Type: Trad, 1000 ft, 10 pitches, Grade IV
FA: Aid-Gary Hervert, Brett Oxberry,'74 FFA-Dave Baker, Fig Fiola, '77
Page Views: 5,641 total · 44/month
Shared By: 1Eric Rhicard on Apr 27, 2008
Admins: Luke Bertelsen, JJ Schlick, Greg Opland

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Closed January 1-April 30 Details


This climb is a serious undertaking with some big runnouts in places. Most notably the 4th pitch with 60 feet of unprotected 5.7, the fifth pitch which has a 110 foot traverse with widely spaced pro so the second can enjoy it too, and the 8th pitch where falling could lead to a big swing into a corner.

The cool thing is that doing this you are following in the footsteps of some inspired and daring people. In Bob Kerry's Guiedbook Backcounty Rockclimbing in Southern Arizona he writes that the original line was concieved by Merle Wheeler and Joanna McComb but the attempt ended at the top of pitch two. Wheeler came back with Dave Baker and at the top of pitch five which atempted to go straight up they could go no higher. In '75 Baker, Rich Thompson, and Gary Hervert returned and worked out the traverse pitch and continued up ending at the end of pitch eight. A week later Hervert returned with Brett Oxberry and finished the route using aid on three pitches. In '76 Ray Ringle, Scott Brown, and John Stieger free climbed all but the traverse moves on pitch eight. Then Baker and Fig Fiola returned in '77 and free climbed the entire route.

Hollow and loose rock and a couple of places where you had to climb on it made this a less than totally fun day for me. In the end I am glad I climbed it but more glad that I was climbing 5.12 sport regularly before I got on this route. Doing this route at or near your limit would be a great accomplishment.


Starts just right of the toe of the dome as you see it on the approach. Pitch 1) 120 ft. Climb right facing corner until possible to move left to a 4 bolt anchor. Pitch 2) 5.10, 80ft. Thin face past two bolts then right to flake then right and up crack to ledge that leads up and left to trees. Pitch 3) 5.9, 140ft. Face to crack and roof you move right around then up dihedrals until you reach a zig zag crack. belay in or below a small book. Pitch 4) 5.9, 110ft. Move right and up nice corner then step left after 30 feet or so and run it out 70 ft. (5.6 - 5.7) to the brushy ledge. Set your belay up on the right side of the bushes using bushes and a #2 camalot. Pitch 5) 5.6, 110 ft. Traverse right. Do not climb up to a bolt you might see. Drop down ten feet or so from the ledge then head right 5.6. Belay in the corner of the pillar. Pitch 6) 5.9, 60ft. Kerry's guide says "move right and execute a few difficult moves to start a short but sustained dihedral(5.9), small wires between the fixed pegs are helpful. Did not find this. We moved left on the ledge about 15 feet and climbed a crack up and right to the corner above the belay. At this point I went to the top of this where there is a lot of scary rock then down climbed with a slung chock to the 3 bolt belay. Probably should have looked around the corner to the right but we were using another persons beta as well as the Kerry description. In hind sight if I had moved right as soon as I got to the corner I could have traversed right to the anchors. From the anchors I could also see a bolt below us that may have been above the fixed pegs mentioned. Whatever you work out get to the two bolt anchor. Pitch 7) 5.8, 60ft. Move back left to the pillar and climb to it's top 25ft. then dance gingerly over the spooky but relatively stable flakes that lead to a thin crack. Continue to climb up and right and belay at an uncomfortable stance at the bottom of a corner that curves up and left at the top. You might be able to see old slings hanging from the old belay bolts at the top of the corner. Pitch 8) 5.10, 70ft. Climb corner to two 1/4 inch bolts and and an ugly pin but don't stop. Either clip the pin or put a good micro cam in above it then bust left then up to an ugly flake (pro) then left to a ledge then back to the crack. A 4 camalot could be used here to set up an anchor. We continued up the crack another 40 feet or so and belayed just above a jagged chockstone. Pitch 9) 5.8,160ft. Assuming you belayed in the crack above the old bolts and pin, continue up the crack to the chimney and belay on gear and one good bolt. Pitch 10) 5.9, 80ft. Fun chimney then grassy gully to top.

