Type: Trad, Alpine, 500 ft, 6 pitches, Grade IV
FA: Shaun Reed & Brad Wilson
Page Views: 3,814 total · 70/month
Shared By: Shaun Reed on Jul 18, 2014
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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This is the free version of the aid route Undertow. There are only a couple variations, one at the beginning, which avoids most (if not all) of Cannonball Corner by cutting right and mantelling up large ledges to a short handcrack. The other variation is called the Undertoad Variation, which avoids the A4 roof by following an undercling/handcrack to the right out of the roof (instead of going left for the A4), pulling the lip, then making an unlikely traverse back left under another larger roof.

The following is from my post for Undertow after sending the route:

After two seasons of cleaning, replacing bolts, and fighting wetness in the later part of the alpine season, I was finally able to free this gorgeous line with Brad Wilson last Saturday (6/23/12), with both leader and follower freeing every pitch. The whole route is probably no harder than 5.11+, but as it is very sustained and at high elevation, it sometimes feels harder.

The majority of the route follows the aid line, except for half a pitch that completely avoids the A4- roof traverse. The rock has cleaned up well with maybe only a few suspect rocks that may come off with a crowbar. The climbing is tenuous, sustained, fairly sharp, and gear is sometimes tricky to place (a green/yellow Alien offset cam is really nice at the top of pitch 1!). However, the entire route takes great gear with clean falls, has no runouts, and sinker finger locks are to be had throughout. As Ken points out, even though the upper pitch is often wet, the rest of the route stays dry.

The pitches break down like this:
Pitch 1: 5.11- (130 feet). Start the route as Ken says on a ledge below the large dihedral of Cannonball Corner. Climb up easy ledges up and right to a small hand crack that leads you to the start of the main Undertow dihedral system. Clip a good piton and climb the sustained dihedral through some cool flakes (a green/yellow offset Alien is very helpful here) and up to a stance on a small ledge. The anchor takes finger-sized gear.

Pitch 2: 5.11+ (40 feet). This pitch could be combined with pitch 3. Continue up the dihedral (crux), pull around a small bulge to a ledge with a bolt. A finger-sized piece or two can back up the bolt.

Pitch 3: 5.11- (50 feet). Continue up the dihedral, past a thin flake that I couldn't pull off despite several attempts, and up into the 35 foot roof traverse (pumpy!). Belay at the lip on a small ledge. The anchor takes hand-size and small cams.

Pitch 4: 5.9 (110 feet). Climb straight up the fun hands and fingers corner to a good ledge. The anchor takes finger-sized cams.

Pitch 5: 5.11 (50 feet). The Undertoad Variation. Continue up the corner to the roof. This is where the original A4- traverses left under the roof. Instead, stay in the crack, which cuts through the right-side of the 10 foot roof. The lip of the roof is very sharp, so the trick is to back-clean as much as possible before the roof, and from a good stance under the roof, place one or two medium-sized cams in the middle of the roof on VERY long slings (we used 3 shoulder-length slings clipped together, which worked great). Undercling the roof to the right (avoiding the A4-), pull the lip, clip a fixed yellow Alien (the wires broke, so I couldn't get it out, but it's a good piece), and finally face climb a couple moves to the left under a massive shelf to an amazingly exposed, hanging, bolted belay on the arête.

Originally, I set a natural belay at the fixed yellow Alien, although this required the next pitch to traverse around the very sharp arête. Not only was this very dangerous, but it didn't allow the pitch to reach the summit. The face moves getting to the arête and keeping the rope off the sharp lip of the roof is the reason it's key to have the long slings under the roof. It was considered to place one or two bolts on the face to keep the rope off the sharp lip instead of the long slings under the roof; however, using the long slings was completely safe as you can get good gear in at the lip.

Pitch 6: 5.10 (70 feet). This is sometimes wet. Traverse left from the arête under the shelf for a few moves and join back with the original aid line. When the shelf becomes a manageable bulge, clip a high bolt and face climb up to the aid line belay ledge. Continue up past two more bolts to a big ledge, which is where the collected water drips from when it is wet. Climb up and right past a piton and finish in the chimney or on the arête to the left. Traverse left on big ledges to gain the summit and belay bolts.

A big thanks to Will Butler for conceiving of freeing this route and his hard work the last two seasons trying to make it safe and climbable.


The route starts just right of the large dihedral that is the route Cannonball Corner and to the left of the obvious, rust-colored section of wall, The Rusty Dagger.


Rack: doubles to #1 BD Camalot, with extra finger-sized cams, one #2 BD Camalot (extra #2 and #3 could be useful)

From Ian Cavanaugh: 0.3-2 C4, 2x of 0.5-2 00-3 Master Cams, 2x of 1 & 2. green/yellow offset Alien (not needed) set of BD stoppers, set of Offset nuts (great for belays)
dameeser   denver
This is a really fun line. Thanks to everyone that put in the effort to make this a climb, free and aid. We decided to climb the route knowing that the last pitch was wet. You can get a good look at the whole route from the top if you walk down far enough The last belay is under the roof out from under the waterfall, but once you start climbing, it's a full on swim to the summit. It was a mix of free, aid and French free to get up that pitch. In retrospect, I would not climb it wet, holy fuck was it wet. Aug 16, 2015
Jesse Huey  
This is one of the best multipitch granite routes I have seen in Colorado. Reminded me of the steep corners of Squamish. Maury Birdwell and I got up there yesterday, 7/26/16, and were able to send this rig with no falls, but I had already climbed the first three pitches earlier in July with one fall on pitch 2.

