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Sphinx Crack

5.13b, Trad,  Avg: 4 from 5 votes
FA: FFA: Steve Hong, 1982. 1st ascent in 1 pitch: Tony Yaniro
Colorado > S Platte > Pine Area > Sphinx Rock
Access Issue: Closed: Private Property - Sphinx Rock is on private property Details


Barring, I dunno, the Phoenix or Supercrack or something, this is probably the best-known crack climb in the U.S., one of the most famous in the world. That said, it consistently spits me off every couple of moves - on TR. The crack would be 5.10 if it was A) less steep, B) less slanted to the left, or C) less slippery. The jams are actually not bad, but feet are god-awful, and the angle of the crack makes every right hand jam awkward and tenuous. People have been known to lieback sections. It is easy to set a TR on, so go throw yourself at one of the nation's hardest crack lines! If you have an experience like mine, you'll come away with MAD respect for guys like Suzuki, Hong, and Takeda who have set the standard for free ascents in good style.

Addendum: This crack was, as oral word goes, created by a engineering challenge to create a perfect split in the rock using blasting devices. If true, they succeeded.


If nervous on 5.10 (better not be!) take some small stoppers for the first 15 feet. A hand-sized cam will protect the easy moves to get under the roof, then clip the bolt at the lip and rack a bunch of 0.5-1.5 Friends. Most folks rack on the right, though I've only TR'd.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Sphinx Crack on the cover.  Photo by Anne-Marie Weber.
[Hide Photo] Sphinx Crack on the cover. Photo by Anne-Marie Weber.
Knarly fingers on the Sphinx Crack.<br>
Bob Horan Collection.
[Hide Photo] Knarly fingers on the Sphinx Crack. Bob Horan Collection.
The infamous Sphinx Crack man at crux.
[Hide Photo] The infamous Sphinx Crack man at crux.
Harrison Dekker attempting the FA of Sphinx Crack (5.13b), South Platte.<br>
Photo by Glenn Randall.
[Hide Photo] Harrison Dekker attempting the FA of Sphinx Crack (5.13b), South Platte. Photo by Glenn Randall.
Sphnix Rock, Bob Horan Collection.
[Hide Photo] Sphnix Rock, Bob Horan Collection.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

[Hide Comment] "Best known crack climb in the U.S." ??

Well-known for its difficulty, of course, but "best known?" How about "second or third best-known crack climb in the Platte." Or, maybe, "Best known crack climb in Pine."

Not dissing the route (or the submitter) - it's a beautiful looking line, just way over the top of my own (and nearly every mortal's) climbing ability. I bet there's even a few Asian climbers out there who haven't sent it. Sep 20, 2001
[Hide Comment] This is a fun CLEAN aid climb for those like myself with no hope of freeing it. The positioning up on the upper headwall is fantastic with cool exposure. I'd have to call it C1 since it was my first aid climb ever. Sep 20, 2001
Richard M. Wright
Lakewood, CO
[Hide Comment] In fairness to history, blasting Sphinx Rock had nothing to do with climbing it. Local ranchers were trying to remove the thing. I recall Paul Sibley telling me that he, or he and his cronies, stumbled upon it by accident and thought it would be a classic aid line.
Beta note: if SC ever opens up again, I would encourage anyone with the interest to give it try. When we "climbed" (read dogged like mad) SC, it seemed that getting established in the crack proper was not all that difficult, 5.11d/5.12a or so. As soon as you stand up with one toe in the crack then the fight begins. How much pain are you willing to put up with? No move is very long, every move has at least one pure vertical frictional foot, and the crack itself is very jagged, so the finger twists are painful. I think its always worth a try even if you know its a work in progress. We had the pleasure of watching Pat Adams make one of the early repeats and his ascent surely made it seem that one could indeed craft a workable plan by climbing precisely and at speed. Just watch the gear, it is pretty uniform in size, when it goes in its bomber, but don't take up a needed finger slot. Nov 16, 2001
[Hide Comment] Ben-and I quote... "Normally, I don't comment on routes where I did not onsight the crux pitch"...Does that sound familiar? I'm surprised you didn't just write in to say that you think this route is easy for the grade......... Jul 1, 2002
[Hide Comment] I thought this crack was created not by ranchers, but by Colorado School of Mines students...?

