The Hot List
Five-star new routes of 2010, plus a few instant classics from previous years we couldn't resist sharing
What if a golf course added a new hole every month, or your favorite ski resort cut four new trails each winter? It just doesn’t happen. But for climbers, new routes—even entire new crags—keep popping up. What other sport enjoys so much novelty, such freshness? And these aren’t just crappy, desperate-for-anything-new climbs. Imagination, boldness, and good, old-fashioned hard work keep the good routes coming. The Hot List is Climbing’s inaugural survey of the best of the best.
To create the 2010 Hot List, we surveyed more than 60 Climbing writers and photographers, guidebook authors, local climbers and guides, as well as our readers. We asked: Which of the new routes in North America will earn five stars in future guidebooks? Which are the instant classics? We also sought help from the Mountain Project website, whose co-owner, Nick Wilder, jiggered the site’s cool “Classics” algorithm to help us identify great new routes. Finally, we combed news stories and blog posts for a few more gems.
The result is a collection of more than 175 climbs, from 5.4 to 5.14, and from 50-foot leads to a three-day alpine traverse. (We couldn’t fit boulder problems into this year’s story—next year, we hope.) Did we miss some great new routes? Undoubtedly—especially in the Southeast, where access and privacy concerns keep many crags on the down-low. Are some of these climbs better than others? Will we catch flak for our choices? Of course. But we confidently predict this collection will have you itching to climb.
SPLIT DECISION (5.12a, 1 pitch, trad)
The Towers, San Diego County, CA
FA Randy Leavitt
Split Decision is a thin-fingers to hands splitter that slashes across one of the many hillside granite formations east of Dulzura, off Hwy. 94. According to Leavitt, “a large wildfire opened up the approach to this area about three years ago. It’s like a taller version of Mt. Woodson, with better features and a higher concentration of routes.”
FA Colin Haley, Mikey Schaefer
Climbing in “smash and grab” style, Haley and Schaefer watched the forecast in Seattle, bought a last-minute ticket to Petersburg, and then choppered to the foot of Devils Thumb. Over the next three days, they completed the first traverse of the two Witches Tits, Cat’s Ears Spire, and Devils Thumb. In the process, they did the first complete ascent of the west buttress of the Thumb, a route Haley called a classic, with “fantastic rock.” The whole shebang, he says, “was higher in quality than difficulty… certainly a traverse I’d recommend to others.”
Incredible Hulk, High Sierra, CA
FADave Nettle, Glen PoulsenSnuck in at the end of the season in 2009, this sunny, sheltered route on one of the Sierra’s best high-country crags was confirmed as a great addition (despite some loose blocks) when other climbers finally got to sample the route in the summer of 2010. Seven pitches of splitters and corners, with harder variations.
Echo Cliffs, CA
FALouie Anderson, Ben Chapman, Pam NealA super-fun new pocket climb on this popular sport crag in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Mamie Peak, North Cascades, WA
FA Darin Berdinka
Named for Ella, daughter of the first ascensionist, Ellation provides a cool outing up the compact granite of Mamie Peak, just 45 minutes’ drive and an hour’s walk from Bellingham. Climb thin cracks and a techy face, with stunning views of Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker; either free the route at 5.11, or do a few moves of French free to keep it at mid-5.10. With a descent via rappels of the route (single-rope raps with a 70m cord), this outing offers a low-commitment introduction to rock climbing in the North Cascades. —BH
Colchuck Balanced Rock, WA
FAMax Hasson, Jens HolstenThese two 20-somethings have lived and climbed in Leavenworth every summer for the past five years, completing several big new routes. But in 2010, the two set out on a 1,000- foot climb that was steeper, thinner, and more sustained than anything new they’d ever attempted. Holsten had noticed the line of Let it Burn on the west face of Colchuck Balanced Rock “the first time I walked into the basin,” but it was amid the fall storms of 2010 that the climb was finally realized. Over the course of several trips, the two sussed out the moves and—despite a dropped drill bit—equipped the line with four bolts. (It still has the potential to serve up big air.) An extremely wet September had them wondering if they’d ever be able to free their route. “One 5.11c pitch, in particular, was a sewer,” Holsten says. “Every day it rained in Leavenworth, we started biting our nails more and more. With only days to spare, we got a clearing in the weather and managed to scrape through the pitch.” And though these two have done first ascents from Alaska to Patagonia, Holsten insists their 2010 project is “surely the finest I’ve put up.” —BH
The Waterfall, Oak Creek Canyon, AZ
FA Jeremy Schlick
This extension to the classic Chronic (also 5.12-) adds overhanging face climbing to the original route’s overhanging finger crack. Schlick’s description of this 115-foot pitch: “rowdy, positive, sustained, steep, and well-protected with all gear.” Our advice: Think TCUs… like, 20 of ‘em.
