Type: Trad, 300 ft, 2 pitches
FA: Gary Slate & John AughinbaughThe direct start was put up by Slate, Jeff White, & Leona Mukai
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Shared By: Josh Janes on Oct 23, 2006
Admins: Aron Quiter, Euan Cameron, AWinters, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Access Issue: Portal Road Closure Details


Bony Fingers features an incredible 90m finger crack! If it weren't for the knobs, this steep, beautiful splitter would be 5.12 instead of 5.9.

Located on "The Whale", approach by turning off of the main road to the north onto a dirt road opposite the group campground. This can only be followed for about 100 feet to a gate. Park here. Hike past the gate towards the east until the road makes a sharp switchback up and left (back to the west), and a secondary, lower, road continues east (this is actually the trail). Follow this sandy/gravely path for a good 10-15 minutes until reaching an obvious swath of large, white talus. This talus field leads up to The Whale, which does indeed look like the head of a breaching whale. The route is on the left-hand margin of the formation, and the crack is difficult to make out from the trail itself, but no more than two minutes up the talus it becomes apparent just right of a brown water streak.

P1: The original first pitch heads up past a modern bolt, then right and up to another modern bolt (and an old relic), then straight left to the start of the crack. This looks pretty bad in terms of both rope drag and protection for both leader and follower, but supposedly goes at 10c. Alternatively, climb straight up to the finger crack via three modern bolts on 5.11b face/slab - the climbing is actually quite good! There is a 5.8 move to reach the crack that would likely result in a groundfall, but the very tall can slot a wire in for toprope pro before this move; at 5'10" I girth-hitched two wires together to extend my reach and was barely able to slot a wire in overhead. This section may be R for anyone shorter than that, but a tiny RP or the smallest, blue BallNut might provide pro before the crucial placement. Once in the crack, pro improves. Climb up via knobs and thin jams to an obvious belay stance on a large, black knob that is split by the crack.

P2: A 70m rope is required. Follow the immaculate splitter up and around the arete to a bolted anchor. Shorter ropes will require an intermediate belay or simul-climbing. 5.9.

If you don't want to carry two ropes on the climb, fix one end of the rope, send one person down over the left-hand shoulder of the formation on a single strand, have that person fetch the second rope and tie it to the rap line so the second can pull it up and then do a standard double-rope rap. Alternatively, if you have an 80m rope, you can rappel down and swing over to the intermediate anchor on Killer Whale, then do a second rappel to the ground. This would eliminate the need to bring two ropes, but bring a pair of quicklinks and 'biners to equip Killer Whale's anchor.


Lots of wires and small cams up to 0.5 Camalot. A single 0.75 and #1 Camalot is all you need at the big end of things. A 70m lead line and a second rope for rapping (or a single 80m and a couple quicklinks and 'biners). A two-foot stick-clip to slot a wire in at the start of the crack might be a good idea unless you're very tall.
Bishop, CA
outdooreric   Bishop, CA
I was able to get a decent ball nut in after the three bolts, thus protecting the ground fall potential without a stick clip.

FA: Gary Slate, John Aughinbaugh, (direct start) G. Slate, Jeff White, Leona Mukai. Reference "Rock Climbs: The Sierra East Side", 1988. Feb 18, 2007
Darshan Ahluwalia
Petaluma, CA
Darshan Ahluwalia   Petaluma, CA
You actually do not need a 70 meter rope to do this climb in two pitches. I used a 60 (I climbed as high as I could for the first pitch) and was able to do in two.

Also, I aided the first part of the climb by stepping on a sling clipped to the second or third bolts. The "11b" moves are very thin and I couldn't do them for the life of me!

I recall the next move to get into the crack was a bit heads up (due to the groundfall potential as noted by the other comments). But if you're getting on this 5.10B crack (or can free the bottom part), it is probably not too big of a deal.

Also, the top of the second pitch was a bit scary due to the crack thinning out to nothingness. You can place a very small nut or two, but then have to do 5.8(?) slab moves way above them to get to the anchors. With rope drag it was not that trivial for me.

We rapped with one 60m rope, but it was rather involved (had to do a bit of traverse-rapping to a ledge, which was a bit scary). Not worth it, bring the second rope. It can be done, if you only have one, though. Feb 26, 2007
Greg Barnes  
Karin Wuhrmann & I replaced the 3 pro bolts on the 11b start in 2005, and Peter Croft replaced the ones on the 10c start sometime not too long before that.

