Type: Trad, 650 ft, 7 pitches, Grade II
FA: Clay Watson & Brian Smoot, July 2008
Page Views: 5,205 total · 41/month
Shared By: bsmoot on Aug 10, 2008
Admins: Andrew Gram, Nathan Fisher, Perin Blanchard, grk10vq

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Gate Buttress Area Recreational Lease: Climbs on Church Buttress above vault remain closed Details
Access Issue: Do not cross the pipe by the pumphouse. Details


House of Cards climbs the clean, airy slabs above the big overhangs on the North Face of the Coalpit Buttress. The line stays left of the crack system that possibly was followed by the DNF route. We originally climbed 7 pitches, but decided to add 2 more approach pitches of lesser quality to avoid the hike around by the Triangle wall gully. All of the pitches were done in traditional ground up style. The climbing on this route is somewhat continuous.

Sadly, recent rockfall has changed the Tree Route, which we followed for 35'. Most of the tree was knocked off when a 15' x 35' section of rock slid off. Since the tree is only 10' tall now, the additional climbing to pass this section is now 5.11. Higher above the tree, the climbing is now easier and safer.

P1 - (begins at traverse ledge above direct start) Climb a clean arete to where you can traverse left and up to a belay.
P2 - Climb a short roof to a finger hidden crack. Follow this up to a great ledge with a broken pine tree.
P3 - Climb tree and either free or aid past fixed gear (5.10 A0 or 5.11) to some stacked blocks. Above here is a section of new rock that is protected by some bolts. Originally, this pitch made an improbable, heads-up traverse right along a prominent spike of rock. Belay 30' below the big roof above.
P4 - Take care climbing past the flake above. Clip 2 pins on the right, Climb over the roofs and slab above.
P5 - 7 Ascend the excellent slab above for 3 pitches.

UPDATE: The Guillotine is now gone!

Descent You can now rap the route with just one 70m rope...barely. The 2nd rap from the top goes to a small pine tree on the west.

Gregg Kirchhoff, Jonathan Smoot & Dallen Ward also helped out.


See photo


See Topo
Thanks for all the work on this one. I saw you way up on the slabs one saturday after the rockfall by your little own self. Clay raves of this one. Looks very nice. Aug 10, 2008
Thanks for the post. Aug 11, 2008
This was really fun - too bad about the rockfall because the traverse along the spike was really cool and wild. A few feet got chopped off the end, but you can still see the spike on the tree pitch off to the right as you begin moving left on bolts. I originally had thoughts about making a gear belay in the crack that made the delineation between what stayed and what fell off. But even on the first time through I never really wanted to hang out in that area... Its all clean now though!

As with any route this new, you should tread very carefully on anything that even looks like it could come off. Wear a helmet and your belayer should watch carefully. One more thing - the guillotine was bounced on by several of us each time we passed by. Have fun on the upper slab because its as clean as it gets on that headwall. Kind of like a 5.9 version of the 5th pitch of Stifflers. Aug 11, 2008
Hopefully, you route developers got the proper permission from the area developers? Aug 16, 2008
I better take up river rafting in the Grand Canyon...better chance of a permit! I might have to address my fear of drowning, though!
jg Aug 16, 2008
Ben Folsom
Ben Folsom  
Maura and I climbed House of Cards yesterday. Great, exciting route! Thanks for all the work to equip the route and clean it up. Quality climbing.
We could not find the direct start even though we searched for about an hour. So I ended up leading a completely direct start further left, and probably left of "Nanook of the North". I did the lower, broken wall in one 70 meter pitch, probably about 5.9 R. I'll post a photo with our variation. Did not encounter or leave any fixed gear on the variation we climbed. This pitch climbed directly below the 5.6 bolted arete of pitch #1. According to Brian Smoot's topo, on the route proper we combined pitches 1 and 2 (using long slings on everything). The crux third pitch was hard, and climbing through the "House of Cards" was thrilling. We also combined the long 6th and short 7th pitches which was exactly 70 meters (there was barely enough rope left to tie into the anchor). Also, with two 70 meter ropes we rapped from pitch 7 to 5, 5 to 4 (short rap), 4 to 2, then 2 to the approach ramp from Triangle Gully.
Anyway, awesome route in an amazing position with fantastic views of the canyon. Thanks again for all the work that went into the establishment of this route. Aug 25, 2008
Ben Folsom
Ben Folsom  
After looking at the photos with the route lines, we climbed basically the pink dotted line to reach the ledge below pitch 1. (the 1970's direct start). We did it in one 70 meter pitch. Lots of long slings and few gear placements kept rope drag to a barely tolerable amount.
I also want to say that "House of Cards" is a fantastic and fitting name for this route. Aug 25, 2008
We climbed a TC route for 3 long pitches for the "approach pitches". They were very good and recommended. We neither found the Smoot/Watson start nor the piton from the topo. An appropriate name for the climb, House Of Cards is a scary place and the 3 of us were quite intimidated at the "Guillotine" belay. None of us thought it long for this world nor the next. The 4 star Pitch #6 is classic Smoot and spectacular. Feeling more like a survivor, a fine Wasatch adventure nevertheless. Jul 9, 2009
Beta Update 9/20/10:

