King of the Mountain is named in memory of Richard's good friend and climbing partner, Alan Nelson. Richard spied the upper portion of the route and we managed to connect it to two pitches coming off the ground that were completed last year. This is the longest continuous route at Empire taking a fairly direct line up the center of The Halidome in 6 pitches. The route can be done nicely at the 5.11 level by aiding through the short crux on pitch 4. The start of KM is shared with Cat Tracks, going straight up where Cat Tracks cuts right. Gear is required on P2 and P3.
Pitch 1: 5.10d, 10 bolts, 2-bolt anchor, 80'. Start as for Cat Tracks to a big ledge. Climb straight up a clean wall (tricky, mantle-like crux) and then up through a small overhang near the top.
P2: 5.10c, 9 bolts plus gear, 2-bolt anchor, 110'. Clip 2 bolts on the way to an arete with a thin crack. Place gear here, defy logic (crux), and move through about 30' of trad climbing. From there, 70' of bolted face climbing takes you to a big ledge below a steep corner and arete.
P3: 5.11b, 12 bolts plus gear, 3-bolt anchor, 110'. Climb good stone up a face and arete past 4 bolts (crux). After bolt 5 cut straight right and pick your way up mixed terrain (small cams) to a final seam in a shallow corner (big cam to start) on great stone (.10+). The belay is after the steep stuff on a ledge at the base of a beautiful slab.
P4: 5.13a, 10 bolts, 3-bolt anchor, 75'. Perfect stone. This pitch can be done at 5.10a, C-0 if desired...or...engage your mad stemming skills and inch your way up the steep, obtuse dihedral. Start by climbing a 40' slab (5.9) up to the crux corner, followed by 20' of .10a to a nice ledge.
P5: 5.11c, 14 bolts, 2-bolt anchor, 120'. A good and adventurous pitch. Climb the steep corner directly above the belay (.10c) for 40' to a slab. Cut straight left and then up a tottery face (.11a) aiming for a short arete. Pull right around the arete (.11b) and rest under a small roof. Crank into a flake above the roof and decipher a tricky crux. Directly above is a 3-bolt rap anchor--don't belay here. Move 15' left to a 2-bolt anchor on a ledge.
P6: 5.11a, 10 bolts, 2-bolt anchor, 80'. A nice face finishes the route with crux coming about 30' up. Lower back to the belay.
Descent: Rap the route. When rapping P5 move 15' down and right to the chain anchor. Rapping P3 can also connect to The Catwalk by angling right.
Crux pitch: The crux moves are body dependent (leg length and some flexibility) and many of the handholds are initially invisible. The 20' of crux climbing is done in no fewer than 40 micro moves and, luckily for me, require very little hand strength--you might not even be pumped at the end--making me wonder whether it's truly all that hard. But, unless you're a master stemmer (I'm not) I think this pitch will be pretty hard to onsight, though it seems to get much easier with each attempt. Perhaps it's best to give a range of ratings for this pitch --.12++ to .13 minus --in order to cover varying body types...
Catwalk Variation/Link-up: .10a, 13 bolts, 100'. It is also possible to access the upper half of the route from the far left end of The Catwalk with this one pitch link-up, joining KM at pitch 4. Behind the EIH and left of Loosey in the Sky (directly above the end of Cat Tracks), is a line of bolts up a face and shallow corner. Climb up 40', move 20' left to another corner then up good rock to a slab. Move 15' left to belay.
The 'Central Sector' at the base of The Halidome. Start is shared with Cat Tracks.
Variation/Link-up starts at the far left end of The Catwalk.
About 18 draws + gear. RPs and small cams to 2" plus one large cam (blue Camalot, 4"). 70 meter rope.
|By Darren Mabe|
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Sep 24, 2008
Damn fellas...good work! I am really gonna have to check this place out!
|By Richard M. Wright|
From: Lakewood, CO
Oct 20, 2008
King of the Mountain, a moment of reflection. KM is really Mark's route through and through. I had originally picked out the line from the Catwalk and had intended it as a memorial to Alan Nelson. If it would go, it would be the longest and possibly most challenging line at Empire. While this indeed turned out to be true, it is due entirely to Mark's effort to get KM installed. Nonetheless, with Mark's gracious consent, we have kept the name as planned where it can serve in tribute to Alan, a long, difficult, and inspiring route that incidently consumed more effort and expense than any other route at Empire.
My own view of the pitches runs largely in confirmation of Mark's description. P1 is a clean, bullet-proof 5.10 pitch with most of its crux sequences followed by good rest. There is a flake to keep an eye on a bit right of the climbing that can be used for a good chill, just don't pull out on it.
P2 can be done the hard way or the easy way. The trad climber is likely to start up the hard way !!! The initial gear is straight forward enough, but it will be a bit more challenging to place gear before reaching a thank god jug at 40ft. Think easier.
P3 runs as Mark describes. The mid section is a bit dirty still, but nothing significant. The moves up the arete are pretty nifty, powerful, and arise on great stone.
P4 is the meat. A deceptively simple start shifts into high gear instantly once the open book dihedral is gained. The "dihedral" is actually climbed more like a "trihedral" by stemming far left into the third plane. The climbing is intricate, powerful, and requires intense core movement between each foot placement. I do not think anyone less than six feet tall will have much chance of working the stems, and little other choices seemed to arise. The rock is perfect, the pro well placed, and the climbing great, if you can pull it off. At 5'8" I was unable to work the stems beyond the start, but it can be aided and this rescues the the rest of the climbing for all of the height challenged. Props to Mark for pulling it off whilst running from the pending thunder and lightning that accompanied us on red point day.
P5 is also difficult, but a full number grade easier. Great initial climbing at 5.10 yields up a hard roof sequence blow the anchor. My estimate is 5.11d/12a unless, again, you are tall. Overall a good pitch that still benefits from a small amount of brushing.
P6 should have been a gorgeous finish. The pitch is fine, has good climbing, but wanders a bit to avoid some hollow rock. Comfort beta: the third clip will seem super necky if done straight up. Instead, cut right after the second clip and look for a key incut for the right hand, the subsequent stand up and clip will seem much less stressful.
Overall KM is a terrific climb. I don't know what Alan would think, but my guess is that he would not be disappointed.
|By Tony B|
From: Around Boulder, CO
Aug 24, 2009
If you are just looking to get a few extra pitches in, then from the base you can head up 2 pitches on this (even linked) and keep it in the 5.10 range then rap down.
|By j wharton|
Jul 27, 2014
The crux pitch of this route is short, but very cool, and with excellent rock. For those of you like me with little-to-no flexibility there is an option to come in from the left at the second bolt of the crux dihedral via a technical gaston boulder problem...maybe V7ish. Then it's possible to "power-back" on rounded crimps to better holds. Zero stemming on the pitch this way, but fingers definitely required. Thanks for the nice route!
|By Richard M. Wright|
From: Lakewood, CO
Jul 28, 2014
Nice find, Josh. I'm 5'8" and Mark is 6'1", so trying KM by stemming his way reaches a point where no matter how stretched I get my legs simply come off. We tried to locate some tiny fingers in the dihedral, but there is not much there. We never tried coming in from the left. It probably runs out a little, but a fall shouldn't cause you to hit anything. Cool solution.