Type: Trad, Alpine, 9 pitches, Grade III
FA: FA: Fricke & Logan, 1970. FFA: McClure & Gulley, 1975
Page Views: 40,012 total · 182/month
Shared By: Mike Sofranko on Dec 31, 2000
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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The Barb is a fantastic route, a great first 5.10 alpine climb. Nearly every pitch is a gem. It has a boulder problem crux with lots of sustained 5.9.

P1. Start up a left facing flake, 5.6.

P2. Scramble up to Middle Earth Ledge, and move left, 4th class.

P3. Wander up the face and find a left leaning slot. Follow this to its end, step left across the face, climb a right facing corner, and belay as high as possible, 5.6.

P4. Finish the corner, then follow an amazing left-leaning crack at 5.9.

P5. Starting on the left, climb through an A-shaped roof, and follow a beautiful crack. Find a belay in a shallow, left-facing corner, don't go too high. This is a shorter pitch.

P6. Continue in the crack system until you see a (seemingly solid) pin to the right in a right-leaning crack. Climb past this (5.10 crux) and up to a belay.

P7-9. Work your way over to the North Ridge, and follow that route to the top.

I called the route 10- because of the short crux, but it is graded as high as 10c in other guidebooks. The crux is only 2 or 3 moves, but the feet are kind of insecure. I've heard P4 compared favorably to P2 of Over the Hill in Eldo, and I have to agree. It is easy to climb too high on P5 in search of a better belay stance. This is my favorite route (out of a pitifully small sample size) that I have done in RMNP, and I would definitely repeat it. It is lots of fun. If possible, don't forget to scramble to the summit. It's wild!


SR. RPs and TCUs help. Maybe bring some extra fingers to thin hands.


Charles Vernon
mind & body in Colorado, he…
Charles Vernon   mind & body in Colorado, he…
The start is very near the right side of the main face (but thus, before the North Ridge which borders the face on the right)-a narrow flake that is straight on the left (5.6) and curved on the right (5.8). Also, look for the namesake triangular Barb flake high on the route, to the left of where the route starts (hard to pick out depending on your angle). Jan 1, 2001
An excellent alternative if there are crowds on Sikes Sickle. The Barb dries out faster than anything else on Spearhead after a storm. There are several ways to approach the upper three pitches (the good ones). Short crux, pin looked OK as of July 14, 2001. Instead of going to the summit, it is faster to descend the N. Ridge gully to three single rope rappels near the bottom- this takes you right back to near the start of the route. -S.L. Jul 16, 2001
Really fun route. Moderate line with the exception of the brief crux. Make sure you belay just over the roof on pitch 5. This and the crux pitch are the best pitches. Jul 20, 2001
After climbing this and Sykes two weeks later, the Barb is definately the better of the two routes if you are looking for an outing at the .9 grade. The entire route is clean (there are some mondo flakes loose on Sykes that will kill someone eventually) possibly the cleanest route I've been on in the park.

The crux is short and could be easily aided. The second 5.9 pitch is one of the better pitches I've been on in the Park. Jul 31, 2001
I ended up with two less than optimal belay anchors because of climbing too high. As the original description stated, on P4 belay near the bottom of the 5.6 right-facing dihedral. I finished the dihedral and ended up on the ledge that starts the thin 5.9 crack (with the crux right of the ledge). The ledge makes for a difficult anchor. On P6 I finished the 5.9 crack and climbed into a left-facing dihedral. This stance worked only becuase I had a #2 Camalot left and could step up to place it. Belaying in the 5.9 crack somewhere above the roof would result in a hanging belay, but probably a better anchor.

A great route in an incredible setting. I would agree with the above comments: better climbing than on Syke's Sickle, stellar crack climbing at the 5.9 level, and overall a clean route.