The slab at the top feels pretty easy to me, maybe 5.7, but I do it in 3 pitches so rope drag is negligible.

Nice to hear about the ball nut, I have an extra-long nut (an old Trango one I think) that I bring just to reach the nut placement (I'm 6' but I'm even on ape index and can't reach the placement with a normal stopper).

You can use RPs in the bottom of the crack, but the climbing is pretty easy there and good thin pro is not much higher.

If this is at your limit, bring lots of 0.75" cams (yellow tcu/alien), since you need them for both the crux and the belay shortly after the crux (although you can sling a big knob to the right for the belay). Feb 24, 2008
susan peplow
Joshua Tree
susan peplow   Joshua Tree
What a fantastic route!

I was primarily concerned about the thin face moves to start and was beyond thrilled when I nailed 'em on the first try. I used the opportunity for a preview and did not swing leads. Next time, me and my lady fingers will tick it start to finish!

That said, this is my observations as a relatively competent climber at 5'7" +2. I'll spare you "my beta" but hopefully you'll find the following helpful.

11b start is intimidating but sticky rock and a tightly bolted line provide a psychological advantage. The fresh new bolts and placement is a welcome change in the Portal.

As everyone here has mentioned gaining the crack is a bit tricky. I was paying very close attention to the reach for the "future lead". I was not able to pull the nut (#6 brassy) from my stance. Unlike my partner who placed it with ease standing flat footed as a 6'5" +4 bastard. Darshan is most likely correct, if you can climb the moves below, this section is not the crux. Although, still heady as any mistake will leave the belayer wearing your ass as a hat!

Small gear as Greg said using TCU's, Aliens (yuck), nuts or brassies. We climbed the 1st pitch to the large split knob and set up an anchor there. Lots of variety for gear at this spot, great stance knobs and a large knob to the right that is perfect for stacking your cord. This is an optimal belay if you would like to take photos of your second and/or if you are concerned about them making the starting moves. This lower belay allows for good sight and less rope drag than you would get from continuing up and around the corner.

Upper pitch is more of the same fantastic climbing of small to 1" crack with it petering out here and there. After turning the corner/arete and up a ways is a fixed .5 Camalot Jr with a somewhat tatted sling but bomber as of 7/08.

Utilizing a 60m cord and the lower belay we had to simulclimb to the anchors. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of that, you've got several options. A) use a 70m cord B) use the full length of your 60m on the first pitch and set up an anchor around the corner C) split the route into 3 pitches.

The anchor supports 2 new Mussyhooks™.

This is a must do for the area. If you are new to the Portal or a seasoned veteran, this route is absolutely terrific!

Enjoy! Jul 7, 2008
Grand Rapids, MI
ttriche   Grand Rapids, MI
The original P1 is somewhat terrifying. I'm never doing it again, it would have been very easy to swing off and smack the ground or (getting up to the first belay) my belayer. Do the direct start for sure, if you had to you might be able to A0 and grunt-a-hoy, but it would be a lot better for your head if you charge through as a warmup to the crack. The route is beautiful (but can get rather toasty warm). Jul 7, 2008
  5.11- PG13
Mike   Phoenix
  5.11- PG13
What an incredible route! We did it in 2 pitches with a 60m rope and a little simul-climbing on P2.

The start is super thin but well protected. The runout section after the last bolt is sketchy but not as hard. However, you could deck from that point so have your lead-head on straight. Also, those of us that that are taller with a long reach can mitigate the runout somewhat by reaching up waaaaay high from the stance and slot a wire in the black rock at the start of the crack before committing to those last few face moves. Aug 29, 2009
Leave the stick clip at home. It's not necessary to reach the good placement after the first three bolts: just link 2 nuts together for extra reach. See the photo above of girth-hitched nuts. Oct 4, 2009
PumpkinEater   Sacramento
For those who, like me, don't lead .11b face at the Portal, it's very easy to A0 the 3 bolts at the beginning and skip right to dessert. I tried the girth-hitched stoppers suggestion from other users and it seemed to work well though it's hard to see how good of a placement it is. Aug 2, 2010
The 5.10c original start isn't too bad - crux is first 20 feet and protected by a bolt, the traverse runout is solid friction and climbing is not at grade. Rope drag is manageable with long slings on the second bolt and first piece in the finger crack. Apr 23, 2012
Portland, OR
  5.10c PG13
jfailing   Portland, OR
  5.10c PG13
Yeehaw this route is awesome! Forget the 11b/A0 - the 10c start is graded softly for the portal and quite enjoyable. The finger crack is incredible!