Smith Rock, OR
FABrad HellerThe Picnic Lunch Wall (Bauman-Schmitz, 1969) was a great soft-rock adventure during its first ascent, which required two days of scary nailing and a cold night en route after a sleeping bag got dropped. Now it’s a free-climbing testpiece, with every pitch 5.11+ or harder. “Hard cranking, mega exposure, and surprisingly classic climbing will be encountered while scaling this cathedral of mud,” wrote Heller, who replaced about two dozen quarter-inch bolts (but added none) before redpointing the climb last July. Despite the protection upgrade, he says, “The ability to confidently climb over questionable gear is a prerequisite.” Heller also pleaded with aid climbers to stop nailing on this historic Smith climb. It goes clean at C2+, or all-free to soft-rock experts.
FAJeremy Frimer, Kelly FranzIn 1966, Fred Beckey’s sojourns in Squamish culminated in two long first ascents up the south-most walls of the Chief. And although Beckey’s Tantalus Wall remains a popular classic, the other route, Crescent Ramp, has sat forgotten and overgrown. In 2010, local alpinist Jeremy Frimer decided that his yearly “expedition” would take place closer to home: He’d attempt to clean and connect a two-pitch corner (Milk Run) into the terrain first explored by Beckey 35 years earlier. Frimer and partners spent 26 days excavating, equipping, and climbing. At one point, Frimer hung in a harness for two days to hand-saw through a single gnarled stump that filled the chimney on pitch five. They also uncovered archaeological relics—six pitches up what they had begun to call Milk Road, the climbers found a 30-foot chunk of 1960s rope bowlined to a rotting tree. In May, the resurrected line was completed. Its eight pitches (including the original two pitches of Milk Run) offer a mix of crack, slab, and face climbing. The route goes at 5.10d A0, though friction technicians can free-climb the slabby bolt ladders on the first two pitches at 5.11b and 5.11d, respectively. More sustained than Angel’s Crest (5.10c) and about the same difficulty as Grand Wall (5.11a), Milk Road offers a fantastic alternative route to the summit of the Chief. —BH
Sierra Eastside, CA
FAVictor LawsonWhat just might be the longest 5.11 in the Bishop area went up last summer after an extended effort. As he ferreted out the complex line of corners and traverses under big roofs, Lawson placed the necessary protection bolts on lead. (Blindspot has several mostly bolted pitches, “but this is most definitely a trad route,” he says.) “The quality of the rock and the climbing is excellent, and it tackles an obvious feature on one of the cleanest buttresses around. And it’s only a 20-minute walk from the car.”
Joshua Tree, CA This little-known crag in the Queen Mountain area has about a dozen sport routes, about a third of which were put up just last year. Overhanging for much of the way, the routes range from 5.10 to 5.13, including a 14-bolt arête called Survivor (5.13c). The Chasm has a long approach, but steep stone and beautiful patina edges make it worth the hike. Says Robert Miramontes, author of a new Joshua Tree guidebook: “The rock is surreal.”
Joshua Tree: A Color Guide to the 2,600 Best Rock Climbs & Boulder Problems
Dreamscape, Shuteye Ridge, CA
FA Tom Slater, Coby Whitaker, Justin Ross
This 160-foot line is arguably the best route on the best face at one of the best cliffs on Shuteye Ridge, a long line of domes and crags south of Yosemite Valley that has seen major new-route activity in the past few years. Stick the thin slab crux down low, and then romp up classic Shuteye chickenheads to the summit of REM Tower, with bolts, slings, and assorted small pieces for pro. Click here for more information on Shuteye Ridge.
