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Routes in Mary's Bust - left buttress

Beak, The T,S 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
Devil's Backbone, The S 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a
Sparky's Cooler S 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Sympathy for the Devil S 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
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Type: Trad, Sport, 300 ft, 4 pitches
FA: Bernard Gillett and Allen Simons
Page Views: 246 total · 2/month
Shared By: Bernard Gillett on Oct 8, 2009
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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The Beak is a good route with an engaging, must-do crux pitch: a thin crack through a headwall. Allen top roped this crack some years ago as a variation to Sparky's Cooler; we teamed up and created an independent line up the wall that runs parallel and right of Sparky's Cooler, aiming for the base of the headwall crack.

Hike around the left side of the main wall, and continue up the gully on the west side. Pass about a half-dozen large pines on your way to the high point along the base of the left buttress at Mary's Bust. Rack up in the shade of the highest pine tree, and then scramble up and right for 20 feet (4th class) to a ledge system; flake out your rope here. If you found the right spot, you should see a very obvious beak-shaped flake pointing to the right about 15 feet overhead (2 bolts lead to it). The lone bolt above the left side of the belay ledge is the beginning of Sparky's Cooler (or rather its direct start).

Pitch 1: 5.10a, 85', 10 bolts. Ascend steep rock to the 2nd bolt, and then make a great wingspan move to reach the beak. Mount the beak, and continue up and left through a bulge (5.10a reach move with a sneaky hold -- probably a little harder for short people). Angle up and right to a good stance with chains.

Pitch 2: 5.8, 80', 5 bolts. Head up and right through two bulges (each with a bolt, 5.8), and then run up easy rock protected by 3 more bolts. The pitch finishes with a delightful ladder of buckets up excellent rock to find a big ledge at the base of the headwall. Belay at two bolts with chains.

Pitch 3: 5.11a, 45', 5 bolts and gear. Fire up the headwall crack to a grassy ledge with a bolted belay. There are 4 or 5 distinct cruxes on this lead, each about the same level of difficulty. The headwall is just barely overhanging with superb rock. 4-star pitch.

Pitch 4: This is the final pitch of Sparky's Cooler. A single bolt protects a few 5.6 moves above the belay, after which 60 feet of 5.3 (no pro) gains a big ledge system (bolts and chains on the left). Allen may add a bolt or two to this pitch as it is useful as an approach to Moonlight Rock. Addendum: there are now 4 bolts on this pitch.

Note: The headwall crack lies beneath a water sluice (the last pitch) that drains the hillside above, so it can be wet at times. However, it was dry every time we visited it over the last month, and I suspect that because we removed dirt and some moss when we cleaned it, it will dry out more quickly in the future. Snow above the route in the winter may be a bad sign; guess we'll just have to wait and see.

This route is a logical approach to Moonlight Rock; simply walk left on the big ledge when you get to the top.


The Beak climbs the left buttress at Mary's Bust, beginning from the high point along the base, next to a big pine tree. It's the next route left from The Devil's Backbone (the approach to each differs only in the final 75 yards to the base), and it lies just right of Sparky's Cooler. See topo on main Mary's Bust page.

Descend by rappelling the route (80', 45', 85', 100'). Or, walk left on the ledge at the top toward Moonlight Rock, and scramble down the gully/hillside that borders the left massif to the west.


Bring a dozen QDs and a bit of gear for the crux pitch. We used #0.5 and #0.75 Camalots, plus a #7 hex. If you are comfortable at this grade, you could probably get by with no gear at all; the #0.5 could certainly be left behind. I don't think I'd want to do the crux lead without the #0.75, which protects the stretch above the 2nd bolt. Take care clipping the 2nd bolt; a fall with slack out would probably end badly.
allen simons  
Thanks to Bernard for taking in this project. The 3rd pitch crack is stellar. Very sustained clean climbing up the crack. I had top-roped this 10-12 years ago with no falls/hangs and thought it to be a fine pitch worth the effort. Alas, in my old age I was only able to follow Bernard on this pitch with multiple hangs. The rest of the route is also good with varied types of climbing skills needed. I will get up there and add some bolts to the final pitch (1 bolt in the entire pitch), (5.6), and maybe a few to Sparky's to make that route safer. As a side note, one could climb the first two pitches of the Beak, and, if they were unable to surmount the 4 star crack, they could traverse 40 feet down and left to the base of the 3rd pitch of Sparky's finish out that way. Great Job, Bernard!! Oct 9, 2009
allen simons  
Pitch four now sports 4 bolts. I added 3 yesterday. One can now take the water polished runnel straightforward at 5.8 or so. In addition to that, 4 bolts were added to the original Sparky's Cooler line and one to Sparky's Direct. Allen Nov 5, 2009
Got on this today. Did the first pitches of Sparky's by accident. Nice climbing and the direct start is thought provoking. 4th pitch of The Beak is stellar, though I think a bit harder than 11a if other MB 11a's are compared like Brown Palace -admittedly it is pumpy and continuous. Could be I am just getting too old for the steep so hung a fair bit. Stone is excellent and pro good. We did complete the actual first two pitches on the way down. Once more thanks to you guys who develop the canyon. A great addition for the locals. Nov 6, 2009
allen simons  
Bert, your probably the first one to climb Sparky's with the additional bolts I added on Wednesday. It was a little more serious undertaking before that (direct start now has 5 bolts to the first chains instead of 4). Not quite so run out now. Allen Nov 7, 2009
Ken Duncan
Ft Collins, CO
Ken Duncan   Ft Collins, CO
Seemed a bit harder than the other 5.11a routes at MB, but it was running water in the middle third of the crack. Still managed an onsight though. Apr 14, 2010

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