We continued to the top and bypassed the wide slot on the left. We found some fun climbing there and lots of sweeping views of the east face. Aug 28, 2001
The trick to the the notch on Syke's Sickle is to not get suckered into the corner by the fixed gear but to stay out and chimney up. If you clip the fixed gear, you will be in rope drag heaven. Jan 30, 2002
justin dubois
Estes Park
justin dubois   Estes Park
I thought the crux was 10c, short but some pretty thin moves.crazy good splitters before and after the crux thin crack. You DO NOT need RPs like Bernard's book says. I clipped the pin and got a real good #5 stopper, then bouldered up to a hand jam, from there, it's a joyride. ENJOY. Jul 17, 2002
"...clipped the pin," you say? If the pin isn't there (wasn't there for the couple of times I've done the route), or if it's raining, or if you need to aid climb to get off, RPs may come in very handy. I stand by my advice. Jul 17, 2002
Kevin Frederick
Lusaka, ZM
Kevin Frederick   Lusaka, ZM
The pin looked excellent (I thought it might even be recent?) as of 7/5/2002. (I'd suppose I'd agree with A.C. that one could take a few RPs "just in case" -- they're so damn light! I guess I take a few on most granite for that reason.) Jul 17, 2002
Oops, I forgot to sign my name (to the comment about standing by my advice). I'll admit I haven't been on the route for 15 years or more, so perhaps the pin has come to be a "permanent" fixture on the route (i.e. people expect it to be there), but I don't think that was always the case.

Quoting from Glenn Randall's book VERTIGO GAMES: "On the final lead, McClure slotted two small nuts in opposition in a horizontal crack, then ran it out 15 feet on the flared, 5.10 fingertip crack above. 'I thought it was pretty bold,' McClure said. 'It wouldn't have been a death fall, but if I'd had a Lost Arrow I certainly would have put it in.' Climbers today, equipped with smaller nuts, can find adequate protection without resorting to driving iron."

Climbers today, it appears, have decided to drive home a pin. Give it five more years, and maybe we'll have a couple half-inch bolts at the crux -- just bring a couple quick draws and go for it. Anyway, Justin, you can keep going up there without RPs, but I'm going to bring 'em along just for old-time's sake. Jul 17, 2002
justin dubois
Estes Park
justin dubois   Estes Park
My intention was not to sound as if Bernard's advice was not useful, I almost always bring RPs just in case. I definitely bring them when Bernard suggests it. The point I wanted to make is that in my mind there is a BIG differnce between 10c with nice fat nuts, and 10c with just RPs protecting you. This crack will take RPS, but it will also take at least one #5 stopper and maybe more. If anyone was worried about the pro, they might take comfort in the notion that it does protect. Now that I have ruined the surprise and shamed myself I will fade into cyber-obscurity. Jul 18, 2002
Sorry for the late comments, but I've just cruised through this site. Nice!!!

The crux is short, but our guidebook said 10c, so it felt harder than Romulan Territory, (recently revised from 10a to 10c in the comments section). It had snowed two days before, but was mostly dry. My partner fiddled in a couple of nuts (no pin in 86!) They weren't the confidence inspiring bombproof things you want when approaching your limit at 11000'. Trust the current rating!!

Ed Pavelchek Oct 21, 2002
The Barb and Birds of Fire are a good link up, because the descent off the Barb puts you about 45 min from the start of B.O.F [and because] you rap the route.... You aren't as [committed] as some other routes in the park. Nov 12, 2002
Luke Clarke
Luke Clarke   Golden
This route is superb. Rock quality rivals Lumpy Ridge and the cracks don't flare. I'd like more beta on the descent. My partner and I burned a lot of time wandering from gully to gully (working south) for some time before finding one that didn't cliff out. Anyone know a good way to find the shortest way down. Gillett's otherwise excellent description said little more than *avoid any steep gullies.* Jul 10, 2003
Old Bob  
Is there water available at the bivvy for North Ridge Route and/or Sikes Sickle? Leaving tomorrow 7:30 AM so I'll leave the computer on all night....nothing like leaving something for the last second... Aug 8, 2003
Yes, there are several streams in the area, including a pretty little brook that runs beneath the bivy sites into a small pond. Frozen Lake, just over the moraine droping from the N Ridge route, has approximately 100 acre-ft of H2O. Probably ought to treat the water lest you get the glitches. Aug 8, 2003
Plenty of water in small feeder streams, especially this year ! As I said in my general "Spearhead" post "The Best Backcountry Campsite in RMNP" ! Enjoy ! Aug 8, 2003
Ben Mottinger

