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Routes in Isaac

Tricks of the Trade T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b C2
Type: Trad, Aid, 1800 ft, 19 pitches, Grade V
FA: John Middendorf, Brad Quinn, and Bill Hatcher (1993)
Page Views: 20,633 total · 108/month
Shared By: Dave Levy on May 14, 2002 with updates
Admins: Andrew Gram, Perin Blanchard, grk10vq

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Seasonal Raptor Closures ***** RAIN AND WET ROCK ***** The sandstone in Zion is fragile and is very easily damaged when it is wet. Holds rip off and climbs have been and will continue to be permanently damaged due to climbers not respecting this phenomenon. After a heavy storm the rock will remain wet, sometimes for several days. PLEASE DO NOT CLIMB IN ZION during or after rain. A good rule of thumb is that if the ground near your climb is at all damp (and not powdery dry sand), then do not climb. There are many alternatives (limestone, granite, basalt, and plastic) nearby. Seasonal Raptor Closures Details


Tricks of the Tramp is easily located at the base of the prominent central buttress of Isaac. The climb starts in a clean 4-inch crack located 50 feet to the right of the major chimney system.

Pitch 1: Climb an enjoyable 5.10 hand-to fist-to offwidth crack past some fixed protection to an obvious ledge on the left.

Pitch 2: Continue a few feet up the crack, place a large cam, and fire up the impending offwidth to a bolt and take a deep breath. Continue comfortably to a fixed belay.

Pitch 3: Shift the belay up and left onto the breakdown in the large chimney system. Ascend the chimney system through the Mines of Mordor (5.8) to a bolted belay.

Pitch 4: Continue up the chimney system, negotiate a few blocks, and belay at fixed anchors on a big dirty ledge inside the chimney (5.7-5.8).

Pitch 5: Climb up, backwards, and sideways directly above your belayer through the Santa Claus Chimney (5.7) and scramble to get in a piece. Continue to anchors.

Pitch 6: The Calvinator Pitch (5.10). Climb double cracks in a chimney, working left and moving up through a small roof. Stem wildly upward through an unprotected chimney (relatively easy) and hop over to a ledge with fixed anchors. There is a good bivy at the base of the Calvinator Pitch and the view really starts getting good here.

Pitches 7 through 9: Climb 3 pitches, mostly Class 4 with some 5.7 on soft rock. Look for the bolted anchor at the top of Pitch 9 below a bush, up and right. You should now be on the large ledge below the headwall (good bivy area), with a distinctive large pine tree.

Pitches 10 and 11: Climb up and left from the pine tree to the base of a large crack on the right side of the pillar. Climb the pillar to its top (5.10+ off-width)and belay on a small ledge.

Pitch 12: Continue up the 5.10+ handcrack on the right to a pendulum point, lower about 60 feet, and pendulum right to a bolted stance.

Pitch 13: Climb a hollow 5.9 flake and then 60 feet of C2+ using small wires, sliders.

Pitch 14: Climb the 5.10 splitter hand crack to a belay with a bolt next to the crack.

Pitch 15: Continue up the splitter hand crack (5.9) to a bolted belay at a small ledge on the right. Although lengthy, Pitches 14 and 15 can be combined.

Pitch 16: Continue up the crack system (5.8)into softer rock.

Pitch 17: Move left around the top of an arching flake (5.8)

Pitch 18: Move up and right through loose terrain and wedge blocks (careful!) to a bolted belay on top of a big block.

Pitch 19: Step up and right across a slab and enter a steep hand/fist crack to the top.

Notes: A good bivy exists where the route tops out. To summit, hike up and left through loose, sandy terrain for a great view. One can descent by traversing the hillside to the North, locating a pine tree with slings. A system of 11 rappels takes one into the drainage between Isaac and Jacob (full day).


The amount of gear needed depends on how much of the route is climbed free. Generally, (3) sets of camming units to 4 inches and a #5 Camalot are useful. Extra hand-sized protection can be nice for the headwall. Also bring (3) sets of TCU's, stoppers, biners, and long slings.

