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Crack Test Dummies

5.9, Sport, 250 ft (76 m), 3 pitches,  Avg: 1.9 from 103 votes
FA: Dane Bass & Curtis Mai 2002
International > N America > Mexico > Nuevo Leon > El Potrero Chico > Las Agujas (The Spires)


The entire climb pretty much follows the large crack system.

P1: 5.7 Climb up the crack, easy at first, but the bolts are spaced further apart. There are some 5.7 moves shortly before the belay. 100 feet.

P2: 5.9 Continue up crack using stemming, face climbing and some hand jams along the way. The book said this was 5.8, but it felt plenty harder than that. This is a long pitch with some wayward bolts, so use slings when necessary. 138 feet to a 5 bolt anchor and a nice belay stance.

P3: 5.7 airy. 12 feet. 1 good bolt, then 3 rusty rings, then a chain anchor on either side of the top. To finish the climb, gently walk a few feet over the loose blocks to the summit and stand tall.

Descent: Lower one person down 12 feet to the good anchors. Then only one person has to rap off a single chain. From top of pitch 2 do a long rap to anchors on Gettin' Wood (down and upslope a little) Then another long rap to the ground. We did the raps with a 70m rope, but had extra each time.


On the shady side of the downhill spire at large crack/chimney looking feature.


10 bolts or so.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Topping out on the spire
[Hide Photo] Topping out on the spire
Pitch 3 of Crack Test Dummies.  Notice the 1 good bolt and 3 rusty rings you get to work with.
[Hide Photo] Pitch 3 of Crack Test Dummies. Notice the 1 good bolt and 3 rusty rings you get to work with.
At the top
[Hide Photo] At the top
Setting up the rappel
[Hide Photo] Setting up the rappel
The wind wasn't too strong, so I went for the tipy top.  There is room enough for one.
[Hide Photo] The wind wasn't too strong, so I went for the tipy top. There is room enough for one.
Tim Lowry and Justin Heekins topping out
[Hide Photo] Tim Lowry and Justin Heekins topping out
Old pins on the way to the summit
[Hide Photo] Old pins on the way to the summit
Pitch 1 of Crack Test Dummies
[Hide Photo] Pitch 1 of Crack Test Dummies

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Jason Halladay
Los Alamos, NM
[Hide Comment] It's a shame there isn't a better anchor setup on the summit because setting up a belay just 10 feet below the summit and doing all the shenanigans to get up to the top and back down to the top of P2 is time-consuming and awkward.
In any case, a better finish than going up the standard P3 with crappy rings for protection is to make an airy step left from the top of P2 to the nicely bolted east face. The climbing is no more than 5.7 there too.
Using two 60m ropes tied together we were able to rap from the top of P2 all the way down to the ground going over the route Gettin Wood. Jan 1, 2008
TaraR Flanery
Rapid City, SD
[Hide Comment] This routes can be dangerous. We didn't have a problem, but it felt sketchy and I was worried about loose rock the whole time. The next day - another couple pulled a more-than-human sized boulder off the second pitch that came tumbling to the path below. I would say, avoid the route since there are countless better climbs here. Feb 9, 2008
Reading, VT
[Hide Comment] I completely agree with TaraR. I climbed this hoping to have a great time headed to the top of the large spire - this is a potential death route due to loose rock along the entire route. The climbing is awkward and unpleasant and the bolts are wayward. Avoid this route - if you really want to bag a moderate on the spires, try Celo Rey. Mar 16, 2009
Michele Evans
[Hide Comment] I think this climb must have cleaned up since the earlier remarks. There wasn't much for loose rock. A little muddy in spots but easy to avoid. This route is steep and awkward at the top for the 5.9 leader, and very run out. Brought some gear & placed a few nuts & a #3 and it made the climb enjoyable instead of scary. Going all the way to the top is worth it, a fun little summit. Jan 7, 2014
Rob D
Queens, NY
[Hide Comment] worst climb on the spires, easily the worst climb we did while we were in Potrero. Bolts are poorly placed, line is awkward, and climbing is uninspiring. There is no reason to do this climb. Mar 29, 2014
Brooklyn, NY
[Hide Comment] I climbed this with Rob. I led the first pitch, and while the climbing is easy, the bolts are placed in a way that if you fall, you will break your ankles on a ledge. The second pitch is confusing, exposed and run out.

