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Ship Rock
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Friggin' in the Riggin' T 
Moby Dike T 
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Regular Route 

YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a C0

Type:  Trad, Aid, 1700', Grade V
Consensus:  YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a C0 [details]
FA: David R. Brower, John Dyer, Bestor Robinson, Rafi Bedayan, 1939 FFA: Rogowski, McCalla 1959
Season: year-round
Page Views: 6,284
Submitted By: Camster (Rhymes with Hamster) on Apr 11, 2008

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PG setting the summit speed record (1hr 50m)...fre...

  • Ship Rock is located on the Navajo Nation, and currently climbing is ILLEGAL on the Navajo Nation; including Ship Rock. MORE INFO >>>
  • Climbing on the Navajo Nation is ILLEGAL. MORE INFO >>>

  • Description 

    Note: This description is from memory of a 9/2006 ascent. It might be blurred with two other routes I've done on SR (a new route on the East Face and the Longs Couloir var. to the Regular Route), so please email me corrections at camburns@rof.net. Eric B. encouraged me to record this ASAP before I friggin lose my mind. Cam

    Route: Hike around the NW side of the monolith and into a huge bowl with a black basalt intrusion. Ascend into the bowl. You'll soon find you can't get very far as cliffs ring the lower part of the bowl. They're not high---maybe 80 feet tops, but they bar access to the Black Bowl above. Over to the left you'll see the cliffs even overhang. That's where, if all goes well, you'll likely rap down. But for now, move to the right side of the bottom of these cliffs and climb one or 1.5 really easy-but-kinda-ugly pitches to gain the Black Bowl (via a series of crumbling ledges and protectable rock).

    Now you should be in the Black Bowl (that's its real name) proper. Move up and left into a low-angled gully. Follow this for two very easy pitches (can be scrambled) or about that distance (several hundred feet). The gully curves up and right and puts you atop a sort of rounded pillar (the gully forms the left edge of this rounded pillar). Up and right is an ugly looking right-slanting crack. It looks worse than it is. Climb it. Soon you'll be at the Colorado Col. From here, descend directly east into the obvious notch, then climb out (a bit scary as there's little pro), to reach the Sierra Col (the Colorado and Sierra Cols are very close, maybe 50 feet apart--but there's a gap between them, as you'll find. That's the scary, unprotected bit). From the Sierra Col, you go down---the Rappel Gully, that is. Fix a rope and rappel. A 165-foot rope should be considered the minimum (length-wise) here.

    At the bottom of the Rappel Gully, traverse right (south (right if you're coming out of the Rappel Gully)). There are two main variations to this traverse (one high, one low), and both require a bit of route-finding/common sense to navigate. Remember these when you're coming back. With both, you end up at a cave. Move left out of the cave and up steep ground (5.7-8 or so; this is the upper part of the Honeycomb Gully) until it gets easier.

    Now, you can unrope and scramble to the Lizard (shit, is that what it's called?), the famed horn of rock jutting out (from the right or north side) into the col that separates the north and south summits of SR.

    Climb the Lizard. Pretty much just draws are needed (there are many fixed pins and a couple of bolts), then belay. A short traverse right along ledges leads to a short, steep vertical crack (this is often overlooked as parties go farther right) that requires a 5.8 (or so) move to gain easier ground. From here, keep moving up and right (4th class) until you can scramble to the summit.

    The descent from the summit is fairly straightforward into the upper part of the Honeycomb Gully. The traverse from the south side of the cave back towards the Rappel Gully is the key to getting back, and, again, there are two variations to it.

    Then, jug the Rappel Gully. You'll need to traverse from the Sierra Col to the Colorado Col to descend. The rap from the Colorado Col can hang up ropes, so be aware there. Then, there are several big bolted anchors down the middle of the Black Bowl (this is typically not where one ascends, as you are viewer's left of this line) that let you descend to the final, short cliff band around the base of the Black Bowl. Wander far right (north), and you'll find an easy, short, free-hanging rappel out of the Black Bowl. It's a hike from here.

