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The Saber
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Kor Route T 
Pocketknife, The T 
Razor's Edge T 
Southeast Corner T 
Southwest Corner T 

Southwest Corner 

YDS: 5.10a French: 6a Ewbanks: 18 UIAA: VI+ ZA: 18 British: E1 5a

   
Type:  Trad, Alpine, 8 pitches
Consensus:  YDS: 5.10a/b French: 6a+ Ewbanks: 19 UIAA: VI+ ZA: 19 British: E2 5b [details]
FA: Not sure
Page Views: 12,029
Submitted By: Joe Keyser on Sep 1, 2001

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Following Pitch 4 on the SW Corner of the Saber

Description 

The Southwest Corner goes up the obvious, sharp arete/corner on the Saber, and runs parallel to the South Face route on the Petit Grepon. Follow the approach for the Petit, and start about 100 yards right of the South Face route. There are actually a lot of different ways you could start the route, so, just pick a decent looking line, and aim for a big ledge about (at least) 400 feet up. The guide book calls this section fifth class, I dont know about that, but, it's easy enough that you can mostly simul-climb. Either way, move fast since this is a really long route. Continue up to a broad ledge with an obvious, wicked-looking, left-facing dihedral. The dihedral is the crux first pitch of the Kor Route (5.8+)....

Pitch one, the crux, starts on face, moves in a thin left facing corner about ten feet to the left of the Kor Route's first pitch. My partner, Dave, placed an RP in the corner, moved left and up a few feet, then continued up steep face moves to a nice 3 foot ledge, out on the corner about 150 feet up. From here, the route finding is more difficult. However, continue up the corner systems on the arete for about 7 more pitches of mostly 5.9 climbing. Staying pretty much out on the corner. There is some really cool exposure on this part of the route, but also some death blocks, so be very careful! The top of the route is at a block with some slings, which is where the rappel route starts.

Per Dan G0D5H411:

Pitch 1,2 (4th Class to 5.8?): Supposed fourth class climbing takes you 400 feet up the green-tinted base of the formation. Perhaps there IS a 4th class route but we ended up doing this in 2 pitches due to the blocky (scary 5.7) roofs we pulled on each pitch. End on the obvious, large ledge about 10 feet to the right of a ramp that angles up and left towards the arete.

Pitch 3 (5.10): The money pitch. The crux pitch starts 10 feet left of a left-facing dihedral (start of Kor Route, I believe.) Angle up and left on blocky holds towards a bottomless, left-facing dihedral about 25 feet up. I was able to place 3 bomber cams before the dihedral. Sustained climbing for ~80 feet deposits you below an improbable looking crack directly on the face above. Traverse 10 feet left here to a spacious belay ledge.

Pitch 4 (5.8): Take the left-facing dihedral above to a roomy belay on top the block pillar.

Pitch 5 (5.8/5.9): We traversed 15 feet straight left from the belay, then up and slightly back right via a thin seam to get to the base of the wide, left-facing dihedral. It also seemed possible to head straight up from the belay and traverse slightly left and up to reach the bottom of the dihedral. Grunt or finesse your way up the dihedral to a comfortable belay on the right.

Pitch 6: (5.8/5.9): The exposure pitch. Head up 15 feet on unprotected but easy ground until you can traverse left underneath a small overlap on red-ish colored rock. Step around the arete and head up the left-facing dihedral. We ended up following purple to pink to the green belay in the beta photo I posted.

Pitch 7 (5.8/5.9): Continue up one of the many finish options. We ended up traversing furth left on green past a couple scary blocks and up a fun but lichen covered dihedral.

Pitch 8 (5.easy): A short scramble up the blocky top to get on the spire summit proper. A giant slung flake and a smaller, slung horn at the back of the summit singnal the start of the raps.

Protection 

Cams up to #4 (doubles on about 1,2,3), stoppers and RPs. Two 60 meter ropes for the rappels.


