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Routes in Isles in the Sky

Agoraphobia T 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Bee Gees T 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
Bee's Knees, The S 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Bird of Fire T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Celebrated Beast T 5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c
Dead Bees S 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Dolphin T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Don's Crack T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Metabolic Frolic T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Naked and Afraid S 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Nectar T 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
Pinky and the Brain S 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Raven, The S 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Rites of Spring T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Route 1202 T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Safety Dance TR 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Save the Last Stance for Me T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Slam Dance T 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Solar Oven T 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Wedlock T 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
White Mamba S 5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
Wings of Steel TR 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
Young Fire T 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b PG13
Young Guns T 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a
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Type: Trad, 70 ft
FA: John Long - March 1974
Page Views: 9,781 total · 48/month
Shared By: M. Morley on Dec 31, 2001
Admins: C Miller, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Don't be fooled! While only 5.7, Dolphin is a "classic" grovel/grunt (if you're into that sort of thing). As one ascends, the crack widens. Towards the top, scoot your #5 Camalot up in between mandatory cursing.

To descend, either rap Bird of Fire or walk/downclimb via 4th class ramp to the south (climber's left).


Dolphin is 20' left of Bird of Fire.


Standard rack plus big stuff - #5 Camalot or equivalent for the top.
Josh Beck
Josh Beck  
For a moderate wide crack, Dolphin is hard to beat. Just because you abhore offwidths or squeezes doesn't mean this climb isn't a blast for those who enjoy them. Mar 21, 2003
Tyler Logan
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Tyler Logan   Mammoth Lakes, CA
I thought I was tough enough to do this route with nothing bigger than maybe a #2 or 3 camalot... After all, it's only 5.7, right? After running it WAY out above my last piece, I became rather gripped. I decided to downclimb, which should have worked except that I was SOOO gripped. I actually thought I might fall downclimbing and hit the ground, and by this point going back up was not an option for me. I wedged myself in nice and secure at a good spot, untied, and had my partner hike to the top and drop me the rope. It just seemed like the sane thing to do. After climbing the upper section with the toprope I was even more convinced I had made the right decision. Not a route to be underestimated, I can attest to that. Apr 18, 2003
Art Morimitsu
Huntington Beach, Ca
Art Morimitsu   Huntington Beach, Ca
Friends don't let Friends climb Dolphin.......I led this route to warm up for Bird of Fire, I've done "Bird" several times since but with Dolphin I've followed the notation I wrote in my guide book "Never EVER climb this route again!" Apr 18, 2003
And if you must climb this route, do as another friend did. After placing that last big cam in the bottom of the offwidth, hang ALL your remaining gear on it for your second. Then, of course, follow ArtM's advice and never climb it again. Apr 21, 2003
Dolphin can be fun with big pro and ow technique. Apr 21, 2003
I just realized that my comment regarding OW's sounded a bit flippant, didn't mean that. When I started climbing it was important to us to be all around climbers. A guy (or gal, not enough women climbing then) who could climb hard face but couldn't climb the equivalent level in cracks was not "a Real Climber". We looked down our noses at them. Yes, we were pompous punks! Consequently, many would devote a season or more to the discipline they were the weakest at, usually OW! I always admired those hot Valley Locals that could crank any type of crack or face. Now the disparity is indoor vs. outdoor. How many hot gym climber's cry like babies in a Josh handcrack (or struggle on 5.11 in the gym and then claim 5.14 FA's in the high desert, oh , but I digress!)? I have always felt that a 5.9 OW or squeezer chimney is about as hard as 5.11- in any other type of crack. How about Totally Tubular (5.8) in Loveland, GNARLEY? How about the Narrows on the Steck/Salathe, yikes? Or that mega-classic 5.10a (to right of Slack) at the base of El Cap that ends with the 5.7 OW? Hurt me please! Apr 23, 2003
I'll have to agree with Dave on this one. The dolphin is a great route.Really not hard for OW, and as Dave points out, at least some OW skillsare necessary to do super classic routes, such as the Steck-Salathe.By the way Dave, the classic 10a at the base of El Cap would be theSacherer Cracker. Apr 23, 2003
This climb is an excellent introduction to OW. Just remember three things, a big piece, long pants, and climbing OW is like eating an elephant, (one bite at a time!) The pictures tell it all. Jul 24, 2003
Yucca Valley, CA
Locker   Yucca Valley, CA
This is a great climb!!! I love it! But to each their own of course. Perhaps it is because I was born near the ocean in Florida. But I stand my ground stating that the Dolphin should not be passed by. Jul 28, 2003
I had many people warn me not to do the Dolphin, saying it was the worst thing ever, but I loved it!!!!! It protected really easily and well with little gear (4 biggest Hexes and 3 biggest Tri-cams) which makes for a light rack. As far as OW goes, it was not that bad, being on inclined terrain. And it allows you to try all sorts of OW technique in a safe-ish setting, just don't rely blindly on cams to protect you :) Definitely a climb I'd go back and do next time I'm out at Split Rocks!!!!! Dec 20, 2003
Yucca Valley, CA
Locker   Yucca Valley, CA
FINALLY! Another that thinks the Dolphin is a cool route. It is a hell of allot of fun! Whomever you are that posted the recent comment, right on dude or dudette. Dec 20, 2003
I led this route a few years ago. My buddy belaying me was a beginner, and boy did he learn fast. I got up into the off-width (which didn't look off-width from the ground) and the biggest piece I had was a #9 hex. I placed it (if you can call barely hanging it on two crystals 'placing it'), climbed about 10 feet above and listened to it fall down to the piece below it. I was looking at a long-ass fall so I wisely chose to down climb the route.The route has bomber pro the whole way, just bring one or two of your biggest camalots for the OW. Great route. Jan 29, 2004
Adam Stackhouse