To descend takes two ropes. Head up and right around to the back side of dome. Where bushes impede your visit to the summit drop down and right maybe 50 feet until you can see an old dead pine tree. The slings are on that. There is also a single new 3/8th bolt about 30 feet below the tree where you would have to stand to look down into the gully. It would be great if someone added a second one. I believe it will be possible to reach the ground with a 70M rope from there.


Double set of cams from smallest to #3 camalot size. We took a set of RP's and a set of stoppers to one inch. A #4 Camalot could be used on the the belay after pitch 8 but not a necessity.
jbak .
jbak .   tucson,az
Eric, good stuff.

For the sake of history, Kerry's info was lifted pretty much verbatim from the old Summit Hut guide. The line ("In November 1976, Ray Ringle, Scott Brown and John Steiger climbed the route free except for one tension traverse at the roof pitch.") is marked in my copy with a hand-written asterisk and the note "Charly Lyons + Ross Hardwick also climbed Leviathan in this style in 1975 - D.B." D.B. being Dave Baker of course. Apr 28, 2008
1Eric Rhicard
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
Thanks for the added history Jbak.

Hiked out there with three other people including a sixty seven year old guy that was only fifteen minutes behind my partner and I. We did it in two and a half hours.

Pitch five is not even close to five four. It was twice that hard. I had to think about it and thought I could fall. I can generally do five four with a blindfold and one hand behind my back.

All of the necessary bolts have been replaced and new ones were added to the anchors. The anchors at the end of pitch six only have one new three eighths and two old ones. The two bolts that used to be the belay at the top of pitch eight were not replaced to encourage people not to stop there. Good pro can be placed for making the moves past them. Apr 28, 2008
1Eric Rhicard
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
Without taking the trails we took it could be a nightmare. The short section we did bushwack wasn't fun especially on the way out in the dark. On the other hand Rickd the vegetation would not have been as big or thick back then, so maybe you were in pretty bad shape or directionally challenged that day. Apr 29, 2008
1Eric Rhicard
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
Forgot to mention that we didn't bring any silicone caulk to fill the removed bolts holes. So if you are heading out to do it take a small squeeze tube of clear that you can get at the Hdwe. store and a small baggie to put some sand in when you get to the base. Fill the hole with caulk then mash a handful of sand into it. The hole will disappear. No need to carry the caulk all the way up as there is only one more hole and it is fairly innocuous. So toss the tube down to your pack. Thanks in advance. May 1, 2008
1Eric Rhicard
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
Other folks agreed more or less with Rickd that pitch 5 is not as hard as what we did if you move down from the ledge then traverse so I changed it in the description. May 12, 2008

thanks for a great job in providing a detailed description of this route. also thanks for updating the hardware! May 30, 2008
I must have climbed this over 20 years ago, with Tom Hilbert. Tom kept saying that climbing was taking up too much of his psychological life. So he would plan these month-long trips to Yosemite to do some horrific big wall projects to "get it out of his system." Yeah, right.

Eric says, "Doing this route at or near your limit would be a great accomplishment." That was me at the time, so I accept your kudos. But the only part I have really vivid memories of was the pitch 8 crux (which at the time I think folks had rated 10a.) A scary unprotected short traverse where a mistake would result in a nasty swing into a corner. That hasn't been retro-bolted, has it?

As if the climb isn't enough, watch for the rattlesnakes on the after-dark hike out. We encountered three or four.

If anyone is thinking of doing this route, but is hesitant, I would recommend: do it. This route is an adventure, you're no longer in the supermarket. But that's what it's all about. Jun 26, 2008
1Eric Rhicard
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
Hey David. There are two old belay bolts just before the traverse. We did not replace them as there is good pro next to them and it is our understanding that no one belays there any more. We belayed at the bottom of the corner and climbed through the crux then pushed it up the crack until I had just enough stuff to set an anchor. This allowed us to reach the top in one more pitch. Jun 26, 2008
manuel rangel
manuel rangel   Arizona
Does anyone have photos or info on Jeff Seigel and John Dosckiez 3D Witchhunt variation to the North Face? Jan 22, 2009
I just noticed Baker's note about Charly Lyon's and Ross Hardwick's ascent in 1975. I believe it was this ascent that really led to the spate of activity in 76/77 to bag the FFA.