Photos of Southwest Corner Slideshow Add Photo
There are many variations at the top.  We ended up taking purple to pink to green.  The green finish had its share of "dubious" blocks although the top dihedral was a lot of fun.  The leftward, rising traverse at the start of purple was fantastic with amazing exposure!
BETA PHOTO: There are many variations at the top. We ended up...
Petit on the left, Saber in the center and the Foil on the right.
Petit on the left, Saber in the center and the Foi...
About to reach the first belay.
About to reach the first belay.
Leading P3 with Petite climbers in the backround.
Leading P3 with Petite climbers in the backround.
Frosty linking the middle pitches.
Frosty linking the middle pitches.
Andrew Klein following about half way up the crux pitch of the SW corner (5.10a) of the Saber.
Andrew Klein following about half way up the crux ...
Justin on pitch 5, almost into the big corner.
Justin on pitch 5, almost into the big corner.
Andrew Klein following the classic upper dihedrals (5.9) on the SW corner of the Saber (5.10a).
Andrew Klein following the classic upper dihedrals...
Alternatives on the upper pitches of the SW Corner. The purple line is the money. The pink variation is another way I've climbed it. The red line is Guy H's line.  <br /> <br />One warning is that I've taken a variation at the beginning of pitch 4 by heading up a 30 ft runout and traversing above a roof across at an overlap. It's exquisite exposure this way.
BETA PHOTO: Alternatives on the upper pitches of the SW Corner...
Tony Bubb (in blue) finishing the beautiful corner on The Sabre. Sweet exposure!
Tony Bubb (in blue) finishing the beautiful corner...
Top of the crux pitch.
Top of the crux pitch.
High Res of the first 3 pitches... <br /> <br />The 3rd pitch had a few gripping 5.10 moves as you link thin cracks moving right from the arete back to the large LF dihedral.  I thought this pitch was harder than the "crux" pitch.
High Res of the first 3 pitches... The 3rd pitch ...
Awesome exposure on the Southwest Corner.
Awesome exposure on the Southwest Corner.
A high res picture of the upper 2 pitches and the route that we took.  There appears to be many variations.  Has anyone climbed the first dihedral to the left of the arete?  The protection looked a little thin in that direction.
A high res picture of the upper 2 pitches and the ...
Carl and Justin atop pitch 4, great perch.
Carl and Justin atop pitch 4, great perch.
SW Corner.
SW Corner.
Unknown party on the Southwest Corner from the Petit.
Unknown party on the Southwest Corner from the Pet...

Comments on Southwest Corner Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 30, 2014
By Frank Stock
Jan 15, 2002

This is a way good route, with a lot of good climbing at 5.9 grade. The crux feels plenty harder than 10a, pretty sustained and steep. It protects well when it gets hard, but don't fall the first 20 feet or so in the crux pitch. Anyone who is capable of climbing this route should feel comfortable simulclimbing up to the starting ledge. If you did the start with three pitches of belayed climbing, then you are in for a really long day (and you are probably should consider doing the Kor Route which is not bad either).

Beware the Rossiter guide. The written text and the topo didn't seem to match well. The written text made a lot more sense to me than the topo.

The summit situation is what makes this route (and the neighboring Kor route) a lot longer outing than the Petit. You have to summit the Saber proper, get down a saddle by rapping or lowering, summit a second spire, and then down climb an upclimb the final headwall. I guess you can rap off the top of the first tower with two ropes, but we chose to hit the highest summit. I think you also could rap the gully between Kor Route and the Foil as there is a ton of tat in there, but it isn't really appealing unless weather or something dictated it necessary.