Adam Stackhouse    
Not sure how one can rate these kinds of climbs. But nevertheless, I was writing for the "Bird" and remembered this oldie. This was one of my early leads and I remember running out of pro quick. As a matter of fact I remember downclimbing and pulling my "biggest" hex and placing it later. Does anyyone know what a hex is? Dave, you should be able to appreciate that comment. Anyway, my summation of this climb is don't let the rating fool you. Afterwards I wanted Dead Bees because it had "bolts"... Jun 11, 2004
C Miller
C Miller   CA  
A nice crack that progressively widens through the sizes from hands to squeeze chimney. A single #4 Camalot or equivalent should work fine. Three stars out of five. Sep 3, 2004
Neff Rivera
Neff Rivera  
Fun climbing. Once you place your last piece # 4.5 or a 5 Camalot just inch up through the OW to the top. This is definitely a sweet climb I'll come back to do again. Nov 21, 2004
This is a great climb if you like'em big. I found it about the same difficulty as "Hex Marks the Poot", which is also a great climb. We had up to a #5 camalot and that made it easy to protect. Jan 18, 2005
Daniel Hart  
I too was spanked be this route. I stuck my hand in the bottom of the crack before racking up totally confident. My friend was going to need an extra #3 for his warm up the other side of bof. 10 feet from the top my #2 Camalot walked out I was greasy and would not have been testing any gear if I was to fall. When from out of Heaven I herd a voice you ok would you like for me to lower you a line. I gladly accepted. ow is hell. Feb 28, 2005
Both of us got shut down at the top, left a 4 and a 4.5 Camalot at our highpoint, pulled our rope, climbed Bird of Fire, and cleaned the gear on rappel. Next time, we'll do the 5.10 to warm up for the 5.7, not vice-versa.No fear of a big fall - just a slow ooze and pure exhaustion. Love the 'like eating an elephant' comment. So true! Mar 13, 2005
too wide! Oct 6, 2005
Ryan Franz
Boulder, CO
Ryan Franz   Boulder, CO
It's a good thing I didn't read any of this before I did the route...I would have stayed off thinking it was a horror show!

