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Roll the Bones

5.5, Sport, TR, 40 ft,  Avg: 2.4 from 32 votes
FA: J.Cullem, R.Opiela (Oct. 2011)
Massachusetts > Redrock & vicinity


This is a fun, moderate climb, independent of the routes on the main wall, providing a nice alternative when those routes get backed-up.

Climb the left-facing corner/flake using good foot ledges, then pull onto the upper slab/face. Follow the features on the blunt arête (right side of the face) using dishes and knobs, past a wide crack, moving slightly left at the top to good finishing holds and the anchors.

Please do not top rope off the ring anchors, which decreases their lifespan and safety. Instead, place your own draws, and have the last climber in your party thread the rings and rappel (not lower).


This route is located slightly left of (before) the main wall, at the smaller buttress marked by a pile of large blocks at its base.

Approach the base, then trend up and left to an obvious left-facing corner/flake behind a tree. You cannot see the route from the trail.


5 bolts to ring anchors.

Update: There are shiny new anchor bolts about 6 feet above the ring bolts.  Presumeably these are for easy access to top-roping.  

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Direct start up the slab to the first bolt.
[Hide Photo] Direct start up the slab to the first bolt.
JP cruising up the route on TR in his tennis shoes.
[Hide Photo] JP cruising up the route on TR in his tennis shoes.
Bounce testing a #10 nut placement near the top of the route.
[Hide Photo] Bounce testing a #10 nut placement near the top of the route.
Christopher Lane does his first lead climb.
[Hide Photo] Christopher Lane does his first lead climb.
At the anchors.
[Hide Photo] At the anchors.
Rob just past the lower flake of the route.
[Hide Photo] Rob just past the lower flake of the route.
Butt shot from the belay of Roll the Bones. This shows the route starting on the right side flake, then transitioning out onto the face.
[Hide Photo] Butt shot from the belay of Roll the Bones. This shows the route starting on the right side flake, then transitioning out onto the face.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

john strand
southern colo
[Hide Comment] I can hear the crowbars and chisels rattling all over Cape Ann already. Oct 23, 2011
[Hide Comment] Nice new route. Starts off with the help of the flake on the right side, then quickly transitions to the face. Like most of the NE rock, there's plenty of features all over for hands/feet. Route is clean and well bolted, with solid gear. Fun climb. Anchors are well placed for an easy rap down. Recommended if in the area. Oct 26, 2011
M Sprague
New England
[Hide Comment] From the pictures, it looks like you guys bolted up some trad line that was probably climbed eons ago. Am I wrong? If not, the traddies will throw a fit (and probably rightly so). Nov 2, 2011
[Hide Comment] Mark: thanks for your question. Yes, you are wrong. There is no record of any prior ascent of this new line. The majority of the route is on a blunt arête unprotectable with trad gear. The line was quite dirty with no signs of prior activity. Great care was taken to establish a new, quality line that adds to the existing routes (both trad and bolted) at this local crag. I suggest that climbers go get on the route and experience it directly before passing judgment on it from afar. Local climbers are already providing positive feedback on this line. Go out and enjoy it! Nov 3, 2011
M Sprague
New England
[Hide Comment] OK, if you say so. Pictures can be deceiving, especially for what is protectable. I'm certainly not anti-bolts and have had people screech a few times at some of mine. You have to admit, that it does give the appearance of that in the photos though. Given the grade, the obvious line and where the crag is, no matter how dirty it may look now, it seemed unlikely it hadn't been climbed, but I'll leave that to you and other locals to determine. Congratulations on climbing the line. Nov 3, 2011
Rich Brereton
Pownal, ME
[Hide Comment] Just climbed Roll the Bones yesterday. The picture IS deceiving; the route is not a bolted flake but a new independent line on the face. As a local, I'm psyched there is now another route to absorb some traffic from Redrock's crowded main face. I could see this being an ideal first lead for a beginner. Please keep the crowbars and chisels out of it - we don't need to wage bolt wars over this humble little crag. Nov 6, 2011
[Hide Comment] So there is no hiding behind screen names... my name is Matthew Natti. I am a lifetime Cape Ann resident (minus a few years adventuring around the world). This route is a bolted flake. Sorry, but it is. If the bottom 2-3 bolts were removed and done with cams... sure? It may just be a retro bolt of an "R" trad line in that case. As with most of Cape Ann's climbing history... first ascents are not written down, but I'd be willing to bet dime to dollar that if any of the old locals were asked (Herb Stillman, Doug Millen, etc.), it has been climbed already (and due to the great gear available it has probably been lead).
Also, for the record, I'm the guy who put in all the TR anchors at the Main Wall (this go around). I'm the one of the guys who bolted/ re-bolted all of OZ and scrubbed it clean (this go around). The "Down Under" section of Red Rocks has been scrubbed clean 3 times... but with no traffic, lichen grows back... just look at it! I love new life being breathed into the area, but bolts should only be placed where reasonable gear is not available.
You should remove the bottom bolts yourself, before some one else does. I will not.... BUT, bolts next to a perfectly good crack just won't last around here (from what I have seen in the past). Also... I'd say you should try to do a bit more research (talk to Herb) before you finish up that next line you are working on.
Feel free to message me. Cheers. Nov 6, 2011
Cape Ann
[Hide Comment] I'm not sure if I'm amused or annoyed that the only time there appears to be any kind of "climbing community" in Cape Ann is when people get riled over bolt removal.

