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Thin Ice 

YDS: 5.10b French: 6a+ Ewbanks: 19 UIAA: VII- British: E2 5b

Type:  Trad, 3 pitches
Consensus:  YDS: 5.10b French: 6a+ Ewbanks: 19 UIAA: VII- British: E2 5b [details]
FA: FA: Johnson & Heath - 1975
FFA: Steres & Clark - 1976
Page Views: 12,912
Submitted By: Josh Janes on Jun 18, 2006
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You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (103)
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P1 - Photogenic as all heck.


This is a challenging, physical route up the center of the east face of the Sorcerer. It is also the easiest way up the rock.

P1: Begin at the left of two massive right-facing flake/corners (the right is the start to Atlantis. Ascend this corner until it turns into a splitter crack and continue up. Eventually traverse right to the next crack system on some ramping flake features and up to a bolted belay. A long pitch; 5.10-.

P2: Continue up the crack system; 5.9 hands.

P3: The angle relents, but the climbing becomes very strenuous as the crack system turns into a flaring V-slot; 5.9+.

Descend to the north; see the description for the Sorcerer for more details.


Double set of cams.

Photos of Thin Ice Slideshow Add Photo
A climber on Thin Ice on The Sorcerer. Needles, Southern Sierra.
A climber on Thin Ice on The Sorcerer. Needles, So...
Unknown climber on 'Thin Ice' - August 14, 2003 <br /> <br />(scan)
Unknown climber on 'Thin Ice' - August 14, 2003

Greg Jackson sinking fingers on the first pitch of 'Thin Ice' <br /> <br />(scan)
Greg Jackson sinking fingers on the first pitch of...
Upper pitch of Thin Ice on the East Face of the Sorcerer
Upper pitch of Thin Ice on the East Face of the So...
The spectacular 1st pitch, Greg Jackson climbing <br /> <br />(scan)
The spectacular 1st pitch, Greg Jackson climbing

apirion leading pitch 1 of thin ice
apirion leading pitch 1 of thin ice
Ty halfway up the last pitch of Thin Ice.  Photo credit Faith Powell.
Ty halfway up the last pitch of Thin Ice. Photo c...
Thin Ice.  Photo by AJ Burch.
Thin Ice. Photo by AJ Burch.
Great view of Thin Ice.....again....these guys were here climbing this in June of 2011.....Who ever you guys are.....good job and claim these know who you were.....
Great view of Thin Ice.....again....these guys wer...
JW on pitch 1
JW on pitch 1
P2 - A polished frustrating vee.
P2 - A polished frustrating vee.
Leading pitch 2 of Thin Ice, Sorcerer Needle.
Leading pitch 2 of Thin Ice, Sorcerer Needle.
The Line from afar
The Line from afar
Alissa on Thin Ice.
Alissa on Thin Ice.
Unknown climber on Thin Ice, Saturday morning 6/2/12. I have a bunch more pics if you PM me.
Unknown climber on Thin Ice, Saturday morning 6/2/...
Couple of guys on the upper pitches of Thin Ice. Summer of 2011 June.......
Couple of guys on the upper pitches of Thin Ice. S...
following thin ice.
following thin ice.
JW pitch 1
JW pitch 1
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Oct 6, 2011
By Chris Owen
From: La Crescenta and Big Bear Lake
Nov 4, 2006
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- E2 5b

Pitch 2 totally spanked me - I've never done anything quite like it. Perhaps I did it wrong...and I don't remeber P3 being particularly strenuous. Old age perhaps.

By Michael Sokoloff
From: Spokane, WA
May 23, 2007

Pitches 2 and 3 can be combined with a 60 meter rope. Makes for a real long and strenuous pitch of climbing. If you do this, be very cognizant of rope drag.

I personally believe that the crux of the route comes right off the second belay despite the fact that that pitch is rated easier (5.9) than the previous pitch (5.10-). Won't say anymore about it; just don't think your difficulties are over just because you completed the hardest rated pitch.

By Scotty Nelson
From: Boulder
Jun 24, 2007

Pitch 2: the trick to getting past the flared V is to layback the edge of the crack. It's kind of scary, but the easiest way. Directly jamming the groove looks burly.

By Fat Dad
From: Los Angeles, CA
May 6, 2008

Speaking from personal experience, directly jamming the v-groove sucks. Though normally a reserved climber, everyone on the adjacent spires had no problems hearing my frustration on this section.

