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West Ridge - part D - Xanadu to Pony Express
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Zip Code T 

Air Mail 

YDS: 5.10b French: 6a+ Ewbanks: 19 UIAA: VII- ZA: 19 British: E2 5b PG13

Type:  Trad, 1 pitch
Original:  YDS: 5.10b French: 6a+ Ewbanks: 19 UIAA: VII- ZA: 19 British: E2 5b PG13 [details]
FA: Gary Issac, 1977
Page Views: 1,722
Submitted By: Tony B on Nov 2, 2001

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (12)
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Peter, topping out on Air Mail. Photo by Tony Bub...

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  • Description 

    Both my partner and I thought that this was a great dihedral and had wonderful moves, but not much obvious pro. It can be a frightening lead. Take a 4" cam to reduce leg shake by placing in high and left at the top (crux)

    The route is 5.9+ in the old rossiter book but has been "downgraded" to 10a in the new Levin book, eliminating the proper suspicion that it should be getting. I interpret the 9+ as a height-dependent rating short person (5'4") might say "plus several" I was glad to be 5'10", but I'd still say +1. Peter (5'8") wished he were taller too, but he made it anyway.

    To find the route, go up the West Ridge to the famous and popular Pony Express area. In the middle of this area is a tree, 1/2 way up on a sizable ledge. The corner immediately left of this is Pony Express. Looking further left at ground level, about 20 feet left, is a flake, crack and corner system called Zip Code.

    One more system left of Zip Code is a sizable, right-facing dihedral that goes 1/2 way up the wall to a large ledge (70'). The crack in the dihedral offers some generally poor and sparse protection, but it could hold a fall and is definitely better than nothing.

    Climb the dihedral up to the large ledge, moving left to the face and arete when necessary. From the ledge, one can either climb up and right on more poorly protected face, merge and finish on Zip Code, or traverse left to a 5.8 crack system called Cold Turkey.

    You will probably be wigged out enough to take the latter two of these options with grace.


    The pro up high is bad. In fact it is small and bad. The dihedral crack is mostly closed, with some iffy stoppers and some micro-cams or ball nuts. Aliens would probably be best due to their narrow width to get the best placement. So I've said some "S" routes are really "S-", but this route is "S+" The moves, while not terribly difficult, are somewhat insecure which adds to the stimulation of having little gear.

    Photos of Air Mail Slideshow Add Photo
    Rock Climbing Photo: Peter Spindloe on Air Mail, photo by Tony Bubb.
    Peter Spindloe on Air Mail, photo by Tony Bubb.

    Comments on Air Mail Add Comment
    Show which comments
    By Anonymous Coward
    Dec 18, 2002

    Ever wonder why everyone does the first pitch of Pony Express and Positively Fourth Street but they walk right past this one? Horrifying and committing, this is the real deal. 5.9 for 5.11 climbers.
    By Fred Vanden Bergh
    Mar 3, 2005

    Did this yesterday, and mostly agree with the description. I wouldn't say its [horrifying], but I would say you should be very comfortable at the grade before leading this. I found the gear adequate for the first half, less so for the upper section. If you're comfortable on this kind of climb, the moves are a lot of fun and its a good climb to get your head in shape.

    More relevant: there is a webbing (tat?) belay anchor looped over a flake on the ledge at the top of the dihedral that you can belay/rap from if you don't want to go up higher. You might bring a loop to replace older webbing if you plan on using this anchor.
    By Anonymous Coward
    Mar 3, 2005

    This is a classic for the grade, but indeed is not a pedestrian 5.9. I would suggest doing it to the Pony Express anchors as a single pitch lead; the flake mid-way is a little iffy as a rap anchor IMHO.
    By slevin
    Dec 17, 2006

    The webbing on the flake has been removed. It's easy to climb right and finish on Zip Code, then rap Pony Express.
    By Brad Durbin
    Feb 13, 2008

    Wow! Hardest 5.9 in the canyon. Fun climb with inobvious moves. Be prepared to pimp. Heck of a warm-up.
    By Roy Leggett
    Nov 20, 2009

    Quite the warm-up. Caught me a bit off guard for sure.
    I did get a real good #3 BD (#4 might work well/better too) in the hueco on the left wall at the crux.
    By Brady Robinson
    Nov 21, 2009
    rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13

    Just as Roy mentioned, there is a hueco in the left wall at the upper crux that is difficult to see from the ground. I tagged up a #4 C4 (IE new style) Camalot and it was bomber. Definitely takes the edge off the top runout and makes the route reasonable for someone solid at the grade, probably PG13 if you are persistent. Thanks to Tony Bubb for getting me psyched up to lead this today!
    By Lisa Montgomery
    From: Golden, CO
    Jan 30, 2011

    A black Alien (or similarly sized cam) is nice to protect the first crux.
    By Steve Annecone
    From: boulder
    Jan 30, 2011
    rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b PG13

    My favorite 5.10 pitch on the West Ridge! Exciting position and sustained climbing keep your attention the whole way. An RP can be used to back up that gray cam before the final crux up the arete. Classic Eldo climbing!
    By Dave Holliday
    Apr 15, 2017

    The entertainment factor on this route is quite high. There is just enough gear and holds to convince yourself to keep going up. As others mentioned, a #4 Camalot is highly useful.

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