Yuji Hirayama is the ONLY person to onsight this crack. Yes, that means placing all the gear for any sport climbers confused about the definition of onsight, redpoint, pinkpoint, etc. I mean no disrespect to sport climbers in general. Heck, I'm one of them. Just the trend nowadays on hard trad routes is to pre-place the gear and I wanted to clear here. Jul 2, 2002
[Hide Comment] Bill makes an important distinction here. Redpoint for sport-climbing has come to include pinkpointing (pre-placed draws) and that's fine (however, it surprises me how many people will claim an onsight when all the draws are preplaced). However, this should never be the case for trad redpoints, no matter the difficulty. Having pre-placed gear simply turns that crack climb into a sport climb and thus should be reported as a pinkpoint (the mags have actually gotten better at this). It is truly an incredible achievement that Yuji was able to lead this onsight. Jul 2, 2002
[Hide Comment] So would you say that clipping a bolt is placing gear when sport climbing? Is it an onsight with preplaced bolts or do you have to drill them on lead with no previous knowledge of the route for it to be an onsight in the most traditional sense??... anyways, back to crack climbing... Jul 2, 2002
[Hide Comment] Who cares? It all depends on yourself and the rules and standards you set for yourself. Personally, I'll feel like I've redpointed a sport route if the draws are pre-placed. However, I will not feel like I've onsighted in the same situation (I think of it as a flash). I won't pre-place gear on trad pitches because that would make it sport climbing, a different activity entirely. I'm not setting these as the "rules" for everybody, but to me the fact that Yuji onsighted Sphinx Crack in the truest sense, is incredible. Jul 3, 2002
[Hide Comment] Even if this is man-made, there is no denying that it is one beautiful line. If I had anything near the ability to send it, I would not hesitate to jump on... Jul 3, 2002
[Hide Comment] Joe, it sounds like YOU care.... Aug 17, 2002
[Hide Comment] Hey Bryson, please read the only guideline for submitting comments. Oct 26, 2002
Darren Mabe
Flagstaff, AZ
[Hide Comment] I was at Sphinx Rock this last weekend. There are ticks going the whole way up every 5 inches or so. CHALKED BOXES around pro placements. I should go back up there and scrub off the chalk and spray paint purple ticks on the crack or maybe tape the 'holds' like in the gym. Wow. Someone had some nerve. There goes MY onsight.... Jan 13, 2003
Joe Keyser
Scottsdale, AZ
[Hide Comment] This is one of my favorite climbing areas! That sucks about the chalk on such a pretty climb. Although I am not ready to try to lead this crack quite yet, I am curious what kind of rack you would bring for free climbing the finger crack? All these comments, and so little info! Jan 13, 2003
[Hide Comment] This discussion reminds me of some kind of Jerry Springer episode. Tough crack...couldn't do it. I think those who can are good. Enough said...I hope this doesn't spawn any haste. Goodluck to the fellow who dare climbs this testy piece. May your finges stay strong along with the mental. Peace Feb 17, 2003
[Hide Comment] I heard that some dude took a nasty rip on this climb and lost a finger near the middle of the climb. Some say that the finger is still stuck in there. A little spook story one of my buddies told me. (Who knows if it's true?) Apr 26, 2003
[Hide Comment] The story of how Sphinx Crack was created is on the wall in the Bucksnort (around the pool table). I don't know if it is true or not, but it says that granite miners tried to blow the side of Sphinx rock off but didn't succeed. And no, their intentions were not to climb the crack, so this would not be considered a "modified route". --Ben made this very simple to understand. Good analogy! Apr 26, 2003
[Hide Comment] Beth Rodden climbed this amazing crack as well as many of the locals. If you're lucky enough to get somebody to the crux, you can take awesome pics from the top of the Locksmith aka Diheadral Route. If you have trouble finding it, ask where Elephant Rock is because us locals don't usually call it Sphinx Rock. May 18, 2003
[Hide Comment] The story of how the crack was made is true (you can see the holes from where the miners drilled to place the dynamite.) In fact, if you check out the bouldering below you find drill holes all over, but there isn't a finger in the crack! Where did you hear a silly thing like that? May 19, 2003
Adam Stackhouse

[Hide Comment] Todd Skinner in the photo.... Feb 27, 2006
skinny legs and all
Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
[Hide Comment] Steve Hong made the first free ascent in 1982. He split the climb up into two pitches using the original aid version hanging belay. Tony Yaniro was the first person to complete Sphinx Crack in a single pitch. Dec 12, 2013
Parker Gray
Fort Collins
[Hide Comment] Anybody have beta on who owns the private property? Not tryin' to get shot looking at the Sphinx Crack, just wanna give her a look, and maybe contact info to ask? Someone help! Feb 2, 2018