Type: Trad, 300 ft, 3 pitches
FA: Herb and Jan Conn
Page Views: 19,095 total · 95/month
Shared By: Peter Gram on Jun 26, 2002 with updates from Kurtz
Admins: Andrew Gram, Peter Gram, Greg Parker, Mike Madsen, Mark Rafferty

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This is one of the most classic 5.7 routes that I have ever done. Hike to the field north of Outer Outlet. The route is actually hard to pick out because it blends into the wall. Look for a crack system that diagonals up the north face. This is the route.

Start by climbing up through face holds to get into the crack. Climb this for one long pitch until a horizontal crack traverse is seen. Set a belay. Then traverse 60 feet or so to the right on juggy holds. This is very airy, and the face drops below you. Finally for pitch 3, pick a variety of ways to the top. A large roof hangs above. There is a chimney on either side of the roof, the left being easier. Grunt through one of these. Otherwise, a beautiful "lightning bolt" crack heads to the right of the right chimney. This is supposed to be a 5.8 finger crack.

Descent: You have two options. Either step across to the East summit of outer outlet and find the anchors that sit on the south side of the formation, or once at the top of the final pitch anchors traverse out right to a set of anchors and make two double rope rappels down the route Stainless Steel Shield. 

This route was first done in 1953 without climbing shoes, a short rope, and both upclimbing and downclimbing it. Very impressive if you ask me.


Standard Rack. Large and Small, bring it all.


Andrew Gram
Salt Lake City, UT
Andrew Gram   Salt Lake City, UT  
This is one of the most intimidating 5.7s on the planet. Its a little shorter than Kor's Flake at Lumpy Ridge, but just as hard and even more of an adventure. Jun 26, 2002
If you want to make the traversing 2nd pitch a little more exciting do the overhang. That is after you pass the kidney stone on the traverse go up from there through the small overhang. Then after the overhang just go over to the lightning hand crack to finish. This goes about 10a. The route as a whole without a doubt is one of the best routes that the Conns did, along with their route on East Gruesome. Aug 14, 2002
Dale Nesbitt  
Rob and I did this route last Wednesday. Awesome exposure at the first belay station. We made our second belay right after the blocky traverse. We made a variation for the summit by climbing towards the gully, then traversing right along a handcrack to gain a shoulder (around 5.8 moves), gaining a shoulder which leads to runout 5.4ish climbing to the summit (occasional pro by dipping into the gully and long-slinging). My question is: has anybody done this variation before? Jun 27, 2005
1Eric Rhicard
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
This is the first multi pitch route I did. It was about the coolest thing I had ever done up to that point in my life. I did it with Tori Stempf on a 3 week climbing course he lead called Project Soar. That was in 1976. That was 30 years ago and I am still climbing in Tucson Arizona on Mt. Lemmon and other areas in the SW. I later returned and put up a route that leaves the Conn Diagonal half way through the 2nd pitch. It is called Long Way To Heaven 5.11-. Mar 1, 2006
Tyson Arp  
This is one of those routes that took me a few years to get around to doing--partly due to the intimidation factor and partly due to it's usually crowded nature. Fortunately this labor day weekend, my wife and I found the route empty and had no other good excuse not to give it a try. What a fabulous route!! Enough good things cannot be said about this one. Each pitch contains fun, thought-provoking, exposed, and varied climbing. Definitely not a one move or one pitch wonder like so many climbs are!
I brought a set of standard nuts, peanuts, and cams from small aliens to #4 camalot and about a dozen runners of varying lengths. I found this to be just about the right selection of gear for the climb. Sep 19, 2006
Gary Schmidt
Boulder, CO
Gary Schmidt   Boulder, CO
A absolute classic adventure climb that is not easy on the heart. (this is not your mother's 5.7 sport climb). If you do this route, you will most likely remember it for a long time.

For what it is worth, and perhaps a bit of clarity, here is how we did it.

