Sign Up  |   Log In:Login with Facebook
REI Community
32 - Elephant Rock
Routes Sorted
L to R R to L Alpha
Crack of Despair T 
Crack of Doom T 
Crack of Redemption T 
Crashline T 
Elephant Talk S 
Elephantiasis T 
Fatal Mistake T 
Fun Terminal S 
Hairline T 
Hocus Pocus S 
Hotline T 
Hundredth Monkey, The S 
Left Guru Crack T 
Lost Error T 
Moongerms T 
Pink Dream T 
Pink Elephant T 
Plumb Line T 
Real Error T 
Reality Check T 
Right Guru Crack T 
Sky T 
Straight Error T 
Trundling Juan T 
Wicked Gravity S 
Worst Error, Left T 
Worst Error, Right T 

Crack of Doom 

YDS: 5.10a French: 6a Ewbanks: 18 UIAA: VI+ ZA: 18 British: E1 5a

Type:  Trad, 3 pitches, 500'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.10a French: 6a Ewbanks: 18 UIAA: VI+ ZA: 18 British: E1 5a [details]
FA: Chuck Pratt and Mort Hempel (Oct, 61)
Page Views: 2,729
Submitted By: Bryan G on Sep 23, 2012

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (5)
Your todo list:
Your stars:
Your rating: -none- [change]
Your ticklist: [add new tick]
Your opinion of this PAGE:    [0 people like this page.]
Sheridan Anderson comic. More here

Closures for Peregrine Falcon Protection MORE INFO >>>


The Crack of Doom was one of the first 5.10's done in the Valley and has a lot of history and lore surrounding it. To this day it remains something of a feared testpiece. It certainly takes a very imposing line up a steep chimney system. Most of the wide climbing however is in the 5.8-5.9 range, with just a short section of 10a at the end. Overall, this is an excellent climb on clean rock that protects well with modern big cams and deserves much more traffic than it receives.

The best approach is from Hwy 140. Park at one or two pullouts downstream from the Cookie pullout. The river crossing is only possible during times of very low water. Find the Monster Boulder and pick up a trail from it's right side. This faint trail marked with cairns will wind up past some large boulders and then contour east up the hillside to the base of the Worst Error Pinnacle. From here contour back right following skirting 5th class ledges. Scramble up a gully and some ledges until you encounter a fixed rope. Hand-over-hand up the rope to access the ledge system which leads back left to the west side of Elephant Rock. Here you will find a very large and obvious recess with large crack systems at either side. Crack of Doom is on the left and Crack of Despair is on the right.

Pitch 1 (5.9 or 5.10b): There are two starting variations. We chose the 5.10 start in the corner. For this climb up a bit of easy terrain to reach a steep 4.5" crack. Make a couple offwidth moves to reach a chockstone "jug" at the top and then crank up and over that on thin fingerlocks (10b). After that is a short chimney/pod and then an enjoyable jam crack that varies from thin-hands to fists.

The alternative is 5.9 liebacking and jamming up a the flakes just a few feet to the left of the corner. Both starts look like they offer quality climbing. Belay at a horn with slings on it at a good ledge.

Pitch 2: This is a long pitch up a remarkable chimney system. The first part is very straightforward, and is protected solely by a #6 Camalot. Climb up to a piton in a second crack out left, then chimney, stem, and offwidth up the double-cracks in a wide chimney. Scramble over some chock-stones and belay at a ledge in the back of a deep chimney.

Pitch 3: Another long pitch. Ascend the easy chimney working your way towards the back of it. Above is a "narrows" which is pretty intimidating but can be protected by a #5 or #6 if you enter into the squeeze while you're still towards the back of the chimney. Much wiggling will lead you to a ledge. You can stop here if you want a tight belay for the final crux, or just continue to the top. The crux is a left-facing corner that starts out as a bombay chimney and then moves over a bulge on awkward fingers and thin-hands. The rock is quite rotten for the last few feet and provides a rather unpleasant finish to an otherwise excellent climb. Scramble up ramps and belay at a tree.

Most people will want to stay roped up for the descent. Scramble up more forested ramps but don't go to high. Your goal is to traverse straight across the face over to ledges on the East Face of the rock. We took a path across a sort of slabby section that felt 4th Class +. Maybe 20ft below it looked like there were some bigger knobs which may have been easier. Scramble across ledges to the top of Real Error. We rapped (2 ropes needed) off a Bay tree on a ledge (which had no previous slings, but worked out good) all the way down to another large ledge with a tree at the start of Straight Error (a striking 10c splitter). From here one more rappel leads to the ground. The "ground" is really a bunch of 3rd class ledges and we found it best to keep rappelling the full 200ft, as far as we could. We had no trouble pulling our ropes.


Pro to 6"
Extra 6" or larger is optional.

Photos of Crack of Doom Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: this is how you go passing through the "narro...
this is how you go passing through the "narro...
Rock Climbing Photo: credit: Salamanizer
credit: Salamanizer
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 4 - 10a
Pitch 4 - 10a
Rock Climbing Photo: credit: Salamanizer
credit: Salamanizer
Rock Climbing Photo: Crack Of Doom ( left) and Despair (right)
Crack Of Doom ( left) and Despair (right)
Rock Climbing Photo: Reid's topo
Reid's topo
Rock Climbing Photo: this is how you go following Reid topo on P3
this is how you go following Reid topo on P3
Rock Climbing Photo: pitch 3 from top of p2. In fact in real life it lo...
pitch 3 from top of p2. In fact in real life it lo...