My comments to add. The start is super confusing. There is a fixed (something) in a steep crack to the left (just left of the most right corner). I took that and then had to traverse right to the route. I then had to back clean the corner to do the first pitch without drag. That was our first trip in there, when the bottom was soaked. The way to do it is to go direct up 5.8 with no pro. That wasn't an option my first trip in, because it was super wet. I would propose a bolt there for that reason.

The last pitch was totally soaked, as in a waterfall, but we were still able to free climb it at probably 10b or so. I wouldn't not do it because it is wet up there.

Lastly, I think it is safe to add a letter grade to each pitch.

HUGE props to the FA team and the vision! Thanks for such a worthy addition to the wall. I am betting I climb this route 5 more times before I am done with it!

As for gear and beta: No. 3 was taken but not placed once. double set is fine to #1 Camalot. We placed a #2 Camalot maybe once, but it wasn't necessary. I would maybe bring an extra finger tips to fingers-size piece. Bring a couple double lengths or extra slings and less draws. Jul 26, 2016
ejesse Jesse
Colorado Springs
ejesse Jesse   Colorado Springs
The route is amazing and super clean.

PITCH 5 NEEDS A BOLT - the first ascensionist beta for the pitch is incredibly unsafe for a ground up attempt where you might fall.

Pitch 5 needs 1 bolt down and to the right at the end of the roof for the safety of the first and second. This would pull the rope off the arete and make any falls at the crux safe for leader and follower.

For the leader, I placed "3 shoulder length slings clipped together" under the roof - sounds ridiculous, because it is. You are then firing the pitch's 5.11 crux with gear extended to be 10 feet below you, while you are a solid 5 feet out from the wall and at least 5 feet to the right. You will be lucky if you only break both ankles as the fall would be incredibly awkward as you slam back into the corner. Placing gear when you turn the roof undoes the point of the slings and will pull the gear into the crack and make it irretrievable while sticking the rope, so don't count on that as a plan. Assuming all goes well, you clip the yellow Alien and extend it as well, the rope still goes over the roofs sharp edge but at a point where it's just slightly less sharp than a serrated knife.

For your second, bring prussiks, and don't fall. My second popped entering the crux right after cleaning the cams in the middle of the roof. She ended up dangling 5 feet out in space, and, to both our horror, when the rope bounced against the edge it cut the sheath. Imagine seeing that with the entire Black Wall below you. A bolt would have stopped the bounce against the arete besides protecting both the leader and follower at the crux. As this was done at every other corner passed on the route, it makes no sense why a bolt was not added here.

The climbing on this route is classic and great. Hopefully the 5th pitch is made safe. Aug 1, 2016
Shaun Reed
Santa Barbara
Shaun Reed   Santa Barbara
Regarding the addition of a bolt on P5, I have been talking to friends that have done the route, and it sounds like the general consensus is to add a bolt. We considered this when we were establishing the free variation, but I was hesitant to place a bolt next to a crack. However, this really is a special circumstance. If the belay was right above the sharp lip, I don't think it would be an issue, but since you have to traverse left immediately after the lip, cutting the rope is a real possibility. Before I go up there and add a bolt next summer, I wanted to see if anyone (who has climbed the route) has a problem with adding a bolt at the lip of P5 to keep the rope away from the lip's sharp edge. The bolt would only be on the free variation and wouldn't affect the original aid route. Mar 7, 2017
Boulder, CO
michalm   Boulder, CO
I know a lot of people who would be really happy if you added a bolt, Shaun (myself included). I am also not generally fond of bolts next to cracks, but this one would be to keep the rope off the lip. Jun 12, 2017
Shaun Reed
Santa Barbara
Shaun Reed   Santa Barbara
A bolt has been added to P5. I also removed a large rock from P4. P6 was almost completely dry as of 6/22/17, which means the whole route is about as dry as it will be for the season. Jun 23, 2017
Noah McKelvin
Colorado Springs
Noah McKelvin   Colorado Springs
Amazing! Thanks so much for the new bolt! It totally kept the rope off the lip the whole time. Now you don't have to worry about extending everything like crazy. This is one of the best routes I've done in CO. Get on it. End of June being the driest time. Almost completely dry today. Thanks for the hard work on the FFA! Jul 2, 2017
Nick Schlichtman
Golden, CO
Nick Schlichtman   Golden, CO
Gonna mirror other comments here...up there with some of the best routes I've done in CO. Beautiful splitter corners and ROOFS. Challenging and sustained the whole way. Grading on this one will keep you honest. Appreciate all the effort that got the route to where it's at. Jul 2, 2017