Type: Trad, TR, 60 ft Fixed Hardware (2)
FA: Ray Northcutt, in 1959, amazingly enough.
Page Views: 11,023 total · 50/month
Shared By: Michael Komarnitsky on Dec 31, 2000
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

284 Opinions

Your To-Do List:

Add To-Do · View List

Your Star Rating:

     Clear Rating

Your Difficulty Rating:

-none- Change

Your Ticks:

Add New Tick
Access Issue: Seasonal Closures Details


Northcutt Start is a beautiful, short climb with a terrific tempo.

Follow the crack in the corner of the left-facing dihedral 10 feet to the left of The Bastille Crack. Fantastic jams and laybacks gradually grow more strenuous up the steep corner. Then move to the right and turn the corner (there's a trick - if you can't figure it out ask someone, and they'll probably be able to tell you). The first time I got this one I got to the ground and was grinnin' from ear to ear.


Smaller pieces, and a nice quickdraw to clip the piton quickly and move on. You can toprope this via the anchors at the top of the first pitch of the Bastille Crack...assuming that anchor is not already occupied.
I love the story of the first free ascent. Ray Northcutt, who must have been strong as an ox since he could do 100 pullups, was incorrectly told that Layton Kor had freed the direct start to the Bastille Crack. Upon learning this, Northcutt went out the next day and fired the line, only later learning that his was indeed the FFA.

I think this is generally acknowledged to be a bona fide 5.11- pitch nowadays, and when you consider that it was nearly a decade later that Ament, et al. were being credited with climbing the "first" 5.11 routes in the U.S., it serves to emphasize Northcutt's achievement on this short route, as well as the powerful impact one's mindset can have on climbing performance.

Free your mind... May 31, 2001
Well, if you're wondering what Eldo 11- feels like, try this. I didn't get the route, but I can say, in case you're wondering, that the old ring pin (circa 1959??) will hold. At least, as of this morning it held two pretty good whippers from around the corner (and three smaller ones too!). Yes, I made it past the crux and around onto the 'good' slopers and came off. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful route and it is a shame the first part of it doesn't go on for another 100'. Jul 20, 2001
I find 10d to be a suitable grade, considering the first 30 feet are no harder than 8+, and the crux is so short. Even if the ring pin did pull/break, the pin below it is great and the gear options below that even better (.75 Camalot). Also, I find this pitched linked with P2 of the Bastille into Outer Space to be a good warm up to the X-M/Outer Space link-up: the difficulties are similar, only difference is the quality of gear. Aug 1, 2001
Adendum to the historical note. This was the first 5.10 in Colorado, and very possibly the first in America. Not only was Northcutt sandbagged into doing it in 1959, there wasn't another 5.10 done in Colorado until well into the sixties. I do support the 10d rating. The "trick" is a tiny foot cup stemming right onto the arete, two inches below a small upside down triangular lip. Aug 24, 2001
Great climb!!! Wouldn't consider it to be harder than 10+ Nov 6, 2001
What a sweet pitch. Ray Northcutt did a hell of a job.