Just imagine if a few of these bolt-chiseling ghosts got together and worked on a more fruitful pursuit, such as re-instating climber's access to places like the Mod-Gripping Quarry or Mount Ann?

Why is it that the "old-timer" Cape Ann climbers would rather spend their time complaining and chiseling out 2 or 3 unwanted bolts on their old 5.8+ R trad project than maybe sharing a little info on some of these routes to encourage a respect for the history of this area??...hmmm.

If anyone considering removing these bolts reads this thread, it would be great if they could post (anonymously or not) with ONE LEGITIMATE REASON for doing so.

I'd be interested to hear it.

And, Matt Natti, this post isn't supposed to be targeted at you, but I'd be curious what you think is a better contribution to the area?

1. A "mixed" sport/trad 5.8 that will NEVER get the usage it deserves (read: mossy next month).

2. A slightly over-bolted true sport line that will serve the 90% of Redrock climbers that show up without cams.

3. Remain as a dirty, unclimbable, potentially once-led 5.8 R trad line to stroke the ego of some old dude.

I know I'm stacking the deck in my favor with my wording, but I would assume by your efforts in cleaning/bolting Oz and your own admission of how quickly vegetation reclaims our granite that number 2 is the best option for the area. Do you disagree?

-Doug French Nov 7, 2011
[Hide Comment] Okay... so I went and climbed the route yesterday. I did the entire route on gear. GOOD gear. I placed 16 pieces in 30 feet. The upper portion of the route does wander out onto featured slab which is less simple to protect (it involves a single step right to place a cam in the flake), but on the whole it is a bolted trad line.
I want to make one thing perfectly clear (as I said to Jim Cullen yesterday, when I met him at the crag parking lot)... I encourage routes being cleaned off. I also support the addition of top anchors on most of the old routes. If a line gets cleaned... put it on the web (hell, name it if you want), but unless you are SURE that it hasn't been done before, don't call it a FA. IF (big if) bolts need to be flung around... they MAY be chopped. They also may not if there truly is NO gear or gear is so dodgy (all RPs?) that broken bones/ death are a serious concern. I am not an old guy (ok, not TOO old), but I agree that Cape Ann should not become the next Rumney. If every one who liked this line got off their duff and scrubbed off a line that looked tasty, not because they wanted to have the fame of a FA but because they wanted to give back to the climbing community they love so much... there would be a hell of a lot more climbable rock around. Nov 8, 2011
Chris McNeil
Anchorage, AK
[Hide Comment] I lead this today, it is a nice route, but is certainly tradable with G pro. I do believe if gear is placeable, then you should not bolt it. But with that being said, I think to get down on someone for showing some interest in an extremely underclimbed section is a little rough. We should organize with the guys who have bolting gear and agree on exactly where bolts are absolutely needed. I would like to see bolts where ever needed (absolutely needed), but at least top anchors on a lot of the underclimbed or overgrown areas (Down Under mainly). I like the route, it is fun, good warm up.