Pitch 13 was aided clean by Rocco Vartanian on May 15, 2002. Rocco used small wires, slider nuts, and a Leeper cam hook and rated this pitch C2+. Hooks aren't necessary and damage the soft sandstone. Good going Rocco! Fixed anchors exist at most of the belays. Beware of soft rock when setting up anchors on the slab pitches. We had a near disastrous anchor blowout while the leader was hauling and the follower was jumaring one of the 5.7 slab pitches.


Brent Barghahn
Brent Barghahn   SLC, UT
The aid pitch could be freed at mid 5.12 (I fell, but it goes). Reasonably protected climbing between good, small gear. Jan 8, 2018
Kevin Wagner
Tucson, Arizona
Kevin Wagner   Tucson, Arizona
Did the route a few days ago (Dec 1, 2017) and found a phone at the base. Describe it and I'd be happy to return it to you! The screen is cracked but not as bad as it could be.

I was happy to have the second smallest ball nut for the C2 pitch. It was so stuck that we decided to try to get it on the way down, but forgot about it. No cam hooks necessary with the ball nut so the aid pitch goes actually clean. Dec 4, 2017
pete cutler
Des Moines, IA
pete cutler   Des Moines, IA
Climbed the route two days ago. Brought 2 #5's and was very happy to have them. I'm not much of an aid climber and the aid pitch went clean with nothing but a few small cams and some offset brassies.

A longer day than I had anticipated, started climbing at 7:15 am and back to the car by 9:00 pm - and we were moving!

More burly than the grade would suggest, fucking awesome adventure climbing.

There were some sweet looking bivy spots on the 1st 4th class ledges, though hauling would suck. Nov 28, 2016
Kevin Kent
Flagstaff, AZ
Kevin Kent   Flagstaff, AZ
Shouldn't it be Mines of Moria, not Mines of Mordor?

Anyway great route, one thing I didn't see mentioned anywhere is that I thought the pitch after the headwall handcracks was not obvious. It's a beautiful chimney that slims down. There's light at the top so I was thinking you can chimney up to the top and then pop out. Well, you can't. I found it was nice to climb up a little ways though, place a #5, and then climb down and then stem up the lip. Kinda sucks for the follower but sure is nice on lead.

Edit: Talked to John Middendorf and he said it indeed is Mines of Moria and "there were a few typos" with the topo! Feb 14, 2016
Karl Groll
Tucson, AZ
Karl Groll   Tucson, AZ
So i got lost in the mines of mordor a few months ago. once you move the anchor back from the 2nd offwidth pitch. I climbed 30 ft or so over a sandy block then walked back and started up a crack. wondering up and around huge blocks. Where are the anchors? Do you work your way to the outside of the crack? If so at what point?

We weren't sure about this either. After the ~30 feet of sandy blocks, we took the crack system you mentioned (on the right side of the room). At this point we continued up, for maybe 100' or so, staying as far back in the chimney system as possible, where I eventually found a single piton under a roof of fallen boulders. (Seems like clipping the piton would be a bad idea unless you're stopping here.) Then did an easy traverse directly out towards daylight where I found a set of anchors. Rather than stopping though, it seemed like it made more sense to continue on up via this mouth of the chimney, quickly leading to the base of Santa Clause pitch.


