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Black is Brown 

YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a

Type:  Trad, 1 pitch, 145'
Original:  YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a [details]
FA: Kim Schmitz, Frank Trummel, 1966.
Page Views: 2,646
Submitted By: Blitzo on Oct 17, 2006

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (83)
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5.8 goes right at this point. .10ish wacky pin sca...

Closures for Peregrine Falcon Protection MORE INFO >>>


A 5.7 lieback leads to 5.8 hands (5.9 actually seems more on). After a scary step right, continue up to a ledge.


Pro to 2".


This climb is at the left end of the Church Bowl.

Rappel around 130 to 145' or down-climb 4th class to the left.

Photos of Black is Brown Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Chopper on Black is Brown.
BETA PHOTO: Chopper on Black is Brown.

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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 2, 2017
By M. Morley
From: Sacramento, CA
Jun 15, 2007

"Black is Brown" is ~145' to the rap tree and requires 2 ropes to rap (or about 30' of grungy down-climbing if rapping the plumb line). The "80' to ground" indicated on page 118 in the Supertopo guidebook is incorrect.
By Joe Dawson
Oct 23, 2007

~145 foot rap is correct. Bring two ropes.
By Steve R.
From: Oakland, CA
Mar 30, 2009
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Cool climb! Thought the finger crack section felt more like a 5.9 than the 5.8 SuperTopo rates it, even for the Valley. Glad to see others here agree.

I'll third the two-rope rap comment. The 4th class descent off left is quick and easy.
By jackkelly00
From: new hampshire
Apr 18, 2009

this climb is a total sandbag. I would considerate a hard 5.9 compared to other valley 5.9's
By S. Stember
From: St. Paul, MN
May 22, 2009
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

Whoa, thanks guys. The other posts on this page have successfully salvaged my dignity as a climber. 5.8 MA!! The 5.10a (revelations I think?) to the right about 20ft. felt easier than is piece of work. And yeah, definitely bring two ropes or scramble off to the left. This may be the biggest yosemite sandbag I've ever experienced!
By Jamie Givens
From: Brooklyn
Sep 3, 2009

totally agree, this climb was really sandbagged...If its 5.8 its the most Ive ever worked for an 8! Great climb though.
By jimschilber
Apr 29, 2010

SANDBAG! dirty in 09
By Floyd Hayes
Aug 2, 2010
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

The ST topo is confusing. I used a large cam (Camalot #4) to protect the crux move on the "steep 5.8 hands," which seemed much harder than 5.8. My son and I both thought it was at least 5.10a, compared with other 5.10s we recently climbed in the valley. A third companion was unable to do it but instead climbed the lower angle crack a few feet to the right, which she said was much easier--and presumably the 5.8 version (I don't know how well it protects). Higher up at the "big step right" there appeared to be several options; what seemed easiest to me was a mixture of 5.8 face and crack climbing out to the far right and returning left to the main crack near the top. Use long slings to avoid rope drag (or the optional belay below the "big step right") and beware of some loose flakes that likely would not hold a fall. You'll need 2 ropes to rappel unless you travers class 4 to the left.
By Ken Noyce
From: Layton, UT
Sep 7, 2010

I did this one two different ways, one way is 5.8, the other was more like 5.10. For the 5.8 version, after the big step right, continue up and right following some seams and 5.8 friction until you meet up with the crack again for the last 15 feet or so. This way is somewhat runout, but I was able to get a small nut in just before the 5.8 friction. For the 5.10 version, after the big step right, immediately step back left into the crack and follow it to the top. As has been said, bring a second rope for the rap.
From: Portlandia, OR
Oct 11, 2010
rating: 5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b

Most sandbagged .8 in the Valley.
By Mark P Thomas
From: Draper
Feb 7, 2011
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

I agree with kennoyce's comment. Going further right the terrain stays more mild, but pro is sparse and many of the moves are on slab or seams with lots of loose grit to make things slippery.

The route might actually be a lot nicer staying in the crack and doing the .10a variation.

Also note that the area above the route is extremely loose - worse than the Five Open Books Area. We knocked a rock off at the rappel and it landed near the base of Uncle Fanny & Church Bowl Lieback.
By Rodger Raubach
Mar 13, 2011
rating: 5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c

I believe this is best done in 2 short leads to keep from knocking rocks down on the belayer. First 50 feet is the meat of this route and I rate it 5.9 minus. The next 90 or so feet are easier but still at the 5.8 level. Protects well. The ledge at the top is covered with loose debris, so be careful.
By Rodger Raubach
Mar 14, 2011
rating: 5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c

Point of Information: I checked my old green Roper guidebook, and it was listed as a 5.9 there.
By Eric T.
From: St. Augustine, Florida
Apr 30, 2011
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Just did this route last week. It was still pretty wet and mossy and definitely felt more like a 9 than an 8 to me!
By Ryan Justen
From: St. Paul, MN
May 18, 2011

much closer to 5.9 than 5.8. I found out you need to 2 ropes the hard way... when my belayer told me he was out of rope while I was still a ways off the ground...