Ben Mottinger    
FA: McClure: "Hi, I'm Troy McClure. You may remember me from such climbs in RMNP as the Barb..." Jul 25, 2004
John Minier
John Minier  
Great route. I would [definitely] call the crux a 5.10c boulder problem, maybe only 4 or 5 moves though. Be prepared for another stiff, continuous 25 feet of 5.9+ after the crux. Watch out for killer death blocks that are easily kicked off pitch 1, and explode, [hurtling] buck-shot-like towards your partner who will undoubtly dive behind near boulders wide-eyed with fear. Also, avoid gassy foods prior to this route. The belay just before the crux almost classifies as hanging in a corner, and it's cozy nature greatly increases the probability of having your partner rip ass in your face. Aug 1, 2005
John Minier
John Minier  
Oh, almost forgot. For the more adventuresome souls, the 5.8 crack on the right side of the pitch 1 flake has been playing host to copious amounts of plant life for some time now. Excellent, unprotected climbing on vertical grass can now be found and goes at a stiff [vegetation] 7, (Veg VII). This is roughly [equivalent] to wet, loose 5.10. Ice axes recommended. Downclimbing difficult. Aug 1, 2005
Bosier Parsons
Colorado Springs, CO
Bosier Parsons   Colorado Springs, CO
I bivvied up there once, intent on climbing Birds. It absolutely unleashed all night with a lot of rain and lightning. We headed over to Birds and the wall was completely soaked.

We decided to take a look at the Barb, and found it to be completely dry.

Also, we had a pretty small rack, since we were planning on climbing Birds (stoppers, and about 8-10 cams, no bigger than #2 Camalot), and everything seemed pretty reasonable. Have fun! Sep 5, 2005
Descent Options

S.L posted on July 16 2001 that is was possible to descent the N ridge gully and do 3 single rope raps to the base near the Barb start. Has anyone done this recently? I plan to try the route next Monday and looking for options to get down in case it is late or raining. It might help to avoid the last 2-3 pitches up the North Ridge route (which I've done and are the best on the route...) I did the descent off the backside many years ago and I must have gotten lost because it sucked and consisted of loose downclimbing.

Thanks for the help.

Jim Arnold Aug 23, 2006
Just did the Barb yesterday. Here is some Barb Beta that may help.

Pitch 1-3: We simul-climbed the first three pitches to the start of the upper wall 5.6 pitch. This really helped time wise and with a 60m rope I was on pretty much nearing the top of the large grassy ledge before my partner was climbing and I walked along this large ledge as a moving belay to the base of the 5.6 pitch.

Pitch 5 (slanting 5.9 pitch) excellent. Have a #3 Camalot. First real good protection. Climb pitch until you are directly under the �A� roof on a slanted ledge. There are two fixed nuts in the crack to the right that leads up to the �A� roof. Belay on the slanting ledge at the base of this crack.

Pitch 6: (through the A roof) climb left crack through the �A� roof steep with excellent hands. After climbing the perfect hand jam crack above the �A� roof look up and you will see a detached finger horn sticking off the wall pointing to the left. Standing on the horn is the belay for the 5.10C pitch. From the belay you can almost reach right and touch the pin in the 5.10C section.

