Type: Trad, 400 ft, 4 pitches
FA: Steve Grossman, Paul Davidson, 1979
Page Views: 1,535 total · 17/month
Shared By: John Steiger on Aug 17, 2011
Admins: Luke Bertelsen, JJ Schlick, Greg Opland

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Potentially unavailable to climbing February through July if raptors are breeding here. Details


A number of us locals were competing for the FA of this line in the late 70s, a right-facing, right-leaning corner that just disappeared into an apparently blank face. Until Steve's lead in 1979, those of us who tried it didn't even make it to the end of the crack. Some of us called it the "Crack of No Return," which doesn't make sense now, but seemed to then -- something to do with what appeared to be oblivion waiting at crack's end. Steve didn't have an easy time of it, though, taking several falls on the crack and hanging from a slinged 'head to work out the crux face moves. Because Steve was in a different league than the rest of us, and maybe because he and Paul named it for the heart of the black land of Mordor, the route didn't see a second ascent for five years (having the benefit of knowing it went, clad in better footwear, and wanting to impress the Verm, who was belaying, I barely squeaked up it first go -- ah, faded glory).

The first pitch is the business; belay from slings at two bolts (hanging). The second is moderately run-out 5.10, protected by a lone bolt and some gear, to a ledge just after a short left-facing corner. The third and fourth pitches are 4th or very easy 5th class. I suspect that the first and second pitch can be combined, which would make for a lead worthy of Sauron.


When walking along the base of Rappel from the west, skirt past an obvious right-slanting 3rd class ramp until the wall gets steeper; Baradur is the longest crack system before reaching Helm's Deep.


Standard trad rack to a 3” cam (I think). Be sure to include runners capable of securely slinging chickenheads.


Andy Bennett
Tucson, AZ
  5.11d R
Andy Bennett   Tucson, AZ
  5.11d R
The first pitch of this thing is truly a gem. Funky, engaging corner climbing delivers you to a devious and tricky-to-protect crux that gives way to sheer 5.10 chicken head glory. The crux may be very difficult for those under ~5'10"...you may have to dyno? The second pitch is a head game with a pretty cool crux section.

The first pitch anchors have been updated to fat 1/2" SS bolts and hangers with links+rings. Thank you ASCA! The old 1/4" bolts broke under frighteningly little force. Thanks to Greg Kay for the long hours he spent up there helping out and hauling heavy crap, and to Geir Hundal for loaning equipment, this classic climb is now ready to rock. And deserves to be climbed, at least the 1st pitch--it's excellent climbing and completely safe--go do it!

The second pitch is verging very close to R territory. Ok, I'm gonna say R. Don't fall. The lone 1/4" bolt protecting the crux on this pitch has also been updated to 1/2"SS (it also broke quite easily while I was trying to pull it), but a fall could still be bad. There's 3"-5" pro to be had in a small left-facing corner above the bolt, but it is in questionable rock. Instead of building an anchor in this crappy corner, you might just want to run it out way up and left to Disappointment Corner. You'll find good anchor pro up there.

The final pitch is very run-out 5.8 climbing. By that I mean, after searching far and wide for a long time, I found just one laughably poor piece in ~70'. It's easy climbing, though. Either join Disappointment Corner, or cast off into the blank unknown in the hopes you'll find Helm's Deep's anchors or some other place to build an anchor...

Rack: singles 00-0 BD cams, doubles from 0.3 BD-#3 BD cams, + a #4 if you're going to the top; stoppers; RPs/offsets very helpful.
Jul 6, 2015
Good to see the new anchors. I'm surprised we were drilling 1/4"s with Leepers then. Thought we'd switched to 3/8"... Drilling the bolt on the lead on the second pitch took for freaking forever. Partly due to my awesome drilling technique but more likely to the high quartz content in the rock. The reason the 2nd pitch is run out is because I just didn't want to stop and drill again and it kept looking like it would get easier... That's how many "test pieces" ended up established BITD.

Some thoughts on the FA: as JS mentions others had tried this arching crack, including a few of the big name traveling climbers. Steve was hot to try it and got out to where it gets weird (crack thins out? you climb down and back up?)

He came down and I though I'd give it a go and managed to get out to the crack's end? It was one of (probably THE) first time Steve had retreated and I'd pushed the route higher. But at the end of the crack I could see no where to go and no way to rig a drill stance.

Yes, if you are under a certain height you almost certainly have to lunge and then to some tiny holds. I tried a number of climb arounds (out right, down and out left, etc...) and finally managed to pull it off with some radical lunges (and probably a few pounds of help on the rope, if I know Steve, he was ready for me to get the freak up the pitch.)

Steve's lead of this face was remarkable and in my mind represented 5.12 climbing. I suppose if you can face climb it then maybe it's not but damn... Beyond that, the gear (at least then, and I don't see how modern gear will help much) was practically non-existent for 11+ face climbing which means you're looking at a real whipper back down to the crack and you're not all that high off the ground.

SG protected the crux moves with a sling over a nub that he worked over and over to get it to stay. The "solution" was a sideways #3 hex up against the sling and another flaring nub. The hex provided just enough friction to hold the sling in place.

I think JS told me when he did the second, he didn't even bother trying to get the sling but just went for the flight.

For awhile I lobbied Steve to place at bolt at the crux because I would never go up there and fall all over it trying to work out the moves to the good hold. But I'm glad he ignored my whining. There are plenty of hard face climbs around with big fat bolts at your face. Not so many desperate face climbs with tricky gear and the required head and ability to pull off the moves. Just not part of the game anymore. Nice to have a few of these test pieces still around for folks to attempt.

I've been involved in a number of amazing climbing days with Steve and we've pulled off a few real classics but this day has to rank up there as possibly our hardest climbing day together. And while Steve did bag the truly amazing leads this day, I contributed to both climbs by solving previously unclimbed sections. After Baradur we were driving down the mountain and stopped at Chimney where we put up Ankles Away. Both climbs were pushing up against the realm of trad 12A relative to what we had previously climbed. It was a day that exemplifies how great partnerships can work together to sometimes become more than the sum of the parts. Although when you have Steve as a partner, you already have an uncountable sum.

I will have to add a disclaimer though to Andy's statement that the first pitch is completely safe. Now he's been on it much more recently than I and so has a fresh perspective but my recollection is that if you took the fall up there off the crux face, you're going to take about a 20 footer onto gear? That might be enough to stop a few hearts... ;-)

FYI - the companion route to this is The Bridge of Khazad-dûm, also on Rap. Just right of Helm's Deep I think. Probably closer to an X than an R with sketchier rock. May 19, 2016
1Eric Rhicard
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
Thanks Paul! May 22, 2016
Andy Bennett
Tucson, AZ
  5.11d R
Andy Bennett   Tucson, AZ
  5.11d R
Thanks for sharing your stories Paul...that sounds like quite a day! And a partnership.

In response to your comment about the crux protection, I'll just say that I found plenty of thin gear, but I didn't really want to test it. I spent quite a long time building nests...but I think everything together would've been adequate to keep me above the roof corner. Placing it on-point is another matter...

I tried wrapping that same chicken-nub too, but gave up pretty fast when my crux attempts easily pulled it off placement.

Again, RPs are very useful on Mt Lemmon... May 30, 2016