Comales Canyon, NMTwenty mountainous miles from Taos, deep in Carson National Forest, you’ll find a cobble-floored canyon lined with west-facing Ortega quartzite. Comales is a serene cragger’s mini-paradise with a dozen Eldo-style 5.7 to 5.10s on the vertical Water Wall (developed in the 1990s), and above this, the sunny, west-facing bench of the Fire Wall area. Last year, thanks to Dan Greenwald and friends, the three upperbench lines featured in Jay Foley’s 2005 guidebook became 18, from 5.8 to 5.11+ on the Fire Wall itself, as well as routes on outliers like the Block and Tim’s Thumb. There’s also killer camping (and swimming) at Comales Campground, near which Foley and crew last summer pioneered the Amole Area: three different short walls of featured basalt, with more than 25 new routes (sport, trad, and TR) from 5.4 to 5.11+, approachable either from Hwy. 518 or via the forested Amole Loop Trail. —MS
Taos Rock: Climbs & Boulders of Northern New Mexico
FA Ben Moon, Sonnie Trotter, Lydia Zamorano
For a climber with the skills to send 5.14 (on gear), the idea of cleaning a new 5.9 might seem a little passé. It’s a good thing Trotter doesn’t think so. In the summer of 2010, while climbing with Zamorano, Trotter noticed a line of scoops and corners arching up and left from the Squamish Buttress. This popular route’s 5.10c finger-crack crux, rising steeply along a jutting prow, often causes bottlenecks on sunny weekends. As someone who guides the route, Trotter immediately saw the appeal of an alternate finish. He recruited visiting American Moon to commence digging, and the two invested 79 hours, $200, and multiple pairs of fatally soiled socks in the project, which resulted in two new pitches of easier climbing, culminating in a summit scramble. Trotter described this effort as “the hardest week of my life,” but the result was well worth it. —BH
The Diamond, Longs Peak, CO
FA Bruce Miller, Chris Weidner 4588 5431QQSW0
The middle of this 950-foot wall towers over Mills Glacier, topping out at around 14,000 feet, seemingly too steep, blank, and weather- lashed to merit further free consideration. But, somehow, new free climbs keep getting completed. Boulderites Miller and Weidner spent nine days in July and August sussing a line that links Enos Mills Wall and Jack of Diamonds with some new climbing. To work the route, the pair fixed lines from the top: an exhausting seven-mile hike and scramble from the road. Often they climbed only two or three hours before storms forced them to power-jumar out. By the time they sent, having added only three bolts and three pins (including belays), they found themselves “fit but weak [for rock climbing],” says Weidner. With clean rock, good protection, and an out-there 90-foot enduro-crack crux (pitch seven), their route is destined to be a Diamond classic. —MS
Echo Canyon, Sandias, NM
FAKevin Jaramillo, Brad EllenThe Sandias (topping out at 10,500 feet) are known for cool summer temps, tricky route-finding, and the infamous pink, bulging “Roly Poly” granite, on which what appear to be nice seams and edges turn out to be slopers. Last May, one of the Sandias’ finest, techiest testpieces went in: the three-pitch Daisy in well-hidden Echo Canyon. As one Mountain Project user wrote, “The first [crux] pitch is perhaps the best hard line I’ve been on in the Sandias,” and the 5.11 second pitch has garnered rave reviews as well. —MS
Mt. Royal, Frisco, CO
FATim Toula, Peter KrainzIf you’ve zoomed along I-70 between Silverthorne and Vail, you’ve passed this pyramidal granitic peak, high on Ten Mile Canyon’s south side. Established just before the snow fell in 2009, this mondo “sport-alpine” climb (bring a few supplemental cams) links fun, slabby buttresses with second- and third-class scrambling; the final headwall holds the 5.8 and 5.9 money pitches. A few Internet critics decried “overbolting” on the climb, but its popularity suggests many like a taste of “plaisir climbing” in the Euro mode. —MS
Parriott Mesa, Castle Valley, UT
FAJay Smith, Jon Catto, Jim Donini, Jay ShotwellThis one was done back in 2008, but it’s unpublished anywhere, and Smith, who’s done hundreds of new routes in North America, says, “I shit you not, it is perhaps the best desert route that I have climbed, inch for inch. The route is considerably harder than Fine Jade, as classic as Primrose, and certainly better than Castleton’s North Face.” Varied, steep, and clean, with great views overlooking the Colorado River and Arches National Park.