Pound for pound this is a great route- most climbing is on par with the 5.9 pitch of The Direct South Ridge on Notchtop. Once you dispatch the beginning pitches, you get 5 steep, clean, sustained pitches in a row. Good stuff.
By Joe Keyser
From: Scottsdale, AZ
Jan 16, 2002

Based on Frank's comments, I'd say that we rapped off the "top of the first tower with two ropes", to the climber's right. This goes right back to your pack in about 5-6? long raps on established anchors. Be careful about your knot/check the pull, etc.., if you go this way. My guess is that this is the fastest way off after the steep stuff. There aren't many retreat options on the route either (not that we saw), so plan accordingly. For me, a long route... Definitely memorable and fun however!
By Dan St. John
From: Castle Rock
Aug 5, 2002

The 10a crux was very sustained. I did not lead this pitch, and thank God. Julian Smith did a good job. If you place enough 5.9 and 5.10a moves with out stance in a row, does the rout deserve an upgrade? At the time I was feeling ready to move into the harder 10 grads, untill I was push to my climbing limit by this 10a.
By Charles Vernon
From: Tucson, AZ
Jun 29, 2003

Great route--very steep and dramatic. We used Rossiter's topo, which seemed way off on the 2nd pitch (counting from the big ledge). The topo and description tell you to angle up left into some large roofs. Looked dicey and improbable, so we took the obvious corner straight up, which is very moderate, and takes you where you need to go. Pitches 3 and 4 are real gems--vertical, exciting traverses, steep corners, big air, etc. The last pitch to the summit ridge is a bit confusing--most people I've talked to including us end up on harder than 5.7.

The crux pitch is a hard lead for .10a (I followed it), but I don't think it's a sandbag. Getting into the crux corner is tricky, and then you have about 40 feet or more where every move is either .9 or .10a, however, there are rests and good stems if you work for them. The climbing is devious, the pro a little thought-provoking, and the climbing excellent through this section, which is out of character with the rest of the route (i.e., significantly harder and more sustained). Does anybody know if it's possible to climb a 5.9 pitch around to the west and avoid the crux pitch, as the old Gillete guide indicates?
By Ken Leiden
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 16, 2004
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b

We had a long day on this one, underestimating how much the route finding would contribute to the total time. Great position and cool views of climbers on the upper half of the Petit. Appreciated the comment from Charles about 1st pitch being out of character with the rest of the route.

Re: the Rossiter topo/description, most of the pitches are in the 100-120 ft range rather than 150 ft. Pitch 1 shows to diagnol left to the belay from the dihedral. Climbing is sketchy this way, better to climb up until even with the belay ledge before traversing over. Pitch 2 we did as Charles suggested. Pitch 3 the topo is right, but the written desciption mentions a roof prior to reaching the big corner, but there isn't one. The topo for pitch 4 shows the route climbing the corner of the south and west faces. There are at least 3 dihedrals to choose from at this point. I picked the middle one initially since the gear looked best and switched left or right as needed. Big exposure here, but the rock is so featured that it didn't feel intimidating.For the last pitch, we climbed a 20 ft headwall with a finger crack. It didn't look too bad at first, but turned out to be hard 5.10 since the wall was slightly overhanging. In hindsight, we should have traversed right around this whole feature.

We couldn't find the first rap anchors, but we could see the 2nd rap anchors from the 25 ft notch in the summit ridge so we knew what to aim for. The rest of the rap anchors are in good shape.
By justin dubois
From: Estes Park
Aug 16, 2004

In June sometime my partner ct rumble(maybe you've heard of him) and I had a real hard time finding anchors on top, and I had rapped off a few years earlier so was real confused. After finding a shady anchor just east and below the summit we backed it up and rapped to the grassy ledge/2nd anchor. Upon which we found, resting on the ledge, the FIRST RAP ANCHOR!!! sketch! It was a loop of webbing that had either blown off, or the block it was around failed. FUN TIME.
By Charles Vernon
From: Tucson, AZ
Aug 17, 2004

Justin,

Check out my comments under the Saber rock page. Someone set up that anchor as a death trap last year--that's how we found it when we got to the top. We rearranged it and it was acceptable though certainly not great, but it doesn't surprise me that it blew off!
By Anonymous Coward
Aug 1, 2005

