Type: Sport, 50 ft
FA: Mark Powell and Bill Feuerer, 1958
Page Views: 50,362 total · 247/month
Shared By: Brian Reynolds on May 4, 2002 with updates from Chunks a-doodledandy
Admins: C Miller, Greg Opland, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

You & This Route

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Awesome setting, great summit, big air underneath you. This is a great climb. It's popular, and there's often a line, but it's still well worth doing. Ss soon as you hit the corner past the second bolt, it's like there's no one else around but you and a hundred feet of air. The crux is negotiating your way over a small bulge above the second bolt -- the holds are there and bomber, though, so fire away!! This is one climb that I intend to come back and do again, many times.

For excellent photo ops, set a friend up with a camera on the sloping rock that faces the south face.


4 bolts, bolted anchor/rap (all 3/8")


Brian Reynolds  
Question (inspired by some bolt-war-related discussions going on over on rec.climbing right now): How many bolts were placed on this climb by the FA? When I climbed it last May, there were four, but I seem to recall some discussion that sometimes there aren't quite as many, or they get chopped, or something along those lines. So how many were there originally? And which ones were they? Anyone know? Sep 20, 2002
I went and took a look last year and there was a "new" bolt. New as in wasn't there a few years ago, and certainly not on the FA. Its the first bolt, right next to a small nut placement. I wouldn't expect it to be around for too much longer, if its not gone already. Oct 1, 2002
C Miller
C Miller   CA  
As best I can discern there have always been four bolts on this route (SW Corner). The original two were quite close together and in fact the first bolt hanger was homemade - a piece of strapping iron with a ring. As for the bolts being new and shiny that's because they've been replaced. Lastly, you can call the the first bolt unneeded but remember when the climb was first done not all the high tech hardware available today was around, so the bolt is perhaps superfluous but historic. If you don't like it or need it don't clip it. Oct 31, 2002
Mike Epke
Denver, CO
Mike Epke   Denver, CO
Awesome route, among my favorites in the whole park after two great stays. The exposure after bolt # 2 makes the route for sure. A climb that I plan to enjoy many more times. Mar 16, 2003
Hay climbers i have been climbing the South West route since the early 70s The route is 5.6 and the other side their use to be a excellent bolt ladder route put upby the Riverside Search and Rescue team a great aid climb until a climber decided to play God and remove the complete bolt ladder, it was a great training area for aid climbing and it helped me in getting up Half Done standard Route in the late 70sThe rock was called the Lost Pencil I am just mad that the aid ladder is gone forever because some 5.13 climber decided to destroy the aid route. The route had a overhang at the top where you could use a cliff hanger to move over the top to the rappell station. However, it is gone for good now, please do not destroy routes set up by climbers i cannot climb 5.13 and use to enjoyed the climb in the late evening when i visited Joshua Tree, now it is gone for good.

Don Thompson May 30, 2003
Steven Powers
Steven Powers  
i love this climb, a couple of weeks ago i was climbing the route, and there was this big group of people trying to do this route and a bunch of them kept falling, they were all swearing it was like 5.10, i got a kick out of that, then they went on to say that cryptic was easier than sw corner! tards. Jun 10, 2003
Yucca Valley, CA
Locker   Yucca Valley, CA
5.6 is about right.

Fantastic view. Aug 22, 2003
The traverse past the second bolt over to the corner feels like 5.7 but when you get the hand and foot holds correct, it's 5.6. There is potential for a pendulum after the fourth bolt for the follower. The climbing is very easy past the fourth bolt but can spook novices. But, there is an opportunity to place a few small nuts opposed 10' past the last bolt to protect the follower. Look for the flake.

Classic with great exposure.

