Type: Trad, 4 pitches, Grade II Fixed Hardware (11)
FA: [FA Kor & Ament 5.8 A4 P1 FFA: E. Webster. P2 FFA: A. Higbee. P3 FFA: Bachar FFA entire: John Bachar]
Page Views: 12,518 total · 60/month
Shared By: Pinklebear on Oct 12, 2001
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Subject to Seasonal Raptor Closures Details
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This airy, overhanging excursion is a must-do for those comfortable at the grade. While never fatal, this route is quite serious in a couple of places, including the 11d crux boulder problem, which you encounter off an exposed hanging belay on the third pitch. Alternately delicate, thuggy and heady, The Wisdom is arguably the best continuously free route on the Roof Wall.

P1: (10d s) Begin on the ramp about fifty feet up and left of Temporary Like Achilles and Dangerous Acquaintances. The route face climbs right from a small stance at the top of the double cave-slots, moving through a scoop past greasy laybacks and a so-so fixed pin to easier face moves above. Protect when you can.

P2: (11b) A completely unique experience! From the alcove at the top of the first pitch jug haul up to a bolt at the base of the Scary Canary dihedral. Clip then bolt then, counter to your instincts, downclimb right along the lip of the roof on a good rail (pumpy) until you can roll over onto the smooth, tan face above the lip. Belay under the small roof at double Metolius anchor bolts. This pitch is commonly combined with pitch 1.

P3: (11d/12a s) The crux. Undercling right off the hanging belay to an thin-walled but solid hole/flake. Load it up with 2"+ gear, then crank straight up on bouldery, commiting moves. The handholds are good but the footholds suck through here; a fall from the top of this sequence will send you for a good 30-footer. Have your belayer be mindful not to drop you beneath the big roof another 10 feet down, as sharp rails at the lip might cut your rope! Easier, better protected climbing up a R-facing corner leads you to a small belay stance.

P4: (5.9) Move up and right from the belay to the varnished plaque of rock, clipping a lone bolt and executing a series of hideously desperate slab moves (this is Psycho Slab) to reach the safety of the Upper Ramp.


Your standard Eldo rack, plus a fairly healthy selection of RP's and small cams. Don't forget two big hand-sized pieces for the crux pitch (#2 Camalot size, roughly).
I've got an old issue of "Climbing" (July 1978) which accurately describes the first ascent(s). Each pitch received separate FAs. John Bachar did the FA of the entire route. Pitch one FA: E. Webster. Pitch two FA: Candelaria or Higbee. Pitch three FA: Bachar. The article is pretty interesting. It sounds like they avoided the hanging belay above second pitch (hanging belays were considered aid), and just combined the second and third pitches--pretty exciting.The route was tried by some of the best climbers back then, but some were reluctant to do it because of the bolt placed above the roof--it was considered illegal, degrading, and ruined the route for some! Times sure have changed. The Wisdom is an Eldo classic. Back in the '80's the best hard-man combo was to do The Wisdom to Jules Verne to Lene's Dream to the Naked Edge. Oct 15, 2001
From Rocky Heights:

"History: An aid climb (5.8, A4 by Layton Kor and Pat Ament in 1961), it was subjected to free climbing attempts in the mid-seventies. The first pitch was lead free in 1975 by Ed Webster. The main roof was lead free in 1975 by Art Higbee after a few tries. The final roof was lead free by John Bachar after a couple of attempts." Jun 4, 2002
Jason Nelson
Jason Nelson   SLC, UT
I had been scared of this route for a long time, and finally tried it. It wasn't as bad as I expected, but most of what is said about the route is true. Here is some gear beta. You might use different gear, but this will give you an idea of what to bring.

P1 - blue Alien (or #0 Metolius), #1 Metolius, small stoppers, and quickdraws. P2 (roof) - 2 quick draws is all you need. P3 (crux) - #00 Metolius, 2 #2 Camalots for falling off the crux, #1 Camalot, #3 Camalot, and quickdraws. P4 (Psycho Slab) - #2 Camalot, quickdraw. I find cutting almost straight right across the slab on small edges (for fingers) the easiest way to go. Jan 6, 2003
A tidbit of trivia about the FFA of pitch one:

