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The 50 Classic Climbs of North America

All 50 classics, for your climbing pleasure

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As compiled from Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, by Steve Roper and Allen Steck. Feeling fit? Got some free time? Here are all 50 climbs listed in 50 Classic Climbs of North America, with a few notes about each.


Alaska and the Yukon

1. Mount Saint Elias, Abruzzi Ridge

Since its 1897 first ascent, this route on Canada’s second tallest peak (18,008 feet) sees few ascents due to icefall and avalanche danger.   

2. Mount Fairweather, Carpé Ridge

A snowy peak (15,320 feet) in northern Glacier Bay National Monument, just 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean. First climbed by Canadian climbers Allen Carpé and Terris Moore in 1931.

3. Mount Hunter, West Ridge

In 1954, Fred Beckey, Henry Meybohm, and Heinrich Harrer made the first ascent of Mount Hunter (14,573 feet), at the time the tallest unclimbed peak in the Alaska Range.

4. Denali, Cassin Ridge

The snow- and ice-covered Cassin Ridge was the fifth route to be established on North America’s tallest peak (20,320 feet); Italians Riccardo Cassin and five others made the first ascent in 1961 over 23 days.

5. Moose’s Tooth, West Ridge

At 10,355 feet, it is “small” by Alaskan standards, but the Moose’s Tooth’s steep, corniced, icy pitches challenged the German FA team in 1964.

6. Mount Huntington, West Face

A year after Lionel Terray’s first ascent in 1965, two Harvard students led a team that established the West Face in a grueling multi-week push.

7. Mount Logan, Hummingbird Ridge

At 19,850 feet, Mt. Logan is the second tallest peak in North America. The prominent central-south Hummingbird Ridge stretches nearly six miles from the summit. Nobody has repeated it since its 1965 FA.

8. Middle Triple Peak, East Buttress

This grade VI wall requires 3,300 feet of climbing in often nasty weather, such as the weather that plagued Mike Graber, Alan Long, Andy Embick, and George Schunk on their 80-day 1977 first ascent.

Western Canada

9. Mount Sir Donald, Northwest Arête

Considered an “easy” 50 Classic. A. M. Bartleet and Val Fynn made the first ascent in one day in 1909.

10. Bugaboo Spire, East Ridge

John Turner, David Isles, Dick Sykes, and Dave Craft made the first ascent of this III classic granite in 1958.

11. South Howser Tower, West Buttress

At the time of Fred Beckey and Yvon Chouinard’s two-day first ascent in 1961, not many had explored this area of the Bugaboo group. Today, the towers boast popular routes with abundant free-climbing potential.

12. Mount Robson, Wishbone Arête

The highest peak in the Canadian Rockies (12,972 feet) is infamously difficult. Don Claunch, Mike Sherrick, and Harvey Firestone first climbed the grade V Wishbone Arête in 1955.

13. Mount Edith Cavell, North Face

Yvon Chouinard and Fred Beckey put up this notoriously difficult route in 1961. Competent parties can do it in one day.

14. Mount Alberta, Japanese Route

The treacherous loose rock and ice on Alberta (11,874 feet) turns away many climbers. Yuko Maki, leading the first Japanese expedition in North America, was among the team of nine, including three Swiss climbers, that first summited in 1925.

15. Mount Temple, East Ridge

Located near Lake Louise, the 11,636-foot Mount Temple’s two-mile-long east ridge was first climbed by Hans Wittich and Otto Stegmaier on August 17, 1931.

16. Mount Waddington, South Face

The south face of British Columbia’s tallest mountain (13,177 feet) demands difficult alpine climbing for about 2,500 feet. Fritz Wiessner and William House made the first ascent in 1936.

17. Devil’s Thumb, East Ridge

Fred Beckey, Bob Craig, and Cliff Schmidtke established the rarely repeated East Ridge in 1946. In 1970, a Canadian team established a safer, more direct start.

18. Lotus Flower Tower

Tom Frost, Sandy Bill, and Jim McCarthy first ascended this stunning 2,200-foot granite tower in 1968 at V 5.8 A2. It now goes free as an über-classic 5.10.

The Pacific Northwest

19. Mount Ranier, Liberty Ridge

In 1935, Ome Daiber, Arnie Campbell, and Jim Borrow established this steep, icy ridge on 14,410-foot Mt. Ranier over three days.

20. Forbidden Peak, West Ridge

A team of five made the first ascent of the remote Forbidden Peak in 1940. Despite its sinister name, this 5.2 takes only four to five hours to ascend from Boston Basin.

21. Mount Shuksan, Price Glacier

In 1945, Fred Beckey, Jack Schwabland, and Bill Granston established this route, which boasts difficult ice climbing and takes 8 to 10 hours to ascend.

22. Slesse Mountain, Northeast Buttress

In 1927, Fred Beckey, Steve Marts, and Eric Bjornstad made the first ascent of Slesse’s Northeast Buttress (7,850 feet), deep in the northern Cascades, at grade V 5.9 A2.

23. Mount Stuart, North Ridge

The North Ridge is a popular rock route on the massive 9,415-foot Mt. Stuart. Don Claunch and John Rupley first climbed the ridge in one day in 1956.

24. Liberty Bell Mountain, Liberty Crack

Often compared to Yosemite granite, Liberty Crack was put up by Steve Marts, Fred Stanley, and Don McPherson in 1965 at V 5.9 A3. It was freed at 5.13a/b in 1991.


25. Devils Tower, Durrance Route

Jack Durrance and Harrison Butterworth established this mega-popular 5.7 on Devils Tower in 1938. Three years later, Durrance repeated the route to rescue a parachutist stuck atop the tower.