By 1Eric Rhicard
May 6, 2008

My buddy worked his tail off there too. I didn't find it that bad but I have better technique than he does. wink wink

By Jonathan Howland
Jun 27, 2008

A team ahead of us was rapping from the end of P1, advertising they "heard P2 isn't that good." Pardon the hyperbolic comparison, but this is like doing the Enduro Corner and blowing off the Harding Slot (not that I have). Thin Ice is all the better for the ways the ice suddenly thickens, P2 requiring altogether different skills.
My two cents: do the route in two long pitches (so long as you're comfortable with running it out a bit on 5.8/9 handcracks -- the last sections of each pitch).
The crux of P1 protects nicely with stoppers and small cams and involves face-climbing around the crack as much as not.
The crux of P2, so abundantly documented above, is right off the belay, but then it keeps going. The liebackers are 5.12 climbers or, at the least, top-ropers. My angle: snug finger-locks with right hand; right toe in the corner/crack; left foot and knee in a kind of scummy knee-bar (see photo #2). Add a couple of comfortable stem stances and some chimneying and voila, a birth of the old-fashioned, grinding type.
Belay below the summit (just above the Sentinel Oak) for protection from that Needles sirocco.

By caughtinside
From: Oakland CA
Aug 21, 2008

I don't know why you'd rap off after the first pitch unless you've done it before and are just warming up. The second pitch is terrific!

By ttriche
From: Altadena, CA
Aug 21, 2008
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- E2 5b

I am staring at a scar the size of a dime that I ground into the back of my right hand (2 or 3 years ago) by jamming P2 without tape... mostly because I decided to rack up on my gear loops. (Don't do that.)

Facing towards the Wizard and walking up with your scapula while palming yourself into the groove was a good strategy. Someone else passed it along to me and I wouldn't have made much progress without it, so here it is for others to consider.

Sure it's a grunt (pitch 2), but summits do matter.

Meanwhile, if you're traveling with another party, one of the best photo opps in the Needles is a profile of the leader as they climb the first pitch in the late afternoon, especially if you're over near Fancy Free or thereabouts. An Old West shadow-cutout silhouette -- I'll have to bring my camera next time I do something on the Charlatan and post it. Once upon a time, Kern County (I think the Chamber of Commerce?) had a billboard campaign using this as their promotional image... I guess it was too successful because I haven't seen it in years ;-)

Thin Ice richly deserves its status as an area classic.

By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
May 27, 2009

wow. Wow. WOW!

P1 - Long pitch. 55m+++. 10b (++++ for the pump) While no move is terribly difficult, the pitch is amazingly sustained through the first 40m (until the traverse right). Save some handsize cams for the last 30 feet getting to the belay. The description above appears to split P1, which isn't usually done.

P2 - 30m. 10a. Maybe I'm a sicko, but I found this pitch fun and not too bad (my wife would disagree). My strategy - back against the flare, lots of arm bars and jams with the right hand, and whatever it took with the left hand and left foot/knee. I belayed right about 30m, where there was a chockstone/flake in the crack and a small stance.

P3 - 30m. 5.8 or 5.9. Fun cruising.

Descent - We did a two rope rap to the base of Spooky in the notch between the Sorcerer and the Charlatan. From there you could either scramble left (looked awful?), rap down to the base of Fancy Free (two ropes) or like we did - climb out Spooky (5.9). We had brought along two big cams (#4 and #5 camalot) for Spooky. NOTE: If you bring one rope for the rappel be VERY careful. With one rope, you'll be left hanging on an exposed ledge and need to traverse off.

By Ryan Kelly
From: work.
Jun 29, 2010

The description at the top mentions the bolted belay on P1, which puts you right at the bottom of the v-slot. There is no P2 handcrack. Andy's description and pitch breakdown is spot on... and +1 for liking the V-slot. 1 desperate move or so right off the belay and then it's pretty stable climbing if you use your left knee.

By Colonel Mustard
From: Reno, NV
Feb 3, 2011
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- E2 5b

If you're thinking about wearing shorts on pitch two... DON'T DO IT!

By Tim Wolfe
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Jul 7, 2011
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- E2 5b

Unbelievable. Everyone needs to do the first pitch. The second...... different and strenuous. I can't think of a better granite pitch than this first one though.

By slim
Jul 12, 2011
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- E2 5b

stellar route. i lead the first pitch and it basically is great climbing from the first move to the last move. long pitch. the traverse is a little spooky as the flake is thin, luckily it is that good california granite (not that cheap imitation granite found in some other states!).

my wife linked the 2nd and 3rd pitches into one long pitch. the flare is easy and straightforward. laybacking the arete seems like a great way to turn a 5.8 flare into a 5.11 pumpfest, have a hard time placing gear, and probably fall and slice your rope on the arete. wouldn't recommend it.

the decent probably takes as much time as the route. the 2nd rappel is in one of the most awkward, screwed up places that i have seen in a while. nothing like rapping down a loose rope eating gully when a rap route on a nearby face would be infinitely better.

By ccmski
From: Prescott, AZ
Oct 6, 2011
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- E2 5b

2 long pitches is the way to go.

+1 for loving the V-slot- the distinct differences in the pitches on this route add to its character and classic status

Agreed that it is only 1 or 2 tough moves to get into the slot, then continuous, repetitive movement. Won't beta spray on technique for the V-slot, but it seems that liebacking the edge would be hard and scary.