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Fingertip Traverse 

YDS: 5.3 French: 3+ Ewbanks: 10 UIAA: III British: VD 3a

Type:  Trad, 4 pitches, 500'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.4 French: 4a Ewbanks: 12 UIAA: IV British: VD 3c [details]
FA: Jim Smith, Bob Brinton, Arthur Johnson, and William Rice, September 1936
Page Views: 5,969
Submitted By: Roger Linfield on Feb 24, 2006
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Christy leading the tree start.


From Lunch Rock, walk right until the rock starts to curve sharply around to your right. Start the climb by going up a third class gully to a tree below an overhang. Climb the tree and exit left around the overhang, and then continue up easy ground to the top of a shrubby area and belay. An obvious right-facing lieback (5.3) goes up to a broken area and an optional belay. Step around left to the obvious fingertrip traverse which gives the route its name. Continue up and left along this crack to easier ground. Broken 4th class climbing takes you up to Lunch Ledge. The easiest way to the top from here is to move up over some three foot steps. Continue up and right along an obvious gully to the shoulder of the rock.


standard rack

Photos of Fingertip Traverse Slideshow Add Photo
Just after the 5.3 lieback... which in my opinion is not exactly casual 5.3... kinda polished for the feet.
Just after the 5.3 lieback... which in my opinion ...
The 3rd/4th class at the start is kinda spicy. ;)
The 3rd/4th class at the start is kinda spicy. @SE...
Here's a pic of the 5.3 layback.
BETA PHOTO: Here's a pic of the 5.3 layback.
At the base.
BETA PHOTO: At the base.
Sitting comfortably at the lunch ledge.
Sitting comfortably at the lunch ledge.
I thought I was on the 3rd pitch but it was just on the left were there's two pitons just before the traverse.
I thought I was on the 3rd pitch but it was just o...
Debbie just after stepping off the tree onto the face.
Debbie just after stepping off the tree onto the f...
Russell usually free solo's this route. He was my helpful guide and followed.
Russell usually free solo's this route. He was my ...
The actual fingertip traverse section, the money pitch. The slab to the left, not fully show, is slick, featureless and drops off quickly.
BETA PHOTO: The actual fingertip traverse section, the money p...
Comments on Fingertip Traverse Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 26, 2013
By Christian "crisco" Burrell
From: PG, Utah
Aug 14, 2007

Easier than Fingertrip. But nowhere near as classic. I suppose if you want a multi-pitch experience with no difficulty at all, this route is ok. But there are better routes.

By Fat Dad
From: Los Angeles, CA
Jan 22, 2009

I could disagree more with cisco. Mathematically, it's impossible. As a beginner's climb, I can think of few better routes, with the possible exception of, say, the East Face of the Third Flatiron. From the step across out of the tree on the first pitch, the exposed lieback on pitch 2, the even more exposed fingertip traverse on pitch 3, it's just all too good. Do it and you'll see.

By Brian Hench
From: Costa Mesa, CA
Aug 10, 2009
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ MS 4a

I would think that many would want to rope up for the "third class gully". It seem more like fourth class to me. If you have a beginner in tow, I wouldn't ask him or her to solo that gully.

We finished the traverse pitch by continuing up and left to a large tree located above and right of lunch ledge. From here we continued up Angel's Fright and finished with the slab at the top. A total of four pitches.

By TylerW
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 16, 2010
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III VD 3a

watch out for the ant tree

By Justin Tomlinson
From: Monrovia, CA
Jul 3, 2011
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ MS 4a

While most of the climbing here is easy, I would not rate Fingertip Traverse a perfect beginners climb. (See The Trough for perfect beginners climb).

If you have a super noobie, I think they might find the exposure of the fingertip traverse combined with insecure feet and thin fingers quite spicy. Not terribly difficult, per se, but maybe not a confidence builder, especially with swing potential in the event of a fall.