The chains at the top of the tree pitch were nailed when the guillotine fell. One of the hangers is nearly flattened and the chain was sheared off see beta photo), and barely hanging by the ripped open quick-link. The other Fixe bolt with a rap ring in it appears to be ok.

Obviously the next pitch that HAD the guillotine on it has changed... as in, it's just a clean roof at this point. There is a great pod for a red metolius, and a somewhat tricky 5.9 or maybe 10a move gets you over the roof. Sep 20, 2010
Ben Folsom
Ben Folsom  
Just as James predicted... the guillotine fell.
I'm just glad it didn't fall on us when we were up there. Feb 24, 2011
We climbed the route Yesterday. It is a great route, particularly the last slab pitches. Stepping on the House of Cards is nerve-racking. We didn't protect that section. It seems those blocks could detach at any time, but who knows.
It is difficult to find the best approach to the first pitch. However, there are at least three good bolted anchors above the first slab that can be used to access the big ledge at the bottom of the route. It is bad rock but after that section things get better.
There is some loose rock in this route, but then, it is an alpine ascend and one ought to be careful anyway. Aug 25, 2016
Shadow Ayala
Lexington, KY
Shadow Ayala   Lexington, KY
Climbed this yesterday. Buenaventura is the best way to get on and off of the House of Cards ledge. The House of Cards pitch was way more tame than I thought it would be. If you climb up the left arete that holds the cards it is very safe. There is nothing PG13 about this climb. Also, the 5.9 mantle after the 5.11 pitch was amazing! The person I was with was not tall and had more trouble with the 5.9 mantle than the 5.11 crux. Very fun climb but I was expecting a little more. There are multiple fun pitches but the amount of broken rock and very short sections of awesome climbing made me wishing it held more. Oh yeah, we did this with one 70m. Do yourself a favor and bring two ropes. Rapping over to the tree and back to the base of pitch 6 is not fun and takes more time than wanted. You also run a higher risk of getting your rope stuck if you arent careful. Jun 3, 2017
Ryan Arnold
  5.11 PG13
Ryan Arnold  
  5.11 PG13
Enjoyable climb! At its heart this is a slab climb, and a really good one. Pitch 6 is absolutely phenomenal and sustained 5.9/10a slab. The 5.11 section of the 3rd pitch is maybe 8 feet long and has fixed pieces to pull on, if needed.

I absolutely think the PG-13 rating is warranted, not so much for the climbing pro, but as a heads up about other risks. Look at the photos: massive stacked blocks, damaged anchors and bolts, pine tree cut in half, my sliced rope. Be cautious!

If rapping with a single 70m, be sure to do the short 50 foot rap to the 6th anchor before heading down to the intermediate tree. Watch your ends there, and also on the 4th pitch rap. Those are full 35m raps.

Also be sure to find the key cam placement in the roof of the "pitch previously known as guillotine" or you'll be cruxing well above a pin down to your right. Sep 11, 2017
Billyjack Cundiff
Ogden, UT
Billyjack Cundiff   Ogden, UT
I have to say I am not the biggest fan of the anchor placement on this route. A 70m rope does NOT reach. With a single 70 m rope you have 2 options 1) Clip into the anchor whilst still suspended above it, untie your knot(s) and risk shock-loading a tether. 2) Come off the ends of your rope and do short and sometimes exposed downclimbing which is not necessarily wrong but I feel shouldn't have to be necessary.

As people have said one could bring a tagline but I feel that given the nature of loose rock and potential areas for the rope to get caught, pulling something down on top of you is a legitimate concern. A double rope pull is a lot of rope just waiting to wreak havoc.

As for the climbing I would highly recommend this route to anyone. The slabs at the top are some of the best continuous friction slab I have climbed in LCC.

Also the tat from the rappel tree atop the 2nd pitch is now clean and updated as of 9/14/2018. Sep 14, 2018