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El Matador 

YDS: 5.10d French: 6b+ Ewbanks: 21 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 21 British: E3 5b

   
Type:  Trad, 2 pitches, 250', Grade III
Consensus:  YDS: 5.10d French: 6b+ Ewbanks: 21 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 21 British: E3 5b [details]
FA: FFA: Bob Yoho, Chick Holtkamp '78
Page Views: 24,239
Submitted By: Mark M. on Aug 14, 2002

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Bill Geist seconding the classic and amazing secon...

Voluntary Closure Every June and Seasonal Falcon Closures MORE INFO >>>

Description 

This is the classic box stem on the far south end of the west face easily visable from the trail head at the parking lot. Expect tourist gawkers on this route. There is good reason for them to stare, this is one of the most unique and classic climbs in the country.

Pitch 1: Climb the ramp and short section of 5.8 to get to a big ledge on top of a broken column at the base of the box.

Pitch 2: This is the pitch you've heard about. Climb up setting gear in the crack on the left when ever you feel like it. There are some good jams and fingerlocks on your way, but you must stem your legs and in some places pure stemming is the only option. Move fast and fight the burn. Easier for taller people, but the box narrows as you get higher. Belay at the top of the lefthand column. They say no move is harder than 5.9, but endurace and pain threshold are the keys here!

P3: Climb the near-vertical hand crack directly above the belay 40 ft to large ledge with two bolts. (5.8 fun)

P4: Jam the left crack on the ledge (you do not step off the ledge to reach this crack) for about 15 ft until you can clip a pin on the left wall. The pin looked marginal so I placed a bomber large stopper. Traverse straight right on good feet to the right crack. Now place some small wires and balance up to the roof, place a small cam and crank over on finger locks (10a crux). Climb over one more small roof and a short #.75 C4 crack (5.9) to a stance with two bolts. ~90ft

P5: Climb the rotten chimney directly above (5.4) until you reach a large ledge directly below the summit. Be extremely careful not to knock any of the loose blocks in the chimney down as they will funnel directly into the stacked up climbers waiting to climb the first two pitches! From here you can climb the easier looking chimney to the left(5.4?), or the hard-to-protect crack/face directly in front of you (5.7) to two bolts. Once again be very careful what you pull on. ~150 ft

The loose rock on the last pitch is avoidable, just something to be aware of.

The standard rap descent is on the far side of the tower. It would be possible to rap the route with 2 60m ropes but you would risk dropping your rope or rocks on someone climbing below.

Protection 

stoppers and small to medium cams. The less gear you set the less burned you will get!


Photos of El Matador Slideshow Add Photo
The classic shot from the boulder field...
The classic shot from the boulder field...
Greg Schaffer stems El Matador, at the age of 63, Climbing with Guide John Walker of Devils Tower Lodge!! Greg DID NOT rap after this pitch, but pursued the climb all the way to the Tower Top !!
Greg Schaffer stems El Matador, at the age of 63, ...
First jug after 130' of your legs melting...ahh
First jug after 130' of your legs melting...ahh
at 5'0'' it is possible to stem.  possible, but brutal.
at 5'0'' it is possible to stem. possible, but br...
Christian climbing the first pitch of El Matador 5-10d
BETA PHOTO: Christian climbing the first pitch of El Matador 5...
First go at this AMAZING LINE
First go at this AMAZING LINE
Josh leads El Mat for the first time.
Josh leads El Mat for the first time.
look ma, no hands...
look ma, no hands...
Stem, palm, push, jam, repeat...
Stem, palm, push, jam, repeat...
Cool shot up the stem box. taken by my cousin
Cool shot up the stem box. taken by my cousin
Looking up from P1 belay ledge.
BETA PHOTO: Looking up from P1 belay ledge.
Rocking it old school
Rocking it old school
At a slide show a non climber asked me if this was a man made structure.
At a slide show a non climber asked me if this was...
Jim & Pat came all the way from  the East Coast just to stem the Matador !!! They got what they came for and MORE!!!
Jim & Pat came all the way from the East Coast ju...
An unknown climber on the second pitch of El Matador.
An unknown climber on the second pitch of El Matad...
Rob finishing the 2nd pitch.
Rob finishing the 2nd pitch.
Entering the 10a crux of the 4th pitch around the right side of the roof.  Photo by Adam Sinner
Entering the 10a crux of the 4th pitch around the ...
Artley starting up P2
Artley starting up P2
El Matador route
BETA PHOTO: El Matador route
chossy, bird crap laden chimney on P5-6
chossy, bird crap laden chimney on P5-6
El Matador 5.10d Beta
El Matador 5.10d Beta
Colin Simon and David Alexander atop Pitch 1.
Colin Simon and David Alexander atop Pitch 1.
Half way up pitch 2
Half way up pitch 2
An unknown climber nearing the end of the stemming pitch.  (That's me rapping off of McCarthy West Face).
An unknown climber nearing the end of the stemming...

