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How did I find myself in this position with my health insurance lapsed and marking the few solid holds with chalk, so that when above I wouldn't stand on the loose ones? Tony Bubb and I were at the car deciding what to do. Rotwand Wall was basking in the sun. I said, "I've always wanted to do a route on Rotwand." Tony said, "Me too." Short flat approach, no lines. I immediately backed off Samson Effect 9VS. It looks so reasonable from below, but with 2 pieces in the first 25 feet, both in very suspect rock, and the top one a tiny brass, hard climbing and inobvious route finding, Tony said, "how about we head up the gully and do one of those S routes?"
Yes Fragile is one of those. At 8S how bad could it be? For the answer see David Goldstein's excellent and accurate description of the Rotwand Wall: "Shunned and feared...gets virtually no traffic, probably for good reason...50% of holds are suspect.... There can be lots of gear, but more than half the good placements are in shattered rock and you really don't want to test them. Route finding is tricky, kind of like Hallett but with terrible rock and of course, there will be no chalk to mark the way." In fewer words, Rossiter says, "The rock is shattered and loose, the protection poor, and the climbs unpopular." If that isn't enough to whet your appetite, there are essentially no horizontals--mostly sidepulls and stemming. What "horizontals" there are are slanting down and right at about 30 degrees. So the climbing is insecure, and you definitely don't want to go for it, because there's nothing much to go for.
Approach: from the southwest corner of Rotwand, head up the trough. At a steep part, go straight left and onto a slab. Continue up until the slab ends at a dropoff. You are now at the top of Hurrah Ridge and at the base of the climb. The approach is a little easier and much less exposed than the Lower Ramp leading to the base of Ruper. A few feet up is a small tree and a good ledge to belay from.
The climb: climb up a whitish groove on mostly solid rock aiming for a small tree and a ledge (Rossiter says it's a large tree). Gear is decent on this part. Step left behind the tree and head straight up a groove. When the groove blanks out (climbable, maybe, but no gear), move left being careful of several very loose holds. Continue up bulging rock to reach a good horn to sling. The horn is good, but the block it's part of is somewhat suspect. The next bit was the crux for me, perhaps due to the lengthening sequence of suspect gear below me. Which one, if any, would hold? Finally there is a good mid-sized though shallow cam placement on the right. A few more moves lead to the huge ledge on the upper left of Rotwand. Belay at a big tree.
Descent: Rig the belay tree with about 20' of webbing and a ring. Rap to the start with a 70m rope (60m won't reach). From here you can rap into the gully west of Hurrah Ridge. I can't guarantee that's a good idea, but you can apparently scramble up that gully to do the climb named Hurrah Ridge. You can also carefully downclimb the approach or rappel most of it from several good sized trees. Do not do what we did: Scramble a long way up the ramp/ledge to the top of Rotwand and then down the east side. The descent down the east side is much longer than it looks, especially when covered with snow and us in our smooth-soled climbing shoes. It may also be possible to come down the west side after reaching the top of Rotwand, but there are some steep spots in the gully that may require rappelling or belaying.
Single nuts from brass to big stoppers, double cams from green Alien to #0.75 Camalot. 18 slings, mostly long. A screamer or two is a good idea. Double ropes helpful. 70m or doubles if you're going to rap. Helmets! Webbing and rings to rig the rappels. There are no fixed rappel anchors.
By Ivan Rezucha
From: Fort Collins, CO
Feb 12, 2006
I'd like to add that this is "triple S" (but not VS), way different from S routes on other areas at Eldo. Not only is the gear mostly dubious and in bad rock, but many of the holds are loose (and you must use some of those), and the route finding is tricky. Not only is there no chalk or fixed gear to guide you, but you must decide which possible variation is less loose (not which is solid!) and perhaps decide between (bad) gear or less bad rock. Dealing safely with all three of these challenges, bad gear, bad rock, and tricky route finding requires a steady head and a patient approach.
I recommend double ropes for two reasons:
1) You'll be searching left and right for anything that might hold more than body weight.
2) If you should have to bail, you'll need to downclimb. You could run one rope through a high piece (likely less than bomber) and down lead on the other.
By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Feb 13, 2006
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c R
Well, Yes, it is fragile. But fragile was a decent album, and this is a junky route, I can think of scores of others that might not use the name of decent music so poorly....
How about "Yes, Loose Rock" or "Yes, Future Missile".
Perhaps "Yes, Chossy".
By David Kozak
Feb 5, 2011
Tony (I was curious to see if Yes Fragile had been climbed again and came across your post)...I agree with your assessment of the album but not of the climb. In my humble opinion, the route is "classic" 4-star choss and junk; missiles and all.