Revising the Fifty Classic Climbs of North America

Allen Steck and Steve Roper's Fifty Classic Climbs of North America is both a revered and sometimes scorned book—but though it has flaws, there's no denying its staying power and popularity throughout the years since its publication in 1979.

Many climbers agree that numerous routes in this tick list are no longer classic, due to choss, climate change, or even accessibility. We talked to those who have attempted to climb all 50 of the routes—Mark and Janelle Smiley, Nancy Hansen, Allen Steck, Gary Clark, and Kurt Blair—to get their opinions on which climbs to remove, and which to add to the list. Here's what they came up with. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!


  • EAST BUTTRESS, MIDDLE TRIPLE PEAK, AK: A super-involved endeavor, demanding weeks of time and great expense, with extremely uncertain weather. The first pitch has been erased by  rockfall, and a replacement line has yet to be climbed
  • HUMMINGBIRD RIDGE, MT. LOGAN, CANADA: The peak is striking. But the full line hasn’t seen a second ascent, and four people have died attempting it
  • SHIPROCK, NM: It’s a sacred site for the Navajo Nation. Though it’s occasionally poached, it’s been off-limits to climbing since 1967
  • D1, THE DIAMOND, LONGS PEAK, CO: The Diamond’s first route, but its seeping, hard free climbing at 14,000 feet and poor rock quality make some climbers question its inclusion
  • NORTHCUTT-CARTER ROUTE, HALLETT PEAK, CO: Rockfall wiped out the first two pitches in the late 1990s. It’s still climbable, but it requires a tricky traverse on poorly protected terrain
  • WISHBONE ARÊTE, MT. ROBSON, CANADA: A low success rate, dangerous approach, and choss make this the second-most-despised route of the Classics after Hummingbird Ridge.


  • CRIMSON CHRYSALIS (5.8), RED ROCK, NV: Many climbers wanted some of the intense mountain routes replaced with more accessible, stellar rock climbs in the Southwest, especially Red Rock. Steck expressed regret for not including this area, but at the time, “We just didn’t know it, and no one was pushing it,” he says. The variety of crack and face climbing on Crimson Chrysalis now makes it one of Steck’s favorites.
  • WHITNEY-GILMAN RIDGE (5.7), CANNON CLIFF, NH: An aesthetic and prominent long route in the East. Hassler Whitney and Bradley Gilman climbed the jutting spine with no pitons or other  protection in 1929; they merely stopped to belay whenever they found ledges.
  • MOONLIGHT BUTTRESS (5.8 C1), ZION NATIONAL PARK, UT: The most-requested replacement route. Moonlight Buttress ascends an obvious prow on its namesake buttress with perfect splitters cleaved into the upper sections. Free climbers and aspiring aid climbers alike flock here for a chance to tick this colorful line.
  • CASUAL ROUTE (5.10A), THE DIAMOND, LONGS PEAK, CO: A relatively accessible route on Colorado’s highest wall. Most of the climbing is 5.8 or 5.9, and the crux moves are well protected. Plus, the alpine environment still gives you a full-value experience.


Previous Comments

North America includes Mexico. I feel that if you are going to update the list at least one El Potrero Chico or Basaseachi route should make the list.

Mark G - 01/14/2015 9:38:39

Some American idiot wrote this.......and Denali is in Canada right...? or does the world revolve around USA?

MikeyForReal - 08/24/2014 6:03:05

When did they move Mt Logan to Alaska? Must have been quite an undertaking. Precisely the reason I dropped my subscription to Climbing. USA! USA! USA!

Kent Krauza - 08/13/2014 5:15:48

You can't change the original list list. It is there forever, taunting someone to do them all. If you make a new list and if someone does them all, people will know that it was an easy list. Until someone completes the older list, and puts it to rest, a new list will seem like a weak imitation. As for a new "fun" Iist, I would add the Mace in Sedona. I have done 33 of the original list. Shiprock is a wonderful climb and there was no sign saying "no climbing" when I did it. If the current custodians of this treasure really do ban climbing, it simply adds to the multi-disciplinary nature of the list and the difficulty of completing it. Crestone Needle is an example of a different type of climbing, something that the list is all about.

Larry Sverdrup - 06/23/2013 10:05:31

So all the hard routes in inspire climbers to push harder, work more, and include a lot of risk for the reward are being replaced with do it in a day moderate and easy rock climbs? BS!

steven - 05/29/2013 9:38:31

Thanks for the update on 50 Classics. The book was a great inspiration and resource in an era where information was hard to come by. I have done 32, many of them multiple times. I agree with the suggested changes, especially the inclusion of Crimson Chrysalis. It is on my all time 10 best list. I also think Epinephrine should be included. Sun Ribbon Arete (Temple Crag) is also better than many in the book. What have I done that should be left out? Crestone Needle (as described) is a major choss pile. Traveler's is included because of the first pitch, but is not in the same league as the others. Why not include a couple Gunks routes if we are going to set aside the 1000' minimum. Whitney Gilman is definitely classic, but only about 600' long. Now the major issue! Is Shiprock off limits? In his book Postcards From the Trailer Park, Cameron Burns stated that all you have to do is find out who holds the grazing rights in that area and ask permission. The tribal council has nothing to do with it! We followed his instructions and were granted permission after signing a one sentence waiver. On the ascent we encountered 3 guided parties who were poaching it! The route is awful, but I can understand its inclusion with all the associated history. Keep up the good work! Tim Kemple Sr.

Tim Kemple Sr. - 05/28/2013 5:24:40