Type: Trad
FA: Andy Donson, 2000
Page Views: 5,902 total · 28/month
Shared By: slevin on Aug 21, 2001
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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The Lion climbs the blunt, improbable arete which forms the left side of the Rainbow Wall.

Begin about 15 feet right of King's X and climb directly up flakes and small corners (5.11s) to a short slab and a good runner. Move up and slightly right to a mantle which gets one established on the right side of the arete. Now lieback up and left via insecure, 5.12 barndoor moves to a sloping "jug" and better holds on the arete. Climb directly up the arete, hard 5.9 with a 5.10a move at the very end. Don't bail into King's X from above the crux. The last good gear is cam just below the start of the difficulties.

This climb is easily toproped from the intermediate anchors on King's X. It was established after toprope preview.


Sparse, creative gear on the initial 5.11 climbing. There is a runner around a flake just before moving up and right to initiate the crux at an overlap, and a bomber 2 Camalot at the overlap. Consider double rope technique. Some people now climb left on Black Wind to place a 4" cam, then climb back right to rejoin the route.


Richard M. Wright
Lakewood, CO
Richard M. Wright   Lakewood, CO
Perhaps Steve can help me with this question, since he is notorious for the process. Is the Head Point an important contribution to climbing? Frankly, it seems to me to be a self-limiting process. Almost no one will repeat a serious Head Point, no more so than soloing a difficult route. My impression of the way climbing is going, in contrast to the view of Climbing magazine, is not toward more dangerous forms of climbing, but just the opposite. I am happy to hand out all of the stud points in the world to some the extreme Head Points done on Gritstone, or even for the more reasonable stuff. I have a very healthy respect for soloing as well, I spent the first two years of my own climbing completely without a rope. However, this kind of experience was a very personal one, and I am not sure that I see the impact of Head Pointing as being much different. Aug 22, 2001
Richard M. Wright
Lakewood, CO
Richard M. Wright   Lakewood, CO
I'd like to thank Steve for his even-tempered response. My palms still start to sweat just conjuring up the image of Peter Croft soloing Astroman, Dean Potter leagues into the death zone, or [Derek] ropeless on Vertigo. However, my concern revolves around popularizing climbing that takes climbing into the death zone, as head pointing does. The reason that Alan's response is so adamant is that he and I and many others have [buried] enough friends or dragged enough mangled bodies out of our canyons to last a lifetime. Someone with your skill and experience, Steve, can do very extreme things, and I would like to think that common sense would disuade climbers with far less of both from such practices. However, evidence would indicate that such is not the case. Furthermore, climbers now only rarely emerge from a trad background and the skill, knowledge, and wisdom that imparts is dramatically lacking in far too many climbers. For this reason, I do not believe that popularizing climbing into the death zone is wise, although I realize that the onus of responsibility for popularizing lays squarely on the shoulders of the magazines. I do agree with Steve that it is hard to find inspiration when the world conspires to feed us a pre-digested pablum. Nonetheless, the activities of superb and highly talented climbers will always find their way into the press, and the fact of that visibility necessarily carries with it certain responsibilities. Aug 23, 2001
Richard M. Wright
Lakewood, CO
Richard M. Wright   Lakewood, CO
Into the Fire Swamp!! I think that Steve and Matt have done an eloquent job of presenting the case for the head point, and I for one will look with much greater interest on what they have accomplished. If nothing else is true, it is certainly true that climbing has presented us all with diverse opportunities for creativity and head pointing is at least that. I am certain that I will not follow in their footsteps myself, however, if there are diciples of the pursuit, then let's make damn sure that we understand and communicate that this aspect of climbing is a hugely more serious endeavour than any other. Speaking for no one but myself, I would very much like to see climbers educated to climbing on natural rock, in a trad venue, as a basis for building a foundation for climbing of any sort. And, I don't see this happening. The problem with working into the death zone is that it is nearly impossible to cope with the objective hazzards of climbing on natural rock. When superb climbers apply decades of experience to a head point it is hard to imagine how much climbing lore has gone into the process, it is not comparable to top roping a spiffy, clean line and then soloing it. If all climbers had such experience and judgement, I would stop acting like everyone's mom. However, I cannot think of a week that has gone by without my observing titanically stupid things happening on rock, and I attribute this directly to a failure on the part of many new climbers to build a thorough foundation in climbing. When I start to see the bodies piling up for what often can be attributed to a failure in sound judgement, then it is difficult for me to accept presenting the head point as a glamorous pursuit, and this is precisely what is happpening in the magazines.

