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 ADVANCED
Upper Tier of The Grotto
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Guillotine Crack T 
Mary Poppins S 
Skyline Arete, The S 

Guillotine Crack 

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

   
Type:  Trad, 2 pitches, 200'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.10c/d French: 6b+ Ewbanks: 21 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 21 British: E3 5b [details]
FA: Ken Sims, 1989
Page Views: 868
Submitted By: George Perkins on Jun 22, 2008

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Dave Mills enjoying Guillotine climbing.

Description 

Guillotine Crack is the among the finest of the crack climbs in Diablo, with perfect jams through pumpy cruxes. Great positioning high above the canyon with good gear makes this climb worth it. It might be found hard at 5.10, especially if you're not tuned into Indian Creek-style crack climbing. While the route's name is ominous, the Guillotine Flake for which it was named was removed from the route long ago.

Only the excellent 2nd pitch is described here. The original first pitch is in the lower tier and so it is posted on the Lower Grotto page; named Snazz by Nazz by some.

Start at the 2-bolt belay below the upper tier. 30' of chossy blocks leads to the business, an obvious overhanging hand/fist crack in a dihedral (crux). This physical portion is passed by good jamming in the corner, or by strenous liebacking, but is followed by a rest. Next is a 2nd crux, an overhanging thin hands/hands section (also solid 5.10). Easier crack climbing leads to a 2-bolt anchor just below the rim.

The first ascent history is, well, typical of a Diablo trad climb, i.e., unclear and perhaps disputed.

  • Karl Kiser says this route was not climbed by the old timers, because of a "huge flake left of the crack down low" which he, with Chris Kessler were able to clean from the climb. This would have been in the mid 90s (?).
  • However, Denny Newell reported he and Jacques (?) climbed this line in the mid 90s, and that there was a giant scary flake that was going to give them the axe. He said they were searching for the 5.11 noted in Rock-N-Road. This was before there were any sport climbs at Diablo.
  • D. Jackson, in Rock Climbing New Mexico, says the FA was Ken Sims in 1989, along with Rolling Brown Out the same day.
  • The anchors were put in by Bradshaw, and Kisiel/Newell/Beguin.

Descent: Rappel the route back to the Grotto with 2 or 3 rappels with a single 60m rope. The top rappel is just over 30m and won't quite reach the bolted anchor with a 60m, but you'll get close enough (make sure the ends are even!). The 2nd rappel is also too far to get to the ground with a single 60m rope; a 70m will work, or split it up by stopping at the Chopping Block anchor.
Walking off is a longer but reasonable option.


Location 

Guillotine Crack is the obvious crack splitting the upper tier of the Grotto above its entrance; it is to the right of the sport climb Mary Poppins on the upper tier. It is the rightmost climb in this page of Rick's online Diablo Canyon guide.
Guillotine Crack is above the excellent lower tier sport climbs such as Good. You can reach the quality 2nd pitch by climbing this route, or use the original approach pitch up a 5.8 dihedral to the left of them (Snazz by Nazz, also called Access Crack in the guides).


Protection 

1 each small cams
2 each #1 camalot
2-3 each #2 camalot
1 each #3 camalot
#4 camalot optional
nuts optional

2-bolt anchors installed at both the start and finish of the 2nd pitch, thanks to Rick Bradshaw, who installed the upper anchor; and Scotty Beguin, Ken Kisiel, and Denny Newell, who put in the lower anchor.



Comments on Guillotine Crack Add Comment
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By Daniel Trugman
From: Los Alamos, NM / Stanford, CA
Aug 8, 2010
rating: 5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

What a great splitter! Steep, pumpy, perfect hands and bomber gear. A true classic in my book, especially since climbs like this are hard to find in New Mexico.

Some notes:
1. Don't approach by the "Snazz by Nazz" crack, that was not very fun at all. Approach via "Good" or "Evil" or something similar.
2. As George emphasized, be extremely careful if using a 60m rope! We climbed on a 70m, and had only a few feet of rope left on the first rappel. With a 70m, you can easily rappel all the way to the ground for your second rappel.

By Ken Kisiel
Apr 8, 2011

This obivious line would have atracted any climber who ventured up to Grotto over the years. I believe Denny Newell and Jacques (? a swiss co-worker) detached a large slab of rock that ressembled a guillotine that was lodge into the corner, thus the name of the route. The block was bypassed on their acsent and they returned to make the route safer by removing it. The large block finally dislodged and exploded atop the "chopping block". Upon returning to their car the film crew of Earth 2 tv series complained about the noise they casued. I believe this all occurred in 1995. Earth 2 also filmed at Los Conchas next to the Gateway Rock. Maybe the show would have lasted more than two seasons if they had some rock climbing scenes.

By Paul Drakos
Aug 3, 2011

I climbed this crack with Ken Sims sometime in the late 1980's - early 1990's timeframe, though I think Ken had climed it previously (my memory is a bit hazy on this detail). The 1989 FA for Ken Sims cited by Dennis is accurate. I climbed it a couple of times recently (2 or 3 years ago) and was reminded of the earlier ascent and what a great route it is. Now you can climb a good sport route to access the upper crack, rather than the less appealing crack below.