Pitch 7: Crux: You can totally avoid the 5.10C part if needed. My partner on tension reached the pin and clipped (pin is in great condition as of this posting). He hung on the pin and placed a good stopper above. From there, you can make a few 5.10+ moves or pull on the nutted piece and gain a solid hand jam (beginning of the 5.9+ crack)and place a bomber cam easily. The remainder of the crack is hands (5.9+) similar to the hand crack above the A roof with bomber frequent cam protection. After exiting the crack, you will be on lower angle slab directly under a small roof. Head right under small roof and drop down into a comfortable dihedral with good pro. (Second will have problems hearing commands from this belay).

Remaining two pitches: Climb the dihedral-gully staying as far left as possible. This pitch actually puts you back on the face for a short time. Follow finger jams, pull a small roof (like "A" roof) and find a belay. Stay left (almost back on the face) and climb through a short chimney onto the top of a large rock ledge. From this ledge you are looking directly above the descent gully we took out.

Our Decent: Go down gully working towards the skiers left. There will be a large rock carrion that takes you out of this gully onto a skiers left traverse. From this carrion stay level and keep traversing left as far as possible. The ledge system ends onto a large low angled scree field with a trail that cuts sharply back right along the cliff. Follow back to beginning of climb.

Further notes: We bivied on the large rock ledge. Water was abundant. I would not recommend this route if 5.9 is your upper limit of climbing. Jul 3, 2007

Thanks very much for your new post on your Barb climb. I intend to do it about a week from now. Simul climbing the first 3 pitches sounds like a good idea. Do you recall how long pitches 5, 6, and 7 were? Also on the top two pitches do you think you were on the North Ridge route or something else? Also your descent sounds like it was off the backside?.


Jim Jul 5, 2007
Rob Kepley
Rob Kepley   Westminster,CO
Great stone in the upper pitches. The crux is very short and not too committing. Once above the roof, it's probably possible to climb all the way to where the crux pitch starts with a 60m rope. Jul 17, 2007
Climbed the Barb on July 4th with Joe Chorny. Perfect weather with no rain - it was even a little on the warm side (97 F in Denver). We had the route to ourselves as another later party traversed off after 3-4 pitches.

The description here made it pretty easy to follow the route but we did get off route a couple minor times. At the end of the 4th class Pitch 2 go pretty much straight up to start the 5.4 pitch. We got a little right and had to come back. Also there is quite a bit of drag when trying to combine Pitch 2 and Pitch 3, may be better to break them into 2 or simulclimb them. We combined pitch 4 (5.6) and 5 (first 5.9) together with a 70 m rope and this works well because the belay anchor for the 5.6 pitch isn't great (hanging belay in a corner). On pitch 6 we went up to the spot that Charlie Perry suggested (in sight of the pin). From just above the anchor I (at 6'2") could clip the pin. Shorter folks may have to make an extra move in here. The advantage of belaying here is being able to see the leader at the crux. The downside is one could fall onto the belay before getting to the pin. The pin still looks quite solid though we didn't test it as we didn't fall.

After the crack above the pin there is a good rest as the angle kicks back. A crack continues up and left for 40 ft or more but after that it turns into steep face. Instead I went to the right and traversed around the arete and ended up in the gully on the North Face. There is a nice foot rail to traverse down onto the North Face here. From there 2 pitches to the top.

There is lots of snow on the approach and it is fairly buggy at the bivy sites. Jul 7, 2008
Jeff G.
Jeff G.   Lyons
With a 70m rope you can combine the second 5.9 pitch with the crux pitch. This makes for a spectacular 220 feet of climbing and avoids the semi hanging belay. Jul 28, 2008
Guy H.
Fort Collins CO
Guy H.   Fort Collins CO
Great suggestion Jeff! The hanging belay on the 2nd 5.9 pitch is a drag. With a 70M you can make it to the top of the Barb flake in 4 pitches. You will need to simul about 30ft on the first pitch, though.

This is one of the best 200+ ft pitches that I have done, anywhere. Aug 4, 2008
Fort Collins, CO
climber73   Fort Collins, CO
This is a GREAT route!! This is a route I will do again... pure joy!!