Get the sequence correct else it feels harder. Sep 22, 2003
Steven Powers
Steven Powers  
in order to skip the "5.7" traverse part go up clip the first bolt then down climb lower to much larger foot holds,and head left there. if you do this the whole route is 5.6. Oct 1, 2003
FA of this fine route was by Mark Powell and Bill "Dolt" Feuerer in April, 1958. Contrary to what has been reported elsewhere, no aid was used on FA. Dec 17, 2003
The move over the roof can be made a little more relaxed for beginning leader by plugging a #1 camalot just over the little roof in a short groove/crack. Jan 21, 2004
I first climbed this route in the mid sixties. There was one quarter inch bolt with no hanger. Further, there was a horn like hold under the overhang that was used to swing out to the ridge; it's long gone. A piton was set somewhere under the overhang. We tied off the bolt with a narrow sling to "protect" the moves to the top. It was more interesting in those days. Feb 7, 2004
Enjoyed this little route, found it to be a great warm up, sprayers beware, exposure below....the route to the right is much better... Feb 13, 2004
C Miller
C Miller   CA  
A stellar route that's worth repeating over and over. The exposure and position more than make up for the shortess of the route. Climb it by the light of the moon for full value. Feb 26, 2004
Matt Chan
Matt Chan   Denver
Wish I had brought something to protect the second after clipping the last bolt. I would imagine a fall, though unlikely, would be a bit nasty after your second cleans the last draw. Anyone ever place a piece after the last bolt? May 10, 2004
My daughter Tia and I took advantage of the mild temperatures yesterday to do the SW Corner and Cryptic without having to get the reservation probably required during the regular season. There were a couple of Brits on Cryptic having a hell of a time trying to get by the second bolt. Later, as I was climbing it, and out of necessity, I remembered the hidden foothold around the corner. Too late to help the Brits though.Initially, there was one bolt on the SW Corner, the remains of which can be seen near the middle bolt on the ridge. I found the route very greasy. It's been climbed so much that footholds that were once of no concern even climbing with early vibrams now are a bit dubious. If it wasn't for that, I'd recommend "delicately" removing the second ridge bolt, but not now. The bolt at the start, however, is unnecessary. One can place a firm point in the crack, traverse to the left and clip the second bolt.Cryptic has got to be one of the best short eights in the park. I find it mildly humorous ,though, that on the left is a route that's overbolted and on the right a route that will probably send you to the hospital if you blow it getting to the first bolt. I've always found the crux to be the first fifteen feet. Sep 8, 2004
A competent climber will place a bolt where it is necessary due to inability to place a nut or cam to protect the same moves. I don't really care that much one way or the other whether or not that particular bolt is removed. This goes to the heart of a tactical an ethical issue in climbing; and it's basic: if there's a acceptable crack that protects the same terrain, use it. The bolting issue will, as a problem, continue to be with us. That one unnecessary bolt is only a symbol. Sep 9, 2004
Avoid rappeling on the "Cryptic"/"S.W. Corner" side of the rock. My rope got stuck and resulted in free soloing S.W. Corner(Including a foot slip at the overhang) to free my rope.Killer route, one of the best indeed. Sep 30, 2004
Who hasn't done this route? Either way, its a good climb. I think I've done it 6 times or so over the years. Mar 9, 2005
Aaron Williams  
theres three bolts right now and two of them have chains on them if you climb 5 feet higher to the very top there are really rusty coldshuts Apr 2, 2005
Jason Shatek
Jason Shatek  
What a fun 5.6, I had to think about this route as I was leading it, but everything you need is there. When we were there last week it was tough to do this climb because there was always someone on it. I think this might be the "calypso" of the j-tree area. A great route with fun exposure! Apr 7, 2005
Absolutely! The view from the top is so rewarding after this exhilerating climb! I will always return to Headstone. See the pics. Feb 18, 2006
Salt Lake City, Utah
46and2   Salt Lake City, Utah
Excellent route that should never be missed; may I also recommend climbing this thing in the early morning or late afternoon to get some good shade! Jun 11, 2006
Jon Hanlon   SLO
I feel lucky to have climbed this route a few times before the addition of that first bolt. I have fond memories of an exciting climb over the abyss on the way to clipping that first bolt (the one that is now the second). I feel sorry for climbers today that don't get the same reward from the SW Corner of Headstone.