Follow the faint trail east under the huge face quite a ways til you come to an abvious staging area at the base of a very long system of cracks and flakes that will diagonal west up the face. Make a few face climbing moves to get into the crack flake system and climb away. At the 170 ft point you will come to two old pitons. It is tempting to belay there (as we mistakenly did). Instead make one more very exposed step across move and voila, a very nice newer two bolt anchor and much more comfortable belay stance. Pitch one, 180 ft. Pitch two is not for the faint of heart. Continue right about 15 ft and then head up the face passing an old piton that looks like it is at least halfway out. When you bump into the roof start the infamous traverse right passing the kidney stone on some incredibly exposed moves. The traverse ends at an obvious belay stance where it is easy to build a solid anchor. Pitch two, 100 ft of rope. Look up and see two chimney systems. Pick the one on the left. Gaining the chimney is awkward and then you climb about 40 ft with very little pro. We managed to get in one piece, but the chimney is very secure and probably about 5.5. Pitch 3 90 ft. To get down with one rope (as recommended by a local guide), rappel off the opposite side you just climbed. Walk east and find a good two bolt anchor.(The route you are descending is Jugs.) Rappel 80 ft to a landing area. Do a very exposed 4th class downclimb to the west to another set of anchors which are easy to spot. A belay might not be a bad idea here as a fall would have very dire circumstances. Do another 80 ft rap to the ground and take the 10 minutes hike back around to your packs. It is also apparently possible to rap down the same side you climbed, but this requires two double ropes raps. Have fun. Jun 25, 2007
John Gunnels
Gillette, WY
John Gunnels   Gillette, WY
Can't say enough about this route. EVERYONE should do it at LEAST once. Jun 27, 2007
joelhagan Hagan
Rapid City, SD
joelhagan Hagan   Rapid City, SD
John, I think it should be climbed at least once a season!

Take the alternate 3rd pitch if you want to stay out of the grunt chimney. About ten feet before manteling into the chimney look right. There is a nice crack that starts out going right and curves left thinning to fingers near the top. Placement can be a little tricky in the bottom. After climbing past the crack there is a run-out ramp with easy climbing. Feb 27, 2008
randy baum
Minneapolis, MN
randy baum   Minneapolis, MN
With lots of long runners, quite easy to link pitches 1 and 2. Just save some slings and gear for the belay -- ie. two #1 camalots, a yellow TCU, two 48" runners or a cordelette. Jul 15, 2008
Just did this route a week ago. One of the best in the area. So classic. Remember to pass the pitons and go to the two nice solid bolts for the end of the first pitch, and its a comfy place to sit and watch the leader climb the second pitch. For the third pitch I would highly recommend the 5.8 hand crack. You start going towards the right chimney and then youll see it on your right. So fun and classic. Jun 11, 2010
Black Hawk, SD
AndyKemedy   Black Hawk, SD
Great route! You might want to bring an extra rope though, we couldn't find anchors for the second rappel off the backside. We found a flake to sling to rap to the ground. The party after us did one two rope rappel to reach the ground. Jul 19, 2010
Shawn Heath
Forchheim, Germany
Shawn Heath   Forchheim, Germany  
Super awesome route! The new Conn's guidebook really keeps the adventure alive on this one. I had no idea where to start and no idea where the heck the anchors were. If you're reading this then you probably already know where the first belay station is. I didn't, so I very unwisely focused on only the route, and not on the rope. By the time I was getting to the belay station I felt like I was pulling a truck! Watch the rope drag. It's not because I didn't sling it long enough or placed too much gear (I placed maybe 8 pieces in 150 feet), but because I let the rope get behind the flake. I think if you can run the rope on the outside of the flake it'll really help. Enjoy! Oct 10, 2010
Shawn Heath
Forchheim, Germany
Shawn Heath   Forchheim, Germany  
I saw a chinchilla on this route!!! He did the traverse, then saw me and got scared and ran back in the horizontal crack, then eventually got the courage up to run past me and up the cracks leading to the chimney. Super cute! Oct 10, 2010
Bill Rusk
Duluth, MN
Bill Rusk   Duluth, MN
I only had time to do one route in the area and I'm so glad we chose this one. Best 5.7 I've ever done. I did the right variation ( looking up into the chimney made be doubt my 6'4" 220 body could squeeze into it), pulled through the 5.8 crack onto the face, almost got blown off by the wind. I continued to the horizontal crack (bomb .75), from that point I moved back into the chimney (now much wider) and finished. Rope drag was pretty awful, but endurable. May 29, 2012
Kevin Dahlstrom
Fort Worth, TX
Kevin Dahlstrom   Fort Worth, TX
Fantastic route with an adventure feel to it. Would be a tough lead for a new 5.7 leader! There's no reason to bring two ropes - the single rope rappel off the back is very straightforward. Just finish the P3 chimney on the right side and use the anchor on the back of the formation. You need a 60m to reach blocks below. Then scramble up and over the blocks behind you (easy and not exposed) and find another set of rap anchors that take you to the ground. 5 min hike around the corner (easily done in climbing shoes or sandals) and you're back at the base. Jul 21, 2012
Suzanne Bonilla
New City, New York
Suzanne Bonilla   New City, New York
This is a must do climb in S.D. It is exciting, but everything is there to make it fun. I had the pleasure of meeting the Conn"s at there residence. May 6, 2014
The Cave  
This is one of the greatest climbs I have ever been on. Absolutely amazing!! Great exposure and a real sense of adventure can be had! Highly recommend. For an extra rush do it in the original style. lol Feb 19, 2015
Matt Edlund
St. Paul, MN
Matt Edlund   St. Paul, MN
Super fun route, although everything gets a bit more interesting when wet. We had a great time on the first two pitches and then did the 5.8 hand crack variation (highly recommended) to the easy runout ridge finish.

