Sandstone trad placements?


Original Post
trisgo · Dec 9, 2015 · Omaha, NE (at the moment) · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 25
Hey Folks,

Not sure whether to ask here or in the trad forum, so please don't tar and feather me if I'm wrong.

I'd really like to plan a trip out to Moab, but I've never climbed on sandstone before. The vast majority of my climbing experience has been on granite and quartzite, and the idea of leading on sandstone has me a little uneasy. For whatever reason, I think of sandstone as breaking apart and crumbling when touched (again, I've never even seen a sandstone cliff face in person). I know this isn't always correct considering sandstone bolting.

My question is, is there anything I need to know about sandstone trad placements (other than avoiding wet rock)? Can sandstone hold a micronut? Do I have to bury cams in way deep? I know cam hooks are a no-go, but is there anything else about trad placements I need to be aware of?

I apologize if this seems like a stupid question, but quartzite and sandstone are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum and I'd rather ask than bite it.

Jon H · Dec 9, 2015 · Boulder · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 13
There are lots of different sandstone varieties. Some is nearly as hard as granite (Nuttall Sandstone in WV) and some is literally mud (Fisher Towers). The Boulder Flatirons are also sandstone and it appears you've climbed here several times.

"Moab" covers a very wide area with lots of different types of sandstone, but generally speaking, it's good enough to hold typical trad gear. Don't bother with micronuts though. Unless you're aiding.

grog m aka Greg McKee · Dec 9, 2015 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0
trisgo, you are going to want to go to potash road if you go to moab. You can trust a standard rack in sandstone. I think you will be pleasantly surprised to climb on it.

Dow Williams · Dec 9, 2015 · St. George, Utah; Canmore, AB · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 75
trisgo wrote:For whatever reason, I think of sandstone as breaking apart and crumbling when touched (again, I've never even seen a sandstone cliff face in person). I know this isn't always correct considering sandstone bolting. My question is, is there anything I need to know about sandstone trad placements (other than avoiding wet rock)? Can sandstone hold a micronut? Do I have to bury cams in way deep? I know cam hooks are a no-go, but is there anything else about trad placements I need to be aware of? I apologize if this seems like a stupid question, but quartzite and sandstone are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum and I'd rather ask than bite it.
Trisgo, if you are heading for Indian Creek more than "Moab". The cracks you will get on at IC will be well cleaned and your pro, if placed properly will be as bomber as any crack in any stone. What makes a cam fail is a loose surface. Yes, if you got on some of the more remote towers, you will find dirty cracks which will require more care in your placements...i.e. Sorcerer's Apprentice. IC's routes are often climbed as much if not more than many sport destinations. Young limestone (recently glaciated) is actually much more dangerous in reference to gear failure due to surface conditions (greasy) than sandstone. Placing your cams deep into cracks is in fact a safer method of climbing wide cracks (which the desert has a lot of) more because it keeps you from compromising the pieces with your body parts as you climb the crack. I have fallen on micro nuts and micro cams in sandstone. There are varying degrees of hardness, varnished, sandstone. 99% of the time, you will know instantly whether you trust a piece or not. Good luck with your trip.

trisgo · Dec 10, 2015 · Omaha, NE (at the moment) · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 25
Right on, I appreciate all the insight.

Jon, I hadn't realized the Flatirons were sandstone. I guess I always envisioned sandstone as orange cliffs in the desert.

Dow, since moving to the Midwest, I've gotten to climb on limestone in Missouri and Iowa. I'm not a big fan of it, but I'll gladly take what I can get while living in Nebraska. The limestone reminded me of the red argillite back east at Ralph Stover. I'd kill to make it out to Indian Creek.

Grog, I'll check out Potash for sure. I don't know the Utah area other than looking at maps and MP, so I could definitely use some suggestions as far as where to head. I'm not the strongest climber out there and have found that I really enjoy routes that are 3-5 pitches of 5.6-5.9. I'd really like to start pushing into the low 10's and favor crack climbing.

Again, thanks for all the input.

Seth Kane · Dec 10, 2015 · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 103
trisgo wrote:I'm not the strongest climber out there and have found that I really enjoy routes that are 3-5 pitches of 5.6-5.9. I'd really like to start pushing into the low 10's and favor crack climbing.
Kor-ingalls on castleton, ancient art, jah man on sister superior, west face of the three gossips, south six shooter, in search of suds on washer woman, and countless others are all clean, 3+ pitch lines with any climbing harder then 5.9 being easily aided. Towers are amazing and for the most part, gear in sandstone is trustworthy, you'll know when it's not.

Healyje · Dec 10, 2015 · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 100
If you're in the Midwest then try to get down to the Red and Jackson Hollow. And there's always Devils Lake which goes out the other end and is like trying to climb blocks of bulletproof glass.

patto · Dec 10, 2015 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 0
Some sandstone is far harder and more cohesive that granite and just about everything you have come across....

