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The Flake is a very good, hard trad route that is seldom top roped let alone led. It is absolutely classic though, and a good test piece for those who are up for it. Be warned it is a significant step up in terms of difficulty and commitment from the Watusi and Shotgun, both of which are safe but spicy 12's. I would not advise anyone to lead it without inspecting gear first, and that's how I chose to do it.
Begin a few corner systems to the right of Paradise Lost, just right of the "I am the master" graffiti. Climb up relatively easy but exfoliating rock to a stance below a roof. Under this roof are some very suspect wedged blocks, but if done correctly, one only need yard on the most solid-looking of these. Apparently on the FA a huge flake was trundled here, making the route safer (hmph!). Bust a frightening and committing move out left around the corner to a sloping stance (this is where Bach's Celebration continues straight up and The Flake moves back right). From this stance much good gear can be arranged, including a pretty solid #3 Camalot at the top of a flaring crack. That's it for awhile. From the sloping stance reach right and bear hug up the twin aretes until it is possible to rock over to the right to another stance. Scary moves lead up to a decent incut -- a fall from here would be very bad (R-rated). From this incut I was able to place two RP's overhead. If these RP's are solid, then the crux moves are well-protected. If they fail, you're in for a long, violent ride. Best not to fall. The crux is a desperate affair that is difficult to decipher, powerful, AND balancey. Fortunately it culminates with some better holds and some really good gear. Pull up onto another ledge at the base of a final stembox. This section is also cruxy and requires thinking... inside the box... fortunately protection is good, but an attentive belay is nice to avoid plopping back onto that little ledge.
Whew. This route is really, really good and will expose your mental and technical weaknesses. But what a rewarding challenge when it all comes together. Oh, and the original 12a rating is a sandbag. Expect Forks 5.12. This would easily be 12+ and have several bolts at many "lesser" areas. One should note the Todd Swain Arizona guidebook misrepresents the path of this route and Bach's Celebration in the photo.
I won't spoil the fun, but I enjoyed having HB offsets, BD Micro Stoppers, a random Metolius Astro Nut, a 00 TCU and a #3 Camalot... and a lot of wires and cams in between.
By Darren Singer
From: Portland, OR
May 7, 2010
Hi Josh! It has been a lot of years, but your prose had me just about as nervous as standing at the base with a pile of rope at my feet, looking up. Dave Bloom and I worked out the line on TR, then I sacked up on a feel-good day and took a chance. Josh is right - there is a long stretch in the middle that is tough to protect. A fall there would spoil the day. A pair of small slider nuts could provide a bit more inspiration. The box on top is pure stemming magic. The 'flake' - a diving board-like protrusion - came out on abseil recon after bouncing up and down on it.