Important to note: If you're doing this variation you should bring two ropes to rap because the anchors on that side of the formation (W) don't reach the ledge that contains the other set of anchors to get you to the ground. We only brought one so we had to down climb the chimney and stem across to the other part of the summit to get down using the rusty anchors above Jugs.

All in all, a great route (especially liked P2) and would do it again in a heartbeat. Jun 18, 2015
Wilson On The Drums
Woodbury, MN
Wilson On The Drums   Woodbury, MN
^^^^^^^^ If one does the 5.8 "lightning" crack/variation finish and then up the easy, yet runout ridge, there is a set of anchors once you top out, continue on flat territory for another 10ft and there they are. Then rap off these too. Only 1 rope is needed. scramble up and over and there is another 1 rope rap. however this will put you on the opposite side of the conn diagonal, so a little bit of walking is needed to get back to the start of the route... Jun 18, 2015
Andy Koosman
Riverside, CA
Andy Koosman   Riverside, CA
"Finding 2 people coming after waiting at the base for 3 hours and have them say "I don't feel comfortable with a party of 3" - Douchebags!" - Seth Hogan

Sandbagged, scary, and the locals won't climb with you. Be sure to tell all your greenie friends how terrible South Dakota is. Jul 9, 2015
Seth Hogan
Frisco, Co
Seth Hogan   Frisco, Co
Too much hype, its good but the only thing that makes it good is the hand crack on the third pitch which is awesome, but super short. Do the lightning bolt! Otherwise its alright with good exposure. Otherwise the parks climbs are pretty spot on, not sandbagged one bit. The park as a whole seemed pretty spot on to me. Most of the classics, if they were in Yosemite, would be downgraded, imo. Jul 10, 2015
Ryan Emery
Black Hills, SD
Ryan Emery   Black Hills, SD
Two ropes were found on the summit of Conn Diagonal. For others new to the area, the two bolt hangers that you see after the finger crack that i believe is 5.8 are not rappel anchors. There are nice rap anchors after doing a little step across on the summit. I would not recommend putting ropes through the hangers!!! If these are your ropes please contact me at 6059399698 by text to identify them. Aug 31, 2015
Poughkeepsie, NY
rgold   Poughkeepsie, NY
Seth Hogan wrote: Most of the classics, if they were in Yosemite, would be downgraded, imo.
I've done lots of the classic Needles climbs and quite a bit in Yosemite and Tuolumne and would say that when the styles are comparable (which they often are not), the Needles grades are either equivalent or more severe. Most of the original classic grades were supplied by Yosemite climbers who were pretty well-known for sandbagging their gradings. It is true that some of those original grades have been raised, sometimes by as much as two entire grades (eg Conn route on the South Tower of Spire 4 going from 5.7 to 5.9), so perhaps the purported "downgrading" would amount to returning some of the routes to their correct original grade.

