Type: Trad, Alpine, 850 ft, 5 pitches, Grade III
FA: Topher Donahue & Patience Gribble, 1999
Page Views: 5,198 total · 32/month
Shared By: Roy Leggett on Jun 29, 2005
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

6 Opinions

Your To-Do List:

Add To-Do · View List

Your Star Rating:

     Clear Rating

Your Difficulty Rating:

-none- Change

Your Ticks:

Add New Tick
Access Issue: Seasonal Closures Details


This is a great, exciting route that wanders up the left side of the Saber (Petit Side). If you want to keep the route adventurous (mores so [than] it already is), DO NOT READ FURTHER, just follow [Bernard's] guidebook.

The route description in Bernard Gillett's guide is a bit inaccurate and vague. I was confused by the pitch lengths he gave and the description of some of the pitches.

Also note: The R rating not only applies to the runouts. This route is plagued with lots of lichen, flaky rock and numerous death blocks. It is still a great route though (it resembled a Black Canyon route).

The Pocketknife Does not see sun until nearly 12 noon and it was a bit chilly until then (late June). To begin the route, find the low fifth class ramp that angles up and left (just above the chockstones in the South-east gully). This is the same start for the other Saber routes.

P1: Simul-climb for 350 ft (up to 5.6) up to the second ramp system where the wall steepens. Head to the far left side of this ramp to an obvious right facing dihedral. Establish your belay at the base of the dihedral on nice ledge, ten feet below an older angle piton.

P2 (10b R)-[Bernard's] guide calls this a 230 ft pitch, but is only about 180 ft: Head up the dihedral heading for the obvious chimney which is the pocketknife flake. Follow the finger and tight hand crack to terminus. Wander up and slightly left, using thin edges and incipient cracks while finding obscure gear placements along the way. Head up the Hands to offwidth to chimney crack (5.7/5.8), placing smaller gear to the right of the crack if you so desire. Mount the pocketknife flake and choose from two thin cracks to set an anchor. This is a fun ledge to belay from and this pitch is awesome.

P3 (9 R)-This is a very short pitch 70ft. [Bernard's] guide implies climbing through an overhang, but the overhang is very insignificant and could be confused with the crux overhang, causing some problems: From the right side of the belay ledge head up finger crack. After 20 feet or so, begin to work your way to the left via the path of least resistance, aiming for the obvious corner below the larger roof. Establish your belay here, 20 feet below this roof in a corner with a good pin in it. This pitch has some death blocks on it and you should test all your holds and DO NOT place gear behind them.

P4 (11a, 5.10 R): From the belay, head slightly up and left on "the [can opener]" flake. This flake is waiting to go, tread lightly and do not place gear behind it. I did however place a nut down low on the flake (where it seemed a bit more solid) just because otherwise you will be pulling 9+/10- moves on flaky rock, 20 feet above a pin which is part of your belay anchor. Undercling the roof and head out its middle via a nice off fingers to hands crack. Above the roof is exciting face climbing, random gear on lichen covered rock. Head toward the obvious splitter hand crack on the left side of the dihedral. Continue up the dihedral, turn a roof on the right and head further up the dihedral to a small belay ledge with tedious gear for the anchor.

P5 (9+): Again, [Bernard's] description is a bit vague here: We simply headed up to the right (not the left) of the black roof. Above the roof, take the path of least resistance to the summit ridge.

Descent: Head further up the summit ridge, to the right side before the 1st notch, and find a sling around a block. Descend via 4, full 200ft, rappels down the East Face into the Saber/Foil gully.


A single set of cams to #2 Camalot (a #3 is not necessary, but can be used). Double up on the finger sizes (Purple TCU to Green Camalot). A set of Nuts. A single set of RP's. I also brought a pink and brown Tri-cam and found them useful. 12-14 runners.
topher donahue
Nederland, CO
topher donahue   Nederland, CO
Glad to hear somebody is adventuring around these parts! I think the lichen and loose rock is how many of the classics were before they became classics....

The Pocketknife can be made safer by belaying on a little stance 15 feet below the pin in Roy's description at the end of P3 and clipping the pin as one of the first pieces on P4 rather than belaying at the pin and risking a factor 2 fall onto it. Seemed to make sense, and it didn't feel too dangerous at the time. Feb 6, 2009
Ross Swanson
Pinewood Springs
Ross Swanson   Pinewood Springs
Great route!
For P2 we started from the grass ledge and it was about 58m, the pin was maybe 10m up. About halfway up P2, I stepped down after placing high pro to traverse left onto red rock. The OW on the pocketknife was a lot of fun, about half way up watch for a loose flake when moving off the small ledge back into OW.
On P3, Greg my partner, went up the right dihedral before the long traverse to the left.
P4 Can opener flake looked solid to us except for a loose 15cm section at its top. A Blue Camalot (#3) did come in handy as the first piece I placed after pulling the 1st roof on P4, above this is a runout section.

All of the pitches had good climbing from first move to the last, I thought the loose rock was few and far between and pretty obvious to the initiated. Aug 23, 2010
Greg D
  5.11a R
Greg D   Here
  5.11a R
As my partner Ross stated above, we started from the grass ledge and the pin is 10m above this ledge. But, this pitch was more like 220 feet, 'cause I had to simul climb at least 20 feet before he said off belay when on top of the Pocketknife flake. Another option would be to climb up to the pin (which is not easy to see but low 5th class to reach) , and start the pitch here. We choose to belay on the large grassy ledge which did not require an anchor in our opinion and came into the sun while belaying.

P3 was a bit of a mental crux for me. If you want to figure it out on your own, READ No further. You may easily find the right path. I was compelled to traverse after 20 feet per route description. At this point, there are several shallow dihedrals that look possible but hard or impossible to protect. At this point, I was already a ways above my last piece. After a lot of wasted time and sampling each corner for solid moves and decent gear from the one directly above the belay to the one twenty feet left, I choose the one directly above the belay. Then, began working left. Nothing resembled a roof on this pitch.

If this route sees more traffic and clean up just a little it may be 4 stars.

There is quite a bit of loose rock, but it is easily avoidable if you are paying attention. Aug 24, 2010
Aaron Ramras
  5.11a R
Aaron Ramras  
  5.11a R
Really fun route! It features exciting and varied climbing and deserves more traffic.
There is a fair amount of loose rock, but you rarely have to pull on it if you stay on route and are cautious. I thought pitches 2-4 each had rather serious sections for the leader, so be solid on 5.10 in the mountains!
I thought pitch 3 was the mental crux. We found that the right and middle corners both go at a fairly moderate level, although both are quite committing and poorly protected. As stated above, building a belay earlier before the pin makes the next pitch much safer. On p4, I found the runnout on the can opener flake to be easier than anticipated. It felt 5.8, and I used face holds out right and only used the flake for balance.
From the end of p4, we stepped left and did a 60m pitch up the gully to the notch on the summit ridge. The climbing was a bit blocky and dirty but still very enjoyable. From the notch, there are two 30m pitches to the summit for those who want to link with Sharkstooth or hike down the back side.
Dress warm if you start early! Jun 24, 2013