Type: Sport, 300 ft, 3 pitches
FA: Mark Tarrant, Richard Wright
Page Views: 4,191 total · 23/month
Shared By: Mark Tarrant on Jun 12, 2004 with improvements by doug haller
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

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Higher Calling is a 300', 3 pitch sport route that starts in an arching, left-facing dihedral about 60' up and left of EOA. At present, it is the fourth bolted route you'll encounter coming up the boulderfield. A relatively easy first pitch is followed by two fairly long, outlandish pitches on great stone. It's possible to rap/retreat from each pitch. I think the endurance demands take the overall onsight rating up a notch.

Pitch 1: 5.10b, 70', 8 bolts + anchor. Stem into the big dihedral, arcing up and left to an interesting crux at 50'. Belay on a small ledge.

Pitch 2: 5.11d, 120', 15 bolts + anchor. Hang on for a wild, unrelenting ride up the overhanging dihedral for 60' (.11c/d--technical crux at the second bolt), and then work through the second crux on an exposed and intimidating chocolate-colored bulge (.11c/d) at 70'. More steep rock leads to a lowering anchor at 95' (NOT the belay). Climb 20' past this anchor to a comfy, flat ledge and belay.

Pitch 3: 5.11c, 95', 13 bolts + anchor. Another steep, exposed and exciting face finishes at a good ledge about 30' below the actual top of the cliff. After bolt 2, balance right around the arete, staying low at first, and then up to bolts 3 and 4 (first crux). There are two technical cruxes (.11a/b), but the real crux is handling the relentless 5.10. Think you can't fall off 5.10? Don't be surprised if you melt off some pretty good holds near the end of the pitch. It's best to belay below the summit in order to see your partner and avoid some rubble at the top.

Pitch 4: Jaunt 25' to the top (5.4, 1 bolt) and find the 2-bolt anchor for EOA about 10' back.

Descent: Walk down the ramp to the north.

With plenty of very good alpine rock, airy positions and fierce continuity, Higher Calling is on a par with 4-star routes just about anywhere.


16 draws + anchors, 60m rope.
Richard M. Wright
Lakewood, CO
Richard M. Wright   Lakewood, CO
Second opinion. Higher Calling is a terrific route and well worth the three stars given. While bolting the line and running it on jugs Mark indicated that he imagined the line going in a full number grade harder than it turned out to be. This seems to be commonplace on Ra. Even P1 took a couple of runs before it felt like 10a and not 10c or 10d. It's not entirely clear why this arises here. I suspect that there is lot more to work with than is apparent when you first jump on these routes. Exposure is a factor. Altitude, even for a Colorado vetran, may be a factor. The relentless steepness is a factor - the pitches just wear you down. HC turned out to be a brilliant route, taking a commanding line through one of the most exposed places on Ra. The second and third belays are airy, but spacious. The second crux on P2 may be 11d, although Mark gave it 11c - it seemed tricky. There is no doubt that the real crux on P3 is just surviving the relentless, accumulating pump. Kudos to Mark for putting up a terrific line on great stone and hanging on for the whole ride. Jun 16, 2004
scott e. tarrant
Fort Collins
scott e. tarrant   Fort Collins
Very difficult to on-sight. It would take a very fit and very solid 5.12 climber to on-sight this 5.11 route. No move may be harder than 5.11c/d, but as an on-sight grade I would push it to 5.12a/b.... As stated in the description, holding on (I was able to "on-sight" the crux but fell on ladder rungs and holds big enough to 3 point turn a full-size truck!) is truly the crux. I KNOW I can fall off of 5.10! Amazing position & exposure! Great climb! May 21, 2007
The second crux on the second pitch is harder than the supposed 11c/d first crux, and the following 20 feet are very pumpy. I saw three people (including me) climb through the first crux no problem and hang on the second. I also think the third pitch is just about as hard as the second. No moves are as difficult, but, as has been said, the pump is relentless. There's still some dangerous loose rock on the third pitch, including one chalked block you really want to use but shouldn't. Best to belay (and stand around at the base) with a helmet. All this said, this is a terrific must-do route. Aug 25, 2008
Tony B
Around Boulder, CO
Tony B   Around Boulder, CO
Wow. Cool. Indeed one of the finer sport climbs in The Front Range, and as I understand it, I didn't even do the best pitch (3rd)!
The first pitch is fun, the second pitch is unbelievable. Though the moves might only be 5.11 to 5.11+, there are a lot of them. I hope you ate your Wheaties.... I see the potential for a 5.11 climber on-sighting this as more or less 0.

A note on the second pitch: P2 faces DIRECTLY into the sun as the sun comes over the cliff-line and is at a literally blinding angle- you can't even see the bolts, let alone the holds. We started this one just before the sun came over the top and ended up climbing the upper half of the crux pitch "by Braille." I got punted at the top, not long before the anchors and got punted on a 5.10 section, melting off some pretty good moves.

The 3rd pitch has the second bolt about 3' above a 3' ledge. The 3rd bolt is a hard move above that if you go directly up. If you fell before bolt #3, you WOULD this large, jagged ledge. The holds are polished slipping feet, a slightly obtuse pinch, and a big quartzy sloper. You could easily blow it, and hit the ledge before any rope tension was at all. Breaking an ankle, knee, or leg up there would be a really tough situation, and I think that is the eventual result of that clip for someone, especially if shorter climbers attempt it. My 5.11 leading parner and I, who climbs about a number grade harder, both decided it was beyond our level of acceptable risk.
I suggest that the FA party give permission to add a higer bolt between #2 and #3 on pitch 3 to other climbers, or perhaps consider doing so themselves. There is solid rock , a good stance and an opportunity for a higer clip right before the 'ledge fall' move.
To be clear- I am making a suggestion- meanwhile, I'm satisfied with the conclusion that the route is simply more man that me. However, I make the suggestion knowing Richard and Mark would never create an intentional situation like that.

