,CO Sep 24, 2006 rating: 5.10a6a18VI+18E1 5a
What a classic climb! I can't believe I've been climbing at Eldo for 10+ years and have never done this one. Wow, I was missing out. The 4th pitch is outstanding. One of the top 5 pitches in Eldo in my book.
By Dpurf From: Superior Nov 23, 2006 rating: 5.9+5c17VI17E1 5a
Just did this route for the first time on Nov 22 2006. What a great climbing, and we missed the 2nd pitch, and it was still great. There was 3 of us, and all of us thought the crux pitch was easier than the crux of the 1st pitch. But we all love crack climbing. If your crack skill are up to date, then the 4th is no issue. I do have to say that # 3 WC Friends are the way to go on the 4th. BD #3 are too big for the crack and BD #2 are too small. Oh and you should link the 4th and 5th pitch together. Not sure about the 2nd and 3rd, because we missed the 2nd. As for the descent, from the top of the climb, down climb to the notch on the north. Once in the notch, you will see the gully. Start to go into the gully but keep to the rock face on the right. Keep to the right and head north. It is a very simple downclimb that will take you to the path. It is faster than the raps and easier to find. Plus, it is a hell of a lot safer for you and the people below. The gully is full of loose rock.
By M.Morley Administrator From: Sacramento, CA Mar 10, 2007
Fun route. After doing the route in 4 pitches (only linking 4&5) I would agree that doing it in 3 by linking 2&3, and 4&5 would be the way to go. You can also add a harder 1st pitch that goes at 10b/c called Chick on the Side. It spanked me pretty hard, but it pops you out on the ledge that Handcracker starts on.
By David Hodges From: Parker, Colorado Sep 10, 2007 rating: 5.10a6a18VI+18E1 5a
Probably should have read these comments BEFORE climbing this route. As I up climbed and down climbed the P1 bulge several times wondering why I couldn't figure it out since it's only 5.8. My partner said he found a hold out right (which I never found), while I slotted the crack with my left, stood up and made a fairly dynamic move to the jug at the lip, not recommended. Look right, or so my partner tells me. Stellar route!
We climbed this stellar route last weekend. I'd like to repeat all of the previous posts. I found the roof on P2 to be stiffer than P4. Pitch 4 is sustained, but I'm only 5'6" (on a good day) and I had no problem reaching up to the jug on P4. However, we blew it on the descent and headed down the looseness to the rap station, spilling scree on a party below (so sorry guys). It's a sketchy descent and I would certainly take the walk off next time, now that I know it exists.
By Merlin From: Grand Junction Apr 28, 2008 rating: 5.10a6a18VI+18E1 5a
For me, the cruxes were getting into the crack on pitch one and getting through the corner on pitch 2. The supposed crux itch seemed easy in comparison but it also made the climb. Fantastic stems, foot stacks, hand jams, and a fun lieback up to a jug made the last pitch a real classic crack for Eldo. It was much more fun than the crack on Blind Faith.
Wonderful route. Varied, interesting moves. Good pro. BETA WARNING.
I led first pitch and thought the bulge was maybe 8+. Key was decent left fingers (undercling or lieback an edge in crack? don't remember) move right foot up, and reach up and right for good edge with right hand.
Pitch 2 corner was a finger lieback low and tight hands above, made easier with decent stems. On linked pitch 3, I thought there were lots of dicey flakes and was glad I wasn't leading while deciding what to trust.
Crux pitch: what perfect, easy jams for biggish hands! But I kept getting decent stems and plugging too much gear because I didn't know if there would be more stances. (There are). When I reached the top roof, I was pumped and hung before cranking the good hand edges--not quite jugs. :) Damn. Next time!
So I thought the ratings were right: 8+, 9, 10a, and the crux was the crux because the pump snuck up on me.
Agree 3 pitches is best: 1, 2&3, and 4&5.
Strongly agree it's best to walk all the way off. Per Rossiter's book, we worked down to the notch, never saw an obvious rappel, but kept following the distinct path west, past a couple down climbs, easily to the trail. Don't know why anyone would hang on a rope instead.
By Paul Hunnicutt From: Boulder, CO Oct 5, 2008 rating: 5.10a6a18VI+18E1 5a
I'm giving this a 5.10a rating, but not for the crux on P4, but on P1...it felt hard. Maybe it is just 5.9+, but felt way harder than the upper crux. If you can hand jam well then the upper section will feel relatively straightforward, if not I can see it feeling 5.10.
I think 2 #2 Camalots are sufficient, though I also placed a #3 somewhere. You don't need Friends, Camalots fit just fine. Great jamming, but too bad that section isn't a full rope length...then it would be classic!
There are currently 3 stuck cams near the crux, all within a few feet of one another. 1 green Alien, 1 old #3 Camalot, and an older #3 sized cam that I didn't recognize. Crafty cleaners could probably get the #3 Camalot and green Alien.
There is an OLD #3 Camalot (dual stem) and a green Alien stuck right before the crux on pitch 4. The Camalot is pretty stuck and it looks like many people have tried to remove the Alien. A #2 Camalot will fit well above the old stuck #3.
By Guy H. From: Fort Collins CO Feb 28, 2010 rating: 5.10a6a18VI+18E1 5a
The crux pitch is basically a sport pitch now. There are 4 pieces of fixed gear. The old #3 has been replaced by a brand new #3 Camalot. It should come out with a little work.
Leave the #3 Camalots on the ground, and bring #3 Friends instead.
THIS CRACK GOBBLES UP #3 CAMALOTS! There are now two fixed #3s on the crux pitch of this climb. I was up there yesterday (april 8, 2010) and had to bail on a hopelessly overcammed #3 - I know booty is booty, but if anyone feels a random act of kindness coming on, the lower, shinier #3 on this pitch wants to come back to its master... email@example.com.
By slim Administrator Apr 10, 2010 rating: 5.95c17VI17HVS 5a
You mean 'apprentice', don't you(?)
By Top Rope Hero From: Was Estes Park, now homeless Apr 29, 2010 rating: 5.10-6a18VI+18E1 5a
No. He meant, "boy."
And whatever become of that shiney new pro, we'll none of us know. As of 4.28.10, there was but one hideously over-cammed #3 Camalot in the magic hand crack on P4--and it was one tired, decrepit unit. Skip it for full effect.
As others suggest, bring 2 #2s and place high, place judiciously. With some tape on your hands and perhaps a bit of surgical back-cleaning (or just bumping those 2s up a bit), the initiate 5.10 climber could do no wrong. Rest up. Be ready to jam. And the jugs will appear soon enough, young leader.
Lastly, don't avoid the P3 gruntfest up the fabulous flake. Protection is limited, inventive--but the exposed 5.8 juggy madness is a dream pitch and goes easily with the big of heart but without the big gear.
I did not find any 10a moves on this climb (but lots of 9). I had a good pump going in several locations, though. If you place gear efficiently on p4 it is not too hard. A very enjoyable climb with comfy belay ledges and excellent pro.
I cleaned the upper #3 Camalot today (it now looks like an aluminum dumpling). The lower one was elbow deep, but I managed to get it to near the lip. Someone with smaller hands needs to walk it sideways about 3 feet up the crack to remove it.
Reading the comments, I got all worked up worrying about if I needed triples or if I needed something between a BD #2 and #3. In actual fact, on the crux pitch, 1 green, 1 red, 2 gold Camalots sewed up the crack. One small purple Camalot up and right of the undercling made the exit left super safe. Great climb!