Jim Erickson: "We were all trying the first pitch, but nobody was willing to do the unprotected 5.10 move. Along came Ed (Webster) hiking up the roof routes trail. He was young, impressionable, and out to make a name for himself. So he tied in and we sent him up there. Thankfully, he got the rope up there for us." May 8, 2003
The first two pitches, linked together, made one of the most spectacular pitches I've yet to do in Eldo. The pin on the "first" pitch is not visible until you are literally face-to-face with it. This led to some pumpy and futile gear tinkering in the scoop below. The pin looks pretty good, certainly better than the manky nuts that I thought were going to protect the crux. "Pitch 2" has incredible position and exposure for being only 100 feet off the deck... this pitch is probably more scary for the follower than the leader. One 60 meter rope will just barely get you down from here. Oct 1, 2003
Finally decided to give this thing a whirl today, and what a stellar line. The first two pitches as one was definitely the way to go. the third pitch, although not so hard once you've seen the holds, is hard to see/read from the belay and committing to the moves on slick/blind feet will get you crimping hard. Not as scary as I was expecting, but still has some spice! I was able to carry a light rack on this one, which helps on the steep stuff (single set from black Alien to #3 Camalot, double on #2 Camalot for crux). I'd say it's the best of the roof routes...I've yet to do. Dec 18, 2004
Guy H.
Fort Collins CO
Guy H.   Fort Collins CO
Check out the latest issue of Rock and Ice (#161) for some great shots of "The Wisdom" roof. The article on Hank is pretty funny, also. May 27, 2007
This thing is 12a blah blah blah.... 11d if you can't send. I love this route got to be one of Eldo's best. Wait, I say that about every route in Eldo. Screw it I just love climbing in Eldo. All the routs ROCK! Sep 7, 2007
Wyatt Payne
Littleton CO
  5.12- R
Wyatt Payne   Littleton CO
  5.12- R
Amen Stocker I agree it is only 11d if you don't send it. A nice comfy rest when you take does help out the pump significantly. Better bring two tickets to the Gun Show to send, the feet are nonexistent through the crux. I'm renaming this route in fine Mountain Project fashion. I dub thee, "The Mother @#?!&!". So sick it makes my palms sweat thinking about it. Don't bother getting on it, it's over rated. Sep 9, 2007
Alex Shainman
Rifle, CO
Alex Shainman   Rifle, CO
After reading the description and Mark T's comment, I believe there is more historical info to the "second" pitch. I believe that for its FA, there was no bolt in the roof protecting the downclimb traverse!! I believe that pro was arduously placed up in the Scary Canary corner and most likely then the pin in the roof which is still there. Correct me if I am wrong....

I must admit, for better or for worse, in 1996, with Park permission, I replaced the bolts of the hanging belay (point of aid) for the "third" pitch. The Wisdom was one of my favorite routes to do then and of course I felt I was doing a community service.... What a way more proud ascent it would be to eliminate the hanging belay and do the "second" and "third" pitches like JB did for its FFA!!! I've never done it that way. (That left, old Star-Drive bolt did come out frighteningly easily and the other was not too much more difficult!!) Sep 10, 2007
Brady Robinson
Boulder, CO
  5.11d PG13
Brady Robinson   Boulder, CO
  5.11d PG13
Finally got on this after thinking about it for 2 years. While it is a little scary to climb above the gear, there are no features below the crux, so I don't really think it is an R route. You are more likely to get hurt on the first pitch in my opinion. The crux is about V3, with jugs at the top - not as bad as I expected. Put 2 #2 Camalots in and go for it! Sep 28, 2009
Adam Brink
on the road
  5.11d PG13
Adam Brink   on the road
  5.11d PG13
It seems that the anchors on the hanging slab (top of pitch two) are a point of aid. There is no obvious belay ledge there and it is just used to make the crux easier. I think Bachar had the real vision for a free ascent, ledge to ledge (combine pitch 2 and 3). Apr 18, 2010
Stefan Griebel
Boulder, Colorado
  5.11 R
Stefan Griebel   Boulder, Colorado
  5.11 R
Wow, what an incredible climb! Definitely R for the bottom half of the 1st pitch. Good nuts or a big RP back up the pin nicely.

Of the 3 pitches, P2 felt the hardest and pumpiest, even with a top rope belay! This pitch is airy and exciting and the reason this climb gets 4 instead of 3 stars.

