Type: Trad, 230 ft, 3 pitches
FA: Dave Evans, Kevin Powell & Dan Ahlborn, 1977
Page Views: 16,417 total · 86/month
Shared By: The Gray Tradster on May 20, 2003
Admins: C Miller, Greg Opland, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

You & This Route

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Appropriately named, You'll feel like a Bird On A Wire on this one. Maybe the best route on this wall.

Pitch-1 Climb or 3rd class up to the ledge about half way between, The Swift and Dappled Mare. Set up a belay anchor in the left facing corner a few feet right of a vertical crack.

Pitch-2 Climb the ever thinning crack system past a couple of bolts. Place a thin piece and tip-toe past it, Crux. The crack eases of and breaks right. Pick a convenient scoop to belay in. Note: Avoid setting up the belay where the route crosses Dappled Mare, (traffic jam). Some parties belay at the bolts just before the crux. This may not be a good idea. If the leader blows out the thin pro at the crux, they'll end up on top of you from high enough to do real damage to both.

Pitch-3 Continue right and up crossing Dappled Mare to the top.

With a long rope and a high tolerance for rope drag, pitches 2-3 could be combined, but why bother?


Small TCU's or nuts at crux, Trad rack to #3 Camalot
Only one bolt was placed on the FA. May 29, 2003
The Gray Tradster  
The first time I did this route was in the late 70's, early 80's and there was only one 1/4" bolt.The doubled bolts that are there now are in about the same vicinity, thus the comment on not belaying there. May 30, 2003
hell, when I first did this route in the mid-90's there was only one bolt. May 30, 2003
Is it OK to add bolts anywhere and everywhere now? May 30, 2003
Climbed last Sunday...my first 10a...awesome route! The bomber hold at the end of the runout crux made me giddy. highly recommended. I used lots of passive vs. cams. Mar 7, 2005
The crux isn't runout; there's a reason the route's called "Bird on a Wire". Mar 8, 2005
Well I did place a wire shortly after the belay, which I assumed as i climbed - and you so brilliantly pointed out - was the "wire." I would also posit that one would not be a "Bird" unless one were at risk of taking flight (or to put it more clearly, a long fall, aka a runout).

Hence the name "Bird on a Wire," an appropriate tribute to a long fall on a small stopper. Thank you for sharing your keen insights with me. I can now climb in confidence knowing I've benefitted from your wise confirmation of my suspiscions regarding the name of the climb. Mar 10, 2005
You're certainly welcome. Anytime I can help, just let me know. Mar 10, 2005
Climbed this last week - stellar route but we kept on checking the guide to see if we were actually on the route since we couldn't find anything near a 10a section.

Belayed at the bolts - did it in 2 pitches and couldn't quite decide between 5.7 and 5.8 and figured a good bit of overgrading kept the route avalable for the locals.

Maybe with plastic boots the short slabby bit after the bolts might feel like 10a. And yes, it is perfectly well protected at this point. Mar 29, 2005
Sounds like you missed the crux on the first pitch. After the bolted belay it certainly is an easy finish. Mar 30, 2005
I did it again for the umpteenth time last week; and, as usual, I fiddled with the crux to find truely good pro. This time I put in the smallest tri-cams in a couple of spots that seemed appropriate. I think they might actually work. Of course, I didn't jump off to test them. Does anyone know who put in the bolts and why they weren't set side by side? This has always seemed a bit strange to me--one of the great mysteries of life. Mar 31, 2005
Woody - If you read the first comment, the "belay bolts" are actually a retro job. There was only one bolt on the pitch, and it wasn't a belay. Mar 31, 2005
I always short the first pitch at the bolts; if I fall on the crux, I may be lucky and my belayer will be a crashpad.Thanks for the info Murf. Mar 31, 2005
Adam Stackhouse

Adam Stackhouse    
Only one dinker bolt when we did it in 98(?) Jan 28, 2006
Bill Olszewski
Colorado Springs, CO
Bill Olszewski   Colorado Springs, CO
I agree with AC - couldn't find a 10a move. I thought the crux was supposed to be passing the bolt just above the first belay - did I miss something? One 5.9 slab move in an otherwise nice 5.7 line. Apr 8, 2007
Oakland, CA
Sirius   Oakland, CA
Great climbing, forget about the grade. Many fun moves and sections - I particularly liked the steep, featured handcrack above the thin section.