I soloed the route to take pictures of my friend leading Bird Of Fire. Seemed very solid, with some fun squeezing up top. Apr 17, 2006
Meredith DB
Boulder, CO
Meredith DB   Boulder, CO
Great climb, good introduction to offwidth. May 14, 2006
Cory Harelson
Boise, ID
Cory Harelson   Boise, ID
My first real offwidth, and it was every bit as slow, painful, and bloody as I imagined it would be. That being said, I loved it! Once I figured out how to get my foot to stick in a heel-toe (which took several slips and left most of the skin that used to be on my ankle on the rock :)) it wasn't so bad. I was also amazed at how bomber the "arm bar" felt. I brought a #5 and a #6, and boy was I glad for the #6! Maybe if you were more comfortable on this type of climbing you could do without it . . . The only thing I would do different next time is wear socks. I'll be coming back to do laps on this one until my OW technique improves. Mar 23, 2009
Pat C
Pat C   Honolulu
all you really need is gear up to a #4 and a sling to lasso that horn. Just run it out, you're not going to fall, just scrape down the squeeze inch by inch. Get your body in there tight! Apr 14, 2009
Rick Shull
Arcata, CA & Dyer,NV
Rick Shull   Arcata, CA & Dyer,NV
I remember doing the Dolphin with John Marinovich in 1986. We were just starting to lead and could only afford a few pieces of gear. I think we only had about 10 pieces between us and none were cams. The biggest thing we had was a #10 Liberty Hex. We bought and strung the Liberty's because they were cheap compared to Chouinards. John had a pair of EB's and I was wearing first generation five tennies that I had shoe gooed the toes of to work better in cracks. Of the 10 pieces of gear, only about 4 fit the crack but we figured it would be hard to fall out of the OW. Somehow we survived. I think this was our first or second 5.7 route. After that, we started looking for hand and finger cracks.... Aug 18, 2009
lars johnson
San Francisco, CA
lars johnson   San Francisco, CA
I left an entire layer of skin in the off width. My buddy Marty left none. It's all about poise and style. Dec 20, 2009
definitely bring a 4 and 5 Camalot size piece in order to relax and enjoy the top third. a worthy climb and a nice stretch of OW. Mar 29, 2010
Carl A
brooklyn, ny
Carl A   brooklyn, ny
This thing is amazing, I thought I was going to die. I made some noises I've never made before, I lost all the skin off my ankles and wore through my favorite pair of socks. And I got up it. whoo hoo? Jul 12, 2010
Kyle Wills
Chicago, IL
Kyle Wills   Chicago, IL
I loved it as well. At the finish pulling onto the top, after just being utterly worked by my terrible OW technique was an amazing feeling. I later told some friends I felt like a newborn passing through the birth canal. There was a moment during my struggles I was just so exhausted that I wanted to give up and just fall ( fairly run out as was anyone I am sure at this point) but basically realized it was going to take even more effort to pull myself out to even let myself fall, so I just kept trucking. I think it is for sure worth doing, if only the first 40 feet were as compelling as the last 15. Aug 15, 2010
Andre Kovacs
san diego, ca
Andre Kovacs   san diego, ca
This climb sounds like its going to be mellow from the name and the rating. Think again!!! OW hell!! Jan 28, 2011
mark felber
Wheat Ridge, CO
mark felber   Wheat Ridge, CO
An excellent climb and a great place to learn OW technique. Walking the last cam (#5 Camelot) up as you go makes the last bit very safe. I only lost a little skin around my ankle, which is pretty good for a J-Tree offwidth. Apr 8, 2011
Interesting fact: the first time we went to this area I soloed up Dolphin to get a look at the top of Bird of Fire because it looked hard from the ground. But it wasn't. That was in 1974 and we were kids climbing on swamis and hexes. Couple nuts and call it good. Jul 14, 2011
I can see how you soloed this Mr. Long. The bottom feels 5 easy and once established in the width, you pretty much can't come out. Although I'd say it has a little grunt factor in there at the top. Jun 20, 2012
Only brought a BD 2, 3 and 4. 4 was tipped out completely about a foot above the horn (I slung and left the #2 on it). Quite a run to the top from there, but if you've led bird of fire you shouldn't fall on it. Nov 19, 2012
Nelson Day
Joshua Tree, CA
Nelson Day   Joshua Tree, CA
I took a 2 C4, a 3.5 camalot, a 4 C4, a 5 C4, and a 6 C4. They all placed really well! This climb is lots of fun. I would recommend wearing some sort of shoes that protect your ankles though. Not hard as off width at all. The initial section is typical hand and fist jamming. The upper section (for me anything #5 C4) is all arm bars and heel to toe jamming. Good fun! If you don't know how to arm bar, I could see how this route would be really hard. You can belay from bolts on top of the formation on climber's left. If you are setting this up as a TR (like I did), bring a long, long cordalette. The bolts are about 10 feet from the top of the climb, and rope drag can be pretty bad for followers.