[Descent] info: (Weather permitting) From the last bit of real climbing it is three scary and exposed pitches of scrambling up the ridge to the true summit, including a short down-lead into the notch on sketchy rock. Do not rappel into the [gully] to the east unless you are up for about nine sketchy rappels off of horns and suspect blocks. The best way is to leave packs and extra gear just above the lakes on some ledges to the east of the Saber. From the summit you can [downscramble] or rappel to the northwest into the other drainage below the Shark's Tooth and then traverse East through the talus to a sweet [gully] right above your pack. A few easy and not too scary rappels (and an awesome station off of a jambed chock-stone) and some down-climbing will bring you right back to your pack. I agree that the topo and pictures in the Rossiter and [Gillett] books are B.S. when it comes to the Saber. That's what makes it so exciting. You won't find a lot of chalk on the Saber, but you might score a lot of retreat bootie if you make it to the summit. Andale pues!!!
By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Jun 6, 2006
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b PG13

The first rap anchor at the top of the first summit (spire proper) has been refurbished. It was 2 stoppers 2" apart with a single bent-gate on them. This is where the topo shows slings. I put a new sling around the summit and fixed this to the stoppers and put on a new 3/8" Mallion Rapide (8,800 lb.-tested).
The first rap is ~110' to a good anchor. (Est. we used a 70m, which had length to spare.)
The second rap is ~100 to a 'not so comforting' anchor. (Est. w/70m)
The third rap is ~150' over the edge into space and down to a ledge...
The next two raps can be combined with 60 or 70m ropes, skipping a not-so-inspiring anchor at the end of the gully with loose rocks to pull down when you pull your rope- so stay on the E-facing wall and skip the one at the back of the gully with the long 'leash' on it.
After that, you rap to the ground on double ropes again.

The approach is snowy up top, and hard in the AM, but soft enough to slide out in the PM. Cathedral Spires are 'in season.'

We also combined a lot of pitches and did the route in 4 pitches after the simul-climbing. It would have gone in three 70m pitches had we taken double ropes (instead of 8mm twins) to reduce drag.
By Ken Leiden
From: Boulder, CO
Dec 5, 2006
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b

I was just looking at the spectacular beta photo of the Pocketknife, which lies to the climber's left of the SW Corner. I think that the big dihedral with the wide crack on the right edge of the photo is part of the SW Corner -- if my memory is right, this is the pitch after the crux pitch. What a great angle -- too bad there were no climbers on it when the photo was taken.

Roy Leggett and Trey North on the third pitch of The Pocketknife. The Pocketknife flake is where the belayer is sitting.
Roy Leggett and Trey North on the third pitch of The Pocketknife. The Pocketknife flake is where the belayer is sitting.
By claramie
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 29, 2008

Great route! Simul the first 350 - 400` to the ledge. 4 pitches from there if you stretch to rope's end on doubles (or 5 using normal belay points). Despite what I read here, the raps were easy and straightforward, with solid anchors. Rope got stuck once and that could be an issue depending on your luck.

I didn't get any gear until about 25 feet into the crux pitch. Don't blow it cuz you will hit the ledge really hard and will likely need to be rescued. In response to Dan's question, if there are a lot of 5.10 moves in a row does it change the grade?, yeah sandbagged 10a ;)

12 hours car to car moving pretty quickly all day. Pretty happy with that!

CL
By Chris. T.
From: Longmont, Co.
Jul 20, 2009

Belay beta for the top of Pitch 3:

From my experience, when finishing the wide crack section at the end of pitch 3, it is better to set up the belay left on a small shelf(instead of the top of the pillar to the right). This will make the transition around the corner for the next pitch much easier (less rope drag) (no downclimbing) (an extra 15 feet of rope to stretch out the next pitch).

This route is extremely good. The ridge to the summit sucks (loose!), but is worth the trip at least once.
By Pete Fox
From: Boulder, co
Jul 12, 2010
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

Climbed the SW Corner 7/10/10 for my second ascent of the Saber. I had done the upper pitches of the SW Corner back in 2000 but skipped the first 2 pitches by beginning on the Kor route pitch one and climbing a pitch of 5.6 to intersect pitch 3 on the SW Corner.