Perseverance Wall, Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT
FA Shingo Ohkawa, Ben Rush
A fist-to-offwidth crack to a knobby face to a layback finish provide the fun. Some unusual FA motivation provides the backstory. Ohkawa explains: “Working at IME [International Mountain Equipment in Salt Lake], I’ve met many a young climber eager to make the transition from plastic to traditional climbing. So, a buddy and I sandbagged a number of Wasatch up-and-comers to an obscure, forgotten corner of the canyon to show them how many of their favorite LCC routes were established so many years ago: onsight, ground-up, hand-drilled from stances.”
Ten Sleep, WY
FAKevin WilkinsonThis pretty limestone canyon in the southern Big Horns has seen a surge of activity at the high end. Local Alli Rainey singles out Party “because it’s such a freaky anomaly for Ten Sleep. It’s at the Superratic, and it features giant moves between giant jugs—not exactly your standard Ten Sleep fare.”
Ten Sleep Canyon (7th edition)
The Crags, Estes Park, CO
Looking up from Hwy. 7 at the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Crags appear as gray lumps brooding high
over talus and pines—so high, in fact (a steep, 45-minute approach at over 10,000 feet), that most climbers eschew a closer look. But in the summer of 2009, honemaster Jonathan Siegrist and his hard-sending father, Bob, led the effort to develop a shadowy alcove beneath the towering Lower Great Face, creating this insta-popular summer venue. On the left wall, you’ll find off-vertical routes through subtle overlaps, from 5.9 to 5.12d; the climbs are Smith Rock–sporty, with a key mini-incut or foot crystal appearing at just the right moment. (They’re mostly bolted, but a superb 5.10 finger crack and corner and a few other trad routes make it worthwhile for your partner to lug up the rack.) To the right, an overhanging slot with wavy, fissured stone reminiscent of petrifi ed wood holds routes and link-ups from 5.12a to 5.14a. The classic is the 5.13c Cloak and Dagger, which tackles pimpers on a white-streaked panel (the “Cloak”) to link, via killer pods, into an upside-down arête with wild slaps (the “Dagger”). —MS
As anyone who’s experienced the climbing at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch or Sam’s Throne knows, Arkansas has superb stone, and the state is in the middle of a new-route explosion, with more than 125 new climbs since a guidebook was published just last year. Cole Fennel, the guidebook author, says Hudson Mountain, about a mile south of the Invasion Wall off Cowell Road, is one of Arkansas’ best crags, new or old, with 28 routes plus link-ups and room for five to 10 more climbs. Fennel’s line-up of four-star lines at Hudson includes The James Family All Stars (5.7), Hudson Crack (5.8 trad), The Clowning (5.9), Bucket Brigade (5.10b), Fogell (5.11d), Supertang (5.12b), and Goldline (5.12c). ”I could slim this down a bit,” he says, “but to be honest, all of these routes are in the top three of their respective grades in the entire state.” OK, we’re there.
Bitterroot Valley, MT Climbers have been putting up routes in the Bitterroot, south of Missoula, for generations. But starting in 2009, and accelerating in 2010, a crew of Missoula locals led by Michael Moore, Dane Scott, and Ken Turley have developed a proper sport crag on the north rim. The granitic rock is fairly solid, the lines are steep, and the scenery is gorgeous—just watch out for ticks from April through June. More than 20 routes have been established, of which Moore and compadres say the best of the best (so far) are QED-MF (5.12b), Pie for Strength (5.11b, 4 pitches), Shere Khan (5.11b), and Sabertooth (5.10b/c). A free online guide is available.
Flatirons, Boulder, CO Dinosaur Rock is a mere blip compared to the grander First through Fifth Flatirons just to the north. But the steep walls on its lateral flanks have offered new terrain for sport routes since 2008, when the crag was added to a permit system for bolting in the Boulder park. The 2010 highlights are a north-side route, The Shaft (5.12b), which climbs a sandstone tufa via textured slopers, and, around south, the two-pitch Pink Man’s Burden, which takes a fussy 5.12a opener to an endless bathtub traverse, then on pitch two heads out stonker 5.11+ headwall huecos. For more north-side action, try The Shaft’s burlier brother, Milk Bone, a 5.13a line up a crimpier tufa, and the 115-foot Ultrasaurus, a 14-bolt 5.13a/b endurance testpiece. And don’t miss these other new Flatirons offerings: the classic, Eldo-like Direct West Face (5.11) on the Third Flatiron’s sheer back side, as well as the nine killer, overhanging sport pitches, from 5.10d to 5.13b, added since 2007 to the Slab in Fern Canyon. —MS
Climbing Boulder’s Flatirons
Elk Horn Ridge, Black Elk Wilderness, SD
FA Eric Hansen, Chris Pelczarski, Kevin Bein
The Gunks and Black Hills pioneer Bein “had one last unfinished project that he couldn’t get before he died on the Matterhorn [in 1988],” says Andrew Busse, author of an upcoming guide to the Mt. Rushmore area. “During our guidebook adventure, we found this project and put Eric Hansen on the sharp end.” Hansen fell repeatedly on the quarter-inch bolts Bein had placed, but eventually he completed the climb. Says Busse: “It probably won’t see much traffic, but it’s a definite classic in the Black Hills."