I repeated it this weekend and now it's a little bland. Pablum. Retrobolters and their enablers are not only robbing others, they are screwing themselves. Sep 20, 2006
Has anyone done this climb by moonlight? It's one of my ambitions to do on a full moon night.. Will howl from the top before rapping off.. Feb 9, 2007
Did it by moonlight a couple of years ago and it was a major blast ,but you don't get the same exposure. Also gave it a go after the 2004 snowstorm but was shutdown cold,scared and wet. Feb 10, 2007
Bill Olszewski
Colorado Springs, CO
Bill Olszewski   Colorado Springs, CO
A must do JT classic! The exposure is great but the traverse is even more fun with a headlamp, IMHO. Apr 8, 2007
lars johnson
San Francisco, CA
lars johnson   San Francisco, CA
5.6d A classic!!! Jun 6, 2007
Awesome climb. Climbed it Saturday morning - so cold and windy, my feet were going numb. Hands were great, but I could see how it would be greasy and slick on a hot day. I would probably not have been able to start it if this were my first climb at JT, but it isn't any harder than 5.6. Nov 26, 2007
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
If this isn't a four star route I don't think there are any in JTree. Fulfills the original criteria for designating a route as classic. May 23, 2008
John Hegyes
Las Vegas, NV
John Hegyes   Las Vegas, NV
Um, well that puts me in an awkward spot, but I'll stick to my guns: one star. By the way, this was my first route in J Tree. May 23, 2008
Mark Roth
Mark Roth   Boulder
This was also my first route in JT (a few years ago). When I topped out there was another party on top that thought it was great that I was teaching my daughter to climb. It was my wife!
On our way down we saw a guy blow the third clip and smash his shins on the lip of that bottom overhang. Ouch! He pretended like it didn't hurt and went back up. Dec 2, 2008
72HW Holly
Minneapolis, MN
72HW Holly   Minneapolis, MN
Most def a classic, if for nothing else than the spectacular exposure. We were puzzled by the placement of the second bolt however, as the route goes a bit harder if you move up directly after clipping the first to clip it. My advice is to stay low and clip #2 as you work your way up after the traverse, or clip it and downclimb a move to the ledges moving out left.

(EDIT: I now realize the first bolt was added later, which makes the SECOND bolt placement a whole lot easier to understand as it used to be the first... how confusing!)

Overall a 5.6 route with big, committing moves that can no doubt make the new leader over think what needs to happen, making the route seem much harder than it is.

The crux for me was moving past the last bolt - a weird feeling high step onto lower angle stuff. Not hard per se, just exposed... Jan 19, 2009
ChanVan Schaack
Denver, CO
ChanVan Schaack   Denver, CO
Killer route to do sans light on a full moon! Feb 21, 2009
Dan Costello
Dan Costello  
SW Corner was my first real lead.

The combination of silent terror and exhilaration I felt then has been there ever since. I've climbed this route at sunset, at dawn, during a windstorm, in the rain, and by the light of the full moon and there's nothing better than dragging someone to Joshua Tree so they can do it too. (And so I have an excuse to climb it again.)

Wonderful. Apr 19, 2009
Pat C
Pat C   Honolulu
Climb this guy barefoot! All of a sudden that 5.6 rating feels like runout 5.10. I'd never climbed barefoot before, but I figured this would be a good test piece. Don't take chalk either. The fear is incredible! One can feel it radiate through their body. Become the zen master. I love this climb. Jun 4, 2009
Chris D
the couch
Chris D   the couch
Got up early and grabbed a couple of kids from the campsite next to me to head over and climb this route last weekend. I'd been eyeballing this route and drooling over it ever since I started climbing (after years of admiring the formation as a non-climber). I offered to lead it, and honestly, was relieved that another in the group wanted to lead it more than I did. Getting to the third bolt is a beautiful Josh runout over super exposure.

Anyway, it was even better than I'd thought it would be. I'm glad I wasn't around to climb this route in the sixties before it was "ruined" by someone placing an extra bolt. It would have been a shame to have been disappointed on this spectacular climb.

