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Routes in First Tier

Antique T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R
Caverns, The T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Commitment T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Fire Fly S 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Hanging Teeth T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Jughead T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c R
Munginella T 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Surprise, The T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Try Again Ledge T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Werner's Ant Trees T 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Work Around the Skirt S 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Type: Trad, 400 ft, 3 pitches
FA: Pete Spoecker & Steve Herrero, 1965
Page Views: 5,564 total, 44/month
Shared By: M. Morley on Jul 10, 2007
Admins: M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Closures for Peregrine Falcon Protection Details


While not quite as classic as neighboring climbs like Munginella and Commitment, The Surprise provides 2 excellent pitches of climbing. Supertopo lists the route as 5 pitches, but it is very easy and recommended to link pitches 1 and 2 into a single 150' pitch.

Start at an ant-infested tree and climb dirty corner past a small pine tree. Continue up to an oak tree (long sling helps reduce rope drag), and start traversing right along broken ledge system, passing one ancient 1/4" bolt about half-way along the ledge. Belay below a nice-looking, clean hand crack.

Pitch 2 ascends the clean 5.8 crack above, with a cruxy step left at about 90' up. Belay at 135' at a good stance and one solid bolt.

Pitch 3 tackles a 5.9+ crack with perfect finger locks. When the crack suddenly ends (surprise!), make a delicate couple of steps left (5.10a) and continue up easier ground (5.7) to the top (115').

As for all the routes at the Five Open Books area, be exceedingly careful not to dislodge loose rocks from the top.

To descend, walk to climber's left for several hundred yards along good (but sometimes exposed) trail.


The Surprise is located to the right of both Munginella and Commitment in the middle of the cliff.


Standard rack.
Bruno Beltran
Stanford, CA
Bruno Beltran   Stanford, CA
What a fun climb! I belayed my follower up to the oak tree before traversing over, since we were waiting for a slow party ahead of us anyway, but I would probably do the same thing again.

Book has the first splitter pitch rated 5.8, which I felt was a little sandbag but my follower thought was fine, probably because my hands where too fat so I had to use rattly ring locks for the whole thing. Traversing right around the bulge right before the anchor to use the huge hole in the face is exciting and I recommend it.

The crux pitch protected well. I definitely felt the "surprise", but had a green C3 left to slot in right at the crux, after which it wasn't scary at all. Continue climbing until you reach the tree by the path that leads to the walk-off. You lose communication with your follower, but the party behind you will be really grumpy if they watch you pitch it out and just want to start climbing already *cough cough*. After all, you've agreed on rope commands already, right?

A detailed description of how we did the traverse, since we watched the party in front of us botch it. A couple steps up past the oak tree gain you a big ledge (or a thin ledge and big jug hands if you stay lower down) that angles down and right until you reach the ancient bolt mentioned in the description. I clipped that sucker for a blind downclimb off the ledge to the right (turned out to be <5.3) to reach another ledge that traverses over until you're right outside the left of a right-facing "mini-book". Ample small gear protects the only real fifth class move, downclimbing a step or two to get inside the dihedral where a comfortable stance to build an anchor and shade await. May 29, 2017
Does anyone know the name/rating of the route indicated with arrows in the photo? It's the dihedral left of the Surprise. Climbed it last week...enjoyable climbing on clean rock. It has a single bolt and a sling on the corner of the 2nd "roof". Bring some large cams.

Aug 17, 2016
Kush Khandelwal  
Great climb. Chose to do the 5.8 beginning and will recommend not linking the first and 2nd. Bad rope drag. Nov 9, 2015
Zachary W
San Francisco, California
Zachary W   San Francisco, California
Doing the three-pitch linkup of Werner's Ant Trees -> Surprise makes for the best route on FOB! Jan 24, 2014
J. Albers
J. Albers   Colorado
C'mon now Rodger, saying that the direct start (Werner's Ant Tree) is 10a is a little bit of a sandbag, don't you think? It is a good pitch, but probably closer to 10c than to 10a. Jul 30, 2012
Rodger Raubach
Rodger Raubach  
I've done the Surprise both ways, the "old way" and the "direct." Do the direct, since it's really an outstanding crack climb at 5.10a. The first belay in an ant tree is "forgettable." Jul 29, 2012
Oakland, CA
thecornyman   Oakland, CA
I tried the Werner's Ant Trees alternate start this time and it caused some problems. The 10a lieback is awesome but then at the roof I couldn't figure out the 10c move so after about 10 min I tried the more obvious 10d way, got pumped and went for a ride on a purple tcu behind that scary thin flake. Any one remember beta for either the 10c or d section? Apr 30, 2012
Oakland CA
caughtinside   Oakland CA
Finally found the Surprise, 4 years later! Funny that the description above says The Surprise is not as classic as Munginella or Commitment. When combined with Werner's Ant Trees, this is the best of the Open Book routes. Nov 18, 2011
Mark P Thomas
Mark P Thomas   Draper
Fell at the .10a crux when a crimper flake broke off. Something not too common on a route in the Valley! Apparently this route doesn't get climbed a lot :-) Really fun last 2 pitches though. 1st pitch was dirty & forgettable. May 23, 2011
Rodger Raubach
Rodger Raubach  
The upper crack is outstanding! My GF led the last pitch and took her first, albeit short, leader fall on the 5.10a section. Didn't faze her at all. We both loved the climb. Mar 15, 2011
San Francisco
tallmark515   San Francisco
Did the 3 pitch, Werners Ant Tree, to the 2 pitch Surprise combo, great route. 5.8 pitch is super fun and .10a thin hands/finger crack above was stellar.

Be mindful of your rope drag, belay early or suck it up and deal with the nuisance on easier terrain above the crux section of Werners. Nov 8, 2010
Alex Bury
Ojai, CA
Alex Bury   Ojai, CA
Good climb, some dirt....but the upper crack(s) are well worth it. May 27, 2010
Chris M
Seattle, WA
Chris M   Seattle, WA
4 star linkup starts with Werner's Ant Trees variation. The upper Suprise Cracks are so splitter and a worthy outing. This linkup can be done in two long pitches with a 70m rope. Oct 17, 2009
Start with Werner's Ant Trees.... great fun.

The second and third pitches are excellent splitter cracks from fingers to hands. Mar 11, 2008
Oakland CA
caughtinside   Oakland CA
Be sure to make the traverse. I went straight up and did "The Old Surprise" one day. Went straight up the book (hey, it's one of the 5, right? Right?) and found lots of dirty, R, and uninspiring 5.8. I was 40' above a totally rusted 1/4"er when I pulled around the semi-blind crux. A different kind of surprise.

EDIT: as it turns out, I was on the wrong route! I was actually on the Hanging Teeth! Jul 24, 2007