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After staring at this face for decades, Tomas and I decided to give a go in the late winter. The first two pitches turned out to be surprisingly good, but unfortunately the final pitch was a nightmare of poor quality rock and less-than-ideal protection, forcing us to aid a short section of crack and short bolt ladder. The route does stand as the only route that gains the summit of the Grand Orcaface without climbing the original Parker finish (shallow drilled holes that someone should fill with bolts).
Pitch 1: Climb the obvious, flaring corner that leads to the two-level tower. The crux requires small cams (.4 and .5) to pass a short stretch of tips liebacks (5.10+). Continue past the towers, shifting left below a small roof, to a two-bolt belay on the Fort Apache Limestone band.
Pitch 2: Climb the nice dihedral above, which ranges in size from off width to tiny (.35 cam needed). A short deviation to the right bypasses a bit of poor rock (5.10). Belay at a two-bolt belay at the top of the dihedral.
Pitch 3: The nastiness begins- face climb on poor-quality rock to the ledge 10 feet higher and to the right (5.9- adequately protected by the upper belay bolt, but still scary). Traverse the ledge 25 ft. right to the obvious bulging hand-sized crack. Aid a few moves (or free climb if you've got the guns!) until the crack bends right and deteriorates. Follow a three-bolt ladder upward to meet the overhanging offwidth above (note: the third bolt drilled very poorly in soft rock, and should be used carefully for aid or replaced with a larger-diameter bolt for soft rock). We aided the first few moves of the offwidth, until the angle eases and some 5.9 thrashing gains the summit. We felt it was truly unfortunate that the final pitch was so poor in quality after the outstanding first two pitches. It is possible that a higher-quality final pitch could be found, perhaps to the left, that would turn the South Face into a classic.
The typical Sedona rack- everything from the widest cams to the tiniest (.4, .35).
BETA PHOTO: Details on the lower section of the climb.
Tomas stemming between the two-level towers on the...
Tomas turning the limestone band just below the fi...
Tomas following the wide bulge at the beginning of...
Tomas leading the scary face climbing at the begin...
Tomas nearing the summit on the wide crack that fi...