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Brown Cow 

YDS: 5.11 French: 6c+ Ewbanks: 23 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 23 British: E4 5c

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 10 pitches, 1000', Grade IV
Original:  YDS: 5.11 French: 6c+ Ewbanks: 23 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 23 British: E4 5c [details]
FA: Toby G, and Nate Ballinger 2003 Minor variations added by other party in 2012
Page Views: 4,061
Submitted By: nbrown on Aug 31, 2012

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (8)
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Jim enjoying the mountains on the grassy belay led...


This is in my opinion easily one of the best long routes in the area. There is a good mix of climbing involved, from the fantastic splitter hand cracks down low, to some fun face moves in the middle, and the phenomenal diagonal corner up high.

When we went up this thing in 2012, we thought that it was a new line and ended up placing two 2-bolt anchors on the line as we climbed it (see comments below). Toby and I spoke recently and I seems that my partners and I added a minor variation to the already existing line (listed below).

P-1 The first part of the pitch serves as the start for two other climbs that are both undocumented. One of them is old and the other is relatively new. Climb the low angle corner/ramp up moderate and somewhat chossy 5th class up to a point at which the rock greatly improves. Continue up an excellent splitter hand crack (right of the also splitter dihedral crack) to a ledge up and right at about the 190' mark. 5.8

P-2 Two variations here:

A. The original finger crack by Toby and Nate is to the left and climbs to the ledge/alcove and beyond. They belayed somewhere up higher in the chimney. I cannot verify the quality or difficulty but he reports it as 5.11b.

B. The way we did it was very cool. It climbs the obvious splitter hand crack, just to the right, through a couple of bulges and a thin finger crack section just below the ledge/alcove. 5.10+/5.11a

P-3 Climb the short but excellent chimney with a perfect hand/finger sized crack for pro. From stance at the top, move up and right to a small stance and belay. 5.10-

P-4 Climb up around the right side of the flake via easy wide crack to ledge below a left angling undercling flake. Move out this to a lieback and then back up and right to a 2 bolt anchor on the ledge. 5.9+ Note: This is apparently where the original ascent continued past the current anchor to belay further right.

  • P-3 and 4 can easily be combined with some long slings.

P-5 Two variations possible:

A. Climb out right and then follow the right facing flake and cracks to the good ledge below the diagonal corner. This is the original ascent.

B. After doing the original pitch - unbeknownst to us - we felt we'd found a better way up (arguably): Move right to the first ramp/corner and up an easy runout to another right facing flake/hand crack that leads to a chockstone belay below a bolt. (or #5). 5.8 Climb another short pitch past the bolt to left facing corner. Climb it to the same good ledge and a 2 bolt belay. 5.10

P-7 Climb out right to the right diagonaling crack/seam. Follow this funky and balancy feature to a stance at the base of a phenomenal corner. Follow this to a small belay stance where the corer changes directions. 5.11

P-8 Climb the right facing corner through a roof and to a nice grassy ledge. 5.10

  • Pitch 7 and 8 could be combined (just make sure the second is solid at the crux because they'll be out of sight)

P-9 & 10 Climb the remainder of the moderate corners to the top. Seams and Dreams apparently merges in somewhere in this section. 5.8ish


Right of "Weather Or Not", and left Of "Seams and Dreams" in an obvious low angle ramp/corner.


Double set of cams to # 4 camelot, triple in hand sizes. Set and a half of stoppers. Possibly a # 5 camelot?

Photos of Brown Cow Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Jim at the start of (beautiful) pitch 8.
Jim at the start of (beautiful) pitch 8.
Rock Climbing Photo: upper diagonal
upper diagonal
Rock Climbing Photo: 5.10 Chimney pitch
5.10 Chimney pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: topo

Comments on Brown Cow Add Comment
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By Nick Stayner
From: Wymont Kingdom
Sep 3, 2012

Hell yeah guys! Looks like a fantastic climb. Glad your two trips treated you so well this year Nathan!
By Toby G
Jun 14, 2013

Yo Nate! So this is indeed Brown Cow (5.11b), a route that Nate Ballinger and I established in a weeklong trip in 2003. We completed this line the day after we had climbed Black Elk for the first time, and we both thought it was a better line (shhhh!) A few days earlier, we had also established a route on the northwest face of Warrior 1, which was re-climbed last year also and dubbed "The Candy Shop" in an AAJ trip report. This line is actually "Heading West", and may have been the first free ascent of the NW face of Warrior 1 (unless Nate Opp beat us to it?)

Damn, I have enjoyed continuing the tradition of silent exploration in the Winds, but now with the new age of topos and bolts migrating north, I wonder if it now does a better service of protecting this wildness by reporting new routes to set standards. We felt no need to place any bolts on either of these lines (or on any of another 6 new routes in the range), and really enjoyed walking away from these walls knowing that we kept it wild. I am not a rowdy free climber advocating really dangerous lines, just truly treasure this one last little wild spot in American climbing.

I am totally bummed that there are bolts on the "Wind Thin", what we had affectionately named the amazing undercling flake of pitch 3 of Brown Cow! How exciting was it to sling the horn and head off into clean space! Love to see the motivation out there but damn, let's leave the "Alpine Plaisir" in Boulder Canyon!

We have added 3 more routes on east face of Warbonnet over the years, and I think that it might be time to provide some info to keep them wild as they are. To come...
By nbrown
From: western NC
Jun 16, 2013


All signs indicated to us, at least low on the route, that this thing had never been climbed before, and we were fairly confident of that at the time (especially P-2 which took some cleaning). So, if we are indeed talking about the same line, then fair enough... and in which case, I'd like to apologize for adding the (belay) bolts to the top of pitches 4 and 6 (still unsure about what you mean regarding slinging the horn on pitch 3).