In accordance with most other comments, P3 seemed a tough mental pitch as you commit and get your feet 4-5' above your bomber gear before you can place another very good yellow Alien size. However, contrary to most other comments, these moves seemed easier than traversing down the roof on P2. Maybe I got lucky with the foot work or found a secret hold. I dunno, but this is likely the first route I've ever been on in Eldo that felt quite a bit easier than the consensus grade. Apr 18, 2010
Santa Monica, Ca.
YDPL8S   Santa Monica, Ca.
On the FA with Kor and Ament, it was done on a snowy, cold day, and Pat was 14! Jan 11, 2011
Anyone know if pitches 1-3 have been linked into a single pitch? Seems very doable. Mar 13, 2012
Chris Gamble
Morrison, CO
Chris Gamble   Morrison, CO
I've heard that there is a climb in Morrison, Co, that was used to train for a climb up in Eldo. The climb is called Upper Wisdom or if you want, Full Wisdom. I wonder if this is the climb that was talked about? Aug 7, 2012
Many years ago I met Jim Garber at Morrison while doing the Wisdom Simulator, and he said that he used that boulder problem to train for this route. Aug 7, 2012
Scott Bennett
Scott Bennett  
In reply to the above post, yes this climb goes easily in one pitch, it's about 50m in total (p1-3, I'm not sure about adding the Psycho Slab). With long slings, strategic runouts, and a skinny rope, I didn't feel there was any ropedrag at the crux.

Also, there's no reason to haul 2 gold Camalots up the route. If you wanna double down on gear before the crux, there's a great purple Camalot in the left side of the undercling pod.

Scott Dec 1, 2012
Linked first pitch of Scary Canary into this route. It was an awesome link and full value fun climbing. Mar 11, 2013
You don't need much gear at all for this route, even if linking pitches. For an onsight rack, placing everythign worthwhile, it's just a few pieces (total) across all 4 leads.

P1 - the crux piton is hard to see and hard to clip if you're short. Locate it from the base. Any other possible gear looks worthless. Higher up past the choss and piton #2 there's a good finger-sized crack. 1 draw, 1 sling, 1 small cam. Don't slip!

P2 - 2 draws. Nowhere for anything else on this tiny pitch.

P3 - a couple finger cams, a #2 for the crux, and a #0.75 or #1 for after that.

P4 - a QD for the replaced bolt on the psycho slab. Maybe another random cam somewhere in the easy climbing? Belay off a tree. Nov 11, 2015
  5.11d R
  5.11d R
Led this free in 1980. Best route I did in Eldorado. Unique. Jul 15, 2016
Corey Flynn   USA
Some random historical info about the FFA in response to a few of the older comments regarding the hanging belay. According to Climbing magazine issue 49 July-August 1978, at the time of Bachar's ascent, there was one bolt where the belay for the crux pitch is now, placed by Jim Erickson on aid in '75. Jim got flack for this and stopped trying the route. Two years later John was trying to link what is now the second and third pitch without using the belay. During his ascent, Bachar pulled the initial roof, clipped the lone bolt, and cast off out the traverse and into the crux without placing gear in the hole at the start of the difficulties. John apparently then became overwhelmed with where he had climbed himself to (I bet!) and forced a shallow nut in the arch mid-crux, hung on the nut, and then lowered back to the bolt. Not satisfied with his attempt, John untied, pulled the rope, and started climbing from the bolt pushing the lead to the top of the pitch. A week or so later, Glenn Randall went up with Steve Wunsch and Dan Stone for the second ascent without knowing Bachar had hung on the bolt. Randall was the only one with the huevos to try and send and linked the two roof pitches into what I imagine was one hell of a leg shaker. Sometime after that Rob Candelaria took a 70 footer on it trying for the 3rd ascent. Aside from the story, the bolts at the hanging belay seem legit as the first ascent was not a true ledge to ledge link. A fun thing to do, if you're not as tough as Scott Bennett, is link the first two with plenty of runners and set yourself up for a nice rest at the belay before doing the hard climbing.
-cheers Dec 4, 2016
Golden, Co
WadeM   Golden, Co
Wow what a route! I had built this route up in my head for so long! Wish I had gotten on it sooner. Definitely my favorite of the Roof routes!

Single rack is perfect, 0.4-2, just depends on what you're getting on after!

There is a fixed nut that backs up the hard-to-see pin. Feb 8, 2017
Noah McKelvin
Colorado Springs
  5.11d R
Noah McKelvin   Colorado Springs
  5.11d R
Linking the whole rig in one pitch (p1 to 3) from the ground is the way to go! It puts the icing on the 11d and might just be the best pitch in Eldo, or for that fact the Front Range! With careful slinging, rope drag isn't too bad, and the pump is a little more without hanging on that bolted anchor after the roof. Wild! And a must do! Apr 15, 2017