EDIT: I talked to Richard last night, and Mark wrote me this AM regarding this and some other matters. After some minor discussion it's better understood.
The 3rd pitch traverses RIGHT around an arete after the #2 bolt and does not go directly upward, as I & my partner had both had attempted. This would make it much easier and also displace a fall away from the ledge. However, cogniscent of the fact that not everyone will get this Micro-beta, and there may be more tunnel-visioned fools like me out there who are more stubborn and do it that way, Mark agreed that it may be a good idea and said he'd check it out and perhaps add a bolt next time he is up there.
Meanwhile... go right after P2 on P3! Aug 3, 2009

The second pitch on this reminded me of junior prom - a lot of groping and not getting anywhere. Cryptic to say the least. Managed to make it to the very last crux, but alas, my ability to grope and not get anywhere resulted in premature ejection. I could see it going at 11c or so after getting it dialed a bit, but agree with others that onsighting it would be pretty proud. Aug 3, 2009
Golden, CO
Monty   Golden, CO  
Great route! 3 awesome, sustained pitches. The 3rd pitch has a wicked pump to it that made it feel just as hard as the 2nd "crux pitch".... Maybe I was just still pumped. Aug 1, 2011
Bob Rotert
Bob Rotert  
Awesome route, Mark and Richard! Thanks for all your hard work in developing this area. This is one of my favorite routes on the crag! Superb, with great, continous climbing on every pitch. Doesn't get much better than this one up at Ra and one of the best sport routes in the Front Range.

IMHO the last pitch is the crux pitch. The sustained nature of the last pitch makes it harder than the second pitch, which has some good rests between sections, to me. Make sure you depump from the second pitch before starting up this one. Holds may be good, except at the 3rd- 4th bolt. Stay online with the bolts up top, put this all together, clean, without out any hangs/assisted rests, and it's UNRELENTING!!

I like this one so much I've done it a few times now. I still can't find the 11b/c way to do the last pitch for this one!!?? \;o) Aug 7, 2011
Boulder, CO
MauryB   Boulder, CO
Quite fun. Although certainly not "the best multipitch sport route within 1 hour of Boulder", it is still a worthy outing. Surprisingly pumpy pitches due to the style: lots of flat, difficult to find holds. May 25, 2012
New Haven, CT
GabeO   New Haven, CT
Both my partner and I found the third pitch substantially harder than the second. Yes, pitch two has a fair bit of 5.11 climbing but only one really tricky-to-read 5.11+ move. Pitch 3 on the other hand is nearly all 5.11 if you read every move just right, otherwise, off you go. And in order to keep it at the grade you have to wander as much as five or six feet off the bolt line in a number of places. Very unintuitive (not to mention spooky). With that said, this is a good climb. Jul 30, 2012
David Champion
Centennial, CO
David Champion   Centennial, CO

If you should have to retreat from the top of p2 (either from the anchor at 95’, or the one on the big, flat ledge 10’ feet higher), be prepared. The pitch you’ve just climbed is long and overhangs considerably.

To make it work, I re-clipped 7 or 8 bolts on rappel, and redirected the rope through the draws to keep me sucked in to the wall. If you are first to rappel and you do so without draws, you will end up in space 30+ lateral feet from your objective, a point from which it would be difficult to swing back in (what's more, your rope will likely be fully weighted over a sharp-ish edge).

With a fireman’s belay, the first man down can assist the second as he cleans the draws; a process which itself requires some care.

A 70m rope easily reaches the top of p1 from the higher anchor atop p2 (knot the ends, anyway!), but, if at all possible, finish the route and descend the Empire of the Air rappels, or walk off the formation.

Oh, by the way, impossible to overstate the quality (and quantity) of that pitch; not even gonna try. Jun 29, 2015

David's rap beta is on target. When we rapped this thing, it felt like we were down-aiding El Cap or something. If you don't plan ahead a bit, you could end up in a situation here.... Jun 30, 2015
Hmm. I had a very hard time around bolt 6 on P1. I am short, so it was either make an is-this-seriously-a-5.10-move off a slopey/blocky undercling or go around the corner on the flakey bad rock quite far from my last bolt to stand up to clip the next bolt. Eep. Memorable route! Aug 26, 2018
Boulder, CO
michalm   Boulder, CO
This route is solidly 12- for an onsight. The climbing could hardly be much better. The rock quality is a bit hollow in spots, but that is to be expected for the area.

My partner had a really hard time moving to the second-to-last bolt on this first pitch. She is shorter and simply could not stand up into the undercling to clip the bolt. It looks like the pedestal that one steps from off the ledge has a large piece that broke off, potentially making this move reachier. The way a shorter person does this move now is moving left around the corner well below the next bolt, facing a potentially catastrophic swing back into the ledge.

I vote for a bolt higher off the ledge before the undercling to keep this moderate and high quality pitch a reasonable lead for the vertically challenged. I would be happy to install it. Aug 27, 2018