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Routes in The Gorge of Despair

Despairadoes T 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a PG13
From Afar T 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a PG13
Mt. Harrington, North Ridge T 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b
Prow of Cobra T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a PG13
Type: Trad, 900 ft, 8 pitches, Grade IV
FA: Kris Solem and Chelsea Griffie, July 1996. Kris and Guy Keesee did pitches 1-3 in 1994.
Page Views: 2,587 total, 31/month
Shared By: Kristian Solem on Feb 3, 2011
Admins: M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Description

Despairadoes follows a natural line, arching up the East Face of the Silver Turret.

The first pitch ascends the apron to a bolted belay. Start below and a bit right of the large crack/corner system which the route follows above. Climb up a shallow corner/seam and then move left crossing under the main crack/corner system above, then over and up to the belay bolts. 5.8.

Pitch two climbs up through several flaps on steepening slabs past 3 bolts to gain the corner after making a very thin traverse across the lip of an overhang. A burly stemming / lieback combination (fixed pin here) leads up the corner. Where the crack ends for a section move out left to the arete and climb up and then back to the corner. Finish up easier ground to belay under the next headwall. 5.11+.

Begin pitch three by stepping out left to a wild airy stance on a diving board ledge. Climb up to a bolt, under-cling back to the corner and bust one more hard move to gain easier ground above. Continue up to a bolted anchor. 5.11+.

Pitch four is easy. Climb up and across to an airy bolted belay which puts you in position for the crux pitch.

The fifth pitch climbs across wildly exposed moves past 2 bolts to gain the thin finger crack. Crank the thin crack to the top and hand traverse out left under the huge roof to it's end and climb up past another bolt to a bolted anchor. 5.12a.

From here the route follows the line of least resistance up and left for several pitches to gain the summit ridge of the Silver Turret. Pitch 6 gains the upper of several diagonal cracks and follows this line up and left to a belay in a corner (One bolt serves as backup to the limited available placements). Pitch 7 turns this corner and the next and continues traversing across to another one bolt belay. Pitch 8 goes straight to the top.

Continue up the North Ridge over the top and descend the 4th class South East Ridge Route.

There is a rappel route straight to the ground from the top of the third pitch, established due to Guyzo's knee injury. Due to the arching path of the route, descending by the line of ascent would be difficult. From the bolted anchor at the top of pitch 3, rappel straight down to a pair of bolts at a hanging stance, and then from there to the ground. Two 50m ropes. Getting off from any point higher will require going over the top or getting back to the top of the third pitch.

There is a section of relatively easy alpine style rock to climb after the crux of pitch three which is a bit loose. Other than that the rock on this climb is clean, solid and beautiful.

Location

Approach as described on The Gorge of Despair main page. The Silver Turret is the largest formation in the Gorge and dominates the western flank of the canyon.

"Despairadoes" climbs the natural line up the center of the east face of the Silver Turret, arching to the left as it goes up. The prominent crack/corner system which the route follows is defined on the right by a clean monolithic face of rock which overhangs slightly for hundreds of feet. The wall forming the left side of the corner is a series of steep slabs with overhangs, which create upside down steps where they intersect the corner.

Two of the first four pitches are 5.11+. The difficulties are varied, with very thin face moves leading to physically demanding steep bouldery sequences.

Pitch five, the crux of the climb, is a thin finger crack with spectacular exposure which requires some hard stemming. This crack ascends directly up the large "gorilla face" feature in the middle of the wall.

Once above this feature the difficulties are behind, and the climbers can enjoy the incredible views while cruising the remaining pitches to the summit.

Protection

Double rope technique is essential on this route.

1 set of stoppers. #1-#10 rocks or equivalent.
A few tiny wires - depending on how you choose to protect the crux.
1 set of cams, from small tcu's through 3 inches.
The usual runners and quickdraws. P2 has the most bolts, but no more than 5.

About the fixed gear:

A variety of different types of bolts were used during the ascent of this route. On the first three pitches 5/16 x 1 1/4 rawl buttonheads were placed by hand in 1996 (Other bolts identical to these which I have placed in other areas at about the same time are holding up well and so I would expect these to be good.) The bolts on the upper five pitches are 3/8" 5 piece from 1997. The single bolt belays high up on the route have gear placements as well. At the time I thought the gear was either tricky or limited in such a way that the back up bolt was a good idea.

The difficult lie-back/stemming combination on the second pitch when you first get across to the corner is protected by a fixed pin. This pin placed very soundly in 1994. Failure of this pin would probably not be catastrophic as there is a bolt not too far behind on the slab and reasonable gear placements are reached not too far above.

Use your own judgement when trusting this fixed gear. We placed it well, using quality hard-wear, but this stuff has been exposed to the elements since 1995/97. It could be advisable to have a bolt kit available for emergencies.

Climbing History

Kris Solem and Guy Keesee saw this face on their first trip to the Gorge of Despair in 1994. They had no idea from the available published information that there was such a large unclimbed wall, and they were under-equipped to make an attempt. Instead they crossed the gorge and did two routes on the Cobra, the Prow of Cobra, and a new route, From Afar.

The following year they returned and started the climb. A 5.8 pitch, and an .11+ pitch led to the third, also .11+. Here guy damaged his knee and an epic self-recue ensued.

In 1997 Kris, Chelsea Griffie, and Guy came back one more time. On their first attempt Kris and Chelsea climbed five pitches ending with the crux 5.12a pitch. This pitch had not gone clean so they rapped, rested a day and resolved to get it done. Chelsea declined to lead any of the pitches, saying to Kris “This one’s yours, if one of us is going to screw it up by falling off it’s gonna be you!” They climbed the route with no falls on either end of the rope. Guyzo remained below taking pictures and then scrambled up the class 4 south ridge to meet the team on top.

I don't know at this time if the route has seen a second ascent. I would certainly enjoy an email from anyone who has done it or does it in the future. Good luck, be safe, and enjoy!





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