This is a great climb for all of your roped-soloist needs - true of the entire Lost Horse wall. Jan 13, 2008
Fat Dad
Los Angeles, CA
Fat Dad   Los Angeles, CA
"Is it OK to add bolts anywhere and everywhere now?"

Yes, didn't you know? Apparently, reading posts on this and other sites, the burden of justification has shifted to the party wanting to remove the added bolts. Apart from the griping, a fun route with a nice adventurous feel to it. Nov 20, 2008
Las Vegas, NV
J W   Las Vegas, NV
good route, did it in two pitches (the second was 205'), belayed at the bolts. didnt bother with the wire at the crux, nothing looked that good when it got hard, and the bolt was at my feet, so i just went for it.

that said, bring a pile of stoppers for this one, it eats them up!

also, just because i'm curious- we walked off climbers right without much trouble, but is there a faster way back to the packs from the summit? Apr 14, 2009
Colin Parker
Idyllwild, CA
Colin Parker   Idyllwild, CA  
Awesome route! Climbed this route for the first time on Saturday. We belayed about ten feet below the two bolts using gear in a pair of cracks and standing on a small ledge, somewhat uncomfortably, but very tolerable. Doing it this way, having two bolts seemed unnecessary, and none of the crux moves felt poorly protected or runout. We made the second pitch very long (~170 feet), and the third pitch was only about 40 feet. It may have been easier to combine them, but by that point the wind was making communication difficult with my belayer. Anyway, make sure you utilize your wires on pitch two, not only to conserve cams for the belays but also to honor the name of the climb ;) Jun 15, 2009
Chris Winter
Portland, OR
Chris Winter   Portland, OR
Go climb this route! Highly recommended. Use the bolts - ignore the bolts. Whatever - just get on it and enjoy. Nov 8, 2009
Craig Randleman
Phoenix, AZ
Craig Randleman   Phoenix, AZ
After the crux leaving the bolted belay, I stayed left instead of crossing over Dappled Mare. There as some interesting slab in there that made me nervous when the wind kicked up. Protectable the whole way and ran to the top with a 70m rope. Anyone else done that? It was worth doing, for sure. Dec 7, 2009
San Francisco
tallmark515   San Francisco
One 5.10a move off the bolted anchor. Protects very well with a medium sized nut. Everything else is pretty chill. Probably a good first lead for those just breaking into the grade. Dec 14, 2009
Chuck Weber
SoPo, ME
Chuck Weber   SoPo, ME
If you feel you didn't get enough (or any) 10a on this one, do it again, top out, call it a warm up, and drop into the Rock Garden for Pop Rocks for an exciting 10b - you won't be disappointed! Mar 10, 2010
WARNING: My guidebook, "Classic Rock Climbs No 1: Joshua Tree", Vogel 1997, has the topo lines for the routes on Lost Horse Wall superimposed about 20' left of where they should be on the photo. Unfortunately I only discovered this after climbing the line of Bird on a Wire shown in the book, which led to a huge runout, but a good adventure. 5.8R+ish :) May 27, 2010
leeds, ut
fossana   leeds, ut
Used the 2 bolt belay and was able to reach the easy terrain at the top of P3 in one 60m rope length with not much rope drag. Agree that this is soft for the grade. Mar 6, 2011
Colorado Springs, CO
jmeizis   Colorado Springs, CO
A more logical way to split up the pitches is to lead the short easy crack to the broad ledge. From there you can lead a nice long pitch with no FF2 issues to where this climb hits Dappled Mare. Then do another pitch to the top. Easy, reasonably comfortable and no silly hanging belay right in the middle of the face. May 10, 2011
Andy Laakmann
Bend, OR
Andy Laakmann   Bend, OR  
Belayed at the big sloping ledge and did a 200' pitch to an uncomfortable belay about 40' from the top. If traffic allows, do yourself a favor and belay where the route hits Dappled Mare. Once above that, it is a quite a ways until there is good enough gear an anchor. Definitely a fun pitch though, soft for a JT 10a. Feb 1, 2013
Really classy climb and more interest away from the crux than we expected given previous comments. The crux section is probably 5.9 (and keeps coming at you for about 5 metres above the bolts) but is one of the easiest at that grade we have climbed in the park (Lost Horse Wall Right seems to us to be pretty gentle on grades for JT). You can lace the crux section with offset aliens or similar but it would be OKish with standard nuts. The top pitch (if you follow the continuation crack) has some airy 5.7 PG13 padding and the first pitch felt tough for 5.7 off the big ledge. Top end of the UK grade of HVS 5b and two sets of nuts and doubled up small cams very useful

