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The Grand Course 

YDS: 5.11- French: 6c Ewbanks: 22 UIAA: VIII+ ZA: 22 British: E3 5c

Type:  Trad, 2 pitches
Consensus:  YDS: 5.10c/d French: 6b+ Ewbanks: 21 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 21 British: E3 5b [details]
FA: FFA - Jim Erickson and John Behrens
Fixed Hardware: 2 Belay Bolts [details]
Page Views: 5,364
Submitted By: Ben F on Jul 14, 2001

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A couple guys caught in the act on the .11- variat...

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  • Description 

    First, let me state that I am amazed how many routes in the Eldo data base have 3 stars. Don't let this 2 star rating dissuade you - I'm keeping things in perspective. This route is as good as most of the "3 star" routes in the vicinity.

    P1. For the first pitch (10-), you need to be adept at crack climbing. It has a section of wide hands and fists. Also, this short pitch is rather polished, so watch your foot placements carefully. There are a couple of choices for establishing a belay at the end of the first pitch. Take the one that suits you best. We opted to stay low at the first large ledge to avoid the fumes of bird excrement.

    P2. Move up into what can best be described as a twin crack system. Take this upward and move right into a right-facing dihedral. This dihedral is mostly thin, but as I mentioned earlier, a #3.5 Friend (or 2) may have worked. I also managed a #1 Camalot, but a #2.5 Friend may have worked a little better. I got a wobbly, but decent nut at a weird block in the crack near the crux. Anyway, you will know when you get to the business. It looked like persons taller than myself may have moved slightly right at the crux. I pretty much had to go straight-up.

    My best advice for someone considering this climb is to 1) be able to crack climb; 2) have good footwork, including stemming; and 3) be comfortable doing cruxes a little above your gear.

    There is a 5.9 variation, where you stay left/straight above the first pitch. I only glanced at it and it looked good and may protect better than the 11- pitch. A couple parties that did it earlier and did the climb in one pitch.

    Erickson's book rated P1 5.9 and P2 10-!


    Bring a standard rack at least up to a #4 Friend. A #4 Camalot was placed on the first pitch by my partner. I possibly could have used a #3.5 Friend on the mid/upper part of the 2nd pitch. At the top of the crux pitch, work up and left to a belay tree from which you will need 2 ropes to rappel to the ground. Also, save a 0 TCU/blue Alien for the crux pitch.

    Photos of The Grand Course Slideshow Add Photo
    Rock Climbing Photo: Taken from the top of Handcracker Direct on the We...
    Taken from the top of Handcracker Direct on the We...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Taken from the West Ridge.  Climber is on the 5.9 ...
    Taken from the West Ridge. Climber is on the 5.9 ...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Optional belay is above the 10a section or higher ...
    Optional belay is above the 10a section or higher ...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Heading into the upper crux....
    Heading into the upper crux....
    Rock Climbing Photo: H.C. made this look deceptively easy.
    H.C. made this look deceptively easy.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Mary Harbaugh working into the wide crack on the f...
    Mary Harbaugh working into the wide crack on the f...
    Rock Climbing Photo: my nephew doing a fine job following Hank on the G...
    my nephew doing a fine job following Hank on the G...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Starting up.
    Starting up.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Mike and Tom starting the Grand Course.
    Mike and Tom starting the Grand Course.
    Rock Climbing Photo: The Grand Course hurt me!
    The Grand Course hurt me!
    Rock Climbing Photo: The Grand Course.
    The Grand Course.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down "Grand Course" about mid-ro...
    Looking down "Grand Course" about mid-ro...