The Tucson lads didn't really know Ross but I think they'd heard of Charly but still, as I recall, there were a number of folks who didn't buy it that they had come down and blasted it free in a day with the exception of a small bit of aid. I spent a semester back in Tucson and knew Ross from Flag and so I knew there was no question that (1) they could do it and (2) they were real straight shooters and if they said they'd done something in a certain style, then they had.

I recall a lot of chatter about eliminating the last bit of aid before out of towners nabbed it. Hence JS, RR and SB went after it and then the next year Dave and Fig bagged the all free ascent in a day. Steve G and I then had to go out and prove we could do the same and then a number of other parties started doing the same. Suddenly a big remote wall that had lain dormant for a number of years had become an area test piece (rightfuly so.) Aug 24, 2009
Catherine Conner
Phoenix, AZ
Catherine Conner   Phoenix, AZ
Thanks for the write up, Eric. Been wondering about this climb for a few years. And thanks everyone for the info. Amazing to anyone who does this climb!!! I can only wish that someday...

...I will at least consider making the approach... Feb 21, 2010
Eric D
Eric D   Gnarnia
The traverse pitch isn't bad at all if you drop down before starting to traverse. I wouldn't give it an R if you traverse at the right place, which you reach by downclimbing off of the belay ledge and the traversing.

Has Over the Rainbow's bolts been replaced? Jun 8, 2010
Charles Vernon
mind & body in Colorado, he…
  5.10 R
Charles Vernon   mind & body in Colorado, he…
  5.10 R
One way to improve the quality of the route is to do the somewhat hidden original 6th pitch instead of the variation (that EFR describes above) that most seem to do. Having now done both, I'd say the original line is some of the best and cleanest climbing on the route and adds another 5.10 pitch. It protects well on small gear. It also keeps you mostly out of the way of the giant 30 foot high detached pillars! The original is NOT the dirty, steep crack just to the right of EFR's described line. To get to the original, belay lower and to the right at the end of traverse. The thin crack/corner is out of sight until you're right below it. In this pic: mountainproject.com/photo/1… it's the system about 10 feet directly right of the belayer.

Also, we linked this pitch with pitch 7, and this would be easier to do if you do the original P6, as it's a straighter line. You can also link pitches 4 and 5 pretty easily (we did this on both ascents): instead of stepping left on pitch 4 and "running it out 60-70 ft," you continue up the arcing corner, which pros well and spits you out right on the low/easier version of the traverse. This was a rope-stretcher with a 60M rope but would be comfortable with a 70. Oct 29, 2010
Tucson, AZ
JMayhew   Tucson, AZ
There are 3 bolts now for the 33M rap off the back. Apr 4, 2013
Jared Guglielmo
Tucson, Arizona
Jared Guglielmo   Tucson, Arizona
This is an excellent adventure and can be a mostly enjoyable time if a few things are considered.

First off, the route has enough dirt and tall grass in many of the cracks to make you feel like you just did a heavy day of gardening and acquired the diet of a cow. I found some of what should have been the more straight forward pitches to be absolutely terrifying as I could not see holds or gear and had to deal with blades of grass going places no one would ever want. We did a lot of cleaning up there but due to infrequent ascents, it will probably be dirty for the next.

Secondly, I did what Charles Vernon mentioned for the 4th and 5th pitch. The corner is a great bit of climbing (and mostly clean now!) and the traverse is actually quite beautiful. The traverse is however extremely undefined and cryptic. I moved back and forth, up and down and never found anything that was "5.easy" climbing from start to finish. You may get lucky, but chances are you will encounter brief sections of very runout climbing that will keep your attention- be prepared for that on most of this route.

All in all, now is the time to go climb this beast! The magnitude of this adventure is indescribable, but is highly recommended for anyone willing to find out. This magical route will leave you with a completely different opinion of the dome and those who put it all together. Nov 6, 2016