As for the Conn Diagonal route, I think it is a lovely outing that certainly looks intimidating from the ground but doesn't turn out to be particularly demanding for a 5.7, at least partially because it has been upgraded from a more apt 5.6. Apr 8, 2016
chris tregge
chris tregge   Beersconsin  
In my opinion, now that mountainproject has started using consensus rating for the main rating used in searches and stuff, that all these routes should have their original rating reassigned to them for historical purposes. R gold you mention south tower, a perfect example. It was 5.7 and the original rating should still be listed as 5.7. If enough people give it 5.9 as a modern rating, then it will have 5.9 attached for searches and as the main rating.

mountainproject.com/v/south… Apr 9, 2016
Ben Pingilley
Denver, CO
Ben Pingilley   Denver, CO
A few things about the third pitch and the descent:
I climbed the lightning crack variation then snuck left to the right chimney so I wouldn't have to do the runout at the top. Just use extended slings to cut down on rope drag. Once at the top, I did like others have said by skipping the first set of anchors and continuing on to the anchors on the back side.
We were not able to see the ends of our rope when rappelling off these anchors. I had a 70 meter rope and it barely got me to the landing zone. When I was rappelling off the side I was able to see the ends after going down about 20 feet. The ends were hanging in the air next to a ledge. I don't know if a 60-meter rope reaches anything down there.

If you climb the right chimney or crack variation, use the rappel anchors marked in green.
If you climb the left chimney, use the rappel anchors marked in red.

After the first rappel, instead of doing the 4th class climb over to the next rappel station, we did a simul-rappel off the large formation which separates two chimney systems. This brought us to the ground near the start of Iron Lingerie. Sep 6, 2016
Jason Todd
Cody, WY
Jason Todd   Cody, WY
We rapped off the "green" anchors in the picture above with a 63m rope. Had to rap right to the knots and do some acrobatics to get established on the small ridge. It's a good thing it wasn't a 60m rope, no way you could do it with a 60. Jun 29, 2017
Sean Creegan
Kansas City, MO
Sean Creegan   Kansas City, MO
This is a very fun climb and within the grade. The second pitch was fantastic! As of 7/5/17, the bolts at the 1st belay and the summit are in good condition.

We ended on the west summit (climber's right). For the rappel, we did a move (on belay) to the east summit, and rapped with a 70m off of the anchors marked in red. The next rappel anchors are on the ridge behind you, and about 30' to the west. Jul 9, 2017
Eric Sorte
Albuquerque, NM
Eric Sorte   Albuquerque, NM
I have to say this was one of the most stressful climbs I've done in a while, and that includes El Matador on Devils Tower the day before. It was amazing, but man...pulling on the "kidney stone" and some of those flakes was extremely exposed. There is some ratty cord through some pitons that protect the "big step" on P2. I mistook that for the belay like some previous commenters, which I now see is clearly marked in the great beta photo as being AFTER the big step. Then our trail rope got stuck in a crack and we had to downclimb P2 to rap off that belay station. Stressful. But such a great climb. Better than anything I've done in Seneca, which claims some of the best 5.7s around. Sep 10, 2018