I realized that I've done an alternate start to pitch 4 on both ascents by climbing straight above of the belay for 30 ft to an undercling roof and then traversing left along this roof to the fantastic arete/corner for a long pitch. It is run out with no gear until the traverse left but the exposure is exquisite. Anyone else tried it this way? I should learn to read a topo.

The raps were in great condition but you may want to bring a couple quick links to back up singles on rappels #3 and #4.
By 303scott
Jul 19, 2010

We belayed on the top of the pillar for pitch 3. From there, I climbed straight up 20 feet of unprotected but easy face to an undercling and traversed straight left around the corner. Very exposed, well protected (after the initial portion) and highly recommended. We followed the purple variation about halfway and then got off route, but the climbing was stellar.

Also, while I may have traversed too far left and gotten into some of Snively-Harlin, the first 3-400 feet are definitely not class 4. I ran into a couple of roofs and had heinous rope drag. There were short sections of at least .7 or .8 and the last right-facing dihedral up to the ledge was steep, loose, licheny, and more thoughtful than 5.easy. Our plan was to simulclimb, but we did two long pitches instead.

Regarding the rack, we had BD Micro nuts, a double set of nuts and a single set of cams from 00 mastercam to #3 c4. Another #3 would have been nice on pitch 3, but if you are comfortable on wide hands cracks it didn't seem too bad with only 1.
By Dan G0D5H411
From: Colorado Springs, CO
Jul 19, 2010

What an amazing alpine climb! The crux pitch is fantastic climbing and there is a ton of exposure on the following pitches.

Pitch 1,2 (4th Class to 5.8?): Supposed fourth class climbing takes you 400 ft up the green-tinted base of the formation. Perhaps there IS a 4th class route but we ended up doing this in 2 pitches due to the blocky (scary 5.7) roofs we pulled on each pitch. End on the obvious, large ledge about 10 feet to the right of a ramp that angles up and left towards the arete.

Pitch 3 (5.10): The money pitch. The crux pitch starts 10 feet left of a left-facing dihedral (start of Kor Route, I believe.) Angle up and left on blocky holds towards a bottomless left-facing dihedral about 25 feet up. I was able to place 3 bomber cams before the dihedral. Sustained climbing for ~80 feet deposits you below an improbable looking crack directly on the face above. Traverse 10 feet left here to a spacious belay ledge.

Pitch 4 (5.8): Take the left-facing dihedral above to a roomy belay on top the block pillar.

Pitch 5 (5.8/5.9): We traversed 15 feet straight left from the belay, then up and slightly back right via a thin seam to get to the base of the wide, left-facing dihedral. It also seemed possible to head straight up from the belay and traverse slightly left and up to reach the bottom of the dihedral. Grunt or finesse your way up the dihedral to a comfortable belay on the right.

Pitch 6: (5.8/5.9): The exposure pitch. Head up 15 feet on unprotected but easy ground until you can traverse left underneath a small overlap on red-ish colored rock. Step around the arete and head up the left-facing dihedral. We ended up following purple to pink to the green belay in the beta photo I posted.

Pitch 7 (5.8/5.9): Continue up one of the many finish options. We ended up traversing furth left on green past a couple scary blocks and up a fun but lichen covered dihedral.

Pitch 8 (5.easy): A short scramble up the blocky top to get on the spire summit proper. A giant slung flake and a smaller, slung horn at the back of the summit singnal the start of the raps.
By Drew McLean
From: Colorado
Aug 24, 2010
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b PG13

My partner's gold Camalot is now fixed half way up the pitch 4 (the one after the crux pitch) on the Southwest Corner. My partner would love to have it back. :-) Beer and karma if you get it out and feel like returning it.

Excellent route. The "10a" crux pitch was stellar. Keep moving and don't spend time trying to find bomber rests.