    Comments on The Grand Course Add Comment
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    Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 17, 2015
    By Erik Corkran
    Jul 17, 2001

    We did the 5.9 variation on the second pitch and it was nice, though it felt pretty hard for 5.9 (harder than Werk Supp or Over the Hill top pitch I thought). Also there is a dead bird in the crack of the 2nd pitch (yuck). As for the first pitch, 0 stars in my book. I am mostly a crack climber and even like weird grungy things but this has more bird crap on it than I have seen in a long time (there was another comment about this but maybe it got lost). Add to that the less-than-enjoyable polished, slippery feet and you have, in my opinion, an unappealing pitch. Maybe it would be a little better on a less hot, humid day, but I could not figure out why this was considered such a great climb.
    By Ben F
    From: Benfield, Kolorado
    Jul 17, 2001

    Erik, you must have done that thing the within a day of us, since the bird looked "fresh". I forgot to mention the dead bird and figured it would make a good surprise. I think the thing is as good as the Green Spur or Grandmother's Challenge (10-, not c). Of course, in addition to being a crack afficianado, I enjoy technical dihedrals like the 2nd pitch.
    By Ross
    From: Pinewood Springs
    Oct 10, 2001
    rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

    I can't believe you could give this climb a 11-, pitch 2 has good feet and two great hand jams coming out of the alcove. Orginal grades are fair 5.9+ and 10-. I loved this route.
    By Ben F
    From: Benfield, Kolorado
    Oct 11, 2001

    Ross, Rossiter's guide gives P2 an 11-. If you were to call the 2nd pitch 10+ and maybe even 10, I wouldn't argue. Ratings are subjective. My second thought the rating was close enough. At the crux (for me) section on P2, I didn't find any hand jams (lower, I did). I felt the climb was similar in difficulty to P2 of Muscular Dystrophy (also rated 11-). I am assuming that you took the right-hand finish/P2 and not the 9/9+ to the left.
    By Anonymous Coward
    Nov 2, 2001

    This route deserves three stars despite the bird shit. Erickson onsighted it as the first 5.11 in Eldo. The upper dihedral is fantastic and well worth the grovel below.
    By M.Morley
    From: Sacramento, CA
    May 2, 2002

    Climbed this 4.30.2002. As Ben states in the description, there are a couple of choices for the first belay. If you opt for the 11a second pitch, it is probably best to belay lower and to the right. Setting a belay on the ledge (higher to the left) causes the rope to run over a sharp edge at the start of the second pitch.
    By Chris Dawson
    From: Denver, CO
    May 3, 2002

    Just do it in one pitch either 10 or 11!
    By Carol Kotchek
    From: Louisville, Colorado
    Jul 20, 2002

    Even though a pigeon shit on my helmet, and the shit dripped dripped down on my shirt, I thought the route was worthy. Either way, left or right at the top is good. I went to the right and placed a bomber #3 Camalot right below the crux. I think the pigeon situation is worse in the spring than later on in the year.
    By Ken Leiden
    From: Boulder, CO
    Sep 23, 2003

    My partner led the 5.11 right-facing dihedral on Sat, exiting the dihedral by using some holds to the right, and then climbing directly out of the dihedral onto the slab above. When I followed, I exited the dihedral at the crux around the arete to the left on to lower angle rock. A good #3 camalot placement protects this move. My partner gave me a hard time for taking the easy way out so I lowered back down and did it his way. I would say that his way was 11a and my way was 10b.Perhaps this explains why some people think this climb is over-rated. Since the rest of the dihedral is no harder than 10a or so, I would say that exiting left offers an excellent 5.10 climb on par with Over the Hill on Rincon. That said, the 11a variation is well-protected and is just one move so it would make an excellent "first 5.11" lead as well.
    By Anonymous Coward
    Oct 5, 2004

    Is there an easy way to down from the top of this climb with a single 60M? Or, is a double rope rap required?
    By Anonymous Coward
    Oct 5, 2004

    Traverse climbers' left to the tree atop Disappearing Act. Rap uphill, be very careful of the ends, which don't quite reach, and you may have to do some minor downclimbing. I've done this several times with a 60 meter rope.
    By Danny Inman
    From: Arvada
    Mar 27, 2006

    Climbed this on Sat. March 25,2006. Great Eldo crack climb. I highly recommend doing it as one long pitch. To my surprise, the bird poo was minimal, not nearly as bad as the avian feces on Grand Mother's Challenge.
    By Ivan Rezucha
    From: Fort Collins, CO
    Sep 5, 2006

    Having done this a few times, we rapped off the tree at the top of Paris Girl with little thought with our 60m. We had seen two women rap earlier to the top of the pillar at the start of Disappearing Act with a single rope. Turns out they rapped from the next tree to the left. Do NOT rap off the Paris Girl tree with a single 60m or 70m (the first tree with slings you come to). I got to the second ring bolt on Paris Girl when I realized no way was I going to make it--to the ground or far left to the pillar. It was pretty scary hanging there with about 10' of rope left below me and the ground another 15' below that. The safety knots did not inspire.