I had trouble finding anchors on the calvinator pitch. After passing the slightly overhanging double-crack roof, I continued up the dirty squeezy ramp staying low, all the way to the other side of the main pillar that makes up the lower half of the route. Could see the headwall at this point, with first ledges just above me. Instead of continuing on the ramp, should I have chimneyed straight up to find anchors on the left side? Or do you slab up it? Seems like it got pretty wide. Thanks for any info! Nov 22, 2015
Flagstaff, AZ
JimmyK   Flagstaff, AZ
This climb is still dirty and has some of the most unique pitches I have ever climbed. The name of the climb is very fitting. The pendulum pitch is amazing. Nov 1, 2015
Greg Malloure
Prescott Az
Greg Malloure   Prescott Az
Is there anymore info on the 9V pitch in the bigwall topo? Has anyone gone this way? Mar 6, 2015
nevada city, ca
Damienn   nevada city, ca
The route description says to use slider nuts and cam hooks for the aid pitch....this really needs to be revised. I've always learned that it is not acceptable to use cam hooks on any sand stone due to the breakable nature of the rock. Just did this route a couple weeks ago with no cam hooks or slider nuts. Leave the cam hooks at home and preserve the quality of this awesome route for future parties! Dec 22, 2014
Richard Shore
  5.11a C2
Richard Shore  
  5.11a C2
An amazing route, assuming you like sandy chimneys and wide cracks. Rumors of a 500'-600' handcrack on the headwall are false - it is a mere 200' (albeit an amazing 200', one of the best pitches I've climbed, and in a spectacular position). The lower half of this route is a drainage course for the ledgy sandy middle section - I literally saw sand spindrifts coming down the Mines of Mordor and Calvinator pitches. Free-flowing sand is plastered to the walls of the chimneys. Go light and haul as little as possible and make sure to flip your haul rope OUTSIDE the MoM pitch - or just blast it in a day instead. We witnessed a party having an epic trying to drag their 80+ lb haul bag inside the chimney!

I posted a copy of the middendorf topo with some markups showing pitch linkups and rappel beta and a current rack. Ballnuts were not needed, but some folks may enjoy having them. We got through the aid pitch with small brass offsets and small regular stoppers, along with a set of offset and a set of regular mastercams. 2x #5 C4's might be nice for the P1-2 linkup, though it was doable with one. WEAR SUNGLASSES! Oct 31, 2014
Michael Schneiter
Glenwood Springs, CO
Michael Schneiter   Glenwood Springs, CO
My memory may be a little vague but I remember slithering up some chimney, kinda reminiscent of the Steck-Salathe, and eventually working out to the outside to find an anchor from which you could use and haul and/or jug on the outside of the crack from. I remember a fairly long bit of climbing before going to the outside. It was also dark, by nature and because the day was coming to an end so it gave a particular ominous feel in the true spirit of the Mines of Mordor. I don't recall placing much or any gear on this pitch. Mar 1, 2011
So i got lost in the mines of mordor a few months ago. once you move the anchor back from the 2nd offwidth pitch. I climbed 30 ft or so over a sandy block then walked back and started up a crack. wondering up and around huge blocks. Where are the anchors? Do you work your way to the outside of the crack? If so at what point?

Darrell Feb 26, 2011
lane montgomery
Casper, WY
lane montgomery   Casper, WY
I climbed this in a day a while back and I'm a little sad to hear that it has been retrofitted for easy rappelling. I know it makes for convenient climbing, but to me it takes away from the adventure. We were nervous about trying this in a day and we were stoked to pull it off. Now I could just rap off at any point. To me, having bolted anchors at every belay detracts from the nature of this route. May 16, 2010
On the calvinator pitch the anchor is on the climbers left. Not right. Jan 8, 2010
This route is easily done in around 11 pitches. I will spray some beta my brotha:

1. start on terra firma, skip first anchor, stop @ 2nd, great ledge. 180', awesome climbing, easy hauling
2. walk back into chimney and belay from here. Climb up into chimney, past anchor on arete, continue to anchor on sandy, death block infested ledge. Don't kill your partner. Easy, fun climbing. 190' Hauling sucks ass. Don't bring big haul bag, opt for 2 small ones if you pack like a girl.
3. Santa Claus Chimney. Super short pitch. Climb into inverted V slot. It's Zion's Ear pitch of the Salathe. Stop at 1st anchor. Hero 5.8 pitch. About 50'. Free hanging hauling until the lip.
4. Another super short 4th class pitch. 60' long. Easy solo while your buddy is hauling the Santa Claus previous pitch. Could possible combine with S.C. pitch, but not recommended.
5. Calvinator. Climbs WAY better and easier than it looks. 180' to first and only anchor to the LEFT! This will make sense when you get up there.