Climbing the route in 4 pitches is the way to go. With a **70m** rope this is pretty easy... just need to do a little simul-climbing on p1. At the top of P1, belay at the Left end of the grassy middle earth ledge. There is a 4-5' tall shark fin flake coming out of the ledge belay here and you can get to the next ledge atop the twin corners w/ no problem.

There is plenty of gear in the 5.9 diagonal pitch. You just need to be comfortable with smaller gear. DMM pee-nuts worked great in a few places on this pitch.

At the end of the 5.9 diagonal pitch, we belayed on the ledge 15-20 ft below the A-shaped roof. The traverse on and off the ledge is a little tricky, but worth not having a hanging belay. We were able to leapfrog gear all the way up to the roof to avoid rope drag. We combined this pitch with the crux pitch. There is great gear directly before the crux and the piton... it seems that combining pitches and pulling the crux with plenty of rope under you may be safer than taking a factor 2 if you belay just below the crux and the pin pulls.

Great rock, great position in the cirque, fantastic route. Aug 9, 2009
Phil Esra
Phil Esra  
Found this much easier than Outer Space. Did it 10 days ago in cold, windy weather--still have numb spots on the bottom of both big toes. Get a bivy permit for the night before and take it slow if you're into backpacking-type experiences--really nice spot. Sep 16, 2010
jeremy long
jeremy long   BOULDER CO
So good I did it twice! Only climb that I have done where the crux was no hands. I downclimbed a couple of feet from the belay, got two good foot jams, then let go with my left hand, leaned to the right to clip the pin, then got the fingers with my right. Super fun and exposed. Also, this climb has the best 5.9 pitch in The Park, the left-angling finger crack on the 3rd? pitch. Go do it! May 19, 2011
Parker, Colorado
DavidHH   Parker, Colorado
This route is utterly spectacular! Others have hit on these points above me and I didn't listen, maybe if I hit on it again others will benefit. On the 3rd pitch (pitch before the left-angling 9 crack), it is much better to set the belay at the base of the dihedral about 20' before the start of the crack. The gear options suck at the top of the dihedral, and you don't get good gear for a while on the left-angling crack, (I felt the crux comes early too), do yourself a favor and don't risk the factor 2 onto the semi-crappy belay. I couldn't agree more that linking the top 2 with a 70m is the way to do the hanging belay sucks. Most incredible position on the final pitch! Jul 29, 2011
I climbed The Barb over the weekend. Spectacular route. Splitter fingers to tips on a beautiful granite face. The crux felt harder than I expected, maybe because it was technical after 5 pitches of straight up crack climbing.

We found a good bit of recently abandoned gear, in the form of multiple newish, nice looking gear anchors. I imagine someone rapped off with a single rope, perhaps weather related. I'd be happy to get it back to you, if you can identify the cams you left behind.