Black Hills Climbing: Harney Peak East
Project Wall, Rifle, CO
FASam EliasThe Project Wall is a bulging, 170-foot behemoth looming over the road in Rifle Mountain Park’s narrowest sector. Last September, strongman Elias linked the 115-foot 5.13d Present Tense into the 5.13a upper section of a bolted (but still unsent) line, finishing with long moves between flat, textured edges to a micro-crimper crux and balancey traverse finish. Says Elias: “It’s a novelty of sorts that I don’t think is for everyone, but being all the way up there, alone, with the wind at the top of the canyon—that experience will stay with me for a long time.” —MS
Rifle Mountain Park and Western Colorado Rock Climbs, bookofsamuel.com
Whippoorwill Area, Summersville Lake, WV
FAJay Young, Gene KistlerSays Jay Young: “Few will climb the McCauley-Rose, because of all the big gear needed, but I really recommend you do. The route’s long traverses, big cams, hanging belay, and free-rappel descent lend it an adventurous feel you don’t find often in this area.” After climbing Charlotte Corner (5.10a) past its roof, hand traverse straight left, around the arête, and build a hanging belay. On the second pitch, continue traversing left for half a rope length, underneath a roof, with huge cams for pro, until you can climb up the left side of a hanging corner to a ledge and anchor. “Bring at least three very large cams—like #5 or 6 large,” Young says. “A couple 3s and a 4 will also come in handy.” Or, if you dare risk the fine for deep water soloing at Summersville Lake, just solo the route in high-water season as Young did for the first ascent.
New River Gorge Rock Climbs
The Dihedrals, Little Falls, NY
FA James Otey
A stellar line in a not-so-stellar location, this former toprope was bolted and led last fall. Chase eight bolts up the striking arête, directly above an active rail line.
Upper West Bolton, VT
FATravis PeckhamThanks to some superlative access work by the local group CRAG-VT, much of the cragging around Bolton has been protected, and new routes of all kinds continue to go up. Fresh Meat, established by past CRAG-VT president Peckham, follows steep jugs and bear-hug moves to an anchor, with a harder, gear-protected pitch (Old Bones, 5.11c, also by Peckham) rising above.
Laurel Knob, NC
FA Arno Ilgner
Started way back in 1991 by Burton Moomaw and Ralph Fickel, this beautiful granite line went at 5.11a C2 when Ilgner did the first complete ascent in 2008. He returned last year for the free climb, which presents amazing variety—slab, steep crack, thin face, and water grooves—and sometimes challenging protection.
Green’s Cliff, NH
FADmitriy Shirokov, Mark Sprague.The free ascent of this 10-year-old clean-aid line (FA: Jamal Lee Elkin) was part of a renaissance of Green’s Cliff, a backcountry crag about two hours’ walk from the Kancamagus Highway. Greenpeace is a 200-foot finger- and hand-crack with a stretch of bolt-protected pocket climbing in the middle, with multiple cruxes.
Kancamagus Highway, NH
FA Bayard RussellThough Russell got the first lead of this beautiful two-pitch mixed line, it was a community endeavor, requiring years of effort and waiting for conditions before the successful ascent. The route is “not cutting-edge grade-wise, but classic,” Russell says. “The icicle has been sitting there in plain view for a really long time, and everyone who climbs around here knows about it. I’d just been on it more than anyone, and had the beta sussed.” The result was one of New England’s most beautiful winter climbs: a 90-foot, overhanging bolted pitch leading to a ledge, above which, if you’re lucky and it’s in condition, the stunning second-pitch pillar looms.