A second aspect of the head point, and point of perspective that may differentiate what Alan and many others of us do as first ascensionists, concerns the objective of the ascent. Not every first ascent is a terrific personal statement. It is commonplace to create new routes with the objective that others will climb the route, and with good luck enjoy the climbing as much as the FA party. Head pointing is indifferent to a second ascent, or a 1,000th ascent.

I think that climbing can make room for both of these perspectives, and with a little diplomacy avoid the bitter exchange and recriminations. Aug 24, 2001
Alan and Richard You both imply that risking injury or death is unacceptable, or stupid. Yet risk is an unavoidable part of climbing, even sport climbing and even driving down the street. Climbing The Lion was a calculated risk " scary but not stupid" 10a in the "death zone" after practice probably equates to 8 in the "death zone" onsight, which Im sure you wouldn't consider too reckless. As for "needing to feel better" than another climber (a harsh statement to make about a person you_ve never met) by pushing the risk, Id say its equivalent to pushing ones technical grade, which all of us here are probably guilty of. My motivation to climb the route in that style was A) respect for the rock B) the anathema of having to be "approved" by the committee and C) headpointing (rather than bolting) is in keeping with the character of Eldo, as it is in the UK where I learnt to climb. Despite the strong press coverage of headpointing in the UK, there have been no fatalities - the risks are quite apparent. If youre worried about glamorizing the risk of headpointing you should be more worried about the huge press coverage that alpinism receives. And as far as selfish goes, anybody can toprope the route without any risk, do they HAVE to be able to lead it ? Andy Donson Aug 24, 2001
"It's survival of the species. Only the dumb ones die." -John Bacher

Totally untrue and a more than a bit disrespectful. For those who truly believe this, here's another quote from a "famous" person:

"The peril of every fine faculty is the delight of playing with it for pride. Talent is commonly developed at the expense of character, and the greater it grows, the more is the mischief." -- Emerson Aug 28, 2001
Richard M. Wright
Lakewood, CO
Richard M. Wright   Lakewood, CO
Last night I went up to look over a route in Eldo that a friend will try to get through FHRC. It was late, and walking by the Redgarden, as I looked up the still untouched faces, I could just see the ghostly images of Steve and Matt and Andy going where the rest of us will not. It sent chills up my spine, but it did say to me that climbing was alive and well in Boulder county. All that I can say now is: "Via Con Dios, Amigos" and tread with care. Aug 30, 2001
I arrived at this discussion late in the game but it's been an interesting read.

1) Some people want more out of climbing than just the physical excercise that sport-climbing affords. 2) Head-pointing leaves the rock in the cleanest state for subsequent ascents. There are or will be climbers interested in and capable of on-sighting many of these routes. Leave something for them. 3) The "Lowest Common Denominator" is very low. If all routes are to be established for their sake then why put up any routes harder than 5.4? 4) A large part of climbing for many people is the aesthetics. There is nothing intrinsically beautiful about a bolt. 5) It doesn't take "vision" to climb something with a bolt ladder-it takes vision to climb it without one. 6) Bolts can fail just as any device can fail. Bolts are subject to metal fatigue which can reduce the life expectancy of a 3/8" bolt to as little as 15 years. Think of that when you clip a bolt placed in 1986 or earlier. 7) There is nothing wrong with top-roping. If you climb for "the pleasure of movement over rock" then why not dispense with the tedious chore of clipping after every move? 8) A route like The Lion is inspiring to me. I have no illusions about being able to lead it, but its value to me would be radically diminished were it bolted as a sport climb. 9) There are hundreds of routes around here that have been bolted and almost never get climbed. If these routes are so brilliant why don't they get climbed all the time? The truth is-most people go somewhere new just because it's new. They do what they can and, in many cases, rarely return. There is a lot of rock, but it is still a limited resource. 10) Sport crags heavily impact the environment. Cleaning alone does this and then the people who come to check out the "new crag". The amount of urine at the "Sport Park" alone has an environmental impact. The environmental impact of The Lion is as minimal as possible. That's all for now, Steve Dieckhoff. Sep 15, 2001
I may be way out of line even commenting here, but this is such an interesting read that I can't resist. I'm someone who has no illusions whatsoever about leading The Lion, hell, I'd be lucky to get it together for something like Blackwalk someday. Maybe it is a lifetime in sports of many kinds, all requiring different levels of mental and physical committment, or maybe I just love the endless possibilities climbing offers, but either way I believe that routes like The Lion and similar 'headpoints' truly do represent works of art within the realm of climbing. No matter what the conditions, we all face a certain Darwinian exposure when we climb, and I believe it takes a tremendous amount of vision, skill and panache to represent the very cutting edge of a sport like climbing and go beyond just the hardest possible moves. Steve's right; if it was just about that we should maybe dispense with leading altogether.

