When you live out of your car, without the distractions of television, the internet, and often even other people, you end up having quite a bit of free time. In addition to gossiping about anybody and everybody, we spend a lot of time discussing the merits of the various routes and problems we climb.
As we neared the end of the trip we decided to rank our favourite multi-pitch routes. These routes sometimes require a significant investment in time and effort, often taking a full day to complete. As such they can be pretty memorable, for good or bad, depending on how things go. When things go well it can be pure joy that you never want to end. When things go bad, it can be complete misery, with no better feeling in the world than finally getting back to the car.
So, without further adieu, here is part one of our top ten favourite multi-pitch routes, ranked on a completely subjective scale based on our experience climbing them.
10. Frogland 5.8 770', Red Rocks, Nevada
Jason This is one of the most popular routes at Red Rocks, and for good reason. The climbing is fun, varied and pretty sustained at the grade. Unfortunately its popularity also means that it suffers the inevitable issue of overcrowding.
Kristal If you can get past the crowds and the terrible rope drag on the traverse pitch, there’s a spectacular view of Las Vegas from the summit.
9. Cathedral Enchainment 5.9 400', The Needles, South Dakota
Kristal The Enchainment had the single most committing move I’ve ever done. It links the climbs between three granite spires and involved lunging over the void between the first and second spire. The rest of the climb included some delicate, spicy climbing and a narrow miss with a thunderstorm.
Jason You can’t ask for much more than three distinct summits (each with its own summit register!) in 400 feet of climbing. Pretty unique, and far away from the usual touristy madness that goes with climbing along the Needles highway.
8. Ancient Arts 5.8 A0 250ft, Fisher Towers, Utah
Jason When I stepped up to the top of the fourth pitch, to the start of ‘The Sidewalk’ with the Corkscrew Summit in front of me, I distinctly remember saying to Kristal, ‘Screw that, have fun, I’m staying here!’ I did eventually suck it up and climb to the summit, but wow, the exposure is intense!
Kristal Not only was it super exposed, but we were buzzed by base jumpers as we started to rap down. Definitely a unique experience.
7. Outer Space 5.9 1000', Leavenworth, Washington
Kristal The fifth pitch is truly spectacular, a perfect hand crack which splits a vertical face covered with knobs. Definitely one of the best pitches I’ve ever climbed. As for the other pitches, well, the poor rock quality on the crux pitch and the long traverse pitch keep this climb from being in the top five. However, the setting is beautiful, remote and rugged. And the mountain goats are ridiculous.
Jason Yeah, Gaston the mountain goat was pretty entertaining. As was the couple climbing ahead of us, who we eventually called Ken and Barbie. We climbed the last pitch in the dark and got back to camp at 1:00am, but at least we got two new Metolius cams out of the ordeal.
6. Recombeast 5.9 475', Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire
Jason The Beast flake and the upper corner/dihedral are huge, unmistakable features visible from the ground. When Kristal first pointed them out to me from the road there was no question in my mind. We HAD to climb this route.
Kristal Not only was it a really impressive looking line, but the climbing was exceptionally good. Each pitch was sustained and interesting, though occasionally scary. Highlights include the exposed traverse move to get onto the flake and the bit of 5.9 downclimbing that really meant throwing yourself into a chimney and hoping your feet stuck.