Type: Trad, 2 pitches
FA: Steve Wunsch, Kevin Bein, 1977
Page Views: 26,440 total · 124/month
Shared By: Richard M. Wright on Sep 17, 2001
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Temporary Trail and Raptor Closures Details


Ex-climbing partners must be a little like ex-lovers that still conjure up the most indelible memories of all. My one and only tour through the West Overhang was taken in 1985 with the same gutsy athlete who would shortly drop the figure eight with which he was rappeling - while on rappel below the roof of Art's Spar. I chased the crux pitch and to this day cannot recount a single serviceable piece of gear that was used by my partner. It was, in hind-sight, probably a good thing that I led the approach pitch since we had in, at least, a good belay. Panic, harnessed to good luck and a strong body can indeed work wonders.

The West Overhang of the Maiden must rank as one of the all time classic routes in the pantheon of great Boulder climbs. Hike to the West end of the Maiden. Boulder up the short slab and walk down to the Crow's Nest. We felt it best to do the West Overhang in two pitches, although strictly speaking, this is not necessary. Pitch 1 is a 50 ft thin crack that goes at 5.8/5.9 and will stitch up with mid size and small wires. Belay below the roof in a minimal stance. This will protect with several mid to small Friends. Pitch two can be done at 5.11d by cutting right at the belay. The original free line, which we took, heads straight up at 5.8 and then traverses horrizontally for 15 ft to a slot that will gain the top. This is a very airy piece of 5.11 with nothing but clean air below your butt, and while it could suck up several larger Friends or even hexes, not one of my partners wired stoppers was still in place when I got to the slot. Descend via a double rope rappel to the Crow's Nest in what Erickson describes as the airest and most unusual rappel on the most famous pinnacle in the Boulder area. A second rappel to the South will complete the journey. Both raps are over 100 ft in length.


A full range of wired stoppers and several small to medium camming units are sufficient. Double ropes are mandatory for rapping to the ground.
We tried to free the supposed 11d version but had a great time failing miserably. It didn't seem close to 11d. Is it a known fact that it has been freed? If so, by who and when? - Anonymous but not a coward. Feb 13, 2002
I'm pretty sure the line straight through the roof hasn't been freed - looks like 13+ or harder. The 11d "direct", in the Rossiter guide, is shown in the wrong place. It takes a line of old aid bolts on the north wall, which shoot directly up from the start of the hard traverse on the 11a version. I think there's a picture of somebody doing this in "Vertigo Games". What was the state of the fixed gear on the roof? - it recently had the fixed pins pulled and was retrobolted, then chopped shortly afterwards, so I'm guessing there's nothing there now. Feb 13, 2002
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
Thanks for clearing this up, Andy! There is a photo of Harrison Dekker leading the variation as you describe on p. 16 of Vertigo Games.

BTW, both raps are very close to 100'. They can both be done with one 60m rope, but make sure the ends are very even. There is only about 10-15' of rope left in either case. This would make the raps even scarier in high winds, however. Feb 13, 2002
Joe Collins
Joe Collins  
If you try to do this as one pitch, don't screw yourself, like I did, and clip the old bolt on the "direct" variation just before the traverse. The traverse is scary with uninspiring pro (think a more exposed 5.9 version of the Wisdom lip traverse). However, you will wish you had skipped the bolt when crippling rope drag at the crux overhang brings you to a screeching halt. Better yet, forgo "full value" and break it into two pitches.

Several hand sized cams will build an anchor right where the W.O. tops out.