To Steve, Andy, Matt and others, I am glad there are still people out there willing to push the limits and explore new frontiers in this sport. I will certainly only observe those routes from afar, but they will always represent to me a valuable and awesome achievement in climbing. Sep 19, 2001
.... I wish I'd never made that comment and respectfully request it be removed. There are probably many more opportunities for public, eat-my-word's apologies on this web and thread. Most resulting from intolerance of other ways to enjoy a day on the rocks.

Since I'm not anonymous, I should state where I am coming from? My first ascents grade only to .11 from 1974-81 on crags in WY, GA, and AL when I was between 19 and 26. These firsts were on sight and ground up. If I didn't get it, I came back another day or left it for the next man. They were done without fanfare. Only by word of mouth have my ticks ended up in print in the Fremont Canyon and The Dome guides. I never reported them. To me, climbing was and is a self-satisfying activity and a great way to share the day with a good friend. I guess I need to adjust to changed times when nearly every outing and comment and style is ripe for extensive peer review.

In the future I will try to restrict myself to meaningful contributions to this site and not reactions to "I'm-right/you're wrong" climbing-politics. But!!! in parting, bring me to date, what is the difference between an artificial route resulting from chipping from one resulting from bolting. In the past that was when you top-roped. Both alter the rock and the route forever not thinking of future generations of climbers. Having said that, I've never been to a heavily bolted sport area or out-door gym like Sport Park. Would I go? Yes. And probably have a great time. If I didn't, I would not go back. Aug 15, 2002
People have been headpointing in the [UK] for years. It's acceptable because you've no other way of [preparing] for routes of E8 and above.

The only other option is to as you say go for a ground up accent. I think if more people did this then we would have a lot more fatalities. Feb 26, 2003
Hank Caylor
Glenwood Springs, CO
Hank Caylor   Glenwood Springs, CO  
Don't look now, but this route is becoming a popular lead. Two ascents in one day, whew! Wayne Crill and I both lead this wild sucker on Sunday the 20th, and speaking for myself, this was a freakin' amazing experience for me in Eldo. Andy Donson is my new hero. I mean, how many of us have rapped off of Kings X and never noticed that there was just enough holds to make something so damn unique, so damn good and soooooo damn scary!!!! 12bX sounds right on to me, and I'm stickin' with my 4 star rating. Yeehaw Grandpa!!! Nov 22, 2006
Congratulations, Hank! I led this route up to the crux in 1980, with Henry Barber. I couldn't bring myself to launch into the crux, so down-climbed to the slab, which I followed up and left to meet King's X at the Apex. I called the route Black Wind.

-ChickenJello Jun 17, 2007
Hank Caylor
Glenwood Springs, CO
Hank Caylor   Glenwood Springs, CO  
Anyone giving this 3 stars is a bonehead! Oct 18, 2011
Matthew Lloyd
denver colorado
Matthew Lloyd   denver colorado
dameeser   denver
I climbed up and left a little and placed two microcams before getting onto the face. Perhaps I should have watched Matt's video or read Steve's description. I didn't use the sling or find the #2 placement. Regardless of how you "protect" yourself, it is unadvised to fall. Stellar route! Feb 28, 2016
Noah McKelvin
Colorado Springs
  5.12b X
Noah McKelvin   Colorado Springs
  5.12b X
MEGA!!!! Lead this wild route today. If you fell from the beginning or mid crux, you'd probably just break something as it's a slab below? (As long as the #2 holds, it should) I'm optimistic, but at the end of the crux and above, don't fall. 5.12 X sounds right. For overall experience, possibly the best 12 I've been on in Eldo! It's the real deal! And soooooo good!!!! Mar 11, 2018