Show All 35 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on El Matador Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 11, 2013
By Brian Milhaupt
From: Golden, CO
Aug 18, 2002

While unrelenting for sure, this route is very easy to protect. Continual movement is the key, and good crack holds will help along the way. I climbed this route with someone under 5'5", he climbed the crack the whole way, and only used the stem for rests! No 5.10 climber should shy away. One of a kind.
By Anonymous Coward
Sep 4, 2002

I'm 5'6 with relatively short legs and was able to stem/chimney whenever I wanted. Awesome route but oh, the pain. The pain!
By Jay Knower
Administrator
From: Campton, NH
Mar 9, 2005
rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

I got the same pump in my calves I usually get in my forearms after leading this pitch. I think I placed about twenty pieces of gear, because the bottlenecks in the left crack were too good to pass up, and because, at any minute, I could have succumed to the pain.
By Doug Hemken
Administrator
Sep 9, 2006

The Tower's most famous pitch.

Pitch 3 is a short and fun romp after the determination and focus required for p2. Pitch 4 looked fun, too, but we got rained off. Guess I have to do it again....
By reboot
From: Westminster, CO
May 29, 2007

Summited the tower on the route. Did the 10a variation of P4 over the right side of the roof (it was fun and felt hard for the grade). On P4, one can skip the first anchor and go about 150ft total to the next anchor. It's then another 70/80 ft to a set of anchor (look left) at the summit.

I'm 5'6 and can stem anywhere on P2, but moving off of pure stem would be quite difficult for the first 30 ft).
By Rob Dillon
Jun 3, 2007

500 keyhole stopper placements...you can't carry enough draws for all of them, but it doesn't really matter.
By Joe Dawson
Jun 1, 2009

The second pitch is fantastic and is one of the most memorable I have climbed. El Mat is a must do for any 5.11 climber. It takes good pro, so dont be scared to take a shot at this classic.

I cannot agree that no move is harder than 5.9. I have climbed plenty of cracks at plenty of places and some of the crack moves on the bottom half of the climb are in the 10b or 10c range although there are easier moves in between them. I cannot judge the difficulty of the upper half of the climb because I am not used to chimney stemming, but I can say that is it going to feel plenty harder than 5.9 for those of you who are not used to it.

Gear Beta for second pitch:

The climb does like medium to small pro. I took triples from 0.5 Camalot to #1 Camalot, and doubles from 0.3 inches to 0.4 inches (blue and green aliens) and I placed most of that (I place every 10 to 12 feet) and I did not have to worry too much about having to ration certain sizes on the way up. I took two sets of nuts and I placed five or so of them. Definitely do not need any Stoppers smaller than a 5. The last 30 feet or so of the second pitch do favor smaller gear in the 0.5 inch to 0.3 inch sizes, so save some tiny cams for that section.

I took two #2 Camalots and I was only able to place one of them. I do not think you could place two on the route, so do not take 2 of those. I read somewhere that it would save time to rack nuts on individual biners. I tried this strategy and I found that it burned extra time because I was not used to it and I had to fumble around to find which nut was on which biner. That is probably a better strategy for redpointing the route. If you are looking to onsite the route, I think that sticking with your normal process is the better strategy.

Rappel Beta:

We rapped from the top of the second pitch with two 60M ropes. This dumped us off on a 4th class ramp, which I did not really like. If you are not comfortable downclimbing a little 4th class, I would rap to the anchors at the top of pitch 1 and then rap to the ground.
By Tim McCabe
Dec 17, 2009

Once was enough for me on this one, I did spend about 20 minutes stretching before we left the ground.
By Alex A
Feb 3, 2010

These may be the most demanding climb in the U.S. for your legs, calf and thigh BURN!
lots of good pro, move as fast as you can to a slow the burn,
By cragsavvy
From: Salt Lake City
Sep 25, 2010

Go as far as you can without resting! When you get to the top, oh man are you pumped! It is well worth it, great view unbelievable climb. I'm 5'2" and the stem was a stretch in some places it was nearly impossible, but the section where steaming is necessary I was able to do.
By Guy H.
From: Fort Collins CO
Oct 13, 2010

From the top of P2, you can rap with a single 70M. Just rap to the anchors on MWFV and then to the ground. A 20ft 4th class ramp must be down climbed on the final rappel though.
By slim
Administrator
Sep 23, 2011
rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

excellent route. don't worry too much about your height as there is a lot to work with most of the time. even being pretty tall, i probably only did the full stem thing on maybe half of it. takes great gear the entire way. agreed with others who say no move harder than 5.9, but pretty sustained. really fun.
By fossana
From: Bishop, CA
Apr 23, 2012

The Orenczak/Lynn guide only notes a single 60' chimney pitch, but there is a second one (also short) to reach the summit. Both are marked by fixed anchors. The final anchors are at the top of the crack system climber's right of the P5 belay.
By Micah Kurtz
Sep 18, 2012

Where is the 10d pitch? I'd guess the second pitch but the route description assumes 5.9 Anyone have a better idea?
By Martin le Roux
From: Superior, CO
Sep 25, 2012

To answer Micah Kurtz's question: Your guess is correct. Pitch 2 ("the pitch you've heard about") is indeed the 10d pitch.
By jordan cocanower
From: The High Country
Oct 23, 2012

I would say the second pitch is definitely the crux. The 10a crux feels more like 5.9. second pitch is $$$, LEAD IT!!!! Just do it quick!
By Ross Philip
From: Boulder, Colorado
Jul 11, 2013

I only TR'd this, but I think the key is to try using the crack as much as possible and only stem out when you really have to. The stem can wear you down quickly. Also, if you climb this in the morning, look back down to the parking lot and be amazed by the flash bulbs of the paparazzi tourists as they add pictures of you to their Devils Tower photo albums.