This is a runout but high-quality face climb on mostly clean and solid rock. The granite is highly featured with flakes and edges and climbing is much steeper than most other Valley face climbs of this grade. Most people mention route-finding as one of the primary difficulties of The Flakes. I only had trouble finding my way on pitches 1 and 6, and my route description below may not match up with your experiences in climbing those pitches. For the most part I thought the topo in the Reid guide does a pretty good job of leading you up the route. However, because of the adventurous nature of the route combined with the frequent runouts and somewhat tricky belay anchors (it is a 1000ft face climb without a single bolt), this is a 5.8 best suited for the experienced 5.10 Valley climber.
Approach: Park at a long pullout on the left side of the road below the Gunsight. Walk a short ways through the forest to find the horse trail then follow cairns up through the forest to the gully. Follow the talus all the way up to the bottom of the Gunsight. The first pitch of The Flakes climbs to the top of an obvious 200ft tall pedestal at the mouth of the Gunsight gully, on Middle Cathedral Rock.
Pitch 1 (5.7) Climb easy flakes and ledges leading up and left to join a large right-facing corner. Move around the aręte of the corner onto the face and wander up dirty loose rock. Belay at the top of the pedestal, a full rope-length.
Pitch 2 (5.8) There are two crack systems angling off to the right of the pedestal. Start in the lower one to the right, then transfer to the left one. Follow this up changing cracks as necessary, then finally escape right at the end to belay at a small stance.
Pitch 3 (5.7) Climb up flakes then traverse left past a large block and more flakes to reach an offwidth crack. Climb the crack and belay at an awkward stance with tricky gear and a slung horn.
Pitch 4 (5.8) Clip a pin then make a thin traverse right across the face to reach a corner. Wild moves turn the corner around the aręte and then fun climbing on featured rock up and to the right. At a broad ledge is a small pedestal. Climb the left side of the pedestal and belay on top at a piton.
Pitch 5 (5.8) Climb straight up to another broad ledge and traverse left a long ways to a right facing corner. Climb the corner to a piton then move right to another corner. Fun jamming leads to the top where you can traverse up and left past another piton. Belay hanging below a small ledge with a couple detached flakes sitting on it.
Pitch 6 (5.8+) From the right end of the ledge stand on a wobbly flake and make a long reach to a crimper. You can get some small nuts way off to the left which don't exactly protect the move but will at least keep you from F2'ing onto the anchor. Yard on the crimper to gain a jug and then move up and right around the corner to a big flake/OW. Improbable climbing leads straight up without too much difficulty and just enough pro. Belay at a large slanting ledge with crumbling orange rock and not much opportunity for an anchor.
Pitch 7 (5.2) Traverse right for a ways and then work up on slanting ledges.
Pitch 8 (5.3) More traversing and then climbing up more slanting ledges/ramps heading up and right. There is a random bolted anchor along the way (belongs to some other new route I’d assume). Belay at a large forested ledge and un-rope. 3rd class scrambling leads to the right and then off.
Descent: Work your way down off the west side of Middle Cathedral and follow a climbers trail through the bushes to the top of the Gunsight. Descend the Gunsight with lots of Class 2/3 scrambling and a few rappels. There are often fixed ropes at the rappels.
Pro to 3" with extra small cams and wires.
May 18, 2012
Good write-up Bryan. Overall, how do you feel this route's quality ranks compared to all the other long moderates you have climbed in the Valley?