A few words on the start. We also started too far left on the south-facing section of the spire. This brought me through the 5.8 roof with loose blocks in it. The better, faster option is to walk approx. 30 yards further up the hill and you will see an easy 4th to low 5th class line that wanders up and under an obvious, triangular roof on the SE corner before the crux pitch and Kor Route behind it. Traverse left under that roof to the left leaning ramp at the start of p3. I do not recommend simul-climbing through the 5.8 roof as we did.

The rappels all seemed good and fairly straightforward to spot with all the colored tat on each station.
By Chris Weber
From: Boulder, CO
Sep 18, 2010

Awesome climb. Did this Sept 17, '10 in t-shirt weather. Perfect ledges after each pitch--awesome position and full value climbing. I was able to place multiple med-small cams in the crux pitch.
For the last "real" pitch, I led a nice crack straight up a face, maybe 60 ft? Then moved right and up to the first summit tower on easy climbing. It felt like hard 9 or 5.10, but maybe I was just tired...though my partner who followed felt the same. Anyone know this variation? It had chalk on it...some shallow jams/finger locks...just hard enough to seem to be low 5.10.
We rapped the east face from the top of the first tower and did it 3 or 4 raps with double ropes (circa 200 ft each, with one shorter one).
Purple TCU-#4 Camalot with doubles in the yellow TCU-#3 made for comfortable protection. Some large cams are nice for the belay at the top of the crux "1st" pitch.
By Kevin Gillest
From: Arvada, CO
Oct 14, 2010

This picture was taken from the rappel on The Petit Oct. 3rd. Looks cold!
This picture was taken from the rappel on The Petit Oct. 3rd. Looks cold!
By Lynn S
Jul 16, 2011
rating: 5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b

Excellent route, pretty stout for a "10a" rating. The arete pitches up high are pure fun!
By Martin le Roux
From: Superior, CO
Aug 15, 2011
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13

Great climb. The only reason I give it less than 4 stars is that there's some suspect rock on the upper pitches, especially if you climb too far to the left on the last two 5.8/5.9 pitches. The crux pitch is sustained, but I think 5.10a is a fair rating. I didn't find it as hard as the 5.9+ pitch on Syke's Sickle, for example.
By John Carter
From: Boulder
Aug 24, 2012
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13

The Gillett topo shows a variation to the crux pitch (10a pitch) starting left at the top of a ramp rated at 11a R. This is more like 11a X. Good gear at first, then quite runout to the point of decking if one was to fall, then you get a highly marginal nut and a good micro nut before another run. Big props to those that climb this variation.... I bailed on the aforementioned gear, moved right, and climbed the route proper. What a great climb! 4 full length pitches with 60m double ropes. Found a short finger crack on the last pitch (think this is the same one reference by Chris Weber above), felt like 5.10a to me....
By Adam Sanders
From: Louisville, CO
Sep 5, 2012

Don't need a number 4 for this climb. You could probably do without the 2nd number 3 as well. Big comfy ledges at most belays and lots of sun - this climb is loads of fun.
By 303scott
Jun 23, 2013

Approach beta: climb the gully on the east side of the formation all the way to the top (basically until you can't climb any higher without roping up). When you look up, you will be directly under the large triangular roof that Drew McLean refers to. There is a 4th class ledge that reaches the ground there that is very hard to see from below. Take the ledge up and left for about 50 meters (with sparse but reasonable pro), and belay at the first spot where you can build a reasonable anchor. You will be directly below a weakness that obviously takes good pro. You will also basically be directly below the dihedral for Kor's route. Climb up the weakness, and trend slightly left (sparse pro) or hard right (more pro but harder climbing) to gain the ledge that is the start of Kor's and the SW Corner.

Also, do the purple exit line shown in the photos. Incredible climbing and good rock. It somewhat naturally led to the 20 foot long, slightly overhanging finger crack which felt like solid 5.10, but you could probably find another way out.
By Gregger Man
Jun 30, 2014

+1 on the purple variation.