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Cascading Crystal Kaleidoscope (CCK) 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c PG13

Type:  Trad, 3 pitches, 250'
Original:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c PG13 [details]
FA: Dick Williams, Dick DuMais, 1968
Page Views: 38,865
Submitted By: Ron Olsen on Feb 28, 2006

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I seconded CCK back when I first started climbing,...


CCK is another Gunks ultra-classic. The exposed, exciting third pitch is one of the most memorable you'll ever do at the grade.

P1: Climb the short corner and angle up right to a left-facing corner. Climb the corner to a roof, then move left and climb a crack to the GT Ledge. Belay at a big oak tree with rap slings. 5.6 PG, 120'.

You can also climb the enjoyable first 5.8 pitch of Erect Direction, a crack system on the left wall of Updraft, to get to the GT ledge.

There are several options for the second pitch, with varying degrees of difficulty and protection.

P2, option 1: Take the Updraft corner to a belay ledge in the corner. Safe at PG and easy at < 5.5.

P2, option 2: From the oak tree rap/belay station, walk climber's right on the GT for about 20' to a pine tree. Climb past a short left-facing corner, with a thin crack to a stance at the overhang. Step right and climb past bulging rock (crux) to a stance. From here, diagonal up left to the belay ledge. This way is what Williams describes; you circumvent the crux overhang/notch of the third choice below, starting to the right and traversing left when you're above it. 5.7+ PG-R

P2, option 3: From the oak tree rap/belay station, climb straight up the rock directly behind the tree until it's obvious to traverse right under the overhang. Traverse either high or low (awkward either way) about 8' right, make a difficult mantle past a bulge, then trend left up to the belay. Protecting the second is difficult to do well here. This is the start of CCK Direct's second pitch, at 5.8+ PG-R.

Note: CCK Direct (5.9) continues straight up above the left-facing flakes and exits left out the roof.

P3, the money pitch: Make sure the belayer has a camera; this is one of the best photo-ops in the Gunks! Step down and make an exposed traverse to the right on small edges. Move up to a pin and make a big step right to a vertical flake and hand crack. Layback and jam up to a roof (crux), clip another fixed pin, and traverse right under the roof to a big ledge. 5.7+, 50'.

Descent: Walk right about 100' to a notch, and scramble down the notch to the bolted rappel route by The Last Will Be First. 3 rappels with one rope get you back down. Alternatively, head south: three rappels from bolted anchors over No Glow will get you to the ground with a single rope.


Standard Rack. A Ball Nut can be placed near the start of the third pitch before clipping the first pin.


The CCK access trail is about a 15-min. walk from the Uberfall, and an 11-min. walk from where the East Trapps Connector Trail meets the carriage road. Look for a huge boulder (with bouldering routes and chalk) on the left. The CCK trail starts just past the boulder.

At the cliff, go right and up to get to the start of the route. Locate a huge right-facing corner; this is the route Updraft. CCK starts about 15' right of Updraft, at a small left-facing corner.

Photos of Cascading Crystal Kaleidoscope (CCK) Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: CCK in early season
CCK in early season
Rock Climbing Photo: John Gassel gets a great sunset shot of the classi...
John Gassel gets a great sunset shot of the classi...
Rock Climbing Photo: The 5.7+ third pitch of Cascading Crystal Kaleidos...
The 5.7+ third pitch of Cascading Crystal Kaleidos...
Rock Climbing Photo: Soloist on CCK, 8/13/11
Soloist on CCK, 8/13/11
Rock Climbing Photo: Nuria peering over the abyss.
Nuria peering over the abyss.
Rock Climbing Photo: Laura Sasso on CCK
Laura Sasso on CCK
Rock Climbing Photo: Pretty nice ledge to stand on on P3 of CCK!
Pretty nice ledge to stand on on P3 of CCK!
Rock Climbing Photo: CCK on a German climbing shoe box (mid 90s)
CCK on a German climbing shoe box (mid 90s)
Rock Climbing Photo: Just a beautiful climb...
Just a beautiful climb...
Rock Climbing Photo: the money pitch, Fall 2016
the money pitch, Fall 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Wonderwoman on CCK
Wonderwoman on CCK
Rock Climbing Photo: Craig Plescia - 2015  Starting up the flake.
Craig Plescia - 2015 Starting up the flake.
Rock Climbing Photo: CCK
Rock Climbing Photo: Entering the Dacks-esque last section of last pitc...
Entering the Dacks-esque last section of last pitc...
Rock Climbing Photo: Chris leading the money pitch, Fall 2016
Chris leading the money pitch, Fall 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Gail topping out on P2 of CCK
Gail topping out on P2 of CCK
Rock Climbing Photo: Mitchal Miller shoots his wife on CCK
Mitchal Miller shoots his wife on CCK
Rock Climbing Photo: Definitely one of the coolest routes I have done.
Definitely one of the coolest routes I have done.
Rock Climbing Photo: Nearing the top
Nearing the top
Rock Climbing Photo: Heather climbing Cascading Crystal Kaleidoscope (C...
Heather climbing Cascading Crystal Kaleidoscope (C...
Rock Climbing Photo: A different view of CCK...not nearly as exciting a...
A different view of CCK...not nearly as exciting a...
Rock Climbing Photo: great climb
great climb
Rock Climbing Photo: 2nd Pitch (wrong way I think) Are you supposed to ...
2nd Pitch (wrong way I think) Are you supposed to ...
Rock Climbing Photo: CCK from the top of pitch 3
BETA PHOTO: CCK from the top of pitch 3

