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Medicine Man

5.12a, Trad, 4 pitches, Grade III,  Avg: 3.9 from 59 votes
FA: Andy Petefish and Tom Bratton, FFA Alan Lester and Pete Takeda
Colorado > Grand Junction… > Colorado Nation… > Sentinel Spire


Awesome route. Exposed and steep! This has got to be one of the most classic splitters in the desert. If you don't climb 5.12 you can easily aid the crux pitch and toprope it. The rest of the pitches are very doable and offer some great desert crack climbing on a sweet tower. First free ascent by Alan Lester and Pete Takeda.

Piz's comments were pretty much right on but thought I would try to add some more detail and add the route to the database._

Approach: Two options: 1. Go to the campground and head to the rim. There's a viewpoint building right above the spire. Fix a rope from a tree which you can back up with a good stopper. This is the preferred approach and definitely the easiest. 2. Hike in from the Monument Canyon trailhead, approximately 2 hour approach.

Medicine Man is the obvious line up the center of the east face.

Done in 4 or 5 pitches. Intermediate belay on pitch 2 is probably a good idea but not necessary, I like the way it gives you a rest before the 5.11 section. Described here as 5 pitches.

Pitch 1: (5.10) Obvious start up crumbly bottom layer into nice handcrack in left-facing corner.

Pitch 2: (5.10+) Continue up crack in corner and exit roof to the left to intermediate belay or continue. Tread carefully on the death block that is mysteriously lodged in roof.

Pitch 3: (5.11)(Using intermediate belay or can be combined with P2). Layback flake with bad feet. Watch for loose stuff above flake (gone?).

Pitch 4: (5.12b) The crux pitch. Jam obvious splitter through small roof. Nice kneebar in roof for no-hands rest before pulling crux.

Pitch 5: (5.10) Up corner and traverse left through roof. Continue up crack to summit. Watch for loose stuff before and immediately after roof.

Descent: Two raps from Fast Draw anchors and jug back up your fixed line to the rim.


Camalots 1 #0.3, 1 #0.4, 2 #0.5, 4 or 5 #0.75, 5 or 6 #1, 2 #2, 2 #3. Runners/draws. Two ropes.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Spread out at the top of pitch 2.
[Hide Photo] Spread out at the top of pitch 2.
Will F. cruising the thin hands section in his sweet, desert modified helmet (+5 sun protection).
[Hide Photo] Will F. cruising the thin hands section in his sweet, desert modified helmet (+5 sun protection).
Sweet air looking down the overhanging last section.
[Hide Photo] Sweet air looking down the overhanging last section.
Resting on the crux pitch.
[Hide Photo] Resting on the crux pitch.
[Hide Photo] untitled
Racking up for this stellar line!
[Hide Photo] Racking up for this stellar line!
High on pitch 3
[Hide Photo] High on pitch 3
Natalie starting up the pitch 3 splitter. #1s for days!
[Hide Photo] Natalie starting up the pitch 3 splitter. #1s for days!
[Hide Photo] Steep.
Bryan jugging up the crux pitch, which we aided.  Stellar splitter that keeps on going.
[Hide Photo] Bryan jugging up the crux pitch, which we aided. Stellar splitter that keeps on going.
Bolt at the roof exit of pitch 2. You could place a good cam to the right, but the bolt is there for a reason: it will help keep the rope from pinching as you continue upwards to the belay.
[Hide Photo] Bolt at the roof exit of pitch 2. You could place a good cam to the right, but the bolt is there for a reason: it will help keep the rope from pinching as you continue upwards to the belay.
Kat follows the final pitch of Medicine Man, the wide (easy) part!
[Hide Photo] Kat follows the final pitch of Medicine Man, the wide (easy) part!

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

[Hide Comment] You're looking at Medicine Man, 5.12b, on the south face of the spire.

Pitch 1 - 5.9/10 kinda sporty with some face holds down low. belay on nice ledge with existing anchor. nice warm up pitch (~90 ft) possibly tricky gear placement down low gear- purple cam to a yellow cam

Pitch 2 - 5.11+ (maybe) thin layback corner straight up, chimney moves and out left side of roof to a beautiful lieback finish. great pitch! (~90 ft) gear- purple to yellow cam probably two of each

Pitch 3 - 5.12b thin hands straight up in a perfect zig zagging thin hands splitter rest comes at mid height then more thin hands to a small roof and final move to belay, awesome! (~90 ft) gear- about 8 red cams and 1 or 2 yellow, if you don't use them all on the pitch you can back up the pin with the extras (reds).

