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Cactus Cliff
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Illegal Smile 

YDS: 5.11b French: 6c Ewbanks: 23 UIAA: VIII- British: E3 5c

Type:  Sport, 1 pitch, 80'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.11b French: 6c Ewbanks: 23 UIAA: VIII- British: E3 5c [details]
FA: Steve Cheney, Ric Geiman belayed, 1987
Page Views: 3,827
Submitted By: david goldstein on Mar 10, 2007
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Kevin Mclaughlin hanging out on his cable tendons ...


It seems that this good pitch doesn't get as much traffic as it merits because of a somewhat undeserved reputation as unsafe. Good rock, position and continuouness on the upper section.

Start in a left-facing corner, on the left side of the arete, just left of a wide, 20' high flake. Go up easily for a couple of bolts, then move right and gain the arete (crux). Follow enjoyable climbing on the right side of the arete to the anchors.

There is some cause for concern that a fall around the 4th and 5th bolts could land you on the flake. Since the harder moves in this section are by the bolts, this hazard shouldn't come in to play though the belayer should pay close attention and minimize slack through this section.


This is on a prominent, left-facing arete at the left end of Cactus.


11 bolts.

Photos of Illegal Smile Slideshow Add Photo
Illegal Smile.
Illegal Smile.
Pascal - up high on the OS of Illegal Smile.
BETA PHOTO: Pascal - up high on the OS of Illegal Smile.
Using key pockets, Steve Davis moving out onto the arete.
BETA PHOTO: Using key pockets, Steve Davis moving out onto the...
Steve Davis on the easier start - the real climbing begins around the 3rd draw above the detached block behind him.
BETA PHOTO: Steve Davis on the easier start - the real climbin...
Steve Davis skillfully negotiating the arete.
BETA PHOTO: Steve Davis skillfully negotiating the arete.
Comments on Illegal Smile Add Comment
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By Joey Wolfe
Jan 25, 2008

"Illegal Smile" is a song by John Prine, check it out. I guess the FA was a fan.

By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Dec 22, 2010
rating: 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ E3 5c

I didn't feel any reason for concern around the 4th-5th bolt and the ledge. Felt safe to me and I'm 6'5" with a light belayer, FWIW.

By Rick Thompson
From: Mount Nebbiolo, CO
Feb 24, 2012

Keep in mind, this route was completely rebolted in 2005 (or so), and much of danger in the clips that previously would have landed you on the ledge was removed. The direct start was added at that time. The original gear was complete garbage, including the top anchor which consisted of one split shaft bolt (circa 1980s) and a drilled pin, which I wiggled out with my fingers. Talk about scary! In addition, about 200 lbs of loose rock was cleaned off the route. The result is a pristine, clean, and safe route, one that IMO is one of the best of the grade at Shelf.

By ricgeiman
Jan 19, 2013

For the record, this was Steve Cheney's route. I was belayer and second ascent. Yup, John Prine inspired.

By Ben Hall
From: Boulder, Colorado
Feb 14, 2013

Onsight! Classic route! A little bit exposed but great climbing on manageable crimps!