1. White Punks on Dope (5.8+, 6 pitches)
Voodoo Dome, Needles, California
Wildly varying in climbing style, but boasting clean rock the whole way, White Punks on Dope on the 900-foot-tall Voodoo Dome is a can’t-miss route. The line literally offers everything: corners, knobs, cracks, roofs, laybacking, and chimney climbing. “Every pitch is so unique and classic in its own right, and that is very much a signature trait of this route,” says first ascensionist Richard Leversee. “The semi-wilderness setting and the stunning views of the Needles contribute to the whole experience.” Two members of the FA team, E.C. Joe and Scott Edmiaston, named the route after a popular Tubes song of the day. Leversee and Joe admit their memory of the descent is stronger than that of the actual ascent. “The most accurate description of that legendary Voodoo ascent would be stumbling down blindly in the pitch darkness at some ridiculous hour of the night, in the middle of who knows where, with the wildest, stupidest grins on our faces,” Joe says. After the one-hour approach hike, begin this route on a 5.7 knobby crack—a 60-meter rope is crucial for this pitch—and then see how well-rounded you are as a climber. Pitch four’s memorable wavy, left-facing dihedral will be forever etched into your mind. Bring cams to 3 inches; consider a No. 4 or 4.5 for pitch four’s offwidth. Late spring through late fall provide the best weather.
GUIDEBOOK: California Road Trip, a Climber’s Guide to Northern California, by Tom Slater; mountainproject.com
2. The Diagonal (5.8, 7 pitches)
Wallface, Adirondacks, New York
With almost six million acres, the Adirondacks provide a true backcountry climbing experience; it’s not uncommon to go several days without seeing another climber. The Diagonal epitomizes that wildness; set deep in the High Peaks, Wallface has fickle route-finding and a long approach; the shortest hike, from the Upper Works trailhead (south), is about three hours. The Diagonal starts at the south end of the cliff—look for an open area surrounded by birch trees and a flat boulder. “Climbing on Wallface is a great adventure because of the setting,” says Dave Horowitz, author of Selected Climbs in the Northeast. “Although the route itself is obvious, you don’t really get to see the cliff until you are on it; the boulders just somehow rise up and become the cliff.” The Diagonal follows a low-angled, right-leaning ramp that widens to 50 feet in places, leading to an exciting, steep dihedral that brings you to the top of the cliff. “The view from here is stunning,” Horowitz says. “Nothing but mountains as far as the eye can see.” The High Peaks have a short summer climbing season, with snow on high elevations lingering until June. If climbing before September, be sure to bring plenty of insect repellant. “Black flies plus you plus a belay ledge equals death,” as Horowitz puts it. Descend by rappelling the route with two 60-meter ropes; start with a fixed anchor 15 feet left of the route’s finish.
GUIDEBOOK: Adirondack Rock, a Rock Climber’s Guide, by Jim Lawyer and Jeremy Haas.
Finger of Fate, Sawtooth Range, Idaho
The Finger of Fate is “one of those features that you look at and say, ‘Let’s climb that!’” says Erik Leidecker of Sawtooth Mountain Guides. The granite tower rises high above Hell Roaring Lake and requires an approach of two to three hours, partly off-trail. “The Sawtooths are a little bit wild, and info is hard to come by; grades are a little sandbagged,” Leidecker adds. “There aren’t many places you can go and have that experience anymore, and that’s what makes climbing in the Sawtooths unique.” The first three pitches of the 900-foot Open Book couldn’t be more obvious, ascending a huge, well-protected corner system on the left side of the north face. After a short scrambling section, a beautiful hand crack leads to exposed but easy slab climbing. A fun, unique pitch awaits at the top of the Finger, where you tunnel through a hole beneath the summit block, grunt up a hard move, and then follow an unprotected, 5.easy arête to the summit. Four-wheel drive is helpful for reaching the trailhead, or add a couple of easy miles to the walk. Bring a standard rack up to 4 inches and a 60-meter rope.
GUIDEBOOK: Idaho: A Climbing Guide, by Tom Lopez, has limited info; check mountainproject.com for good beta and a topo. Or call Sawtooth Mountain Guides, the only guiding concession in the area.
4. Frogland (5.8-, 6–7 PITCHES )
Whiskey Peak, Black Velvet Canyon, Red Rock, Nevada
This is likely the most popular moderate route in Nevada, so get an early start. This 830-foot route starts with some beautiful, white, water-polished sandstone. A left-facing dihedral moves right to a low-angled corner, and up a chimney/flake feature. (Or follow a variation left and up a crack.) A right-facing corner takes you up and over a small roof. Pitches four and five add some excitement, with traverse moves, an arête, thin crack, and small-edge face climbing. After a tunnel move behind a chockstone on P5, continue up a corner and face climbing to the top. Turn east and choose the southern (rightmost) gully to head down. Most routes on Whiskey Peak are shaded; sunny days in the early spring and late fall provide the best climbing weather.