Would recommend breaking the climb into three pitches. You conserve a little more gear that way, and avoid (horrendous!) rope drag. Orange to purple metolius-sized pieces plus lots-o-nuts will do ya just fine.

Seriously, the finger crack is *striking*. Have fun! May 14, 2012
Approach was straight forward. Follow road/trail roughly 1.5 miles until it peters out into a talus slope. Follow talus slope up to base. You can see the whale formation from the trail.

Don't take the first talus slope up that does not cross the trail. That slope goes up to trango / gaucho areas.

Aided bony fingers. Did the 5.11b direct start with ladders and all.

I was able to do two hook moves (2 bd cliff hangers) after the three bolts to gain the small ledge. Standing on the ledge I was able to place the smallest purple wild country zero into a thin shallow seam at about chest height. A small ballnut would work here too.

I did not aid off the small zero, just used is as pro for the ground fall protection.

While standing on the ledge I was able to place a small yellow DMM offset nut into the crack above (a standard nut would work here too). I had to link the nut with another to reach. I am 6'5" and it was a reachy placement considering I was loaded down with aid gear and ladders. Free climbers may find it easier to place.

The crack in general is quite enjoyable. I remember placing a lot of small stuff including a #3 RP offset brassie, #5 BD steel micro nut, lots of C3's (specifically the red), the three smallest metolius offset master cams, and plenty of offset nuts. If you are doing the climb correctly and freeing it then you won't need all the specialty pieces. Doubles in C3's or equivalent would be a big help if I was planning on thrashing up that crack free. Nothing bigger than a red #1 bd c4 for the entire two pitch 90m climb.

The last 25 feet at the end of the climb must be freed as the crack peters out. It can be done in approach shoes but felt spicy at ~5.8. It would have been more enjoyable without an aid rack and using climbing shoes.

Two 60m ropes through the bolted anchor reach a ledge 10 feet off the ground that is 3rd class and can be down climbed easily. We brought a 70m and a 60 m rope up and they worked great. Apr 22, 2013
erik rieger
Sheridan, WY
erik rieger   Sheridan, WY
This climb is so stellar! Agreed that the slab start is soft for the Portal, but is probably on par elsewhere and gets the engine going. All goes well as two pitches with a 70m.

Per the Hoyt Axton country song:
"Work your fingers to the bone—
Whadda' ya get?
Boney Fingers
Boney Fing-gers" Oct 23, 2013
Neil Rankin
Winston-Salem, NC
  5.10c PG13
Neil Rankin   Winston-Salem, NC
  5.10c PG13
I've done the route with both starts and both are recommended. The original 10c start is a bit more heads up and involved. Hard to avoid rope drag if you go all the way to the large knob to belay, and it's probably worth it to add a belay if it gets too bad. I found this way more frightening than the direct start because there is a friction traverse.

The 5.9 2nd pitch is one of the coolest bits of climbing anywhere. I want to say that I actually did it with a 60 m last time. I was really freaked out at the top with no more gear and rope drag, uncertain if I would make it up the slabby stuff at the top without my partner having to simulclimb. It was windy, and with a ton of rope between us communication was tough. I came up just short of the bolted anchor and found a creative anchor out right on the sloping ledge. Nov 7, 2014
I did the 10c variation on the first pitch. Really enjoyed it but I like friction climbing. The second pitch was a bit scary as I did not have enough of the right sized gear and had to run it out quite a bit. Jan 30, 2015
Jordan Cannon
Bishop, CA
Jordan Cannon   Bishop, CA
The rope drag on the 10c variation is manageable if you use runners on the second bolt and your first few pieces of gear in the crack. The 11b start is fairly runout, but the climbing eases up after the third bolt and then you're able to get some gear, just don't blow it. Jun 8, 2016