RPs (aka the original micronut) were invented for sandstone cliffs.

txclimber · Dec 10, 2015 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 0
Seth Kane wrote: Kor-ingalls on castleton, ancient art, jah man on sister superior, west face of the three gossips, south six shooter, in search of suds on washer woman, and countless others are all clean, 3+ pitch lines with any climbing harder then 5.9 being easily aided. Towers are amazing and for the most part, gear in sandstone is trustworthy, you'll know when it's not.
Suggesting any of these routes, with the possible exception of the S. Six Shooter, for a 5.6-5.9 leader in the short days of winter is a bad idea. Don't sandbag the guy on his first trip to the desert.

Mark Hammond · Dec 10, 2015 · Eldorado Springs, CO · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 190
Some good stuff here already. And also...
I second the South Six Shooter recommendation and the advice that many of those other towers may be an epic in the making (both for you and any parties behind you). Save most of those for a future trip.
If you would kill to get to Indian Creek then go there! Look at the gear recommendations and make sure you have a big enough cam rack (beg, borrow and buy) for the lines you attempt. Check out some of the 5.9 and under Donnelly Canyon cracks for some that don't take too huge a rack. And in fact, SSShooter is in the creek.
Although pieces often hold well in the best sandstone in the Moab area, some do fail and it is prudent to place pieces a body length apart or so, rather than run it out too much. (Especially when new to the area and less capable at judging the best from not so good rock). It is not granite.
RP's were invented for the sandstone in Arapiles, Australia. Very different rock. Much harder. More like the Flatirons than like the rock around Moab.

Seth Kane · Dec 10, 2015 · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 103
txclimber wrote: Suggesting any of these routes, with the possible exception of the S. Six Shooter, for a 5.6-5.9 leader in the short days of winter is a bad idea. Don't sandbag the guy on his first trip to the desert.
Obviously it depends on what he means by 5.9 leader, but all of those routes go at 5.9 A0 or 5.10 free or easier, with many (AA, three gossips, jah man) having very few 5.10 moves. He said he wants to push into 5.10 and the best way to do that is to try 5.10s.

Seth Jones · Dec 10, 2015 · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 5
Healyje wrote:If you're in the Midwest then try to get down to the Red and Jackson Hollow. And there's always Devils Lake which goes out the other end and is like trying to climb blocks of bulletproof glass.
Who doesn't like bulletproof glass?

Trisgo, sorry for thread drift but Devil's Lake is definitely worth the trip for trad. It's nice to be able to climb wet rock without worrying about it's integrity, especially if you travel to climb and can't stay long. Just be ready for a different style of climbing. Smearing is useless 95% of the time.

Healyje · Dec 10, 2015 · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 100
powhound84 wrote:Smearing is useless 95% of the time.
I'm thinking that's more like 98% of the time. We'd go up there from SoIll sandstone and bang the shit out of our shins trying to smear on that stuff while barely getting up anything. They'd come down to our sandstone and be hugging the rock on their bellies looking for edges on stuff we casually walked up no-handed. Go figure. Definitely a case of different strokes...

grog m aka Greg McKee · Dec 10, 2015 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0
Lol definitely don't listen to Seth Kane. The routes on castleton are technically 5.9 but they are all intimidating and mentally much harder than that.

Tapawingo Markey · Dec 10, 2015 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 0
trisgo wrote: since moving to the Midwest, I've gotten to climb on limestone in Missouri and Iowa.
Tons of great sandstone in Arkansas as well. HCR and Sams Throne to name a few. Sam's has some great trad.

Seth Kane · Dec 10, 2015 · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 103
grog m wrote:Lol definitely don't listen to Seth Kane. The routes on castleton are technically 5.9 but they are all intimidating and mentally much harder than that.
so what makes a route intimidating and mentally hard? K-I not particularly exposed. the moves are all straight forward, and it would be possible to french free much of p3 if you were struggling in the chimney and all of p2/4. the belays are bolted and the route is easy to rappel if you decided to bail.

OP obviously needs to decide for himself, but again if you're looking to push into 5.10, the way to do it is to climb 5.9s and 10s.

Rob Warden...Space Lizard · Dec 10, 2015 · Between Zion, Vegas, LA, an... · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 0
The popularity of that route makes it a shitty choice. Nobody feels good when they are outclassed by the rock. Adding the hassle of rapping through the 10-15 other parties on the route will not help.

Sean Brady · Dec 10, 2015 · Boulder, Colorado · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0
So now that Trisgo brought it up and someone mentioned Kor-Ingalls, what do you think about the calcite that lines the cracks and chimney pitches on Castleton? That stuff freaked me out, I thought it would just flake away. Is it safe to whip on?

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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