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Located on the overhung north side of Joshua Tree’s Iguana Dome, the 90-foot Stingray starts up a left-facing corner before traversing left and entering the route’s principle feature: a pin-scared fingertips crack. The line is so difficult that it laid dormant for 22 years after the first free ascent by Hidetaka Suzuki, who climbed it on pre-placed gear. Brittany Goris’s redpoint of the line on February 7, 2020, marks the route’s first ascent by a woman.
Goris wrote on Instagram that she tried the line “almost 50 times over two months” before nabbing the ascent. She worked the route with Prithipal Khalsa, who sent it on January 25. Khalsa stuck around to belay Goris over the next two weeks until both of them could claim redpoints. Goris called it “one of the proudest ascents of my life.”
Goris exploded onto the crack climbing scene in 2018 with her ascent of Index’s City Park (5.13d). She completed the route—the hardest gear route in Washington—after trad climbing for only about a year. Before then she’d been a strong competition climber and boulderer, but suffered from burnout, going as far as quitting the sport briefly. Goris returned with sport climbing, then found new motivation in trad climbing. Read Brooke Jackson’s 2019 profile of Goris for more on her background.
The Stingray trip was only Goris’s second to Joshua Tree, according to a detailed blog post about her ascent. Of her first trip, in 2015, she wrote, “The only thing I sent was the 5.5 free solo, the Aiguille de Joshua Tree (aka the Finger of Hercules), and I might have followed a 5.10 or two. I got completely shut down by every single other thing I tried. From 5.11 hand cracks to 5.12- sport climbs, it all seemed ludicrously sandbagged, sharp, crumby, and absolutely butt puckering.”
Goris arrived for this trip “having failed to coordinate with any of my friends who were headed that way. I also had no guidebook, there was no cell phone service, and for some reason Mountain Project had deleted the state of California from my phone.” She attended a Climber Coffee event hosted by the park’s rangers, where she met a group of climbers with similar goals that included Khalsa.
With her newfound partners, Goris ticked off a to-do list of hard J-Tree cracks: Equinox (5.12c), Asteroid Crack (5.13a), and Acid Crack (5.12d). She began trying Stingray on December 21. She wrote that she’d been in search of serious project, “I wanted a climb so special it felt like I was in a relationship with it. A climb so beautiful I fell in love. A climb so challenging I would willingly make sacrifices for progress. A climb so inspiring that I would be willing to do whatever it took, for as long as it took, to break through and send. A climb so proud it would teach me new things and show me how to grow as a person. The kind of climb that takes you on a journey. The kind of climb that changes your life.”
Read the full account of Goris’s time working the line, and her eventual send, on her blog. She will follow her time in Joshua Tree with a trip to Yosemite.
Mason Earle, who completed Stingray’s third free ascent in 2014, outlined the route’s history in a blog post for Black Diamond:
“In May of 1988, a couple months before I was born, legendary Joshua Tree climber Mike Paul completed the first free ascent on toprope. It was cutting edge free climbing for the day. Mike continued to work the climb, hoping to lead it, until one day he hiked to the base to find the well-known Hidetaka Suzuki ‘hangin from my TCUs.’ A mutual friend had tipped off Suzuki. Just a month after Mike’s TR, Suzuki scooped him for the first lead, on pre- placed gear.”
Sonnie Trotter completed the first redpoint of Stingray in 2010, placing gear on lead for the line’s second ascent. Trotter gushed about the line on his blog, writing:
“I’d say Stingray is one of the finest cracks I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s solid, (relatively speaking), it’s stunning in aesthetics, it’s steep, it’s leaning, and it’s all by itself. People need to climb this thing more often. The only drawback is that it has been chipped in the past, aid climbed with the use of metal pitons, the same way that many of El Cap free routes have been climbed. In my honest opinion, it may not be possible had it not be ‘aided’ first, at least not by common folk like me. Even with the pin scars, I could barely wiggle in my not-so-fat finger tips. One layer of tape was too many, so I went tapeless for the final working attempts, and the redpoint ascent itself. But this should not be a deterrent, not at all. It’s a remarkable climb with extraordinary movement and a completely dazzling position. It gets no stars in the store-bought guidebook, but it gets five stars in mine.”
Trotter declined to nail down a grade. He instead emphasized that Stingray is hard and second only to Cobra Crack, of the routes he’d climbed at the time, in terms of pure crack difficulty. “If you can climb Stingray, you can climb Cobra, and vice versa,” he wrote.