|Big Rock Candy Mountain
This route was established over the course of eight days during the summer/early fall of 1991. The name comes from our encounter with lightning during our first attempt at climbing the entire route in one push. As others have mentioned, being on the upper flanks of Big Rock during a full on South Platte electrical storm can be one of the scariest things you’ll ever experience. Keep in mind that due to the orientation of the wall, you can’t see any approaching storms until they are right on top of you.
The climb follows crack systems for most of its 700’ length, finishing with a spectacular headwall pitch. Shock Treatment has a little bit of everything – cracks of all sizes, a huge roof, arête moves, classic South Platte face climbing with a little loose rock and vegetation thrown in for good measure. All but two of the belays are equipped with two 3/8” bolts and overall the protection is pretty good, especially at the cruxes. Since the first half of the route parallels the steep hillside, it is possible to rappel to the ground with a single 60 meter rope from the 5th belay. In comparison to Childhood’s End (the only other route I’ve done on Big Rock), I’d describe the climbing as more sustained without the big run outs. This is one of the wildest and hardest routes that Kevin and I have ever done together – it took everything we had to complete it. The climbing is varied and interesting with some great exposure, hopefully some of you will venture up there and put those 30+ bolts to use! One last note – even though there is 5.12+ climbing on the route, the crux is only about 15’ long and can be easily yarded past using the fixed pins if need be. This method makes for a pretty sweet 5.11+ A1 climb.
Approach: from where summit rappels are, head down the steep hill on the NE side of the rock. Scramble down 3rd class slabs staying out away from the base of the cliff 100 feet or so (don’t go down the gully right at the base of the cliff). Continue down until you find the obvious left leaning clean dihedral.
P1 – Climb a short, wide crack that deposits you on a spacious ledge below the dihedral proper. 30’, 5.8.
P2 – This is the business, climb the left-leaning dihedral. A few hand jams give way to sustained fingers and stemming , eventually pinching down to a seam near the top. Pass 3 or 4 fixed pins through the crux of the climb and belay at the anchor on your right. 80’ 5.12+.
P3 - Step out left and head up the vegetated crack above. After about 20’ the quality improves, continue up the gradually thinning crack until you reach the belay at a small ledge. 100’, 5.10.
P4 – Continue up the meandering finger crack passing a couple bolts along the way, belay above the bush. 100’ 5.10+.
P5 – “The Pterodactyl Traverse” Climb straight left for about 50’ across the exposed horizontal crack system. Set a couple bomber big cams here, then climb up the steep flake/arête that forms the left side of the crack above. A few exciting moves up the flake and you finally get some more gear (#1 TCU or similar). Continue left behind the giant pterodactyl head to a nice belay stance below the big roof. 100’, 5.9+ PG13.
P6 – Face climb past a bolt and continue up the 4” wide crack angling rightward out the big roof. After the overhang, the crack system turns into a chimney which has some loose rock in the lower section. The rock gets better the higher you go and there is pro to be found using cracks in the back & sides of the chimney. Near the top of the chimney follow an obvious left angling exit crack to a hanging belay at the base of the summit headwall. 130’, 5.11+.
P7 – Climb the face above past 14 bolts to the top of Big Rock. This is a sustained rope stretching pitch, one of the best I have done in the Platte. 165’, 5.11+. (If you happen to top out on one of the other routes and still want more, you can lower down this pitch and give it a go on TR)
Descent: same as for Childhood's End.
Double set of cams, from TCUs thru #4 Friend size as well as one #4 Camalot. Maybe even triples for finger & hand sizes. Full set of wires and some RPs or other micro nuts. Approximately 17 runners to include plenty of longer ones to reduce rope drag on the traverse pitch and the roof pitch.
|By John McNamee|
From: Littleton, CO
Feb 16, 2008
Thanks for the great description and bit of history.
|By Rob Dillon|
Feb 17, 2008
Awesome. Thanks for all the work and letting us know about it!
|By Brent Kertzman|
From: Black Hills, SD
Feb 17, 2008
It has been a long time. To me it brings great validity to a route description when one of the first ascentionists posts the route. Great job.
|By Kevin McLaughlin|
From: Colorado Springs
Apr 2, 2008
On our try for a single push day we were in the middle of the roof/ chimney pitch,Glenn above it at the base of the headwall, me suffering across the roof then stuffing myself into the chimney slot. Poor Glenn- watched as lightning shot all across the sky and water cascaded down the wall above. Next thing I knew I woke up spinning on the rope at the mouth of the chimney, stunned by the swirling view I got back on the rock and started up the slot to Glenn, I smelled a burnt electrical kind of scent as I climbed , finally I could see Glenn out in the rain and I shouted that I thought I may have been hit by lightning and been knocked out...... he stared at me with literal FIRE in his eyes and said " YOU-- I GOT IT RIGHT HERE!!!! Grabbing his crotch!!! Needless to say , the boys rapped into the slot shaken badly. Slamming our biggest cams, we rapped the single line to the deck ....... and ran. At the truck ,we then SLAMMED OUR BOTTLE of victory champagne (we had planned to be heroes, not the two trembling pups that we now were),all the beer, smoked everything in sight , and drove home. That is how SHOCK TREATMENT got its name. Cheers .
