In October 2012, Josh Mucci had put up Bad Moon Rising (5.8 A2) on Yosemite's Liberty Cap with Steve Bosque and Ezra Allee. The report said: “A 5.12 climber would absolutely eat up the huge corner: 800 feet of 0.5” to 1” cracks, mostly clean on cams. Somebody needs to free this route; unfortunately, I am not that good. It’s all there, though, for the right suitor.” It was undeniably enticing: Could we be those suitors?
Not all sandbagging comes in the form of a cruel joke from your friends. Some of it was born from an era where the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) topped out at 5.9—once believed to be the limit of climbing abilities. In the 1960s, many hard routes were given a 5.9+ rating even when moves soared well beyond that pay bracket. (An extreme example is Boulder Canyon’s The Umph Slot, which was originally rated 5.8+ in 1965. Consensus today says 5.10+!) Some routes are notorious and bear a reputation that precedes them, while others lay quietly in wait to shut down an unsuspecting punter.
If you can lead 5.8 trad, or even 5.7, you can climb here. Now. No need to wait until you can lead 5.12 or poop on a portaledge. I was a scaredy-cat for years, and then I finally started to pay attention to that annoying self-help wisdom about life beginning at the end of your comfort zone. What I discovered is that Yosemite climbing is perfectly attainable for any and all mere mortals, like me, who have a desire to scale some rock.
What do we love more than climbing? Road trips to climbing areas! Here, we've covered more than 40 crags and peaks across the United States, with dozens of routes recommended by locals, kick ass rest day activities, the lowdown on the best grub and pubs, and more!
The Fifty Classic Climbs of North America started as an idea hatched over a bottle of wine. It was the mid-1970s, and Steve Roper was eating lunch with Allen Steck; the two were reminiscing over epics in Yosemite from the early 1960s. Both were pioneers of the Valley, but each had considerable careers on peaks elsewhere, including Steck’s first ascent of Mt. Logan’s complete Hummingbird Ridge in Alaska and Roper’s first free ascent of the Kor-Ingalls Route in Castle Valley, Utah.
Before spring-loaded camming devices came along, climbers’ racks consisted of stoppers, hexes, and slings. The following nine routes were originally climbed only on passive pro; many are still doable in this style (some only if you’re bold). Enjoy a taste of what leading was like in the Golden Age of clean climbing.
Today, with countless steep sport climbing crags across the country, the art of delicate slab climbing on sweeping faces, with its emphasis on balance, smearing, and precise footwork, has somewhat lost its allure with the mainstream. So why risk a severe road rash by climbing slabs? Simple: it will make you a better climber.
Some climbers wait to attempt America’s greatest free routes until they’re good enough to do them in perfect style. But what if you are never that good? Purists would say you should stay off the climb—leave it for those who have the necessary strength and talent. I say go for it: Do your best to free climb, but don’t hang your head in shame if you pull on a piece or stand on a bolt.
Fred Beckey's hundreds (thousands?) of first ascents span western North America, from Alaska to Mexico. Although he is best known for his mountain routes, Beckey has always loved rock climbing, and at 89 he's still cragging. We cherry-picked eight spectacular rock climbs from his new coffee-table book and share his words on each here.
Guidebooks will tell you that Peter Croft once called the West Ridge of Conness the best route he’s done in the Sierra backcountry. If you rope up for all of it, it’s 12 pitches of climbing on clean Sierra granite, with enjoyable finger cracks and great exposure. The summit view extends over Tuolumne Meadows all the way to Half Dome. Combine this route with Conness’ North Ridge for a mega-day of ridge running.
Climbing is one of the few disciplines in which you can literally walk (well, climb) in the footsteps of the masters.
Granite. Black-and-white-speckled, fine-grained, compact, solid stone. Confident, angular boulders sculpted by time and held firmly in place by gravity. Tall, blunt aretes, mockingly blank. An obtuse, crackless corner. Overhanging faces carved with blocky edges.