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This mega line has got to be the most striking multi-pitch sport route in the country (if not the world). It's possible to start at the very base of the tower using the Sheer Trickery approach, but rumor has it Sheer Trickery is harder than the crux pitch of the Backbone (and considering the fire power of the FA group - Wolfgang Gullich, Ron Kauk, and Alan Watts - it's easy to believe).
The most expedient approach is to traverse the 5.6 choss band from below the start of Spank the Monkey. Once on the arete, you will likely be a bit nauseated by the exposure, so you might want to take it bolt to bolt the first time up. The crux pitch starts out pretty casual with some ultra-exposed and reachy 5.11 edging. After 4 bolts or so, the North Face flake crack splits out to the left. Get a good rest here, then tackle the first technical crux. It's possible to 'cheat' past this first crux by climbing on the left side of the arete, and reaching around the corner to clip. The bolt line is recommended for a pure ascent, but since you get a full recovery before the real crux, the left variation probably does little to affect the route's overall difficulty.
Another excellent rest on the left side of the arete allows you to depump for the final dynamic, airy and overhanging crux section: a rising traverse from the left arete to the right, up the widest part of the narrow face. There's no way to climb around this section! Once you reach the right arete the business is over, and a few easy moves lead to a no-hands rest and optional anchor.
The 3rd pitch goes at a terrifying 12a. If it were 12c, you would have the option of dogging it and working out the moves like on P2, but since its "only" 12a, you're pretty much obliged to go for the onsight, which is a tad spicy to say the least. This pitch starts out pretty steep with good holds, but gives way to some mossy slab climbing.
Once in the west cave, two exits are possible. The pure line begins with a jump to the first hold, and attacks a steep line of jugs straight above the backbone. Or you can always slink out the 11b Monkey Space exit to the left.
The crux pitch is probably the easiest 5.13 at Smith, but with all the exposure, you likely won't complain too much.
This is on the south prow of the Monkey. Approach over Misery Ridge, as for Rising Expectations, etc.
Bolts. Some gear may be required for the 5.6 approach pitch. Double ropes for the rappel.
By Ryan Palo
From: Bend, oregon
Dec 13, 2006
After reading this description, I've decided to put The Backbone first on my list. Next trip to Smith and it's on!
Thanks for posting this route!