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Routes in Wells Peak / Rabbit Ears

Adam's Rib T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a R
December's Children T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Direct North Ridge T 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Forbidden Fruit T 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
God's Grace T 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Smokestack T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Type: Trad, Alpine, 1000 ft, 8 pitches
FA: Galen Rowell, Doug Robinson, Chuck Kroger 1972 GU
Page Views: 166 total · 12/month
Shared By: Richard Shore on Dec 5, 2016
Admins: Aron Quiter, Euan Cameron, AWinters, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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A bold and high quality face climb that wanders up the right Rabbit Ear; this proud line will leave most sticky-rubber-wearin' modern climbers cryin' for momma. Most pitches are real deal R-rated, and are borderline X. 5.9 friction and mantle moves will be found a looong way out from the last pro. Bolts are original 1972 quarter inchers, so it's probably best to approach this route with a 5.10 freesolo mentality if you want to appreciate the quality of the climbing rather than be overwhelmed by the pucker factor. The topo presented in the Croft/Lewis guide is a bit off, but gives the general gist of the line. Just follow your nose and trust your feet...

P1) Up the vertical 2' wide black dike. Gear anchor. 5.7R
P2) Continue up the dike to a gear belay beneath an alcove/overhang. 5.8R
P3) Cast out rightwards onto the face past three bolts, aiming for the prominent bush belay above. 5.9R
P4) Left towards the gully, then pick your path up onto the face right to find 2 bolts. Gear anchor atop a bush. 5.9R
P5) Rightwards on the face and up intermittent cracks. Topo shows a bolted anchor on a horizontal dike, but we never found it. Keep going and eventually you'll reach a right-leaning ramp. We simulclimbed ~20' to reach the newer bolted anchor (P5 of Strassman route) at the end of this ramp. 5.9R. An escape out right into the gully is possible from here, as was done by the FA team.
P6) Thinning flake out right leads to a thin diagonal crack. Gear/bush anchor. 5.10a
P7) Bushy wide crack/chimney. 5.8
P8) More of the same. 5.7


Approach as for the Smokestack. Allow 1.5 hours. Route starts up the black dike 5 feet right of the Smokestack. From the summit, scramble into the gully to climbers left (left of Smokestack) with a few optional rappels.


A single rack of cams and stoppers to 4" seemed sufficient.


From the AAJ:

Adam’s Rib. Early in 1971 Doug Robinson and I climbed a 1000-foot tower on Wheeler Crest named “The Smokestack.” It proved to be the most continuously difficult free climb of its length that either of us has encountered. Adam’s Rib is an equal-sized tower between the Smokestack and Well’s Peak. It looked just as hard with even fewer cracks. In the spring of this year Doug and Jay Jensen climbed the first three pitches, surprisingly without direct aid. But a steep and blank fifteen-foot head-wall stopped them. They did not want to use bolts for aid. In September, Doug and Chuck Kroger joined me on another attempt. We followed the ethic of the first try: no pitons were carried, just nuts and bolts. Wherever protection was inadequate with nuts we would use a bolt. In this way subsequent ascents could be made with just a selection of nuts. No pitons or hammers would be needed. It must be admitted that the climb was chosen carefully for the first use of this ethic. Piton cracks were scarce anyway, and the average angle, although ominous from head-on, was probably not more than 65°. We quickly reached Doug’s old high point, where he spent half an hour threading a crack with four nuts before attempting the blank area above. He quivered. We quivered. The rope slowly paid out and we passed the first major obstacle. I led the next section and wandered back and forth across the face, trying to follow weaknesses which usually proved to be in myself, not in the rock. I placed two bolts, bringing the total on the climb to seven. Chuck led the next pitch without a bolt, and as darkness began to fall, Doug was heading for the summit. He couldn’t make it go. Unlike the Smokestack, which placed us on the prow of a tower with no avenue of escape for a 1000 feet, Adam’s Rib has several places where a traverse would be possible to easier climbing in gullies on either side of the buttress. We chose to traverse right 50 feet into a gully, which we followed to the top of the spire. Darkness was upon us and it took us until after midnight to descend a 4000-foot boulder-strewn couloir and reach the valley floor. The climb was not quite as difficult and varied as the Smokestack. It had seven pitches instead of nine, although a more direct finish might very well have nine. At one point, each one of us in succession had a lead of F9 face climbing, and we can highly recommend the route, especially as it can be climbed without hammers, pitons or bolts now that the route is established. The seven bolts on the route are never next to cracks, although a daring leader might have been able to avoid one or two by placing pitons in a higher or lower crack system. NCCS IV, F9.

Galen Rowell Dec 5, 2016