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Magic in the Middle

5.9, Trad, Alpine, 700 ft (212 m), 7 pitches, Grade III,  Avg: 3 from 29 votes
FA: Ken Duncan, Dede Humphrey, 2016
Colorado > Alpine Rock > RMNP - Rock > Otis Peak > Zowie
Access Issue: Seasonal Closures Details

Description

Magic in the Middle has a moderate approach, good alpine rock, minimal lichen, high quality climbing at a consistent grade, big belay ledges, a spectacular summit with great views and a straightforward descent. What more could you ask for? Several of the pitches look intimidating from below, but gear placements show up. This is arguably better than the Petit Grepon and one of the best moderate routes in RMNP.

P1. 5.6. Start on a pedestal at the low point of the south face. Head up a black streak to the right move left then continue up and right on easy but runnout slab climbing heading for the left side of the long overhang. Belay on a large ledge at the base of a steep face, 115 feet.

P2. 5.9. Climb the face and arete up to the level of the roof, then step right into the base of the hanging, left-facing dihedral. Climb the dihedral, step right onto the face then head up a right-facing dihedral and face to a large ledge below a steep face with imposing overhangs. Consider carrying prussiks on this pitch, as a fall from the dihedral may leave you hanging in space, 115 feet.

P3. 5.8+. Head up and slightly left then slightly right to a band of smooth white granite. Traverse up and right across the smooth face to a sloping belay below another obvious, left-facing, hanging dihedral, 115 feet.

P4. 5.9-. Climb the dihedral past a seemingly solid detached block, step right onto the arete, and head up to another big ledge, 50 feet.

P5. Continue on easy climbing up and left to the base of a steep red wall, 115 feet.

P6. 5.9. Head up the center of the steep wall aiming for a small, right-facing dihedral capped with a roof. Turn the roof (crux), then climb easily to a large ledge at the base of the offwidth that is the final pitch of the South Face route, 90 feet.

P7. 5.8+. Diagonal up and right, climbing the thin crack variation to the final pitch of the South Face route, 50 feet.

Location

Climb the center of the south face of Zowie starting at the low point of the face (left of the "flatiron") and between two chimney systems.

Protection

Cams from small TCUs to #3 with doubles from 0.5 to 2, a full set of nuts including a few RP size and alpine runners. Tricams were very helpful. A single 60m rope will get you up and down.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Magic in the Middle.
[Hide Photo] Magic in the Middle.
A route overlay of Zowie.
[Hide Photo] A route overlay of Zowie.
View from the summit.
[Hide Photo] View from the summit.
The final pitch. The 5.8+ offwidth of the South Face route is on the left. The climber is leading the 5.8+ thin crack option.
[Hide Photo] The final pitch. The 5.8+ offwidth of the South Face route is on the left. The climber is leading the 5.8+ thin crack option.
Michael on the P3 traverse. Avoid climbing too high on P3 before heading right or you'll end up on rather blank rock. Fun route with beautiful position!
[Hide Photo] Michael on the P3 traverse. Avoid climbing too high on P3 before heading right or you'll end up on rather blank rock. Fun route with beautiful position!
Brent enjoying the last couple moves to the top of Zowie.
[Hide Photo] Brent enjoying the last couple moves to the top of Zowie.
The 5.8+ thin crack variation for the final pitch. Be careful about the block in the photo - it vibrates.
[Hide Photo] The 5.8+ thin crack variation for the final pitch. Be careful about the block in the photo - it vibrates.
A hand crack in the 5.9 corner (second to last pitch).
[Hide Photo] A hand crack in the 5.9 corner (second to last pitch).
The 5.9 corner (second to last pitch).
[Hide Photo] The 5.9 corner (second to last pitch).
Zowie.
[Hide Photo] Zowie.
Dede over the P6 crux roof.
[Hide Photo] Dede over the P6 crux roof.
Dede on the P3 traverse.
[Hide Photo] Dede on the P3 traverse.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Mike dF
 
[Hide Comment] This was a stellar route, with the real gems being P2 and P6-7. I thought that the crux was on P4, pulling through the detached block and the roof immediately after. The climbing is about as difficult as the P2 and P6 cruxes, but the rock is somewhat suspect in this area; the detached block does, in fact, seem solid, but I sure wouldn't want to fall on gear that relies on it not moving. I also did not think that the hanging dihedral that begins this pitch was very obvious, as there are several steep corners in the vicinity that begin off a sloping ledge. Look for the detached block - about one foot tall and 2-3 wide - that is underneath a roof, a few feet left of a left-facing corner, and maybe 10-12 feet above the sloping ledge.