    There is endless loose rock in the Black Bowl, so extreme caution (and helmets and body armor) is advised.


    Not a lot is needed. A regular-sized rack (full set of cams, full set of stoppers, a dozen draws and stoppers, etc.).
    Jumars, definitely.
    Bring at least two ropes as you'll need to leave one in the rappel gully for return to the Sierra Col.
    If there are more than two climbers, you'll definitely want more than 2 ropes.

    Photos of Regular Route Slideshow Add Photo
    The road way down there!
    The road way down there!
    Yours truly climbing the Horn pitch
    Yours truly climbing the Horn pitch
    That's a long way down! Spot the car
    That's a long way down! Spot the car
    From the top of the Black Bowl, the route goes up this crappy wall, then through the Colorado and Sierra Cols....
    From the top of the Black Bowl, the route goes up ...
    Cammo pretending to be a real climber but actually faking it (he's really just a writer and artist). Luke Laeser photo.
    Cammo pretending to be a real climber but actually...
    Cam and Charlie French screwing around in the Black Bowl...
    Cam and Charlie French screwing around in the Blac...
    Charlie French and Cam in the Rappel Gully, trying to look cool (failed miserably)....Photo by Benny Bach.
    Charlie French and Cam in the Rappel Gully, trying...
    The 1st set of anchors for the descent off the summit (north) into Longs Couloir.
    The 1st set of anchors for the descent off the sum...
    The Traverse Pitch after the rappels
    The Traverse Pitch after the rappels
    I plucked this photo from George Bell's collection to show the location of the North Face Rap anchors.
    I plucked this photo from George Bell's collection...

    Comments on Regular Route Add Comment
    Show which comments
    By George Bell
    From: Boulder, CO
    Apr 13, 2008

    I would like to point out the the original closure was precipitated by an accident, and that the lower part of this route is hazardous. The basalt is very loose, and the black bowl is a death trap under another party. The climb is also technically closed. So whatever ascents you do not plan to do, be extremely cautious!
    By Camster (Rhymes with Hamster)
    Apr 13, 2008

    Good post, George!
    By Camster (Rhymes with Hamster)
    Apr 13, 2008

    ...Uh, not exactly from my many critics over the years. Several Sierra routes---I'm told---sprouted bolts long before the boys got to SR.....
    By Pat Goodman
    From: Fayetteville, WV
    Dec 1, 2008

    Pretty sure that the descent description mentioned above is a bit out dated (i'm not calling you old Cam!).
    1st - don't fix yer cords in the rap gully.
    2nd - locate a set of anchors on the summit. Best way I can describe their location is this. The 1st big flat boulder you climb to on the summit,(but that is not the summit boulder) it should have the ammo can somewhere on it. Crawl into the cave/hole (east) under the boulder east of the big flat boulder. Sounds harder than it is, just look around. 4 double rope raps down the N. Face get you into the Longs Couloir.
    3rd - scramble and make 4/5 more double rope raps to the base.
    This is by far the safest way to descend!
    look at this photo mountainproject.com/v/new_mexi...
    By Steve Levin
    From: Boulder, CO
    Jan 21, 2009

    This is one of the great classic North American rock climbs. It is up there among the best routes I have ever done, not for the climbing, but for the experience. And after all, that's what we're after, right?
    By Camster (Rhymes with Hamster)
    Sep 15, 2009

    Oh, thanks, Pat. I had no clue about that rap route.
    By Noah8000
    From: Vail, CO
    Oct 31, 2010
    rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a C0 R

    Some more bolts seem to be missing on the traverse pitch. Only found 2 manky pieces 15 feet from the anchor then a runout of well over 100 feet is required on dicy friction where everything seems to be breaking. Didn't fix the rope. Rappeled in 7. An amazing route. Not for the climbing like Steve says but for the adventure. Something I'll never forget.
    By Jeremy Aslaksen
    From: Albuquerque, NM
    Nov 1, 2010

    Ummm...how about not posting this stuff...think about it people.