Don't let the 5.3 rating fool you into thinking this is an easy walk up. Climbing the lieback requires some skill in technique for a move or two that might pose problems for some super noobs.

For a rating, I would give this climb a 5.5 based on the lieback and the traverse. Definately harder than anything on the Trough. Plus, you still have to top out coming off of Lunch Ledge, which offers runout 5.4 slab, delicate 5.6 tips/lieback, or I think there is (?) 5.0 slab up there.

Anyway, an okay climb.

By Josh Cameron
Jul 17, 2011
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III VD 3a

Combined with the first pitch of "Fingertrip" this is one of my all-time favorite routes. A great beginner climb and a great climb for a mellow cruiser day.

The first time I climbed it I had too much rope drag at the start of the slab on the last pitch. I built a belay off the little tree (yikes) then belayed up my girlfriend. When she got to the tree and saw that the climbed ended just up the slab, she let the expletives fly right at me. But, she must've had fun since she's now my wife.

By Raquel ROCKY Robles
From: Encinitas, CA
Aug 12, 2011

Did this route on 8.11.11 w/ a local climber, Russell Romero. This was my first multi-pitch trad lead. It was definitely fun! On the 2nd pitch, climbing up on the tree to the rock was pretty interesting!

Took my first lead trad fall on the 3rd pitch where there's a lie back section. BD #2 is what I fell on! It was definitely a great section.

On the actual traverse, since I am not used to being that exposed and high up, I had to really get out off my head to do the traverse. Thankfully Russell was very patient w/ me and I did it clean! Placed 3 pro's during the traverse. WHEW!

The descent was more spicier than the actual climb. Russell took me to a different longer route and still nerve wracking. Guess I will have to keep going back up there to get use to it :)

Overall, it was definitely a fun climb!

By Richard Shore
Sep 23, 2011
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III VD 3a

Classic as it gets for the grade. Add some extra spice by doing the 5.4 slab finish off Lunch Ledge.

By Tristan B
From: La Crescenta, CA
Oct 24, 2011

We did this route today. My parnter couldn't get my yellow master cam out from a spot in the middle of the traverse. If you get it, congrats on the booty and it's a pretty new cam with no falls so you can trust it.

By Raquel ROCKY Robles
From: Encinitas, CA
Jul 12, 2012

Love this route. Did it again on 7.10.12 w/ a buddy that has never been to Tahquitz. Finished the last pitch with the fingertip lieback section. Fist time me leading that section. Love it!!! Super fun day!

By Colin Parker
From: Idyllwild, CA
May 25, 2013
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ MS 4a

I have to agree with Justin Tomlinson on this one. It's a great route, but it's certainly NOT 5.3, and probably not a good climb for super noobs. I brought two friends on their first outdoor climbing trip up this thing yesterday and I made the tough call to rap before the traverse. I scouted it and downclimbed it and it felt every bit of 5.5 to me. You have positive fingertip holds and marginal foot holds at the crux. Also, lots of exposure here. The lieback on pitch 2 also has a few difficult moves near the top, definitely not 5.3. So I highly recommend this to people breaking into the 5.5 grade and even novices comfortable with exposure, but not your average beginner.

By The Gray Tradster
May 26, 2013

The Tahquitz decimal system (later to be adopted as the YDS)was originally based on a list of climbs that established the basis for the grading system by Chuck Wilts in multiple editions of his guidebook.

5.0 The Trough
5.1 Fingertip Traverse
5.3 Northeast Farce
5.4 Angels Fright
5.5 Ski Tracks
5.6 Sahara Terror
5.7 Fingertrip
5.8 Mechanic's Route (Booksellers Route)

Later additions were
5.9 Open Book
5.10 Blank
5.10+ Blankety-Blank

Just explain to the beginners what a "fingertip traverse" is and that you aren't supposed to try to walk across it.

Tried that as a NOOB my first time at Tahquitz about 45 years ago.