Pitch 4 - 5.9 weird but good, up and left at roof, follow awkward moves to the summit, good pitch for the thinker. belay on summit from giant chain rap anchors. two ~90 ft raps to base of fast draw. Gear- bring what you have (not the 8 red cams) maybe a finger-size piece or two up to yellow cam

  • *Note it is possible to set up a traverse from the top of Sentinel Spire to the cliff line (~40 ft), just climb Fast Draw after rapping in from there and proceed). I didn't use it to get off but my partner has seen it done.
Dec 20, 2002
Jesse Zacher
Grand Junction, Co
[Hide Comment] Bolts have been replaced. Everything is bomber. Especially on pitch two, a bolt was added around the corner. Great Route! Too much fixed gear. 3 stuck cams. Anyone have a hacksaw? 5 #1 Camalot and 2-3 #2's for pitch 3. Feb 6, 2007
Petaluma California
[Hide Comment] One of the best. There is no longer fixed gear on the route. Belays all solid. I found the last roof as hard as the second. We used 4 green, 5 red, two yellow, 2 blue Camalot. May 27, 2008
[Hide Comment] I think pitch 2 is actually harder than pitch 3. Sep 3, 2008
Michael Schneiter
Glenwood Springs, CO
[Hide Comment] I updated the gear list on this after climbing it again recently. Not sure how we ended up using (or thinking we used) so much gear the first time. It was nice to see someone had replaced those old bolts and pins and the anchors. Have fun. Mar 18, 2009
eric whewell
Longmont, CO
[Hide Comment] There was no fixed gear on this route as of October 2009. I recall placing maybe 6 #1 Camalots on the crux and a #2. I also found it hard to find a worthwhile "kneebar" before the crux. Pretty soft for .12b, more like 11+. Great tower route nonetheless! Nov 5, 2009
Golden, CO
[Hide Comment] 70m rope will get you down in 2 raps.
Stellar climbing the whole way. As for pitch 4, sounds like a lot of people traverse left under the roof, but pullin' the roof straight on is stellar, maybe 10+ish?
Great route just as fun as Primrose. Mar 29, 2010
Amir Erez
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Great tower route. I would call pitch 2 and pitch 5 11- and the crux pitch 11+. On the crux pitch about half way up the pitch, you can protect with a #0.75 Camalot and a yellow Mastercam in horizontals. This allows you to save your #1 cams. Apr 2, 2011
[Hide Comment] Just to add some beta, there are 2 bolts on the second pitch to avoid placing gear in the death block. We belayed on two drilled pins after the chimney/death block at a hanging stance, but the pins are in great shape. I recommend 5-6 #0.75 cams for this second pitch. The last pitch is a little sandy and takes a lot of hand-size pieces.

Great tower and the jug out is recommended but a hell of a work out after climbing the tower. Sep 20, 2011
[Hide Comment] One of the best routes in the Monument. The first pitch goes better than it looks. It is about 9/10a. You can protect start with some 0.4s and 0.5s. It is more bouldery at the start and then ends in a nice crack with anchors. The second pitch (we broke it up in two). I used about 5 or 6 0.75s and a microcam after the flake in the roof. It is about 10+ or 11 depending on where you belay. The crux is going around the flake. There is a belay at two pins, and it is a rather uncomfortable hanging belay. There is a short pitch to get to the next anchor for the start of the crux pitch. The crux pitch is very girl hand friendly. Mostly #1s (6 or 7 - depends on comfort level) with a #2 and #3 thrown in for good measure. The crux is getting over the roof. While I would love to feel the a 5.12 could be so doable, it is probably more of an 11. If #1s are a terrible size, then it could be harder. The last pitch is typical Monument soft, flaky rock with some awkwardness thrown in. Great route and a definite repeat! Our rack was one or two microcams, single set of nuts, 0.3 and 0.4, 2 0.5s, 5 or 6 0.75s, 6 or 7 #1s, 2 #2s, and 2 #3s. Depending on comfort, you could remove some 0.75s and #1s. Mar 30, 2012
[Hide Comment] Very beautiful route, and I think it's one of the best in the Monument.

The crux pitch, #3 or #4, depending on how you do this, is a classic example of where individual climber hand size is going to push the grade one way or another. It will be much harder for folks with larger hands and would be much, much, easier for thinner hands. Like most desert splitters this size. The difficulty factor really changes depending on how well your hands fit the crack. Jul 25, 2012
[Hide Comment] Amazing. One of the best towers I've climbed. Couldn't get the knee bar and didn't do one finger lock on the crux. Pulled through the roof on the last pitch, and it was super fun but a little spicy due to the poor rock quality above the roof. Sep 24, 2012
Spencer Weiler
Salt Lake city
[Hide Comment] Pitch 1 - fun, juggy climbing (like Johnny Cat) to bomber hand crack.
Pitch 2 - dump all your 0.75s into the bottom section. You won't need them after the 2 bolts. Chimneying is the ticket up below the block. Why you would stop at the 2 pins in an awful, hanging belay instead of going another 15 feet to a good stance is beyond me. The crux is pulling the bulge past the 2 pin anchor, then it's hands to the anchor.
Pitch 3 - reds, man. All reds. Bring at least 5. Save 2 for the final 10 feet past the roof.
Pitch 4 - it's not over yet. The bulge after traversing left is kinda hard, make sure to have some small cams ready. Pretty fun climbing to the top with mostly hands. Mar 16, 2014
Kat A
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Gear: recommended rack is good, but if you're wanting to climb lighter, FYI we didn't place any of our #3 Camalots yet found it nice to have doubles in green and yellow Aliens (or 0.3 / 0.4 Camalots).