Mar 3, 2010
Great description, and "EDIT POST".
|By Drew Thayer|
From: Durango, CO
May 9, 2011
Climbed May 8th, 2011 with Noah Gostout.
Thanks for putting up a hard route on a proud wall, guys! We were looking for adventure, and man did we get it. This route is sustained and heads-up the whole way, with some quite interesting climbing. I'm pretty sure this route sees little traffic, thus the ample vegetation and a ton of friable rock. I broke many footholds (and some large handholds) on the 3rd-4th pitch, which contributed to the constant tingling sensation in my pants and several big wingers.
No bolts after 1st "5.8" pitch, you can sling a bomber horn with a 10-ft cordolette for an anchor.
Beginning of the third pitch has serious dirt and vegetation, I made several committing moves to small plants (!!!). Also rock quality is real heads-up. 3rd and 4th pitches link with a 60m and make one awesome, attention-grabbing pitch.
The pterodactyl traverse is friggin' awesome, although the leader is exposed to a very serious fall without big gear- #6 Camalot or equivalent Bigbro.
I lead 5.11 and 5.12- trad in the Platte; the 4-inch roof crack into a flared slot on pitch 6 is 5.12 if you don't have real big hands. Slick and crumbling rock add to overall desperation. We had one #4 Camalot; I wanted a second #4 or even a #5. Also, the leader needs to take extreme caution in the chimney, one side is loose and I knocked a lot of rocks down at my belayer.
Last pitch is stellar- I guess you're either comfortable with South Platte crystal crimping or you're not, and this guy separates the men from the boys.
Gear: small and large offset stoppers; blue, green, and yellow Alien; doubles 0.3 - #3 Camalot, one #4 Camalot; also wanted #5 Camalot and 6-7" Bigbro. 17 runners, including one double length.
Stoppers place very well here, so triple finger cams only if you're going to link pitches 3-4 (recommended).
This is one committing and adventurous route! I may never climb it again but sure glad I did once.
|By noah gostout|
May 9, 2011
Climbed it with Drew, and just wanted to add that a triple rack is not necessary except for what Drew mentions, and you will most certainly need large gear for the traverse pitch and 6th pitch. The end of the traverse pitch has a moderate but exposed off width/lieback that is unprotectable unless you have the big stuff I think it would fit a #6 Camalot very nicely (I found a 0.3 Camalot placement that was mostly for my sanity at the time, it would likely have blown). I’m a fairly sizable guy, and the 6th pitch was still very hard for its grade, it felt every bit of a 5.12 to me. You’ll want two #4 Camalots and a #5 to protect it safely. The chimney that follows is very chossy!
Final thoughts: interesting route, the final pitch is very spooky, the second pitch is hard, very hard. If you plan on climbing this, be prepared, it's the South Platte, 12+ is debatable!
|By Glenn Schuler|
From: Monument, Co.
May 13, 2011
Nice job, Drew and Noah! Thanks for sharing, your route description just had me reliving our adventure from my office chair. Made my palms sweat just thinking about it. Congrats!
|By Kevin McLaughlin|
From: Colorado Springs
May 13, 2011
Drew, Noah, Yowsa! Congrats on your adventure!!!!! This route does indeed require all of your climbing skills. In my opinion, this is the hardest, most continuous multi-pitch route in the South Platte. To my knowledge, your ascent is only the third time this has been climbed. I hope more folks will jump this route soon. A real time, full tilt adventure awaits anyone that does. Congrats again - you two are in a small club. Hats off to you, guys.
Apr 18, 2012
I did this route in 1996 after Kevin talked me into it in a climbing store. I would put the offwidth pitch closer to 10+. It was much easier than hard offwidths like For Turkeys Only (11+) or Squat (12-). That's not to say it's easy, and those less versed in fat cracks could find it harder or at least more strenuous than the delicate 5.12 stemming of the second pitch. But in comparison to offwidth grades, it's probably a little easier than advertised.
All the same, great route.