What would be about 3 pitches is you roped it out or 4th class. Follow path of least resistance which occasionally has a 4th++ class move or two. But then again I batmanned a fixed line for the middle section, and soloed the last 150' with a haul bag on so it cant be that bad.

6. OW to 5.10 thin hand crack. 115' Crux free pitch? Pendulum from here. BIG B.A. SWING
7. AID PITCH. 110' real men lead it via headlamp during a snowstorm.
8. LONG free pitch. 190' Pass 2 bolts to good ledge. You'll be stoked when you get to this one.
9. Another Salathe ear like pitch. You will pass an "anchor" (1 bolt) out right, but you will probably not know it. I passed it both up and down. My partner saw it on the rap. 190' The pitch starts out awesome, then the rocks turns softer and climbing get scruffy towards the top. Stay inside the 3rd bombay to your left. Going out right sucks and gets really thin above a bushy ledge.
10. Straight up really, really crappy looking loose rock past 2 bolts. Oh yea, the rock is loose and scrappy. 100' to single bolt belay on sandy area supported by large bush. Yuck. Pick rock, it destroys paper and worked for Ben and I, sorry Bill...
11. Summit pitch up thin fist crack. Your hands will hurt at this point if you don't wear gloves. 80' The summit sandy.

Really good route. Enjoy! Dec 31, 2009
Congrats to the Dr. for an early clean ascent. We felt odd that we might have been there 1st. What a great line/pitch. Sorry about the Camhook. I now know better... Sep 17, 2009
Nate Furman
Salt Lake City, Utah
Nate Furman   Salt Lake City, Utah
With a sixty meter rope:
--Link one and two.
--Link three and four. (just barely)
--Link eleven and twelve.
--Link fourteen and fifteen.

Pitches 11 and 12 make an ultra classic long pitch when combined.

We took one #6 Camalot C4. We used it in the Clause Chimney and on pitch 11. On pitch 11, I placed it high and slid it up with me for 3-4 feet. It felt well protected, because soon thereafter pro for green/yellow aliens becomes available in the crack to the right.

Awesome. Exhausting. Oct 28, 2008
Dr-"was" a one bolt belay.
All raps are double bolts, or trees now, and can be quite casual. Apr 21, 2008
Floater Bloom
Flagstaff AZ
Floater Bloom   Flagstaff AZ
Not to take anything away from Rocco and his 2002 clean ascent, but I climbed Tricks clean in 1998, used only 20 or so feet of aid, and it was done with an rp and small aliens. No cam hook required. Also the descent is a b*tch as described here. You can rap the route, but there is one one bolt belay on the headwall, all the other anchors had 2 bolts. The Dr. Apr 20, 2008
Michael Schneiter
Glenwood Springs, CO
Michael Schneiter   Glenwood Springs, CO
yep, here's one Feb 12, 2008
Mike Esparza
Westminster, CA
Mike Esparza   Westminster, CA
Hi, Is there a on-line topo available for this route? thanks Feb 12, 2008
A friend and I just climbed "Tricks" over the course of three days in early Nov. I had a few comments I wanted to make for future parties.

The route is great as a whole, though it does have some awkward, loose, and sandy sections. My partner and I went into it with the misconception that it was a trade route a la Touchstone or Moonlight. After encountering much faded webbing and sandy chimneys on the route, we made a point of asking the NPS backcountry folks how many parties had regestered for a permit to do the route this year. We were surprised to find that the number was a mere five. This route is a serious undertaking but also a lot of fun.