Wow!! Apr 1, 2004
I don't know of a more spectacular two pitch route. Jun 6, 2004
Bob Rotert  
I believe Andy Donson is correct in his statements on this route & the confusion about 11+. The original aid line of the West Face has been confused, by various guidebook authors with an 11+ variation up the North Face, done I heard by Randy Levitt but I am not sure of this, as Andy describes. The original aid line, of the West Face has never been freed by anyone I know of and would be quite an achievement due to the lack of holds and protection!! The West Face goes at 11a by traversing above the original aid line & then up a strenuous slot to the top. Definitely a Boulder classic for character & position!! Rope drag would be a big problem on this route if you tried to do in one pitch. We did it in 2 pitches & setup a hanging belay at the end of the overhang lip traverse below the crux last 20 feet to the top. Check out the beta photo supplied by Ivan to really see where this goes. Nov 8, 2004
Steve Annecone
Steve Annecone   boulder
What an amazing line, this is probably the most exposed climb I've done anywhere! However, don't go up there and expect 11a, I think this is harder than any 11a or 11b in Boulder. I'd recommend bringing a #3 and #4 Camalot if you want gear in the first 25-30 feet, and I agree with Joe that you should not clip that bolt out left, it will give you drag and it's not as good as a cam anyways. And as Joe says, use as many long slings as possible to avoid desperate clips at the final crux. Also, make sure your second can follow at least 10a without falling, as there are sections on the last pitch where significant swinging whips are possible for the second. Jun 8, 2005
Steven Lucarelli
Moab, UT
Steven Lucarelli   Moab, UT
Outstanding climb but I have to agree that this is not 5.11a. I would say at least 11b or 11c. We used double ropes so we could climb it in one pitch and it made it a lot safer for the second. Even with double ropes I wouldn't clip the pin out left before the traverse. Jun 5, 2006
Tony B
Around Boulder, CO
  5.11c PG13
Tony B   Around Boulder, CO
  5.11c PG13
I went for the on-sight of this route, which is to say I didn't read the beta here. Well, I wish I had.
I went for it as a single pitch, as we were doubtful of the position and quality of the belay gear and stance at mid-pitch.... I did not have adequate runners to line up the rope nicely. I placed my small gear low (i.e. a blue Alien) and saved the big stuff for what I expected to be a wide crux up top (everyone calls this a slot). I wore shorts....

So, halfway through the crux, staring at the wrong-sized gear plugged only part way into a flare, with both knees bleeding from the harsh and sweaty kneebars that I'd found for rests, 70 lbs. of rope drag, and the big cams still hanging from me, I was staring at a perfect and easy Alien placement in a size I did not have. I shoved myself into the slot, pinned down by the rope, then just gave up.

Lessons learned:
1) The crux takes small gear, not large gear. Nothing bigger than 3" is needed for this climb. You can place a new #5 C4 Camalot around the left corner to back up that shitty bolt before the traverse and use a 6' sling to extend it, so I guess big gear can be OK.
2) You will know when to use a long sling and how long to use. Use them twice as often as you think and make them twice as long.
3) Save small cams for the top.
4) I pulled about 4 kneebars through the upper section. I was sweaty and greasy, then bloody. But somehow they still did stick and buy me great rests. I wish I'd worn long pants.
5) Double ropes. Beg or borrow some. You will be far far happier.

Well, I walked up South Crack (a supposed 11c) for a warm up, then floated Cunning Stunt (a supposed 11a), then got hacked on this route. Jun 24, 2007
LML   Arvada
Did this October 7th.
This is a new favorite, it doesn't see much trafiic, so it's excellent climbing without too much chalk or rubber on holds.
I'd recommend going for 'full value' and doing this as one pitch. I think it's best to place minimal gear in the "5.9" section, and just put a couple solid pieces in before the crux from a good stance. I did clip two double length slings together and clipped them to the old bolt before the traverse. I didn't place anything bigger than 0.75 Camlots. As one pitch, this felt easier than any single pitch of 5.11a I've done in Eldo. Dec 8, 2007
Steven Lucarelli
Moab, UT
Steven Lucarelli   Moab, UT
I just got back on this route yesterday and found that with the right sequence at the crux it probably is about 11a. It's still a heady lead, but all the holds are there at the crux if you do it right. Sep 21, 2009
Denver, CO
monkeyvanya   Denver, CO
Very memorable climb. Feel calm and happy now, like after a climb as good as this.
As we read through these comments beforehand, we came prepared. Here are couple thoughts I have:

1) Double ropes - couldn't have done it without them.
2) #5 before traverse - thanks, Tony B! I had feelings of warmth and peace in my body as I was pulling the first corner and remembering I placed it there. #4 will do in same crack but a bit lower. #6 will do a bit higher.
3) Traverse is well-protected by small nuts and even a good mid-size cam.
4) Crux is G. You can plug gear every 3 feet if you wish so. One of those placements is a green C3, which is the smallest cam I used on a route and another is #2, which aside from #5 is the largest.
5) Did anybody else here mention that first pitch from Crow's Nest is awesome? It is. Mar 17, 2012
Golden, Co
WadeM   Golden, Co
One of my top climbs. This offers a little bit of everything strung out over nothing but air! Mar 30, 2014
MisterCattell Cattell
South Lake Tahoe, Ca
MisterCattell Cattell   South Lake Tahoe, Ca
First saw the picture, then read the story in the description, then read the comments. It sounds to me like I need to get myself to Colorado. I don't believe any sequence of things I've seen on MP have ever decided my next location like this page has. Apr 9, 2015
Ryan Kempf
Boulder, CO
Ryan Kempf   Boulder, CO
This is an over the top Boulder Classic. Classically sandbagged at .11a. Would like to mention the old bolts out left before the hand traverse have been chopped for a while now. A #5 is highly recommended there, as it's the only gear between the belay and the micro gear you get in the beginning of the traverse (if you break it into 2 pitches). The route can be done in one pitch with one rope and zero drag with 7-9 runners. Other than that, have a blast with some of the best views and experiences Flatty trading has to offer. Nov 14, 2015
Will Wright
Mesa, AZ
Will Wright   Mesa, AZ
Amazing route, but even with the beta on here, it felt closer to 11d than 11a. A must do. Dec 12, 2015
Mr. Stevens
Boulder, CO
Mr. Stevens   Boulder, CO
Even if you don't send, rest assured that the whipper from the top of the crux is quite satisfying.

This route was way more restful than I had anticipated. I was totally on my feet for the traverse and had plenty of time to place good gear. I thought I was going to have to gun it right when I got to the base of the slot, but again, there are great feet and you can really keep the weight off your arms with the right body position. I still fell at the top of the crux from being pumped, so who knows.... May 21, 2016
Harrison Dekker did the first free ascent of the direct. We were college roommates at the time, and I remember him going up with Randy to work on it. Harrison was always super strong, so I wouldn't be surprised if it was significantly undergraded. I also seem to recall Randy commenting that it was extremely hard. Mar 28, 2017
Michael L
Boulder, CO
Michael L   Boulder, CO
Best 5.11 in the Front Range, if not the state.

-Save a #2, 0.2, and 0.5 for the crux! Can build a belay after finishing using a 2" - 4" crack.
-The #5 and a few tiny nuts will sew up the section before the crux. Nov 13, 2017
Kevin Dahlstrom
Boulder, CO
Kevin Dahlstrom   Boulder, CO
Adding some beta that I wish I'd had today when climbing this route. The first pitch has a burly and insecure but fairly well-protected crux move. It's definitely old school 5.9+. On the second pitch, only go up a few feet on easy rock before traversing right on a wide crack/rail. You can't see the thin traverse that is shown in most photos, but it's right around the corner. As others have said, the traverse protects well and felt around 5.9. The crux slot section is short, burly, and a bit cryptic. There are probably no individual moves harder than 5.11a, but because it's so overhanging, finding the good holds and best sequences and placing gear before getting pumped out is hard. The best strategy is to plan your moves from a good stance below the slot, set a bomber piece or two (there's a great #2 Camalot placement a few feet into the slot) as high as you can reach when you enter the slot and punch it to the obvious jug on the right of the slot. Even once you have the jug, you're not done. The topout sequence is not obvious and feels committing. Also, I recommend getting to the Crow's Nest directly via Gates of Delirium. It's a great sport line and a good warm-up (and much easier IMO than the crux of West Overhang even though they share the same rating). Hope this stuff helps! Jun 2, 2018