However, with that being said, I think it's important to recognize the strong possibility that even your 2003 ascent may not have been the first (we found some very old tat up high on the line - that was likely a bail sling). No disrespect here, but I do get a little frustrated when people claim to have beaten someone else to the punch (myself and others) but fail to understand that the same logic holds true for them as well. We must all be careful when making FA claims for the sake of posterity and historical accuracy.

Regarding the one lead bolt on pitch 6 - On a second ascent of the lower half, we climbed a better left-hand variation of pitch 6 and placed that bolt on the face to gain the crack. The original line climbed a dirt filled 5.10 crack out right that lead directly up to the diagonal of pitch 7 & 8. It just wasn't as good as the bolted variation and we were psyched to have found a better alternative, which would have been pretty dangerous without the bolt.

Regarding the belay bolts atop P-4 and P-6: We placed them to allow for a safe belay from the best available stance/ledge, and to help break up the pitches appropriately. We probably could have done without them and just belayed in less convenient locations, but we wanted to create a quality route that people would enjoy. Again, my apologies.

I have removed the pitch by pitch description of the line we took in anticipation of hearing more about "Brown Cow". When you get a chance to write it up, please let me know (or post it up) and I will be sure to change the route entry accordingly.
By Toby G
Jun 17, 2013


Howdy again Nate. After just getting home from another weekend on the east face (the Alpine Cookie!), I realize how lucky we are here to have that face in the "backyard". I've done a bunch of exploratory climbing out in the Winds over the last 15 years, but particularly on that face. I know it very well, and am probably a little protective of it! As for Brown Cow, that is my favorite line that I have done out there so I was definately a little defensive of that one! More importantly, I thought that your report was from a friend of mine here in Jackson (Nate Brown), whom I had told all about Brown Cow!

Getting home from another perfect weekend out there, totally excited about the newest project (between Brown Cow and Seams), I am partly bummed that I felt the need to respond to finding your report. That is the whole purpose of keeping things quiet - to let other people have that adventure all over again! I have been getting a little guarded seeing things change in the Winds, cause I really do think that it is one of the last real wilderness climbing experiences left for us! I wish I hadn't said anything to take away from yours.

I think the only difference between our lines is our second pitch, where we followed a thin discontinuous finger crack just to the left of the line you took - which was the crux of the route - and delivered us to the very bottom of the system that forms the chimney. We belayed halfway up the chimney, and then linked the next pitch all the way to the top of the undercling flake - thus no need for a belay beneath the flake. We also climbed in long pitches (6 total).

I do love to hear of your motivations from Asheville...the Winds drug me out from Ashevegas until I just had to stay! I hope that we see you out there again.
By nbrown
From: western NC
Jun 21, 2013


Thanks for responding. I'm going to send you a PM in a day or so when I get a chance.
By jayci
From: Flagstaff
Sep 25, 2013

Is this climb a walk off? if it is, it is very sad to hear of bolted stations. After spending a good deal of time in the winds I have to agree that this place needs to be held to a high standard of adventure!
By michalm
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 25, 2016
rating: 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a

Spectacular route. As good as Black Elk but much more sustained. We climbed this route in 6 very long pitches (except pitch 2), simul-climbing the last many hundred feet after the grassy ledge. We followed the variation pitches, linking 3-4, 5-6, 7-8. Splitter hands and fingers, awesome lieback flakes and underclings, excellent rock, tons of burl, and a little spice keep this route exciting. The entry to the diagonal seam is very difficult. Bring small nuts and RPs and have your belayer slightly below you to avoid ripping nuts in a fall.

Recommended rack: Doubles tiny to #2 camalot, singles #3 and #4 camalot. Offset nuts and cams useful. We combined pitches and still felt sandbagged by the heavy rack beta. There is simply no need for triple 1s, triple 2s, or double 3s and 4s.
By Frost
Sep 2, 2016

I appreciate this thread tremendously. Discourse that reaches compromise and clarifies misunderstandings. I also appreciate both parties' ethic and treatment of both the future climber's experience and the area. Thank you.

I hope adventure continues in the winds, and I hope I find myself to be neither an anachronistic crusader of a bygone era nor a person who is acting outside of an area's local ethic. I just want to give this thread a vote of confidence, in hopes that people see what adult conversation about something we all hold dearly CAN look like.

This route is top of my list after my first adventure up the south face of Warbonnet via Black Elk. I would thank you all for putting up the line, but instead I'm going to pretend that I'm the first one up there!

Much respect! And thanks for the beta;)
By Kevin DB
Aug 28, 2017

Lots harder than Black Elk. Something of a sandbag, but awesome regardless. Highly recommend the pitch 2 variation. Awesome hand and finger crack. Mostly the route has good gear. We took a rack of doubles and a single #4 and felt pretty good about it. Never that short on gear. I didn't mind the occasional bolted belay either and was VERY happy about the bolt on pitch 5 variation. The original variations look pretty cool too. Overall a very challenging route for the grade and a true alpine adventure.
By peicker
From: Lander, WY
Sep 4, 2017

This route has a ton of fun climbing on it. Cruxes are short and punchy. We took doubles from small through #3, one #4, and were happy. We only placed one RP the whole route and could have done without it. This route is still cleaning up and I found myself wiping the bottom of my shoes on my pants a bunch to make sure I didn't slide off.

Overall a really fun climb. Recommended. Thanks, Toby and Nate!

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