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Cruel Sister

5.10a, Trad, 80 ft,  Avg: 3.7 from 161 votes
FA: Mike Seeley, Wayne Arrington 1974
Oregon > Central Oregon > Smith Rock > (z) Lower Gorge > W Side > (3) Catwalk Cliff


This is one of the Mega-classics of the gorge and Smith. It is one of the finest handcracks you'll ever do. The crack starts as tight hands and gradually widens to fists at the top. Easily the most popular climb in the gorge be prepared to wait for this climb on nice days. Still, the wait is worth it!!!


Gear to 3.5 inches, couple of long slings for the anchor if TRing.
Chains at top

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Shirley leading Cruel Sister.
[Hide Photo] Shirley leading Cruel Sister.
Cruel Sister, Smith Rocks
[Hide Photo] Cruel Sister, Smith Rocks
Cruel Sister - The Aftermath
[Hide Photo] Cruel Sister - The Aftermath
KP cruising Cruel Sister
[Hide Photo] KP cruising Cruel Sister
Ian low on Cruel Sister. Crack-a-no-go and Blood Clot can be seen to the right. Photo courtesy of Lee Perlow.
[Hide Photo] Ian low on Cruel Sister. Crack-a-no-go and Blood Clot can be seen to the right. Photo courtesy of Lee Perlow.
High on CS
[Hide Photo] High on CS
Classic. @mackallphoto
[Hide Photo] Classic. @mackallphoto
At the top of CS
[Hide Photo] At the top of CS

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Portland, OR
[Hide Comment] Gorgeous route! Best crack of the grade at Smith? Jan 30, 2006
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Great climb, a bit underated for some (really 10c?), definitely challenging. Enjoy! Jun 16, 2006
Andy Laakmann
Bend, OR
[Hide Comment] Wow, fun stuff. All sizes of hands on this one, including a wide move or two at the top. Definitely bring a #4 Camalot for the top, and you might want to save a #3 Camalot for the top as well. The rest of the climb takes as many #0.5 through #2 Camalots as you can throw at it. Way better than Karate Crack imo. Oct 22, 2006
Bryan Gartland
Helena, MT
[Hide Comment] Can you get away with just two sets of cams on this one?

~Thanks Dec 13, 2006
Ian McEleney
Mammoth Lakes, CA
[Hide Comment] You can get away with one set of cams if you know how to place nuts. The crack isn't splitter the whole way, so there are lots of passive gear placements and hand locks. As Andy said save a #4 Camalot for the top (or a big hex?). Dec 18, 2006
Max Tepfer
Bend, OR
[Hide Comment] I might be biased as my first real experience with the 5.10 grade came in the Lower Gorge, but the grade 10a is definitely consistent w/other routes in the gorge. (Bloodclot, 10b is very similar w/a slightly harder, more sustained crux, ditto for Badfinger, and Last Chance, 10c is easily two letter grades harder than Cruel Sister. If you climb at other trad areas in Oregon, these grades are actually kind of soft...) Mar 14, 2008
Alex Quitiquit
Salt Lake City
[Hide Comment] Stout-ish for the grade as it doesn't really let up.

Save the #4 for the top, I didn't have it, wish I did. Takes nuts in a few places so look for them. May 29, 2013
Matt Farrell
Bend, Oregon
[Hide Comment] If you know how to make big reaches off bomber thumbs up handjams, then you can do this entire route with nothing but bomber handjams the whole way and it feels 5.9+.

If you aren't solid on taking a bomber handjam and working your feet right up under it to make a big reach, then this will feel harder.

If you aren't comfortable with both hands/both feet in the crack, then this will seem a lot harder.

I never lead it with a #4, although you certainly can place one, or probably even two if you wanted. There's a bomber #3 placement only maybe 10ft below the chains. If you're comfortable with 8-10ft between pieces, then double rack of camalots .5 to 3 and no nuts is more than enough.

There is bomber gear the entire climb. If you had a big enough rack, you would never have to go more than 2 feet between pieces if you wanted to. Oct 11, 2014
eugene, or
  5.10c/d PG13
[Hide Comment] whoever rated this as a 10a must have big hands (or be cruel sandbagger). this is a burly wide painful crack... waaaaaaay harder for smaller hands, gets a bit offwidthy at the top, having a 3.5 or a 4 is nice for that section. i just suffered sooo much on it. never again. if you like Gold Rush in Tout you might like this climb. Personally, I didnt find it that much fun. Bad finger, Quasar, Gruff, Rim Job are a lot more interesting to climb if your digits are smaller. Aug 17, 2015
Karsten Duncan
Sacramento, CA
[Hide Comment] As with most cracks Iryna, they are rated for the "average male hand". While this 5.10a may seem tough you'll find other "thin hand" cracks around that may be a goldilocks size for you but are rated much harder.

You'll probably love the 5.11, 3 Strikes You're Out at the creek. Aug 17, 2015
dave Hause
carrboro, nc
[Hide Comment] Definitely want two #3 and a #3.5 / #4 for the top. Apr 24, 2016
Patrick Beeson
Portland, OR
[Hide Comment] Oof. Pumpy! I found the bottom and top to be the hardest sections for my hands. Great jamming though. Definitely take a couple 3s and a four for the top, which gets into OW territory just before the anchor. May 7, 2018
Dr Strangelove
Bend, OR
[Hide Comment] Super slick, polished. Jun 4, 2018