Show All 48 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Cascading Crystal Kaleidoscope (CCK) Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Oct 8, 2017
By John Peterson
Mar 1, 2006

CCK Direct finishes left instead of right at the final traverse. As nice as CCK is, the Direct is even better. This also cuts out a belay.

Be very careful on the PG13 move off the GT ledge - this was the scene of a serious accident. In my old age I refuse to lead this anymore and take the corner to the right instead - just as hard but protectable.
By Paul Hunnicutt
From: Boulder, CO
May 1, 2008
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

Linking 2-3 seems logical, way more classic, and going out left to the sling belay in the corner seemed pointless...except for photo ops from the belay. You can still go left after the mantle move with long runners to keep the difficulty low (skipping the sling belay) and then do the P3 traverse back right (to avoid CCK direct 5.9). Besides the photo op. from the belay it is a shame to break this nice pitch up.

Also agreed that falling at the 5.8 mantle move on P2 is not an option. Pretty sure you would hit the ledge below.
By Goodhue
From: Boulder, CO
Oct 23, 2008

Did the Williams's second pitch. I went up from the pine tree and then moved a little left at an overhang. Went up trending left and then hand traversed into the normal belay alcove. Not sure if I did it right. Overall, my impression was that the third pitch was short and fun but the first two pitches did not excite me. Also, I was hung over.
By losbill
Apr 11, 2009

It's a good idea to have belayer anchored firmly and closely to the tree. May or may not keep you off the deck but will keep your belayer from being dragged off the ledge if the green cam blows and you bounce over the edge off the ledge as happened to a party 3 or 4 years ago.

Regarding slings on the oak tree. Because they are there doesn't mean you should consider rapping down CCK, one of the most popular lines at the Gunks. As noted in the route description above, there is a bolted rap line to climber's right(north). If you have doubles a single rope rap will get you to the GT ledge bolted anchors and the doubles will get you to the ground from there.
By Michael G
Jun 1, 2009
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

As for the debate over the start of the second pitch: I took option #3, which was strenuous and a little heady. From what I can tell, the leaders that find themselves in R/X climbing get mixed up and end up on a "direct start" to overhang notch described in option three. So, instead of traversing to the notch from the left with good gear, they climb straight up to it from the pine tree on the GTL where gear is nonexistent. I'm guessing they just read the route incorrectly, thinking that they're on the original 5.7 PG line that Williams describes?

from the Admin: Michael G. gets kudos for clarifying & writing out the three options, which I've inserted above. Thanks, Michael!
By Matt Glue
From: Boulder, CO
Apr 11, 2010

Just climbed it using Dick Williams' directions, option #2. I took just a single (crouched) step right from the stance, going up the bulging right side of the overhang, not any appreciable distance from the purple Camalot. I'm 6' and had to reach far and search to find the magic hold that makes it work.
By SethG
Oct 4, 2010

Consider me another climber confused about where the original CCK pitch 2 is supposed to go. Yesterday we were trying to do it, but after much debate did the direct start (Option 3 above) because it was the obvious line. My friend led it, not me, and I thought it would have been a nasty fall if he blew it at the overhang. The gear is there, but it is to the left as you pull the overhang and it isn't at all far to some ankle-breaking stuff. It's a challenging sequence, mostly in the moves to the right before you pull over. There are good feet but you can't see them!
By saxfiend
From: Decatur, GA
Oct 10, 2010
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

This was a super fun lead, it really lives up to its reputation. Something interesting on every pitch.