In any event, I don't see how the extra bolt at the start makes the runout to the third (formerly second) bolt any less exciting. If you peel on the moves traversing to and starting up the arete, you're gonna have an exciting ride. Feb 26, 2010
ScooterV Valuikas
Chandler, AZ
ScooterV Valuikas   Chandler, AZ
I climbed this great one just after Christmas and it says 50 ft but I think 60 and the start is already around 80 ft off the floor and stepping out onto the arette had my knee shaking pretty badly. What a great route! Dec 29, 2010
Mike Tsuji
Boulder, CO
Mike Tsuji   Boulder, CO
One of the best 5.6 climbs I've done! Mar 25, 2011
Daniel Kane
San Jose
Daniel Kane   San Jose
I enjoyed this climb a lot. The climb was nothing impressive, not to me, but it was fun and the view from the top makes it a great end of the day, watch the sunset sort of event. Apr 24, 2011
Great exposure. If you're looking to TR this one from the bolts up top, you'll need webbing for a long anchor extension, and probably set a directional on the highest bolt. Otherwise it would be a hell of a pendulum. Nov 7, 2011
Fun climb for the grade, but not exactly a five star classic. Jan 19, 2012
Rob Selter
running springs Ca
Rob Selter   running springs Ca
Good climb, nice exposure, but not worth all the hype. Apr 22, 2012
Climb To Safety
Climb To Safety   california
First climb of the day on march 13, 2013. Ive been talking about this climb for well over a year. Hidden valley camp was filled up so we camped at ryan, with a great view of the sw corner. We couldnt pass it up this time, and it was well worth the time. I wish the climb were 20 feet longer, but aesthetically, this thing is begging to be climbed. Great summit, with a great view, and fun 5.6 climbing the entire way. Mar 14, 2013
Matt Michael
Oceanside, CA
Matt Michael   Oceanside, CA
I personally enjoyed Cryptic much more, but a fun climb to do at least once. Sent my buddy up on it for his first lead ever. I think the exposure got him. He managed to pull it off, but was a little shaky hah. Apr 19, 2013
Alex Peterson
Kamas, Utah
Alex Peterson   Kamas, Utah
Classic must do route. Gets sun even early in the morning in the summer. Its starting to get greasy, but that just makes it better. Jul 2, 2013
Bellingham, WA
DynoTee   Bellingham, WA
How large does the cams need to be May 10, 2015
Melissa Thaw
Livermore, CA & South Lake…
Melissa Thaw   Livermore, CA & South Lake…
placed a small offset cam (purple-grey metolius?) before the first bolt because I was scared of falling off to the left before clipping the first bolt. May 31, 2015
Ron Thompson
Idlewild, CA
Ron Thompson   Idlewild, CA
Reno, NV
  5.6 PG13
Ancent   Reno, NV
  5.6 PG13
Placed a yellow (.2) x4 at the first crack getting to the 1st bolt. Protects the leader from an unpleasant fall off the perched start. Getting to the 3rd bolt is the only real run out after that-- a fall would result in hitting the apron pretty hard.

Great climb and exposure! Aug 16, 2015
Tobin Story
Woodinville, WA
Tobin Story   Woodinville, WA
Great climbing and awesome exposure. Not many places out there where you can make three moves and be standing 80' off the deck. Definitely a route I'll come back and do again. May be a bit heady for the new leader, pulling the moves over the bulge and onto the arete with the wind whipping all around you definitely gets the heart racing. Fun stuff! Nov 18, 2015
What pieces do people recommend bringing along? I've heard a red cam, but anything else? Nov 17, 2016
Ice4life   US
no gear is required, just draws. You can't really TR this one without a CRAP TON of drag. Best to bring your second up and have them clean it on way down. shares anchor at top with Cryptic. Was up there on 12/06/16 and there were two sets of anchors oddly placed IMO. Bring cordallette or better yet, 2 to TR the 5.9 between SW corner and Cryptic. Dec 16, 2016
Bob Klaas
Long Beach, CA
Bob Klaas   Long Beach, CA
Time lapse footage of a friend leading Southwest Corner March 2018.

Link: youtube.com/watch?v=kuLOGRI… Mar 21, 2018
Airy fun! Do it. Apr 6, 2018
Cory Reider
Pasadena, CA
Cory Reider   Pasadena, CA
SUPER FUN. I don't know why this is listed as trad, it is bolted all the way. Yes, a couple of moves are a bit run out but all you need are draws. Apr 30, 2018