Watch out for the super sneaky and intelligent crows... they opened the zip on our rucksack lid and almost flew off with our cars keys. Also pecked a hole through the side of the sack. There wasn't even any food to be had. Dec 19, 2015
Ted Smith
Scottsdale, AZ
  5.10- PG13
Ted Smith   Scottsdale, AZ
  5.10- PG13
I only took a single set of wires and ran out. Also, I used all 5 of my hexes on the crux pitch--trad anchors only. Could have placed 10 hexes easily on the middle pitch. Cams just weren't very secure due to the irregular crack system--except for smaller and micro-cams which were good. Single cams .5 to 3 and doubles 00 to .4 would suffice--with double hexes in .5 to 2 inch range and double offset nuts like the DMM alums together with a few regular nuts would have been perfect. This climb, while not your true crack climb, was an extremely pleasurable steep face climb that used irregular cracks for protection and climbing features. Taped hands are not necessary due to the rare hand jams. If you are looking for splitter cracks, move on--these are not the droids you are looking for.

The PG-13 rating is for the final pitch on easy terrain--however the leader will want to remain aware of 5.7 moves high above prior pro that are slightly awkward and perhaps unprotectable. I believe the 10A rating is protective rather than inflated to reduce undesired traffic from non-locals--as a previous posting climber suggested. Thanks for the safety consideration to all you awesome locals. My intent is to pay it forward. Cheers to all out-of-towners, and have fun on this beauty! Jan 6, 2016
Jan Tarculas
Riverside, Ca
Jan Tarculas   Riverside, Ca
Route wanders left to right, right to left quite a few times. Extend your draws if you can Feb 22, 2016
Seth Hogan
Frisco, Co
Seth Hogan   Frisco, Co
Definitely worth the short approach. This thing eats a lot of gear at most points. 1 or 2 5.10- moves and mainly sustained .8 or .9 through the first half. Anonymous Cowards comment about the jug above the crux making him "Giddy" ... when I hit that jug, I understood what giddy was. Dec 3, 2016
Jason Kim
Encinitas, CA
Jason Kim   Encinitas, CA
We scrambled up to the ledge unroped to start the climb, which I would call 4th class (or even easy 5th, depending on which crack system you take to get there). The stance leaves something to be desired, and it isn't a great place to flake the rope and tie in. If you want to move quick and feel comfortable soloing the first "pitch", I'd recommend flaking the rope on the ground and having the follower for the first real pitch (the 10a business) run up to the ledge, build a quick anchor in the crack, and then stack the rope on the ledge, ready to belay the leader when they arrive.

Don't stop at the bolts on the first pitch, run it up to the weakness where the route crosses Dappled Mare. Belay here, and then it's one more 5.7/8 pitch to the top, which is a bit run out in places and fun/interesting climbing and very different from below. Belay at the top of the formation, no gear needed if you sling one of the huge blocks.

Fairly sustained and would be a very sandbagged 9, there's a reason it's a 10a. Nov 19, 2017
Daniel Evans
Phoenix, AZ
Daniel Evans   Phoenix, AZ
I broke up the 2nd pitch and stopped at the bolted anchor so my belayer could see me and eliminate any rope drag. There were 2 absolutely bomber nut placements during the crux section, one of which was just off the anchor that would prevent a factor 2 scenario. The DMM offsets were money here. The pro does eventually get a little hairy but at that point the climbing eases significantly and you have 2 bomber pieces between you and your belayer. Small brass RP's were also nice to have for the section after the crux. Dec 30, 2017
We belayed at a slight ledge about 12 feet below the bolts. This worked out way better than using the bolts.

The nut at the crux is good and while delicate movements the climb is not nearly as challenging as reported. Oct 29, 2018