There is not much loose rock left, but still an awful climb. Mar 31, 2014
[Hide Comment] If you climb this route early enough (start in dark) you may be blessed with the sound of my watch alarm beeping at around was lost somewhere up this route. To make this post worth your time it is actually quite hard to communicate from the end of pitch two to your belayer/climber below. The echoes in the canyon are crazy..*beep beep, beep beep* Oct 29, 2016
Seth Hogan
Frisco, Co
[Hide Comment] Though I wouldn't say this is runout, it is definately runout for P Chico. A bit of crack experience will help, there isn't a whole lot of loose stuff but, some, and they are pretty big. This route is definately not for a 5.9 leader. It almost has an alpine feel to it and is fairly dirty. Probbaly the worst of all the routes on the spires. Jan 28, 2017
Dan Africk
Brooklyn, New York
  5.9 R
[Hide Comment] This route is so horrendously runout, and the pitons so sketchy, that I consider this a trad route. Half of the 'bolts' on P2 are rusty old 'ring pins' that look like they'll snap in a strong breeze, and there are several in a row. The bolt at the crux had the hanger removed, leaving just the bare bolt to taunt you (and ensure some gnarly gouging if you slip)..

The only trad gear I brought to EPC was 4 tricams, 2 pink and 2 black, which I fortunately had on my harness this day. I placed all of them on P2, starting with a pink at the crux. I had two trad draws with me and made a third, but really needed more.

I actually think it would be a fun climb, with some nice crack / off-width / stemming moves, if it wasn't so terrifying! I say it's worth doing, if you come prepared with some trad gear and plenty of alpine draws to reduce rope drag. I managed with just pink and black tricams, but similarly sized cams (and some a bit bigger and smaller) will make your life easier.

If you climb this without trad gear or a very high risk tolerance, the long unprotected crux will certainly get your adrenaline pumping.. Mar 20, 2017
Josh Rymer
Arlington, VA
  5.9 R
[Hide Comment] If you are a solid 5.9 climber this route is not that bad. I came into this climb terrified by all the previous comments. Yes the crux is the most run out part and yes it is fairly run out, but all the moves are there and all the holds are there. Make sure to test your mettle against other Potrero Chico 5.9s before doing this one, you cannot fall on the run out section.

Also, don't enter the slab section at the top, continue straight through the boulder.

Instead of belaying my follower to the summit proper, I had him lower me off the chain up there and then belayed him from the bolted anchors at the top of pitch 2 for his summit go. This worked well and saved us from having to rap 10ft off the summit on 1 set of chains. Nov 17, 2018
Red River Gorge, KY
[Hide Comment] Rappel straight down to meet up with the 1st pitch anchors of Gettin' Wood. Do not rappel the route.

Sparsely bolted and will feel hard and scary for the 5.9 leader. Climb with care to avoid dislodging chockstones. Jan 20, 2019
Brennan Vandyke
Edmond, OK
[Hide Comment] Scary, bad movement, sketchy rock and bad bolt placements. Weird rappels. The only things that makes this climb worth it is the summit - but for the love of God, access it literally any other way. The second pitch had strange run-outs during the crux moves, which aren't necessarily difficult but don't feel stable, both due to the exposure on wacky bulges and due to the quality of the rock. It could be that I'm just a baby, but I hated this route. Mar 20, 2019
Red River Gorge, KY
[Hide Comment] Last pitch now has a bomber two bolt anchor to replace the single bolt anchor. You can rappel with a single 70m to a set of anchors at the top of pitch 1 of Gettin' Wood or rappel all the way to the ground with a double rope rap. Jan 2, 2020
Red River Gorge, KY
[Hide Comment] I donated a hanger back to the missing bolt today. The 'missing,' bolt is good to go again. Carry a combo 9/16'', 1/2'' wrench in Potrero and be a part of the solution. Three bolt failures in 2 years from people climbing on less than finger tight nuts is too many. Feb 18, 2020