Finally, no pitch is sustained at the grade, and you'll rarely go ten meters without finding a suitable place to build an anchor. We managed to finish this in four pitches, going ~55m for pitches one and two, then to the top of the original description's P4, then to the summit with some simulclimbing (always with the follower on easy ground - mostly 3rd class with very short sections of easy 5th). If linking, mind your drag on P3 and P4. Aug 28, 2017
Amos Patrick
Estes Park
 
[Hide Comment] Wowza, this is a good route. It is a nebulous up there, though. Here is my recollection:

P1. Due to snow, we traversed in from the left on easy rock. You are shooting to set your belay below the hanging, left-facing dihedral of P2. The P2 dihedral is the obvious mini-dihehral just right of the massive, left-facing dihedral splitting the wall above you.

P2. This pitch was wild. Wander around on the face and arete with the crux dihedral looming above you, finding gear where you can (5.7 PG-13, runners useful). Eventually you arrive next to the dihedral. Make the move into it, and be rewarded with a good crack for gear. Feel like a hero and cruise up easy rock to a large, grassy ledge. This took most of a 60m rope.

P3. This is a hard one to navigate, and we did not do it right, but even looking back, there is not an obvious path. We ended up getting suckered too far left and had to do an uncomfortable hanging-ish belay. Ultimately you are shooting to set a belay under the P4 hanging dihedral, which can be seen from the belay. It is the clean, vertical, left-facing hanging dihedral that is capped after about 20 feet. Next time I'll study the beta photos a little more.

P4. Another fantastic pitch. Make some fun, well-protected moves into the dihedral. Climb it, and then step out right. Again, feel like a hero, and climb easy rock to a nice, grassy ledge.

P5. Easy climbing to the base of the red wall. We were confused by the description saying "aiming for a small, right-facing dihedral". I think it should say aim for the bottom of the giant, right-facing dihedral that splits the steep, red wall.

P6. Climb the big, right-facing dihedral. Great pro and good climbing with a tricky little bulge about 20' up. Stop at the airy notch.

P7. Climb on top of the small, leaning pillar quietly praying that you won't be the lucky SOB that causes it to slip off and send one of the greatest 5.8+ pitches in the Park, praying again that you won't be the lucky SOB that pulls the vibrating block out.

Then enjoy one of the greatest summits in the Park. Jun 15, 2020
Bryce Kerscher
Golden, CO
  5.9 PG13
[Hide Comment] Confusing P3 on this one, still don't really know what we did. We climbed lichenous face above the large, grassy ledge to the white band and then traversed right across this white band to another grassy ledge. Gear on this traverse seemed tedious and lacking, a fall would not be recommended for leader or follower. The last pitch doesn't really seem like a finger crack or thin crack. Try to achieve the face on P7 by using the coffin, detached block as little as possible, then pass a few loose, vibrating blocks while simultaneously jugging off of them. Better off not placing gear until your a ways up the pitch, but by then you're through the business. Still a fun pitch, but just heads up. Nevertheless, I thought this route was wonderful, and the P2 hanging dihedral, awesome, AND short approach. Get on it. Doubles 0.3-2, single 3. Jul 13, 2020
Jesse B
Colorado
[Hide Comment] Is P6 really 5.9? I've led a handful 5.9 pitches in Eldorado Canyon, and all felt much more challenging than this P6. Jul 31, 2020
Nathan Welton
Estes Park, CO
  5.8 R
[Hide Comment] I thought this route was totally mediocre but with a cool summit. Lots of loose rock and bad pro behind hollow or vibrating flakes and blocks. Happy to have done it and happy to never do it again. I definitely concur with a comment about the last pitch: death block, jug haul. Never hard but constantly choss. There are so many better routes in the park. Sep 23, 2020