GUIDEBOOK: Red Rocks: A Climber’s Guide, by Jerry Handren
Laurel Knob, North Carolina
To Westerners, the East Coast isn’t known for soaring cliffs, but Laurel Knob defies that stereotype with its 1,200-foot granite face. Until the cliff’s acquisition by the Carolina Climbers Coalition in 2006, Laurel Knob climbing had been cloaked in secrecy for more than 30 years. Now, it’s open to those who don’t mind hiking three miles to the cliff from Panthertown Valley. Those who crave adventurous climbing will be rewarded by about 25 long trad routes, including the 1,100-foot-tall Seconds. Guidebook author Harrison Shull lists the highlights: “Long. Granite. Spectacular position. Amazing holds and features, and a long approach.” This slab route begins in a dark water streak and angles up and right, following major water grooves. It’s not as runout as its better-known 5.8 neighbor, Groover, and also sports new stainlesssteel hardware and bolted belays. Its style is varied, with friction climbing, some jamming, and a “water groove large enough to fit a full-size Harley Davidson,” says local Ryan Williams. When the rest of western North Carolina is hampered by winter cold, Laurel Knob’s southwest exposure provides a welcome respite. Camping isn’t allowed on the property owned by the CCC; pitch your tent instead on nearby Forest Service land. Bring cams up to 3 inches and two 60-meter ropes.
GUIDEBOOK: Selected Climbs of North Carolina, by Yon Lambert and Harrison Shull (2008 edition); mountainproject.com
Castleton Tower, Castle Valley, Utah
North Chimney on Castletown Tower offers a multitude of great reasons to climb it. “Route-finding is a snap because it follows a single crack system; it’s in the shade; it doesn’t require a big rack of cams; it has good gear and belay ledges; and it has a wild and airy summit,” says Stewart Green, author of Rock Climbing Utah. What more can you ask for on a desert tower? North Chimney was Castleton’s second route, climbed in 1970 by a pair of climbers from Purdue University on spring break. After an hour-long approach up an enormous talus cone, head up to the left side of the skyscraper-like tower to find the start of the route. The first pitch is the best: a long hand crack, with fun stemming and a cruxy bulge. For most people, the trickiest section of the climb is early on the second pitch: grappling up a short offwidth section that some call 5.9, passing an ancient bolt. (Back it up with a No. 4 or 4.5 Camalot.) Continue up a more moderate chimney, past some big blocks, to join up with the iconic Kor-Ingalls on the last pitch. Don’t forget your helmet while belaying below loose rocks in the chimney. Gear: A double rack with triples of 3 and 3.5 inches plus one bigger piece. Bring two 60-meter ropes to rappel the steep north face.
GUIDEBOOK: Rock Climbing Utah, by Stewart Green
Sundance Buttress, Lumpy Ridge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
OK, Kor’s Flake is technically rated 5.7+, but it’s old-school 5.7—few will quibble with the harder grade. This Layton Kor classic from the late 1950s was the first recorded route on Sundance Buttress, the largest cliff at Lumpy Ridge. Kor’s Flake follows a long, left-leaning flake, and every pitch of this climb offers something different. “The climbing becomes challenging right off the deck with a strenuous offwidth chimney,” says Eli Helmuth of Climbing Life Guides. Start up the second pitch on a ramp that leads to the route’s namesake flake, and then run it out on the third, 5.7 squeeze pitch. Finish the line with some dihedrals, hand cracks, and overhangs. “Steep and imposing, with excellent granite, it’s a historic route as well as a classic,” Helmuth says. Don’t take the moderate grade lightly, he advises: “It’s a bit of a serious lead. Kind of a rite of passage for those desiring 5.8 R/X chimney climbing on high-quality rock.” Bring a double rack, with an extra 4-inch piece. Though it’s exposed to thunderstorms and other bad weather, the season at Sundance is relatively long— roughly April through October—because of its southern aspect.
GUIDEBOOK: Rocky Mountain National Park, The Climber’s Guide, Estes Park Valley, by Bernard Gillett
Cannon Cliff, New Hampshire
Following a system of cracks and corners up New England’s largest cliff, Moby Grape “has a mountain feel, but with superb mountain rock,” says local guide Bayard Russell. The 1,300-plus-foot route takes you up sustained finger and hand cracks where gear is easy to place, but don’t be fooled: the guidebook calls it “unrelenting.” The crux comes at a roof on the second pitch, but the climax is the fourth-pitch Fickle Finger of Fate, an “almost indescribable, sickle-shaped fin you can wedge behind or layback for glory,” Russell says. Topping out on Cannon Cliff is a rewarding experience, with blueberry bushes and great views to greet you. “The top of the route itself is a totally flat, granite patio,” Bayard says. Descend via the obvious trail down to Profile Lake, but stay close to the cliff edge unless you want to bushwhack through thick spruce trees. Cannon has a reputation for being unforgiving, so take caution: wear helmets, test holds, and use the sign-in sheet at the Profile Lake parking area. The best months are May, September, and October, though good weather may occur earlier and later.
GUIDEBOOK: Selected Climbs in the Northeast, by S. Peter Lewis and Dave Horowitz