Grade: the crux pitch is very hand size-dependent. If comfortable on #1 Camalots, it may feel 5.11 or 5.11+. Those with larger hands will likely find it harder.

Women desert climbers with smallish hands - I highly recommend this route to you! Grab the leads on pitches 2 & 3 (the money pitches, esp. for smaller hands). ;) Mar 12, 2017
Tony B
Around Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Why stop at the intermediate belay? Well, I tell you what - the next "pitch" is not that hard, but if you start it pumped, it's going to be a rough ride. I was able to do both free but only after hanging out to recover after the pump on P2. Mar 19, 2017
Ogden, UT
[Hide Comment] Amazing route. I won't add to the gear beta clutter, but a lot of the recommended racks here are overkill. I didn't use any 3s... you could place one on the top pitch. The pitches felt like:

P1: 10 face and easy corner cracks. The hard sizes have good feet.
P2: 10+. 0.75 corner slot to chimney roof to a few fingerlocks to thin hands flake. Lots of features make the slot easier than expected for the size. The fingerlocks and flake are probably easier than the slot.
P3: 11 tight/thin hands (for #2 Camalot-sized hands). Most of the crack was pretty generously sized #1s. The bulge has a few thin moves before opening up to #2.5 Friends. If your hands are #3 Camalot size, I could see 11+/12-.
P4: 9 left traverse or 10+ straight out the roof on thin fingers. Lots of hands in flares and through pods. A few fingers and tips pieces are nice for the straight up variation.

P.S. The crux would be 5.10 for Trump if he laid off the coal smoke and cheeseburgers. May 1, 2017
Golden, CO
[Hide Comment] It's only 5.11 for those with "Trump hands." ;) May 2, 2017
Ashley Amato
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] The whole route goes into the shade at about 2:30pm in late May. May 23, 2017
Joe Stern
Moab, Utah
[Hide Comment] The mandatory part of the rappel-in/jug-out is only about 80 or 100' long from the dead tree spot. As of a couple days ago, a fixed brown tricam was in place to backup the dead tree. We opted to rap off of a couple living trees just to the skier's left of the standard spot. You can rap longer than 100' to avoid a bit of the steep hiking to get to the base of the tower.

Medicine Man starts a good bit lower than Fast Draw, so it makes sense to leave packs, shoes, etc. somewhere near the base of Fast Draw to retrieve on your way out. This is pretty obvious once you're there.

You can rappel Fast Draw with a single 60m rope in 2 rappels. The first rap is around 90' and the second is just under 100'.

There's already tons of rack beta here and ours is not much different: (1) 0.3, (1) 0.4, (2) 0.5, (5) 0.75, (6) 1, (2) 2, (1) 3, (6) runners/draws. All belays are bolted.

The crux pitch felt similar in difficulty to Coyne Crack. Medicine Man is a bit wider but also steeper and lacks the boulder problem start of Coyne Crack. Dec 8, 2017
Justin S
[Hide Comment] If linking P2 & 3 (recommended, though pumpy), a 0.4 & 0.5 will protect the start of P3, a 0.75 would be nice for the start of the lieback flake, but you can get away with one of the 6 1s on your rack. As others have mentioned, doubles in 0.4 & 0.5 are helpful.

If you have larger hands and are going for the OS, know that the kneebar is no gimme; I never found it. The crux is above the roof. Apr 4, 2018
Jacky Thompson
Flagstaff, AZ
[Hide Comment] This route is my new favorite desert tower climb. If you have #1 hands, this climb was made for you! Type 1 fun, bomber protection, clean rock, aesthetic movement, and a stellar summit. This is a great route for those breaking into the hard 5.11 or 5.12 range on gear...get after it!

We used doubles 0.3-0.5 (would do singles next time), 6 x 0.75, 6 x #1, doubles in #2 and 3. We also had some red TCUs and a red Friend, which came in handy. 2 single 70m rope raps gets you to the bottom of Fast Draw.

Some beta for pitch 2: if you are a stronger crack climber than a sport climber, do not even bother liebacking anything. If you can jam 0.75 on low angle rock, you're golden for the second pitch below the roof. Pull the roof (the crux for me—try to just punch through the finger crack and get to the nice hand jams) and just jam up the flake. It takes a #1 and #2—too stellar to even consider liebacking unless you have big hands.

The challenge with pitch 3 (5.12) is that it is steep at the top. If you are a solid #1 jammer, you will lalalove this. Just keep moving through the crux where it kicks back, it goes by quickly.

Personally, I thought that the 1st and 4th pitches were also super fun, but maybe I've just climbed too much choss and have low standards.

HAVE FUN! Apr 16, 2018