Second Coming: 5 Top Climbers Share Their Favorite Unrepeated Routes

By Bailey Batchelor ,

Jonathan Siegrist on Enter the Dragon (5.14a R), The Fins, Idaho. The route is still waiting for a second ascent, could it be you?

Ian Cavanaugh

While that new one-star 5.9 at your local crag might see dozens of ticks in its first month, some routes go years without a repeat. They may be remote, they may require very specific conditions, or they may be just plain hard. We reached out to prolific first ascensionists and asked them to share their best unrepeated routes. Feeling strong? Find your next project in the answers below.

1. Jonathan Siegrist

What's your favorite first ascent that has yet to be repeated?

Enter the Dragon (5.14a R), The Fins, Idaho.

Year of FA?

I climbed the route in September of 2012.

What’s the story of the first ascent? What made it important to you?

Enter the Dragon is a 40 meter long, outrageous limestone crack system at the Fins that I climbed on gear. This was during my first campaign at this very remote, incredible area in which I spent a lot of days alone. I rope soloed on this line a number of times, but I had not yet done the route clean before my final day in the Fins arrived. I knew I had to give it a rip on the sharp end. I sent the pitch, making perhaps the most spectacular first ascent of my life.

Is there a reason it hasn't been repeated?

Several very capable climbers have tried the route on toprope over the years, but I think the fickleness of the gear and the seriousness of the pitch in general have deterred anyone from a lead attempt.

Why should someone try it?

It’s one of the most beautiful single pitch trad routes in the country. And to sweeten the deal there is a 5.13d R/X and another ~13d/14a nearby that are awaiting repeats too.

Describe the crux

Honestly, what sets this pitch apart is that it’s more of a long and pumpy adventure with several hard sections as opposed to most single pitch 5.14 gear routes in the U.S. that are 5.12 to some heinous boulder problem.

2. Adam Ondra

What's your favorite first ascent that has yet to be repeated?

Move (9b/5.15b), Flatanger, Norway.

Year of FA?

2013.

What’s the story of the first ascent? What made it important to you?

I always looked at the line, but I was very hesitant to bolt it. I was worried that there would be no holds. On my first season in Flatanger, it was all about Change. The next season I went there in May, mostly just for bolting. I bolted a few hard lines (one of them later became Silence), but this one I somehow saved for the last day. I started bolting in the late afternoon and found that the last section, which looked so impossible, is actually possible—and it is one of the best pieces of climbing I have ever done. We were scheduled to leave Flatanger the following morning, but I really wanted to finish bolting the route. So I bolted alone, at night, in a storm (Move is deep enough in the cave to be sheltered). It was a great experience: just me, the light of my headlamp, and the sound of the wind while I bolted one of the most amazing routes and features I have ever touched. At 4 a.m., the route was bolted and we could start driving home.

Two months later, I made the FA on my last day of a trip.

The route is called Move because of the crux move, but also because you have to move very well in the lower section to get to the crux fresh. The lower section climbs so well that you go faster and faster with every single try.

Is there a reason it hasn't been repeated?

It is about 9a/5.14d climbing into a crux move—a really specific shoulder and drop-knee move—which is very hard after you climb there from the ground. The whole route is so enjoyable, and the single move is fantastic as well, but it can easily turn into nightmare. Seb Bouin, my French friend, has already dedicated a lot of time into this line and he got incredibly close last fall. Hopefully he will crush next season.

Why should someone try it?

Amazing features, line, and move, and the rest of moves.

Describe the crux.

Right hand flake, left hand small gaston-flake, right foot next to your right hand, drop your right knee, bend backwards (it is almost a roof) and reach right hand into a positive incut crimp and cut loose. Cutting loose is the real linking crux.

Watch Adam Ondra climb Move (9b/5.15b).

3. Sonnie Trotter

What's your favorite first ascent that has yet to be repeated?

Forever Expired (5.14d), Lions Head, Ontario, Canada.

Year of FA?

2003.

What’s the story of the first ascent? What made it important to you?

It's possibly the largest overhang along the Niagara Escarpment, making it one of the steepest climbs in Ontario. It was also very hard for me, and I put in about 10 solid days of work on it, when I was probably in the best shape of my life. To this day, it may be the hardest climb I've ever done. It was the third 5.14d in North America at the time.

Is there a reason it hasn't been repeated?

It's not exactly a climbing destination for much of the climbing world. Lions Head is an incredibly beautiful place, with fantastic quality routes and impeccable limestone, but it doesn't always draw the international powerhouse climbers. I'm sure there are many locals who are strong enough, but it takes time and dedication I suppose.

Why should someone try it?

Because it's there.

Describe the crux.

The crux involves long moves on shallow one and two finger pockets. I believe it felt in the V12 range for me.

4. Rob Pizem

What's your favorite first ascent that has yet to be repeated?

Tehipite Sanction (5.13- or 5.12 C1), Kings Canyon National Park, California.

Year of FA?

July of 2010.

What’s the story of the first ascent? What made it important to you?

This route was an opportunity for my team to establish a remote route in the continental United States while using horseback to complete the approach. It was important to one of my partners because his father had just passed away and the ascent provided a way to honor him. The rest of the team was psyched to have an out-of-this-world experience within the boundaries of the U.S., as none of us had the time or money to leave the country for climbing that year.

Rob Pizem on Tehipite Sanction, Kings Canyon National Park, California.

Andrew Burr

Is there a reason it hasn't been repeated?

There is a 13 mile approach that likely keeps people away. Plus, the grade of 5.12 C1 or 5.13- will keep many possible suitors grade weary. All of the difficult sections can be aided on nuts or cams.

Why should someone try it?

The route climbs on impeccable Sierra granite in an incredible exposed, vertical setting. The climbing is mostly perfect cracks, up to wide hands with a few face moves over solid protection and a total of just 6 bolts. The approach from your remote camp is just a rappel to the base on bolted anchors. There are 12 perfect pitches that lead to another 6 pitches of pre-established terrain by other parties. The crux is a thin lieback where, as with the rest of the route, covers varied terrain requiring all of your climbing skills. One of the most memorable pitches is a 30+ meter 3-inch crack that climbs multiple square cut roofs.

Describe the crux.

The pitch begins with a left facing dihedral crack boulder problem to a thin stance. From the stance you traverse left (10 feet) to the right facing dihedral where you climb the sustained tips layback to fist crack to the anchor. A clean and simple crux of old fashioned thin climbing.

For beta, see New Route in Kings Canyon National Park on Rob Pizem's blog.

5. Tommy Caldwell

What's your favorite first ascent that has yet to be repeated?

Flex Luther (15.5a), Fortress of Solitude, Colorado.

Year of FA?

2003.

What’s the story of the first ascent? What made it important to you?

I climbed this about six months after I chopped my finger off. I guess it was something I wanted to prove to myself—that I could still do it.

Is there a reason it hasn't been repeated?

It’s so inconvenient! It’s in this cave that’s like a solar oven. The best time to climb it is in the winter, and if you do it then, you have to hike through deep snow to get there. Plus it took every skill to climb, kneebars, handjams, every skill I’ve had to acquire. It’s so hard.

Why should someone try it?

It’s super cool. Historically, it was one of the hardest routes at the time.

Describe the crux.

It’s a series of technical knee bars that are tension specific, it’s incredibly intricate. There are very few down facing holds, you're moving sideways, and upside-down. It took 12 minutes to move two feet.

Is there published beta?

I don’t think that was a thing in 2003.

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