Another thing that surprised us on the ascent was that a large number of the "bolted anchors" actually consisted of one good bolt and a "drilled piton." This was quite a shock to us after having climbed a lot in Yosemite, where I can't say I've ever seen such a thing done. Also, two or three of the anchors had a good bolt w/ hanger, a drilled piton, and another 3/8" bolt with no hanger! If future parties are looking for ways to beef up the belay/rappel anchors, bring some bomber hangers and some 3/8" nuts. Definitely also bring a good amount of 11/16" or thicker webbing for the rappels. We brought something like 40' of 1" webbing and ended up leaving it all, along with 4-5 leaver 'biners and quicklinks, during the rappels. The majority of the anchors above the second pitch do not have chains or quicklinks, so come prepared.

Some other random recollections: The "Clause Chimney" is not difficult for someone used to squeeze chimneys, but it really won't take gear until the business is pretty much over. We had an old school BD #5 cam (equivalent to a new school #6, I think) and it went in solid near the mouth of the Clause just before one pulls out of the squeeze and moves to easier ground above. Without this cam I would have been very wigged out! The pseudo #6 also went in on the 5.10+ off-width pitch right off the ledges. It's a large cam to lug along, but we were very thankful for it more than once.

Finally, as this is NOT a trade route, we encountered a good number of large loose blocks that had to be dealt with daintily. The first pitch of the Mines of Mordor begins with some climbing/chimneying over a stack of apparently solid blocks. I pulled one the size of my torso off into my lap (not on lead, luckily) and only managed to free myself by rolling it off into the abyss of the Mines. Several other pitches demanded delicate tip-toeing around some pretty large, pretty ominous blocks.

All that said, this is a very fun route with some really memorable pitches, great natural bivvy spots, and few crowds. Enjoy! Nov 22, 2007
Nope. You need 2 ropes Nov 13, 2007
Yes you need 2 ropes. I posted some video at… Apr 13, 2007
J. Thompson
denver, co
J. Thompson   denver, co
Do you need 2 ropes to rap the route or would one 70M work?? Feb 1, 2007
Rack: 1-2 sets HB offset nuts1 set nuts, 2x Aliens blue-yellow2x Camalots .5 - .753x Camalots #1 - #32x Camalots #3.5 - #4.5#5 Camalotcamhook

Santa Klaus really is a death chimney. If hauling, make sure you move the pig up to the base of Calvinator.

The bivy at the Second Ledges is merely OK.

Can leave the big gear at the base of the aid pitch -- only need to #4 thereafter.

Aid pitch had only 10 feet of C2, then was bomber C1 to the belay. Used couple green HB offset nuts, a camhook.

P16 is weird -- go up the chimney then traverse out horizontally and step out on to the face to a belay.

Plan on 2-4 hours to rap the route, depending on if you have a pig.

Oct 25, 2005
The first two can be combined w/a 60. You can leave the pig at p2 do 2 pitches of chimney and then rap and haul out of the chimney. We hauled at a anchor on the arete but I think, humm...pretty sure can get. Well if you do haul on the arete you can haul the next two in one. Between santa and calvin there is a no rope passage but the pig doesn't fit. The base of calvinator is a good bivy. If you make it up to the sand slope area there are some bivy's in the dirt but where the rock starts again there is a flat wonderful looking spot around left.

It goes clean. My partner is a short guy and did it with just rps.

p14/15 is pretty casual if you can climb at the creek, and a beautiful link up. Beyond this I don't know, we rapped.

Go light, but some big cams are nice a #6 works in the clause chimney.

A. Everhart Oct 19, 2005
Michael Schneiter
Glenwood Springs, CO
Michael Schneiter   Glenwood Springs, CO
You can now rappel the entire route. All of the anchors are double bolt so no bolt kit is needed. The original descent was into the gully between Isaac and Moroni and sounded epic. We only hauled to the bivy ledge and then rapped the route. I felt like this was a good way to do it because it breaks the route into two nice blocks.

On the aid pitch I used small HB offset nuts, ball nuts, and offset aliens.

