Type: Trad, 2 pitches Fixed Hardware (4)
FA: Ferguson, Wunsch, Bragg, 1974
Page Views: 11,735 total · 55/month
Shared By: Tony B on Aug 10, 2001
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Seasonal Closures Details


This route is probably the best route in the popular Pony Express Area of the West Ridge of Eldo. It may be one of the best shorter routes in Eldo.

P1) 5.9, 80'. Climb the left most of the cracks in a large inset, starting just below a pine tree and ending at a pine at the base of a right-facing dihedral. Most of the gear is thin-to-fat finger sized.

P2) 5.11, 55'. From there, climb up the dihedral until it gets bare, then launch up and left though a series strenuous thin moves (11b/c) to get to the arete on the left, and up to a jug on the face and then back right to the corner (awkward). The gear is pretty reasonable and frequently fixed (small stoppers). There is one hard move (11a, balancy) remaining once you are back to the corner. What will be the crux for you depends upon your individual strengths and weaknesses. Going directly up the corner the whole way is thin stemming (5.11d) and is not as well protected.

To descend, rap to the rings above Iron Horse and then rap again to the ground.


The protection is reasonable at all times, but not necessarily great. The crux pro is several small nuts in a row, so take some small gear. There is most frequently fixed protection at the crux, but it can be transient and would best be backed up.
This is a top shelf line! It is also a bit intimidating. I think I managed a pink tricam near the crux that was a good supplement to the small nuts. You can also get a great sling over the flake you reach for at the crux. Nov 12, 2001
The first pitch protects fairly well and has some beautiful moves on it. There are good rests and nice stances to place gear. Feb 4, 2002
Important note for those who don't like wasps: it appears that some wasps have declared the Pony Express crack on P2 their home. Yesterday, 4.28.02, about 50 wasps were swarming in and out of the crack. Apr 29, 2002
Joe Collins
Joe Collins  
I don't think that it would be too wise to sling the jug as Tom suggests. The jug seemed a bit creaky to me. Even so the feet suck here and its very hard to stop and place pro. There is a fixed nut just below the crux whose quality really can't be judged until you're eye to eye with it... basically, it sucks... you can back it up with a #4 or 5 BD stopper in the pod just above. An awesome climb with a desperately hard crux! Oct 14, 2002
Adam Brink
on the road
Adam Brink   on the road
Has anyone done the second pitch recently and are the wasps still there? I would love to hear that they're not. Oct 17, 2002
I attempted to lead the second pitch of this climb today, and it appears that the wasps are back. I didn't see a nest, but there were quite a few wasps flying in and out of the crack (on the face) for its entire length, and more lurking in the initial finger jams.

I ended up backing off, so that stinging wasps wouldn't blow my onsight. Oct 8, 2003
On P1, is it on route to go ~ 4 ft RIGHT of the crack about mid-way for about 10 feet, then join back up with the crack to finish? The crack section through the middle here seems to be more difficult than 9. Oct 13, 2003
Clare, I've done the first pitch both ways -- staying in the crack and going a bit right on the face. Both seem about the same diffficulty to me. If you like crack climbing and being close to your gear, the former might seem easier. If you like face climbing, the latter might suit you better. I don't think one or the other is "off route." To say so means the route is contrived, IMHO. Oct 14, 2003
How can a trad route be 'contrived'? That seems a contradiction of terms. Similarly I don't see how one can be 'off route'. The whole point (for me) about a trad route is you get to choose exactly how you climb the section of rock. The grade is only a guide anyway. Jun 4, 2004
SL hits the nail on the head when he says "frustrating second crux". I have never been able to feel solid on that move. As I remember you have nothing for feet and kinda have to stab at an OK hold. Just desperate!!!! Aug 18, 2004
Just a high quality line. The wasps are lingering in the first little slot of p2. Oct 26, 2004
Ernie Port
Boulder, Colorado
Ernie Port   Boulder, Colorado
Here's a suggestion: If coming down after climbing Handcracker Direct and are looking for more action, jump on P1 of PE for a little icing on the cake...set up a top rope and do Iron Horse, and then pull the rope and send Mesca-Line or Dandi-Line for the night cap. Made for a fun afternoon on west ridge! Jun 20, 2005
Steven Lucarelli
Moab, UT
Steven Lucarelli   Moab, UT
Onsight Baby! I messed with some gear at the big hold halfway up and after fiddling for a few seconds thought "F*#@ it I have a bucket" and kept climbing.

That's for you John, thanks for the belay! Jan 22, 2009
Guy H.
Fort Collins CO
Guy H.   Fort Collins CO
You better add a can of raid or a fly swatter to your rack, if you want to climb second pitch. There were about dozen hornets sunning themselves around the crux crack this morning. Mar 20, 2009
Brent Apgar
Out of the Loop
Brent Apgar   Out of the Loop
There are currently no wasps and an oldish looking (though solid) fixed stopped at the crux of Pony Express. I don't know about anyone else, but I would recommend against Tom F's suggestion of slinging the jug flake just after the crux. The thing is pretty creaky and you get great gear after just one more move, not worth risking sending a sizable missile down at your belayer or anyone below IMO. -BA Nov 22, 2009
Scotty Nelson
Scotty Nelson   Boulder
Climbed it a few weeks ago, no wasps present. Mar 20, 2010
Phil Lauffen
Innsbruck, AT
Phil Lauffen   Innsbruck, AT  
A few wasps today, but nothing bad. I think it's good to go for the fall season! Sep 11, 2011
SeanKuus Kuusinen
Steamboat Springs
SeanKuus Kuusinen   Steamboat Springs
I climbed P2 around noon yesterday. I encountered 2 or 3 wasps when I climbed it, but while I was lowered I noticed 8-10 near a crucial finger lock. The guy who got on it earlier said that he saw very few wasps. This leads me to believe that they're more active later in the day, so get on this thing early! Mar 19, 2012
Rob F
Fort Collins, CO
Rob F   Fort Collins, CO
Watched a gentleman bail on the beautiful 2nd pitch last Friday due to a swarm of wasps! Be aware! Apr 2, 2012
Mike Tsuji
Boulder, CO
Mike Tsuji   Boulder, CO
Climbed this today and no wasps. Pretty cool line! Jun 8, 2012
Lisa Montgomery
Golden, CO
Lisa Montgomery   Golden, CO
Route update: new righthand anchor bolt and new chain on P2 of Pony Express. We made it so that you can equalize your rope in two directions: either rap straight down to the ground from the lowest chain links (80m rope required?) or rap the Pony Express corner to the P1 anchor by using the quicklinks on the right chain.
May 25, 2016
Andy Hansen
Longmont, CO
Andy Hansen   Longmont, CO
This route is a mega-classic. The second pitch is not to be missed, and if you were to rope up for this pitch, you would not regret it... but just don't forget the RPs is my estimation for gear. Plus a few cams up to #0.75 Camalot...perhaps some larger cams for P1. Aug 22, 2016
Nick D'Hulster
Nick D'Hulster   California
Wasp free and such an excellent climb! Did the lower 11c a few months ago and had to bail on this because the winged beasts were occupying the crux finger pockets. Stellar pitch for the length and not over until you're on the rotten rock before the anchors! Feb 14, 2018