|Upper Bulge Routes
Stairway to Heaven requires a full repertoire of climbing skills to surmount the cruxes on the first and third pitches. Expect a mix strenuous and technical climbing with mystery footwork and body positions.
P1: Layback up a left leaning wide crack that varies from 2.5" to 4". When the crack pinches out make some exciting moves, 5.11+, up the corner to a bolt. From here do the crux moves, 5.11++/5.12-, to gain a ledge and the tree belay shared with The Flakes.
P2. From the tree layback up a corner 5.10- with the occasional rest until you pull up and left onto a large ledge with two bolts. This belay is also shared with The Flakes. This pitch can easily be linked with the first.
P3. Stand up on a shaky block to gain the first crimps and make a series of interesting moves to clip the first bolt. A locker is recommended here to keep you off the ledge if you miss the 2nd clip. Crimping, a big highstep and some trickery, 5.11++, will get the next bolt clipped and set you up for the hardest moves of the route! Work up a right leaning undercling feature with poor feet and make hard moves, 5.12, to gain a small ledge with a pin. Get established and stand up on this rail and clip the final bolt. Traverse right with an exciting starfish type move to descend to a lower foot ledge. Pass a horrible looking fixed nut and levitate across a 5.11 slab to finish on the Vampire direct anchors.
P4. Traverse right on 5.10 slab, possibly R, and connect with the Vampire and finish per that route.
Start from the Vampire ledge which is easily accessed by the From Bad traverse and a bit of 5.7. Start a the left side of the ledge just below and right of the start to The Flakes.
A single set of cams to 4" + slings and draws, more if linking P1 & P2. The 3rd pitch is almost all fixed gear with an optional nut at the end.
When seconding the third pitch the follower can open up the quicklink on the final bolt in order to protect the tricky downclimbing. Once on the next ledge it is possible to tie in on a bight and then untie the main rope so you can pull it though the quicklink.
|Comments on Stairway to Heaven
From: Northern NM
Jan 30, 2010
Pitches 1 and 2 only , sometime in the later 80's. On P-1 we found a fixed wired where the crack "pinches out" , and a manky old 1/4" bolt protecting the P-1 technical crux above (held my shameful rest). The last move in the crux sequence was kind of a sloping one-arm....ah , why ruin it for the next guy.
Too mentally & physically fried to try and complete the route , but P-1 gives every penny's worth.
Major hat-tip to the FFA party.
|By Bob Gaines|
Jun 19, 2010
I agree, the first pitch is the money pitch, and the most demanding of the leader psychologically, although the third pitch is technically the crux, but better protected.
I led the first free ascent of the first pitch in 1983 with Kevin Powell. The key was finding a rest spot by stepping down left before the upper crux.
I went back a few weeks later with Kevin and Lynn Hill and I led the first pitch again. Lynn freed the crux of the third pitch, but attempted to go straight up above the third bolt (instead of traversing right) and took a huge whipper. Then she asked Kevin and me: "One of you guys wanna give it a try?" but we just looked at each other and said "No way!". It just looked impossible. We didn't have much info on the route and really didn't know which way it went.
I returned in 1984 with John Long and Dwight Brooks. I led the first pitch again, Dwight led the second, and John freed the third pitch by traversing down and right from the third bolt over to the bolt belay. Dwight wasn't able to do it, so John and I were credited with the "first free ascent".
John returned shortly after that and did another free ascent of the entire route with Lynn Hill.
All the old bolts have been replaced; I'm surprised the route doesn't see more traffic!
From: Northern NM
Jun 16, 2011
I appreciate you filling in the history Bob. I knew very little about this superior route when we attempted it , now I know more.
P-1 travel tip: Perk up your risk appetite , and maintain momentum after initiating the technical crux.
Oh yeah , and find that rest!