Have fun.

May 24, 2005
Will Cobb
Flagstaff, AZ
Will Cobb   Flagstaff, AZ
So, what is the best strategy for descending this route? Is it to take a bolt kit (for anchor reinforcement) and go over the top? Is it to only haul to the bivi ledge and then rap the route? What is the best way down???

Second, I was under the impression that cam hooks were not good for the rock in Zion. What gear are others using to negotiate the aid section of the headwall?


WC May 9, 2005
Anyone know the current anchor situation on the headwall? I would like to rap the route but I hear there's some single bolt anchors. Sep 27, 2004
Dave Levy  
Michael: More simply stated, you only need a single No. 5 Camalot or equivalent as listed in the gear description above. Most of what Dan said is correct, note that there is only one bolt on Pitch 2. Oct 23, 2003
I've only been to the top of the aid pitch, but the wide stuff is pretty much over at that point so hopefully I can help.

We took only one #5, and had doubles of everything else. We brought a couple big bros as well but never used them. P1 was the longest and most sustained offwidth, but only took up to a #4. P2 had a bolt or two in spots and was kind of short, but wide. Don't remember the gear there. P3-4 were chimneys, and as such provide intermittent smaller placements. The Santa Claus chimney would probably take a big bro somewhere, but was a little too big for a #5 as I recall. You can get a #4(?) or something at the end of that pitch, when the chimney squuezes you out. On P5, the Calvinator pitch, I remember lots of #2 to #4 or so, wider near the end where you come around the roofy thing. I was leading it in the dark, so I may not have seen everything. The offwidth at the start of the upper headwall (after the Ledges) widens to #5's, but the wideness is only 30 feet or something. You could place multiple #4's and #5's here, depending on how well protected you like your offwidths. If you feel strong here I'd just place a good #5 and lieback quickly through the tough spot.

I don't know about the upper pitches firsthand, but from what I gather the offwidths are over. You can definitely get away with a single #5, but two won't kill you. All depends on how much you'll want to place.

Good luck, those chimney and offwidth pitches were among the best I've ever done! So fun the whole way! Oct 14, 2003
Michael Schneiter
Glenwood Springs, CO
Michael Schneiter   Glenwood Springs, CO
Wanted to get some firsthand information from people that have done Tricks. We're hoping to do it in a couple of weeks. I have heard conflicting information about number of big cams to bring. On this site it says "a #5 Camalot." But, I've heard from others that you should bring 3-4 each of #4-1/2 and #5 Camalots. So, what's the story? Thanks for your help. Oct 10, 2003
I wrote up a trip report about our attempt, which can be found here...… Aug 9, 2003
This may be my favorite route of any I've been on.

I'd also like to comment that my partner on Tricks was the late Ryan Sayers. His passion for chimneys ad offwidths found a home on this route. By request, he led all the offwidths (which was fine by me!) and champed out every one. Truly a desert rat, I'll miss him. Jun 26, 2003
Dave Levy  
Hauling was the most work for me, considering I only weigh in at 125 pounds. Generally, hauling was straightforward, although the bag needed a little help in the chimneys and especially up the slabs, where hauling was more like having a wrestling match with a dead overweight pig. Mar 24, 2003
So, how was the hauling on that route? Mar 24, 2003
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
No big deal on the name, but it apparently is "Tricks of the Trade". Check out Middendorf's web site…

"Note: this route has mistakenly been called Tricks of the Tramp (taken from a preliminary topo)" Mar 13, 2003
Dave Levy  
I'm not sure if the route was originally named "Tricks of the Trade" or "Tricks of the Tramp", but I have commonly seen it referred to as "Tricks of the Tramp". Most people simply call it "Tricks". I forgot to mention in the route description that the last 2 pitches go at 5.7 and 5.10+/5.11a, respectively. Mar 13, 2003
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
Cool photos! Isn't the name of this route "Tricks of the Trade"?? Mar 13, 2003