In other news, my partner left a couple of cams in an anchor on the summit. I think he left the blue, yellow, and green C4s. I don't imagine I'll get it back. We ran up there on Monday, and it was already gone. If someone happened to pull it off and was feeling generous, I'd be happy to trade the cams for some beer. Aug 31, 2011
Had to laugh at the advice to avoid down-climbing the Barb itself. My first time up there, I had an old description suggesting going up quite a ways before traversing. After reaching the top of the Barb, I figured out this was wrong. Downclimbed the whole (easy but unprotected) thing to a point about 4 feet above the belay. Found The Holds, leading right, onto the North Ridge. Duh. Dec 27, 2012
Andy Hansen
Longmont, CO
Andy Hansen   Longmont, CO
Classic route. Each pitch gets progressively better. For the belay before the crux pitch: I didn't belay in the corner but instead traversed at the top of the corner (below the pin) to the right. I belayed in a left-angling crack which is a part of Barbarella (10d), and when I started the crux pitch, I climbed about 20' of this angling crack to join the crux on The Barb. The belay is semi-hanging on a 1' wide ledge. The gear is small-med. cams and stoppers. Adds a bit more climbing to the short crux pitch of The Barb. Aug 4, 2014
Louisville, KY
andrew.reed   Louisville, KY
Save a #1 C4 if building a belay at the base of the angling, 5.9 finger crack (p5). Someone has dug out one of the pods there, and it makes a comforting addition to the thin wires used in the anchor. Jul 13, 2015
Jeff G.
Jeff G.   Lyons
This is one of my favorite routes in the Park, or anywhere, for that matter! Great exposure, beautiful rock, and incredible alpine setting.
The crux moves are well-protected by the pin, as others have stated, but I think it's a huge sandbag to call this route 10-. The crux is very tenuous and thin for several moves to clip the pin and then move above it to the good hand jam. I've climbed this route 13 times over the years, and I've never found the 10- sequence! I call it solid for 10c. Just my opinion. Aug 24, 2015
Here and there
rkrum   Here and there
This just might be the best moderate climb I've done in the park. Great rock, intetesting, sustained, committing 5.9 with a short 5.10 crux. The finish we did was 5.7 slab with little pro on very good rock, to turning an easy roof on face and hand jam jugs to flop onto the summit. All smiles all the way through the finish - ticked pretty much all the boxes for perfect alpine outing! The crux could be aided quite easily, but I also would not recommend this climb if 5.9 is your upper limit of climbing.

10b/c is a very fair grade for the crux. 10- would be the expected grade for the area.... I found the 5.9 pitch before the crux to be harder, for whatever that's worth. Crux pitch is technically more difficult, but the 5.9 crack below both my partner and I agreed requires a lot more effort if you have smaller than average hands.

Slings and lots of offset nuts (as with anything up here) will be your best friends.

There is a rap station in an adjacent gully to the normal walk off as of the time of the posting. It had fairly new cord, and possibly the smallest, flimsiest quicklink I've ever seen. We added a bail biner to it, started to rap, then 30ft down realized we were never going to get our rope back if we tried to pull it. My partner untied the ropes from the top, and we traversed further to the normal walkoff. Do not use this rap station.

Edit: We tried to rap with half ropes. Rapping this with a single rope sounds like a much more feasible idea Aug 31, 2015
Boulder, CO
Evan18   Boulder, CO
Stellar route... I did not follow the advice to end the pitch before the crux early in the shallow corner and ended up with the worst hanging belay right before stepping left into the crack before the crux. Follow the beta, don't get suckered into going higher and stop in the shallow corner....

Not a big poster on routes but saw the post above me and wanted to gently disagree. The rap on the descent is worth doing - it saves a significant amount of loose trail to walk down. With a 70m, you get to a great stance and then can walk climber's left with the rope and pull no problem. Even if it got stuck, it would be 5th class - 5.2 that you could probably lead on the free end if you had to in order to get the rope back. At the time of posting, there was 4-5 cords around the block, 2 or so looked decent, a quicklink, and a taped closed biner. Aug 25, 2016
This a brilliant piece of granite alpine climbing on stellar rock serving car-to-car, wilderness adventure perfection. Pitch four from the ledge beneath the A-shaped roof to below or above the crux is quite sustained. Using a 70, the crux can be managed at the end of that pitch, but best by a strong leader at this grade carrying plenty of gear. Otherwise set an anchor below as the crack takes great pro before you get to the crux. The crux move is classic granite slab with a low hold and technical feet. Don't miss the transition down to the right of the Barb above the crux to access the North Ridge, as a nice crack can suck you up the Barb to a diversionary closeout. The North Ridge is a perfect long and moderate end pitch with 30 ft of simul-climbing to mount the false summit, anchor and then finish with a hike to the real summit where a tenuous view hole awaits. Aug 20, 2017
Charles Rackson
Charles Rackson  
A 0.3/0.4 offset X4 cam makes for a bomber placement in the pod right below the pin in the crux pitch. That does, however, fill up most of the pod - the only good hold there. Sep 6, 2017