There appeared to be 2 options about half way up: direct steep fingers/hands or a right slabby sidepull (easier) option. Both end in the same place before the top. Which is the correct way?
By Laine Christman
From: Reno, NV
Oct 11, 2011
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

I absolutely agree with the above comments. If you are looking for a 5.8 warm-up, look elsewhere. It should be called 8 is 9.
By Alexey
From: San Jose
Oct 11, 2011

Did not expect to find this route so good! Harder than it rated.
With 80 m you can rap to the ground. Be careful and make party below you aware that you are rapping- a lot of loose rocks on top of the climb
By Aerili
From: Los Alamos, NM
May 8, 2012

One of the more sandbagged and terrifying routes I have done. They say you don't need a #3, but I sure wished I had one at the mid-point of the climb.

I wouldn't really recommend this route. But for the record, we rapped off with a single 70 m all the way to the ground.
By Mareko
From: San Francisco
Jun 4, 2012
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

Its a 9+ and trail a second rope to rap
By Morgan Nutting
From: Bishop, CA
Jun 15, 2012
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

I'm so glad to see everyone calling this sandbagged. Did this a few years ago expecting it to be a cool down, found it quite hard and dirty. No way this is 5.8 even by Yosemite standards.
By TacoDelRio
From: All up in yo bidniss.
Feb 5, 2013

Has anyone gone straight up above the fixed pin where the 5.8 goes right? The rock is kinda bad and thin so it's difficult to protect. Did this route on aid last weekend just to have a look at that section.

Also took a few of the smaller loose rocks and brought them down safely. Still got those couple choppers up there! :-)
By Cimbing Ivy
From: bay area, CA
Feb 27, 2013

it's an awkward, off-balancy, sandy slabby broken seam-to-crack "face climb" that i nonetheless enjoyed very much. "8 is 9" would be a great nickname for it indeed :)

for the record, we rapped with a single 70m to climber right and it reaches all the way to the ground with 1.5 feet to spare.
By Sirius
From: Oakland, CA
Apr 23, 2013

Climbed this a couple of weeks ago. Had no guidebook and didn't know what it was, so just went straight up following the crack.

Thought it was 5.9+, fun, dirty and a bit flakey above the pin anchor. Never stepped right, must have been tunnel visioning on the crack. Crux was moving through a brief, steep section where the crack vanishes and you have to stem for glory.

Super, super loose up top on the ending ledge.
By Yosemitesam
May 26, 2013

I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this route. I was worried from reading all the comments. Felt like a hard Valley 5.8 to me, but not sandbagged. Going straight up the thin crack after the step across is not the 5.8 way. We just did both variations and straight up is 10something for sure. I think the posted photos here are from a different route. There was no crumbly rock and I'm not sure what "Chopper" means but I'd be interested to know where on the route that photo was taken because I dont remember seeing anything like that.
By Jeff Mekolites
From: ATL GA
Jun 15, 2013

Not much about this route matches the description here or in the ST book except the part about the little 5.7 move and 5.8 hand crack. After a short easy crack, I continued up a steep harder crack eventually ending at a tree with cord. Rap was more like 125 feet. Had to rap hard right and down climb.
By Morgan Nutting
From: Bishop, CA
Sep 6, 2013
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

Well judging by the comments, I guess I went the 5.10 way up the thin seam. It did seem like the most obvious way to go though, never even thought about stepping right onto the face.
By csproul
From: Davis, CA
Feb 24, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

I'm not sure where people are getting that this is sandbagged unless they went off-route. After you make the awkward step-over (just past a pin), it's 5.8 face climbing to a crack all the way up. I did get confused for a minute and think that this route stepped back left into the crack above the step-over and the Reid topo makes it look like you might. I tried these moves and they were harder, at least 5.9, but I quickly realized that this was wrong. The Super topo draws it a bit more accurately but still omits the continuation of the crack above the pin that is off-route. After the step-over, continue up and right on the slab/seam. It turns up and gradually up flakes and seams until it becomes a crack and exits right. This is no harder than 5.8 if you go the correct way. Take two ropes to completely reach the ground without down climbing.
By trying hard
From: Sierra East Side
May 22, 2014

Rapped to the ground with a 70' from the established tree anchor. I led up through the finger seam to the left instead of the slab and it felt 5/9- 10a. Thought it was totally awesome and worth doing again.
By Andrey Poletayev
Nov 1, 2015

I think this route's top "10a" finger crack portion can clean up nicely over time, and it will be quite enjoyable. Already is a fun move getting back into it after the side step, and getting out of it towards the top. I will come back for sure.
Dec 8, 2015

Added a ylw single length runner around a limb (wouldn't fit on trunk) and a quick link to the rap anchor on 12/6/15
By Nicole Golden
Jun 2, 2017

You can do this with 1 60m rope. After the step right, naturally you want to head back left to get gear in the crack. I believe this crack is either sustained 5.9 or maybe you would call it 5.10a because of the few moves. If you trust your gear and move quickly it will be no problem. However, I was definitely expecting 5.8! Anyways when rappeling, it is not 80ft as supertaco says...but you end up in a place where you can easily downclimb or throw the rope over a tree and rap the last 20-30ft.

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