After leading this, I walked straight over and onsighted Bird of Fire. I didn't give the OW enough credit for the exhaustion factor because Bird of Fire felt like a total endurance crux at the top... Both great routes! Jan 7, 2013
San Diego, Ca
jeffblankman   San Diego, Ca
Personally, I liked it. Heel-toe and arm-bar is the ticket in the OW. Managed to climb with an old Camalot 3.5 as biggest piece. Plugged it about a foot above the horn, waaaay back, and seemed solid enough. It was run-out, but as others have mentioned I didn't feel much risk of falling out of the crack. Feb 18, 2013
Bob Gaines  
Stemmed up the entire corner on TR. It's about 5.10b when done this way. Feb 18, 2013
Last Monday (2/18) I was climbing at Isles in the Sky in Joshua Tree (Bird of Fire Area). A father and son team were climbing the route next to us (Dolphin) and they accidentally mistook my Katanas for theirs. If you have them please respond to this post. Feb 26, 2013
Wes Davis
Brevard, NC
Wes Davis   Brevard, NC
"People fear what they don't understand and hate what they can't conquer." The Dolphin's pleasures are deep and gritty. Don't wear your nice shirt on this one. Nov 18, 2013
Matt N
Santa Barbara, CA
Matt N   Santa Barbara, CA
The best reason to lead this, is to belay from atop and hear your followers curse and struggle (just like I did) right under you! Jan 1, 2014
An absolute blast - I loved every wide inch of this thing. It's easy in terms of technique, and you can always rest on your leg jams and heel-toes. It's the perfect place to learn technique on top-rope, and then practice it on lead. LOVE LOVE LOVE this route! Bring a 6 if you want to do the whole thing on top-rope. Mar 30, 2015
Melissa Thaw
Livermore, CA & South Lake…
Melissa Thaw   Livermore, CA & South Lake…
This route is great and super fun! The large crystals make heal-toe cam relatively easy. The wide section isn't that long, but I did place a 5 and 6. May 28, 2015
Rory Macomber
Redlands, California
Rory Macomber   Redlands, California
Super fun route. Just accept the fact that progress is going to be made in inches and get to work! Chicken wings, arm bars, and heel toe jams will get you to the top. Don't get suckered too far into the squeeze, stay out where you can move. Gotta find me some more routes like this! Apr 4, 2016
Ronald B
Los Angeles, CA
Ronald B   Los Angeles, CA
I just led this one last week! I was very thankful for having two #4 cams, but I'd say the #5 is optional. After placing the second #4 as high as I could before it got too wide, I only went about another body length up before my torso was securely inside the crack and I felt very safe running it out to the top. But certainly if you crave the warm and fuzzy feeling of being extra secure, a #5 would be nice to have. Oct 21, 2016
Fernando Cal
Long Beach, CA
Fernando Cal   Long Beach, CA
What a great climb! The start of the climb is cruiser and once you get to the wide part, the cursing (fun) really starts! Not big fan of OW but all the other routes were taken, so i said "what the heck" and went for it. Only had one #4, but felt safe with my body jammed the last 20ft. Super fun route (if you're into that kinda of stuff...)! Feb 6, 2017
rusty pitoune
rusty pitoune  
Great fun! Hadn't been in the wide for a couple months; I ran out the 5easy lower section but I got slowed way down in the wide quagmire at the top, trying to arm bar out of it with little gains, it felt five HARD... but then I remembered to chicken wing and fast progress was made, just in the nick of time. Used a #5 cam and a #2 big bro for kicks. (that big bro placed pretty darn nicely in there). I am not surprised Largo soloed this- homey is a beast- but I reckon I'll give it another roped go before I think about going so-low. Feb 6, 2017
Suz Zak
New Haven, CT
Suz Zak   New Haven, CT
What a wonderful climb! If you're looking for your first off width, this could be it. I brought up a #4 but even that piece felt somewhat unnecessary. Definitely can do it without the #5, but I'm pretty tiny so by the time you could use the #5 I was inside the climb, not goin no where. Epic top out at the end coming into the sun from the depths of the dolphin Mar 27, 2017
Dustin Stephens  
You will need a BD6 to actually protect the top section. Very stout for the grade. Apr 11, 2017
Its a classic if people reference it when describing other routes. And I've heard the Dolphin come up when describing other offwidths...

I LOVED this route. It felt safe except for the fact that I had to bump my BD 5 as far as it would go then climb about 10ft above it to top out. This is the first time I ever had to bump a cam.

I didn't make it look glamorous, though. No one would follow to clean up my pieces. Jul 5, 2017
Oceanside, CA
dino74   Oceanside, CA
If your shoes don't protect your ankles, I'd put some tap on them. Another vote for using a BD6, especially if you're bigger person. Jan 29, 2018
Max Rausch
Portland, OR
Max Rausch   Portland, OR
Some of ya'll need to climb more wide. The actual off width portion of it was very secure heel toe cams + arm bars. Feb 17, 2018
Largo is a Bagger. :) May 16, 2018

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