I had started cleaning of a route at Down Under, a nice vertical crack, a big ledge in the middle of the route, 5.7 G protection, but with super crusty single anchor at the top, Herb said he put in 20 odd years ago. But there are many other routes there that could use bolts (let alone cleaning). There is no need to have single (or half) pitch trad routes with R rating, that's seems like a good way for someone to get hurt and access to be potentially lost. Nov 9, 2011
[Hide Comment] Thanks to all who have thus far actually climbed this new route and provided their perspectives. This will be my last post on this climb, because it is about getting out there and climbing (a hobby) not about endless debate on routes, their virtue, and their style. This humble route was cleaned and established to provide more variety and options to climbers at this little, local crag, not to worry about an FA (after all, an FA-hound would not worry about an easy FA like this one).

Matty Natty and Herb, great speaking with you both about this route, the crag, climbing, and life in general!

The first part of this route follows a flake (that can indeed be trad protected) and then moves onto a slab (the early part of which can take trad pro in a horizontal crack) then trends up and left on a blunt arete following features where no trad pro is available. While it might be possible to get gear out right in the very dirty, mossy corner out right, that is not the line and not the intent of the climb. Hence, the addition of bolts up high to keep the climbing on the face. As I told Matt Natty and Herb (about the lower bolts by the flake), as the route developer, I made a decision to provide a new, all-bolted route so that folks who come up to this heavily-used area with only quickdraws can do a new route safely, without ground-fall. Yes, the route can be done with trad gear on the first half. Let's remember that Sonny Trotter climbed the East Face of the Monkey (Smith Rocks) without the bolts years after the first ascent, thus improving the style. But the bolts were still there from the original line, and others still use them if they prefer.

I spoke at length with Herb about this new route and new bolted lines in the area in general. He approved of them and prefers safe routes to R/X death routes or once-climbed routes that have fallen into obscurity and non-use due to being neglected, unclimbed, and overgrown with dirt, moss, and time. He noted that his first ascent of the popular route Zits (on the main wall) was done on trad gear (no bolts!) and that someone later retro-bolted the route to make it safer. Herb was o.k. with this. Hardliners might say that the bolts should be removed, because the route was done on trad gear and is capable of being done on trad gear. That argument may well lead to the conclusion that all bolts (excepting anchor bolts) at RedRock should be removed, because all the routes can (and apparently were) done on only trad gear.

In hindsight, we can all judge and blog on what we would have done differently or what should be done differently with someone else's route, in which we did not invest the vision, time, effort, or money in/on contributing to the climbing community, for all to enjoy. This is a slippery slope and not a particularly useful one to slide down.

Many climbers (myself included) at RedRocks and beyond believe we should keep the infamous Bolt Wars and ethical debates of the '80s that divided the climbing community behind us. This route stands as it is for climbers that visit and/or frequent RedRock to enjoy, safely. Climb on. Climb safe. Have Fun.

peace, out
Jim Nov 9, 2011
Cape Ann
[Hide Comment] Thanks for your hard work, Jim!

Not only did you clean and bolt a great looking route, but you've sparked more conversation in the Mass forum than there has been in months!

While I share your sentiments that I should be climbing instead of forum-posting, I gotta do SOMETHING while I'm sitting in class. Nov 10, 2011
JBaker Baker
Belmont, MA
[Hide Comment] First off, thanks to Jim for cleaning up a great route at my favorite greater Boston crag. I think think there are a lot of other potential climbs that just need cleaned up. Even the "Chimney" route was full of crap.