Well Kreighton, that pin on the traverse still holds a fall. I took one on it today because I'm a dumbass. It's amazing how much harder a move can be when you don't use your head and eyes to find footholds. Apr 29, 2003
Bo Johnston
Bo Johnston  
I toproped this 2 days ago and pulled it right away. I'm not convinced that I could pull it off as quickly on lead but I'm gonna try! I didn't have any beta on the route and can't see why people find the move so mysterious. It was simply hard on my fingertips. Ouch! Jun 2, 2006
Kurt Johnson
Estes Park, CO
Kurt Johnson   Estes Park, CO
In his mid 70s, Ray still is as strong as an ox. When he shakes your hand he just about breaks it! Nov 2, 2006
Meredith DB
Boulder, CO
Meredith DB   Boulder, CO
The pin at the crux traverse was still good when I fell on it last week... May 4, 2007
Boulder, CO
tooTALLtim   Boulder, CO
Amazing climb! Great crack climbing with an exciting finish. If you can't lead it (like me), TR it from Bastille's anchors, very fun. Aug 7, 2007
You can do a variation at the top of the climb. Rather than traverse right at the pin, continue up the ever thinning crack to the anchor. Not much protection for the leader. On a TR it felt about 5.11b. Jan 31, 2008
Boulder, CO
tooTALLtim   Boulder, CO
The pin is still good :-p Apr 7, 2008
I had a question on the route. Can I safely get to the anchors to setup my own top rope? I'm going to be climbing solo and while I have all the logistics setup so I can do that safely (backups to all of my protection), I need to be able to get up to the top anchors for this route without any protection. Can it be done without having to go really far out of my way to get up the rock? Thanks for any help. Jun 10, 2008
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
Easiest way to get to the anchors is pitch 1 of Bastille Crack. So unless you can free solo 5.7, you can't get to the anchors without protection. Jun 10, 2008
Geoff Elson  
The pin is still good, but doesn't really come into play if you put one of your smallest cams in the pocket a few inches to the left, the pocket isn't really essential for the move. I placed a tiny gray TCU, and it fit easily with space on either side. Jun 27, 2008
Albuquerque New Mexico
RiggerMortis   Albuquerque New Mexico
I'd say it's all 5.7 to 5.8 except for the crux move. BTW, it CAN be done without the mystery foothold. You just have to place your left foot really high and hang from the sidepull in the dihedral with your left hand while reaching around the corner for a pinky and ring finger lock in the crack. Then grunt and send. This worked for me (but my partner swore it wouldn't 'til I did it:) Might not work if you're short. I'm 5'10" Jul 11, 2008
Top Rope Hero
Was Estes Park, now homeless
Top Rope Hero   Was Estes Park, now homeless
Feels like 5.11 death if'n you've got fat fingers and can only wrench at most your tips at the crux finger lock.

Oh--and decades later, that pin/ring is still holding leader falls.... Apr 29, 2010
The grade isn't really that important to me, but for context this feels harder than the first pitch of Genesis and at least as difficult as the crux on the Northwest Corner.

Fun little route. May 26, 2010
Phil Lauffen
Innsbruck, AT
Phil Lauffen   Innsbruck, AT  
Harder to onsight.... Once you fall on the pin once, you get the general idea, and it's relatively easy. Sep 12, 2010
Marty Combs
Boulder, CO
Marty Combs   Boulder, CO
A superb climb, but it is a little spicy cranking the crux above the 2 old, rusty pitons. Old pitons are always good until they're not. Apr 7, 2011
Denver, CO
NickViator   Denver, CO
Luckily I didn't have to test the ring piton on this climb yesterday, but the party below me took a fall on it and it held. From what I've read, that piton must have held thousands of falls over the years. Great short climb nonetheless. Aug 25, 2013
bonnie bonbits
colorado front range
bonnie bonbits   colorado front range
Delicate, thin bits at the crux, yes, but with the piton and good pro just before and after it, it totally goes. Full-on technical bits, definitely not strengthy. So being 5'3" at best, and in Eldo, I'm quite rather surprised by the 5.10"d" rating. Especially since the entire bit to the crux is smooth jammin' and restful climbing (because I'm definitely not an Eldo 5.10 leader, and I've backed off Eldo 5.9s harder than this). Jun 6, 2014
Peter Lewis
Bridgton, ME
Peter Lewis   Bridgton, ME
I remember falling on that pin in 1983. Nice to know it's still good. Sep 16, 2014
Austin Cooner
Austin Cooner  
So good. Stellar movement. Wish this was a full pitch! Jun 24, 2015
The much vaunted Army Ring angle was replaced via myself and Roger Briggs after a discussion at an ACE meeting in the mid '90s. I had gone up and saw the fractured pin one winter day during a solo aid outing on the Northcutt, which btw is an excellent clean aid practice pitch. You couldn't see the break when doing the route free, since you are clipping fast and going for the move. I clipped it, stepped up to inspect the pin, and saw the fracture. A time bomb ticking away for years, it's amazing that the old Army ring angle still held falls. Fortunately, I had found the exact replacement in... an Army Navy store! Roger went up and with his great long reach yanked the old one out which was cracked 2/3rds of the way through. He hammered home the new one, and hopefully it will hold for another 60 yrs! Dec 8, 2018