Type: Trad, Alpine, 1000 ft (303 m), 8 pitches, Grade IV
FA: Charlie Fowler and Jeff Lowe, 1979
Page Views: 31,974 total · 200/month
Shared By: Tom Rangitsch on Aug 13, 2008 · Updates
Admins: Mike Snyder, Taylor Spiegelberg, Jake Dickerson

You & This Route

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Black Elk was the "hardest route in the Cirque" for over 20 years. While technically not in the Cirque (see location below), it is one of the best routes in this area of the Winds. (Please note that the pitch lengths are estimates from memory and if anyone has better estimates, please post them in comments.)

P1 Scramble up ledges from the left side of the southeast face. Stay low when you have the option. The route finding for the very beginning of the roped climbing was a bit difficult. I actually tried climbing up too early in the ledge traverse and got completely hosed on some unprotected 5.11 slab that I had to retreat from. Rope up just before an orange colored section of rock (make sure you go far enough to the climber's right) and climb this to a large ledge (5.8 and not well protected). Next go left up a slabby right facing corner/ramp. Belay at the base of a very long, vertical, right facing corner. 5.8, 200+ feet, depending on where you rope up on the slabs. We had to simulclimb a bit to set up a proper belay.

P2 Climb the pretty right facing corner passing some small overlaps on fingers and hands and lay backing. Belay at a small stance. 5.10-, 110 feet. We didn't find the most comfortable belay spot here, it was semi-hanging.

P3 Keep going up the right facing corner up an incredible hand crack, awesome pitch. Belay at the top on a pillar/ledge that has a bolt on its right side. It's actually better to belay on the left side of this ledge as the next pitch starts from there. 5.10, 100 feet. P2 and P3 can be combined with a 70 meter rope.

P4 Climb up a gorgeous splitter hand crack that eventually turns into a small right facing corner. Pass a roof on hands, then one on fists and lay backing to a stance just above. Then it's just some 5.11 off fists for about 15-20 feet. Belay above this wide section in a pod or just above in a finger crack, depending on what size of gear you have left. Either way it's not a very comfy belay. 5.11a and 165 feet.

P5 Another great pitch. Climb a splitter hand and finger crack, making a fun crack switch right at about 40 feet to gain a right angling hand crack. Belay at the right side of a ledge at a finger crack. 5.10 and 150 feet.

P6 Make a difficult move off the belay to a right facing wall with a discontinuous finger crack. Climb under a huge chockstone on its left side and belay just past it. 5.9, 160 feet.

P7 Two options here. Either climb a right facing dihedral with bad gear (I got 1 good piece in 70 feet) and lots of vegetation to another ledge. Alternately there is a chimney/offwidth to the right of this. We did not do this option but it is described in comments below. IT seems like this second option is the preferred one, at least from the consensus of other MP users. 5.10, 70 feet for option one.

P8 Climb to the right of largish chockstone and continue up a fun gully/chimney with lots of options. 5.8, 180 feet.

From here scramble up ledges about 300 feet with some easy 5th class moves to the top.


Southeast face of Warbonnet. Approach from Jack Ass Pass between Arrowhead and North Lakes. Descent is scrambling down gullies to the climbers' left.


Stoppers, double rack with maybe an extra hand piece, long runners. A sixty meter rope is nice, a 70 would probably even be better (we used a sixty). Also don't forget a 3.5 and 4 Camalot (old not new) or equivalent for the crux pitch unless you are comfortable running it out on 5.11 wide fists.