Comments on Crack of Doom Add Comment
Show which comments
By Alexey
From: San Jose
Sep 29, 2012

This is probably one of the best routes I climbed. The rating is irrelevant on this climb.
We took single rack up to #6 plus #9 Giant which was heavily used on p2.

P1 is about 80 ft, P2 -140ft, p3- 135ft and p4 is short. We rappel with one 80m rope. We did some rappel improvements with webbing and biners. This way it is possible to make Doom and Despair in same day, but we did not. Climbing crack of Doom took a lot of time and energy.
On approach we did not find fixed rope ( mentioned in description just few days ago) and did scary class 5 slabs. How we missed it?
we approach toward Pink Dream and from there pick up easiest way on class 5 slabs toward Doom and Despair . Did we missed safer approach?
By Bryan G
From: Yosemite
Oct 2, 2012

You don't want to go on the Pink Dream/Worst Error approach ledge at all, just pass by it and keep hiking uphill to the southwest for another few hundred feet. You want to access the higher approach ledge-system from it's far right side. It's definitely more exposed than the Pink Dream approach, but shouldn't be more than 3rd class if you do it right.
By Alexey
From: San Jose
Sep 21, 2015

Climbed this route second time and figured out more about discrepancy on Reid topo for for P3 and the way we actually climbed both times entering in the "narrows" of P3 [ same way as Bryan's description here on MP]
On Reid topo the end of p3 show two blocks with rating 5.8 and 5.9+ . Those two blocks is outside of the chimney and basically thin/hand cracks a pound those blocks. You can do it - if instead of entering "narrows" - traverse out of the chimney out- avoiding last 25 feet of tight chimney.
I think the way we did it is more strait forward and better way. Doom's "narrows" is little bit tighter than Narrows on SS, but wider than Harding slot. So if you are big- it is avoidable to squeeze but you still have a good chance to pass through .
By Alexey
From: San Jose
Sep 22, 2015

Chad's trip report from 2012

and couple of Peter Haan quotes from other ST treads :

I did maybe the 4th ascent of The Crack of Doom back in 1972 with a newcomer from the Northwest, Mark Fielding (sp?). It is an incredible route, extremely burly looking; you feel quite serious doing it.

The first pitch is a very steep black lieback/combo flake and pretty bold looking (old 5.9). The middle pitches are long squeezes with hardly any protection, especially the 3rd pitch. The final pitch is very cool, goes up and right to a short bottoming-out squeeze forcing you outwards and then to surmount its blocked off top to a basin (5.10a/b). This move is protected (back then by a angle pin I remember).

Superb rock, steep as hell, exposed for the first 1.5 pitches, intimidating alcove with the easier Crack of Despair just to the right. Recommended for strong offwidth people who can also get aggressive on other types of climbing, and has to be done without loads of protection. Descend via Real Error rappels or much more preferable, continue to top via Crack of Deliverance (5.8).

I don't think you can rappel the route on a practical level anyway.

I would suggest The Crack of Doom is the most daunting 5.10a I have ever done. (June 1971). It makes a farce of grading! It is 5.10a regardless; the rating is correct and I thought so back then too. But the route has so much power and foreboding, it one of those "5.10a routes for 5.11 trad leaders". But don't forget that a 5.10 rating (no letters back then yet) was a very heavy rating, the highest actually.

Even the first pitch is scary: a dead vertical to overhanging black jagged chunky lieback flake leading to the slot starting the actual main crack system---this feature is never any harder than 5.9 on lead but is really steep, scary, highly unusual and quite burly--- very off-putting! In fact today many would rate this pitch 10a just because they would be so blown out doing it. It looks like "non-climbing" actually!

The middle pitches are largely S-chimney and miles of heel-and-toe mostly with little protection---- you just climb. And the shorty final pitch, the only pitch of 5.10 on the four pitch route, is also very unusual, exposed, and would be an awful place to screw up, especially so very close to the belayer (very little rope out in the system) and with maybe two things in for your lead. Terrific route as an ensemble of leads located in the awe-inspiring giant alcove right next to Despair. That the final moves on the route are actually the crux---- really operatic! You are finishing off four hundred feet off the ground, doing trick moves close to your belayer, forced out of the crack system to surmount a small overhanging. Never as technical as many of the harder Pratt routes but Doom really is a masterpiece..... your understanding broadens, considering it was done fifty years ago, ground up. Leading off into its features was more than Roper could handle even and he along with Sacherer were roundly defeated by this climb. Very very few climbers today are capable of matching what Chuck did on first ascents in his best luminary years and I am thinking that this one climb best represents the depth of mind he had in those early sixties. He really believed, 'Technique is your protection' and climbed this way from the beginning.

The Definitive
Climbing Resource

Inspiration & Motivation
to Fuel Your Run

Next Generation Mountain
Bike Trail Maps

Backcountry, Sidecountry
& Secret Stashes

Better Data. Better Tools.
Better Hikes!