|Grand Orcaface Tower
After staring at this face for decades, Tomas and I decided to give a go in the late winter. The first two pitches turned out to be surprisingly good, but unfortunately the final pitch was a nightmare of poor quality rock and less-than-ideal protection, forcing us to aid a short section of crack and short bolt ladder. The route does stand as the only route that gains the summit of the Grand Orcaface without climbing the original Parker finish (shallow drilled holes that someone should fill with bolts).
Pitch 1: Climb the obvious, flaring corner that leads to the two-level tower. The crux requires small cams (.4 and .5) to pass a short stretch of tips liebacks (5.10+). Continue past the towers, shifting left below a small roof, to a two-bolt belay on the Fort Apache Limestone band.
Pitch 2: Climb the nice dihedral above, which ranges in size from off width to tiny (.35 cam needed). A short deviation to the right bypasses a bit of poor rock (5.10). Belay at a two-bolt belay at the top of the dihedral.
Pitch 3: The nastiness begins- face climb on poor-quality rock to the ledge 10 feet higher and to the right (5.9- adequately protected by the upper belay bolt, but still scary). Traverse the ledge 25 ft. right to the obvious bulging hand-sized crack. Aid a few moves (or free climb if you've got the guns!) until the crack bends right and deteriorates. Follow a three-bolt ladder upward to meet the overhanging offwidth above (note: the third bolt drilled very poorly in soft rock, and should be used carefully for aid or replaced with a larger-diameter bolt for soft rock). We aided the first few moves of the offwidth, until the angle eases and some 5.9 thrashing gains the summit. We felt it was truly unfortunate that the final pitch was so poor in quality after the outstanding first two pitches. It is possible that a higher-quality final pitch could be found, perhaps to the left, that would turn the South Face into a classic.
The typical Sedona rack- everything from the widest cams to the tiniest (.4, .35).
BETA PHOTO: Details on the lower section of the climb.
Tomas leading the scary face climbing at the begin...
Tomas stemming between the two-level towers on the...
Tomas following the wide bulge at the beginning of...
Tomas turning the limestone band just below the fi...
Tomas nearing the summit on the wide crack that fi...
|By Jake Dayley|
Mar 20, 2014
rating: 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b C1
My friend and I climbed the South Face yesterday and found it to be an excellent route with far less loose rock than expected. It seems someone replaced the bad bolt on the third pitch because we found all protection to be pretty bomber. Maybe they did a lot of cleaning as well? The friable holds right off the belay were a bit scary but the traverse was quite easy and the final crack to the summit was just plain fun. Although there is a section of poor quality rock in the middle, it proved no big deal because of a solid drilled angle and a bomber bolt. I would actually say it's the best pitch of the route with some fists, perfect hands, and some incredible face climbing on hueco jugs! The only thing that deserves attention in our opinion was the lack of a bolted belay after the traverse on the third pitch. My friend still managed a clean free ascent with the rope drag but it would be much easier as two pitches. Plus you could maintain visual/verbal contact with the climber if it were broken into two. A good natural anchor is possible, but since all other belays are bolted it would just be better to bolt that one too. Would it be alright with the first-ascentionists if we returned to bolt that belay? Obviously we would not do it without permission. I was eyeing this line as far back as 2002 a remember being pretty disappointed when I found someone had beat me to it! Congratulations on a great line and for the good style it was put up in. A great route for any lover of Sedona style climbing! Thanks to whoever came before us and fixed up the third pitch!
We thought the pitches worked out as follows:
P1 - 5.10 loose rock but still a decent pitch.
P2 - 5.10+ A great, well protected pitch with everything from squeeze chimney to fingers.
P3 - 5.10+ Another great pitch. Unique and varied climbing up the center of the South face to a great summit.
Ha - I can't figure out how to remove the C1 from the page so just imagine it's not there...
- **If you are not well versed in Sedona climbing these grades may seem stout to you***