    I wrapped the ropes around my leg, tied the tails to my harness, and began prussking with my one prussik. Stand up, "rappel" backwards, hang on belay device. Repeat. Re-wrap the ropes around the leg every 4 iterations. Check out the amazing Paris Girl while recovering between upward lurches. Eventually I was able to swing left to the pillar at the top of P1 of Disappearing Act and go off rappel. Luke moved to the left tree and we rapped in two rappels (although one 60m should make it from there to the pillar on Disappearing Act).
    By SirVato
    From: Boulder
    Nov 2, 2006

    You CAN in fact rap off the tree on top of Paris Girl with a 70m rope.
    By Bill Wright
    Apr 30, 2007

    As of yesterday, there is now a two-bolt rappel anchor at the top of the second pitch. It is about 33-meters to the ground from here and a single 60-meter rope will probably get you down to the top of the easy pillar at the start of the first pitch. From there it is easy (4th class?) scrambling to the ground.
    By Kyle Douglass
    From: Golden, Co
    Oct 20, 2007
    rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

    Someone told me this was a .10a, not too sure about that. Very sustained but all the moves are great. On the end crux move coming out of that dihedral, it helped a lot to move the left foot out of (on the edge) the dihedral. We did it in one pitch with a double rope rap
    By claramie
    From: Boulder, CO
    Feb 24, 2008

    This climb is sick! All sorts of varied crack technique. Hands, fists, thin hands. Good footwork will ease up the pump a little. Did the 5.9 variation at the top. Whole route goes easily in one pitch (on a single). I didn't even pay that much attention to extend placements with runners.

    Don't know if they are new, but there is a nice bolt anchor atop the 11 variation finish. Double rope rap with 60s makes it to the ground with plenty to spare. A single 70 barley makes it back to the ground.

    Well worth doing!!!

    By Alison Conrad
    Apr 26, 2008

    I rapped from the new anchors with a single sixty. It will make it to the ledge above the 4th class scramble to the start of the climb. You will have to swing in to get to the ledge (watch your ends). A single 70m will get you all the way to the ground.
    By Brett Brotherton
    From: Arvada, CO
    May 14, 2011

    Did this 5/14/2011, and bird poo was not bad at all. Great done as a single pitch. We did the 10 variation after coming over from West Ridge and doing Handcracker. This climb was certainly more sustained and difficult than Handcracker, IMHO.

    I think I saw a couple feathers and part of the skeleton of the dead bird in the crack mentioned in previous comments.
    By Cornelius Jefferson
    May 21, 2013

    Very little bird shit right now.

    In its current state, 4 stars.
    By WadeM
    Jun 17, 2014
    rating: 5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

    Combine into one pitch with a 70m rope, you can lower off the anchors and TR. Single set fingers, doubles from 0.5-2, one 3 & 4 was perfect. If you really want to sew it up, throw on another 3 & 4.

    As everyone else describes: good crack technique is pretty much a must. You can stem around some of the wide stuff but at a harder grade. I got a knee in and was able to get a bomber rest...learn to crack climb.

    Awesome climb. A little over graded at 11a, I'd give it sustained 10.

    Bird shit is medium once you hit the twin cracks. I was able to make it non-issue.

    Afterwards, swing over and give Silver Raven a burn.
    By Chris N
    From: Loveland, Co
    May 24, 2015

    Because this climb has a 5.11 variation doesn't mean that it is a 5.11 climb.
    By Rui Ferreira
    From: Longmont, CO
    May 31, 2015

    I recommend doing the 11- variation up the dihedral on the right side, as the 5.9 is full of bird crap on the left of the two cracks.
    By mountainhick
    From: Black Hawk, CO
    Jun 17, 2015

    The route itself and movement is very cool, but the slickness and pigeon shit detract (the 5.10 variation, I have not yet done the 5.11 section).

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