26. Grand Teton, North Ridge

1,200 feet of 5.7 leads to the 13,766-foot summit; Fritiof Fryxell and Robert Underhill first climbed this sought-after classic in 1931, placing one of the first pitons in the United States on the route.

27. Grand Teton, Direct Exum Ridge

Jack Durrance and Kenneth Henderson established this popular 5.6 on steep granite in 1936 after Glenn Exum soloed the upper portion a few years earlier.

28. Grand Teton, North Face

In 1949, Dick Pownall Ray Garner, and Art Gilkey made the first ascent of this iconic IV 5.8. The summit is 13,766 feet above sea level, with a brooding 3,000-foot climb to access it.

29. Mount Moran, Direct South Buttress

In 1953, Richard Emerson, Don Decker, and Leigh Ortenburger put up this 1,500-foot route. It was one of the first in the Tetons with a mixture of free climbing and technical aid (IV 5.7 A3).

30. Pingora, Northeast Face

In 1962, Harry Daley and Jim Yensan established perhaps the most popular rock route in the Wind River Range. With its superb white granite and 5.8 climbing, the route is about 1,300 feet long.

31. Wolf’s Head, East Ridge

William Plummer and William Buckingham established this fun ridge romp (II 5.5) in the Cirque of the Towers in 1959.


32. Crestone Needle, Ellingwood Ledges

In 1925, Albert Ellingwood led Eleanor Davis, Stephen Hart, and Marion Warner up 2,000 feet of cobbled conglomerate (III 5.7) to the 14,197-foot summit.

33. Hallett Peak, Northcutt-Carter Route

In 1956, Ray Northcutt and Harvey Carter established this III 5.7; in the 1990s, the climb became III 5.10 R after a huge chunk of the mountain slid off.

34. Petit Grepon, South Face

This stunning pinnacle resembles a stone Eiffel Tower and boasts beautiful grade III 5.7 climbing. An unknown climber made the first ascent in the early 1960s.

35. Longs Peak, D-1

The famous Diamond was once off-limits to climbers. In 1960, Dave Rearick and Bob Kamps were the first to receive permission to climb it, establishing the direttissima D-1 (V 5.7 A4, or V 5.12- free).

The Southwest

36. Shiprock

This volcanic plug is located in the Navajo Nation, where climbing has been illegal since 1970. In 1936, Dave Brower, Bestor Robinson, Raffi Bedayn, and John Dyer made the first ascent of the 7,178-foot summit.

37. Castleton Tower, Kor-Ingalls Route

Layton Kor and Huntley Ingalls first climbed this sandstone spire in 1961; it took them two days, but the über-popular III 5.9 is now typically done in a half day.

38. The Titan, Sundevil Chimney

Layton Kor, George Hurley, and Huntley Ingalls first climbed this iconic Fisher Tower (the largest freestanding tower in the country), characterized by caked mud and loose rock, in 1962 at IV 5.8 A3.


39. Yosemite, Royal Arches

Morgan Harris, Ken Adam, and Kenneth Davis put up this 1,300-foot climb in 1936 at III 5.6 A1. With a free grade of 5.9, the route remains very popular today.

40. Yosemite, Lost Arrow Spire

A team of four first stood atop the Arrow in 1946, having ascended via “rope tricks”; Anton Nelson and John Salathé climbed the spire via fair means a year later.

41. Yosemite, Sentinel Rock, Steck-Salathé

Following unsuccessful attempts by other climbers, Allen Steck and John Salathé stood atop the Sentinel (V 5.10b) after a grueling five-day push in 1950; the route, with its infamous chimneys, is now considered a rite of passage.

42. Yosemite, Middle Cathedral Rock, East Buttress

In 1955, Warren Harding, Bob Swift, and Jack Davis made the first ascent of the East Buttress (5,400 feet); in 1961, Yvon Chouinard and Mort Hempel put up a variation that is now considered standard, later free climbed (5.10) by Frank Sacherer and Ed Leeper.

43. Yosemite, Half Dome, Northwest Face

In 1957, Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick, and Jerry Gallwas ascended the sheer 1,800-foot Northwest Face of Half Dome (VI 5.9 A3, or VI 5.12 done free). Previously, many considered the face unclimbable for its verticality and size.

44. Yosemite, El Capitan, the Nose

The historic first ascent of the Nose involved 45 days on the wall spanning a year and a half—on November 12, 1958, Warren Harding, Wayne Merry, and George Whitmore finally reached the summit.

45. Yosemite, El Capitan, Salathé Wall

Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, and Tom Frost established this VI 5.10 A3 in 1961 using as few bolts as possible. Many consider it El Cap’s finest climb.

46. Sierra Nevada, Mount Whitney, East Face

Robert Underhill, Norman Clyde, Jules Eichorn, and Glen Dawson romped up this 2,000-foot face (III 5.4) in 1931 in just over three hours.

47. Sierra Nevada, Fairview Dome, North Face

Wally Reed and Chuck Pratt established this stunning 900-foot direct (III or IV 5.9) in 1958. The summit is 9,731 feet above sea level.

48. Sierra Nevada, Clyde Minaret, Southeast Face

Allen Steck, Dick Long, John Evans, and Chuck Wilts established the 1,000-foot route (IV 5.8) on slippery volcanic rock to the 12,281-foot summit in 1963.

49. Sierra Nevada, Charlotte Dome, South Face

Charlotte Dome’s backcountry location in Kings Canyon National Park makes it slightly less popular despite superb climbing rivalling Yosemite; Galen Rowell, Chris Jones, and Fred Beckey made the first ascent in 1970.

50. Lover’s Leap, Traveler Buttress

In 1966, Steve Thompson, Gordon Webster, and Steve Roper established what is considered the best route (II 5.9) on Lover’s Leap, characterized by unique horizontal dikes.