Type: Trad, 7 pitches, Grade III
FA: Ed Webster, Chester Dreiman, 1982
Page Views: 43,870 total · 160/month
Shared By: Charles Vernon on Nov 1, 2001
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac, Tyler KC

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Description Suggest change

Escape Artist is a great, prominent natural line, acclaimed as one of the best routes in the Black Canyon. The rock quality is for the most part quite good though there is some funky pegmatite in the long corner system. The wild (but well-protected) traverse pitch is a Black Canyon classic. Escape Artist is a better route than either Maiden Voyage or Leisure climb, if you're looking for a reasonable length route in the 5.9 range, but it is much more sustained than either of those routes.

The route is on the Escape Artist Buttress, next to Comic Relief, with which it shares the final 400 feet. Descend the SOB Draw, to the third major buttress on the left (in order, Casual Buttress, Debutante's Ball area, and Escape Artist buttress). The buttress is separated from its uphill neighbor by a long, dark, narrow cleft.

Scope the route before scrambling to the base. There are two obvious features: a long, left-diagonaling crack low down (the Vector), followed by a long, left-facing corner system on the left edge of the buttress. Walk out onto a platform below the buttress, and scramble over/around a short cliff, 4th class, to the center of the buttress.

P1. The first pitch is identified by two parallel, left-arching finger/hand cracks which reach the Vector. Climb moderate rock up into the right of these, and follow it (excellent 5.9) to a belay under an overhang where it intersects the Vector. Depending on how high you scramble, a 60m rope may be necessary, or do this in two pitches.

P2. Follow the Vector left to its end at an excellent belay ledge. This is easy at first but then wild 5.9 above an overhang.

P3. Follow the long dihedral (route crux near the top of the pitch), sustained, interesting climbing with good rests. The pitch is a little longer than fifty meters, so bring a long rope. If simul-climbing 10 feet or so, neither climber will be in the midst of 5.9 moves. The best belay is with a piton out left, just before the corner system jogs right.

P4. Continue up thin cracks in the right wall of the corner and pull onto a huge sloping ledge, 5.8.

P5. Climb the obvious 5.9 corner. It looks a little mungy but offers quite nice jamming and stemming. Stretch up and right to a belay ledge on the summit slabs. Variation: climb the beautiful, splitter Lightning Bolt Crack, a 5.11 on the overhanging right wall of the corner, to the same belay area. Note: despite referring to this as a variation, I believe that this was actually the line of the first ascent; however, most parties now do the 5.9 corner as it is more in keeping with the rest of the route.

P6-7. Continue up the slab to the summit of the buttress, on easy to moderate 5th class. We simul-climbed, but there are definitely some loose spots so this may not be advisable if another party is below you. On the other hand if you don't start simul-climbing, they probably will. Be careful with your rope/hands/feet no matter how you do it.

Trend center-left on the slab (going right, as the new Black Canyon guidebook recommends, leads to annoying climbing along a ridge). There are two sets of rappel slings about 25 feet apart, the left-hand one gets you down with a 60m rope (rappel under the tunnel created by a chockstone). Make sure to go up the gully which leads north--much easier than it looks. Apparently, the other obvious gully (which leads more or less east) eventually requires more rock climbing. The campground is not far from the top of the gully.

Protection Suggest change

Bring a standard rack with RPs or HBs, stoppers, small cams, and doubles of Friends to #3. Bring a #3.5 Friend. There are no notable run-outs, but the crux pitch has some tricky pro and mandatory 5.9 climbing.