Regarding the P2 options, I did it by the book, as noted in #2 above. As I was perched below the bulge, feeling around for something positive above me, I was intrigued by the notch in the rock to my left. Someone had climbed there at some point, as there was a tiny fixed nut in the crack at the back of the notch. But the climbing there looked dubious, so I doubled up on pro and pulled the bulge move. I'd say that was the hairiest part of the whole route.
From: New York, NY
Nov 2, 2010

This is one of the most fun climbs I have ever done. I stepped right at the roof at the beginning of P2 and pulled the bulge, but I leaned out left and clipped the fixed nut first. I agree with the above comment that the bulge is the toughest part of the climb, but still pretty straightforward once you find the right holds.
By kenr
Sep 5, 2013

P2 option 2 may indeed be better protected than the others as an option if you're 5ft9in -- but also pretty height/reach dependent if less than that. Pretty exciting at 5ft7in to lunge for the bigger more positive higher hold (sorta blind, up over the bulge). If much less than 5ft7in, making a long deadpoint for it must be just an act of faith.
By Cedric BG
From: New York, New York
Jun 8, 2014
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

I agree with above comments about tricky moves on P2. I am 5'7" and found myself crimping on small holds up the bulge, although I don't think it was necessarily PG-13. P3 is obviously the money pitch, and found it much more straightforward than P2, even though the photos make it look spicy! All the holds and cracks are awesome and it eats pro.
One of the best climbs I've done in the Gunks, or anywhere at that grade!
By cliffmama
Aug 24, 2014

Another serious accident was on the start of CCK P2 off the GT ledge a couple of weeks ago (August 2014). It's confusing where to start (I think the Williams and Swain books say different things), hard to protect and not far off the GT ledge and a bad result if you fall.

I prefer to start in the Updraft corner for just a short distance, then diagonal across the face to meet up with CCK. Bypasses the dangerous moves off the GT ledge, easy climbing (5.5) and easy to protect.

Also, a great link-up is to lead P1 of Erect Direction (5.8), then scoot over to Updraft, a few feet of that off the GT ledge, then meet up with CCK's money pitch. Lots of excellent climbing, well protected, exciting exposure. One of my favorites.
By micah richard
From: Litchfield, Connecticut
May 21, 2015

The 3rd pitch looks very intimidating from the belay, but isn't as hard as it looks. I got several pieces in at the traverse, small c-3s, and a small white tri cam (aid piece) plus the pin. There is a bomber finger-size placement in the horizontal under the crux flake (phew, some real gear)! The flake is super positive, protects well with a hand-size cam, and this is the last good gear you're going to get, so make sure it's good (doubling up pro here would be a good idea)! Climb the rest of the flake, run out the foot smearing traverse, or pump out trying to get in some more gear! Awesome route!
By Ben Falk
Oct 28, 2016

The last pitch has got to be the best I've climbed at the Gunks. I wish I had a #2 camalot for the famous flake on pitch 3.

The two overhangs off the GT ledge (we went straight up from a big tree) were pretty serious for 5.8, with some grounder potential onto the ledge from the first overhang. The second was darn hard for 5.8, with almost no feet and a dead-hang high step on kind-of-ok, but not juggy, holds. If you're pumped here I wish you well!
By Skip Thompson
Sep 21, 2017
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b PG13

I had been saving this climb for an on-sight for a couple years, deliberately shushing my partners when they started to give beta, etc. And having just broken into leading Gunks 8's this season for real, as an on-sight CCK felt like it was somewhere between Moonlight and Limelight in terms of technical difficulty plus the freak-out factor. But it also felt as hard as Arrow, once moving up the flake / crack on Pitch 3. There's a "thank god" bomber #1 above the roof and right as you step up, which otherwise leaves you well above your last piece in the flake / crack. The two most difficult moves are the move up the flake / crack and holding out without pumping out to traverse right past where it intersects with the roof. Gotta reach up past that roof.
By banzai
Oct 8, 2017

Climbed cck yesterday morning (oct 7). Team ahead of us left a cam. If it's yours, contact me with cam brand/size and where on the route you left it, and i'll be glad to return it!

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