I climbed this route for the first time today, and it was not 5.8. Not just by my perspective, but by the rest of my party and other parties there that just climbed it. I would say 5.5-5.6 at best, especially when compared to other 5.6-5.8s at Redrocks. I am barely a 5.8-5.9 leader, and I had no issues what so ever with it. Regardless, a fun climb. Nov 20, 2011
Brendan Blanchard
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] I'd say it's still in the 7-7+ rating, maybe 5.6/-7 if you hug the right side of the route. Out left I found some moves to be interesting/harder than I would have thought.

Not a bad route, nice to have something bolted at RR that isn't 10-15' apart and sketchy. Mar 7, 2012
Chris McNeil
Anchorage, AK
[Hide Comment] I do like the line regardless of the ethical issues. Try the one next to it. Wings of Steal. May 5, 2012
[Hide Comment] It's was nice to have stumbled across this route and even better to actually find it. I've walked past it a few times. It caught my attention yesterday as the sun gleamed off the top bolt.
I've been doing TR for a while and have been itching to lead.
This route was a great first lead for me. Let me work on my mental game, think about the direction I'm placing draws, left and right hand clipping, setting up a top anchor while in direct. I could also clip in and then look around and imagine where I would put gear if I was TRAD climbing. All the things a leader does. This is a very well thought out line.
Thanks, Jim, for setting a route that allowed me to make this first big step.
I can see a couple of ways to send this route that will keep me playing on it for while.

-Christopher, Salem Jul 7, 2012
James Chase
[Hide Comment] Kind of an interesting start for a beginning sport leader in that if you were to miss the first clip you are going to have a soft deck but tumble some distance down the steep hill that it starts on. You could easily clip the first bolt by cheating with the tree and re-start it if you felt uncomfortable though. It is a decent route with an easy but fun face. Might as well do it if other routes are busy, I guess. We were on Wings of Steel and had no idea what this route was but went for it since it was next door. Apr 7, 2013
Kennebunkport, Maine
[Hide Comment] Shame to whoever placed the bolts and anchor on this route. All could have been done trad. I climbed Roll the Bones today and found myself trying to avoid stepping on the bolts in order to climb a beautiful route. It won't be long before they're gone and for good reason. Jun 4, 2013
[Hide Comment] No way this goes at 7+. 5.4 is generous. Fun climb, nonetheless. Sep 8, 2013
[Hide Comment] Hey guys! Went out to teach a friend to lead today, and it ended up on Roll The Bones! It's a great beginner climb, especially when trying to get a new leader to take a couple falls to see how it feels.

I'd also like to add in, I'm a mixed trad/sport climber, and I'm very happy the bolts haven't been cut on this route. It's a go to for me when I'm teaching someone how to lead. It's close by, and I've yet to find a bolted climb I'm willing to haul a newbie up as much as this one.

Conditions though: SNOW. THE SNOW HASN'T MELTED YET, AND IT MAKES A PAIN FOR AN APPROACH. Climbing season isn't quite upon us yet unfortunately. Apr 6, 2015

[Hide Comment] I updated the protection description above and in the interest of fairness purposefully decided to leave out my opinion of the new anchor bolts, but I am going to weigh in here: I am not anti-bolt by any means, but the addition of these new anchors six feet above the old ones (which are still there and perfectly useable) looks crazy. Terrible aesthetics and questionably ethics. I get that it’s probably an attempt to make it to toprope accessible, but anyone who wanted to toprope this line could rap in off tree from above or scramble in from then side, not ideal but not impossible. In my opionion, if bolting is going to occur in historic areas like this— and I think it should at times— it needs to be done in a really responsible and judicious manner.

For a climb to have two sets of anchors is lunatic.

Just my two cents as a local climber. Jun 10, 2018
Etha Williams
Somerville, MA
[Hide Comment] Actually, this makes a pretty decent first trad lead if you follow the flake. (Source: it was my first trad lead.) You can practice leading it on bolts, and when it's time to actually lead it on gear, the bolts are just a reach/step away if you get freaked out, but...don't get freaked out ;) Aug 8, 2018