Avg: 4 from 1 vote
|Type:||Trad, 2000 ft (606 m), 16 pitches, Grade V|
|FA:||FA Ron Olevsky and Earl Redfern, FFA Mike Anderson and Rob Pizem|
|Page Views:||95 total · 24/month|
|Shared By:||Ryan7crew on Jun 8, 2023|
|Admins:||Andrew Gram, Nathan Fisher, Perin Blanchard, GRK, D C|
Check for current Raptor closure conditions at:
What a route. The free variation to Thunderbird on the north face of Timbertop Mesa. Some of the best big wall adventure climbing you’ll do. Varies from the aid line in several spots, but always returns. Now that it’s clean again, some really good climbing. Damn it makes for a good day(s) of climbing.
Note; Pitch count is for the free variation, not from the topo. The aid route adds another pitch, which screws everything up.
The intro pitch. Can be pretty dirty, by cleans up. Offwidth up the left side of the pedestal and do an exciting dyno into the fingerlock in the dihedral. Plug some gear, grab the plant and continue up. A really good pitch, just moderate adventure. 40m 5.11R, uncomfortable belay. (dyno is recoverable if you miss it, death is not imminent)
A technical masterpiece. Stem, lieback, and technique up the dihedral till the crack to the right gets the closest. Finish with one of the coolest crack switch moves ever to the right, and continue up the easy crack and offwidth to a belay. 5.12c 30m, bitchin belay
***Note: Pitch 1 and half of Pitch 2 are shared with a Matt Ward aid line. Unbeknownst to them, they put their line right on top of the free variation to Thunderbird. I know mistakes happen, but if you are reading this and plan on repeating Matt’s line, please don’t nail pitch 1 and 2. The free variation came first. ***
Crack switch pitch. Go up the left crack to the wide spot, and power transition to the next crack to the right. Eventually go back to the left crack. 5.11 30m
Splitter crack to offwidth. Funky pulling out of the offwidth. Block looks sketchy but is apparently solid. 5.11, 30M, worst belay of the route, and possibly your life.
Crux Time! Follow the 4 bolts around the arete and up the slab. Insecure, improbable slab climbing. If you climb a lot in LCC this will feel good, if you’re a Creek Freak you won’t have a clue. Finish the crux and look back slightly amazed. Continue up the sometimes awkward crack/groove with the inchworm technique, which at this point you have mastered. 5.13a, 30m
One of the most fun pitches of the route. Another crack switch pitch. Find the easiest way to get to the anchor at the end. 5.11, 20m. Haul bags always get stuck on this pitch.
This pitch is way harder than it should be. Go up, go right, go up, go right, arch back left. Hopefully the stump isn’t gone by the time you climb this route, but it will go without it. 5.11+ 30m
Long Pitch. Climb a finger crack with 3 pins to an awesome hand crack. The first pin sticks out a lot but you aren’t going to fall on this pin. Trust me, bring the big cams up this finger crack, and save some finger size piece for the finish. 5.12 50m. Terrible stance
Longer Pitch. Bring literally every cam you brought. While not the hardest moves, your ass will get handed to you by this pitch. Start on the left side of the belay, then cross right to the 2 drilled pins on insecure slab climbing. Balancy slab climbing up to a huge bucket jug! Then climb a crack that starts as a finger crack and finishes as a strenuous offwidth. Easy climbing but hard to protect the start of the crack, there is also a hidden pin. 57m 5.12 Haul bags get stuck on this pitch. You have to do some hard moved over the pins, but I feel it’s not R rated.
The fun chimney. Ya its unprotectable at spots. 5.10 58m Great ledge
Awkward slab climbing up a little and to the right. Don’t clip the obvious pin, that’s too high. Continue up the crack and eventually around the bush to an unnecessarily hanging belay. This one is pretty dirty, just barely clean enough to climb. 5.12- 40m Haul bags like to be disobedient
Climb a crack/slab combo. Shorty but a little run out. One drilled pin and one fixed pin. 5.12- 30m. Great ledge. Would not recommend hauling any higher than the top of this pitch.
The ramp. The adventure rating goes up from the start of this pitch to the top of the route. Things get dirtier, looser, and bushier. But you need to stand on top of Timber Top by this point, not many people have. Climb a 5.11 pitch up and left, aiming for a right facing corner/flake thing with a left facing corner to the right of it. Watch out for some loose blocks in sand in the middle of the pitch, you’ll be tempted to pull on them. Build a gear belay before you get to the left facing corner, with a 3 and 4. Don’t build the belay under the next pitch.
The jungle pitch. Climb/garden you way up the left facing corner. At times you will be standing in vertical sand and pulling on trees. You’ll even get to climb a tree. Eventually go left to a belay in an alcove. 30m 5.11 This pitch isn’t about the quality, its about the adventure.
Climb up and left of the belay, cross over the belay to the right, and continue up to a large dead tree with a bolt next to it.
The “is this hard or am I tired” pitch. Climb a kind of dihedral with crack and face holds to the top. Some loose blocks right at the top. 5.11+ ( 40m when combined with 15a, not recommended for climbing, only rappelling)
Rap the route with 2 60s. With 2 60s you can link pitch 4-5 and 6-7. With 2 65s you can also link 1-2. Rap from the aid anchor at the top of pitch 13 (14 on topo) and then rap to the right to get back on route. Bring some tat, the lower 5 or so pitches had webbing from before I started working the route.
There are no good or even moderately good bivies on route unfortunately. I have spent the night at the top of 10, it was pretty terrible, and it was even a planned bivy. I’ve also done an unplanned bivy at the summit, and it was even worse (we also had no water). Mike and Rob sent the night sitting at the rappel anchor that’s just about even with the end of pitch 13, it looks terrible. Bolts for bivying on a ledge down and left of the end of pitch 5, but it looks uncomfortable at best. Bivying at the base is bitchin.
Late spring is ideal. Since the ledges suck for bivies, you’ll need the long days. Early May to mid June is ideal. Ideally you want high temps in New Harmony to be between 65-85 degrees. Early May the wall is all shade, and as the spring progresses the sun starts to pass directly over the route. By Memorial Day we had morning and evening sun. In early May be prepared for a snow crossing to get to the start. Fall works too, the days are just shorter. Follow the 65-85 rule.
Vegetation and Cleaning:
We did a lot of cleaning, since the route hadn’t been climbed to the top since ’06. We also trimmed a lot of bushes. Pitch 11 is “clean enough” and pitch 13-15 will never be clean. There are several key plants, that without them I doubt the route would go free. Specifically on pitch one. Pull on it with care, and make sure your haul bag doesn’t rip it off the wall. Remember, plants are your friend and make great holds. This is adventure climbing after all.
Tried by many, including Jeff Lowe, the route eventually went to Ron Olevsky and Earl Redfern in October of ’86. I know Jeff was trying to do it with just nuts and got shut down half way up. That is insane to think about. Ron and Earl did it but ran out of pins and had to backclean a bunch of holes. These guys were backcleaning drilled pin anchors and a route they knew they might have to rappel. I read they even found Jeff’s highpoint anchor. Eventually they topped out and rapped the “Mormon Route” which I am assuming is down the ledges to the left. 2nd ascent happened in July of ’89, and they brought enough pins to fill in all the holes. I’m pretty sure Rob and Mike did the 3rd aid ascent in 2006, while prepping the route for a free ascent. FFA was on June 1, 2006. I believe we did the first in a day ascent on May 28, 2023, which was also the second free ascent. There is a cool video somewhere online of Rob and Mike’s ascent, and a great read in the American Alpine Journal from Mike that is full of useless on route beta.