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The Checkerboard Wall
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Checkerboard Wall 

YDS: 5.10 French: 6b Ewbanks: 20 UIAA: VII- ZA: 19 British: E2 5b

Type:  Trad, 5 pitches, 750'
Original:  YDS: 5.10 French: 6b Ewbanks: 20 UIAA: VII- ZA: 19 British: E2 5b [details]
FA: Ed Webster & Chester Dreiman, 1982
Page Views: 11,258
Submitted By: Josh Janes on May 16, 2003

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Rob follows crux traverse Checkerboard Wall (5.10+...

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This route is awesome! Perfect stone, great position, spicy, thoughtful climbing, and, most of all, a ridiculously improbable looking line make for an incredible, albeit shorter, afternoon in the Black.

Start: Head down the Cruise Gully. Shortly after the second rappel, the gully opens up briefly and an obvious climber's trail splits off left. Follow this for a short while (minor bushwhacking and scrambling) until it turns sharply left up to the wall and to the base of a long 20-30' wide right-angling ramp.

P1 & 2: Climb this ramp for two pitches (mostly 5.6 with a short section of 5.8). About 100' up you step left into a short, vertical dihedral, and then continue up on more rampy terrain. Belay at the end of the ramp at the base of an ugly squeeze chimney and directly below a huge flake that actually forms a nifty arch over your head (this flake is half-way up the wall and easily visible from routes across the gully and the rim). These two pitches probably total 250', but I highly recommend leading them in one with some simul-climbing.

P3: Head straight right out the steep slab using underclings and then disappear around the corner and onto a steeper slab: make sure to look down at the nothingness below your feet! Continue around the corner, clip a fixed pin, and head up a short crack (5.9) and face to the apex of the lower half of the wall. Belay here at a nice stance about 15' down and right from the long, intimidating, right-facing, right-leaning dihedral/roof.

P4: Make tricky, unprotected face moves above your belayer's head until you can stretch up and place gear in the obvious chalked up underclings of the dihedral. Work your way up this dihedral for 100' (calf-intensive 5.10) to a stance below where the dihedral arcs sharply right. Place a piece up high (long runner!) and step left around the arête and out of the dihedral using small face holds (crux?). Scary but wonderful. Clip a fixed pin and face climb up and left for 35' to an obvious stance for a semi-hanging belay. This pitch has the potential for a violent fall if you blow it before clipping the piton.

P5: Run it out straight up for 25' to a new Metolius bolt (5.9+), clipping a fixed pin on the way. Continue up 20' to a roof, place a #1 Camalot, and head right for 20' under this roof, once again using underclings and smears (easy 5.10). At an obvious weakness, pull over the roof (exciting!) and onto the face above. Head up and left on the face at easy 5.9 for about 50' (with occasional marginal pieces of gear) until you reach the nice ledge that transects the entire wall. Walk off left (passing the top of Maiden Voyage), or head right and up a final 5.9 pitch to the summit.


A single set of cams up to 3" with some smaller stuff (TCUs or Aliens) and a set of stoppers should suffice. Shoulder-length slings. Ed Webster sent me this email some time ago about the lone bolt on the climb:

Dear Joshua,

It was nice of you to write; thanks and sorry it's taken me quite a while to respond. We did the FA of Checkerboard Wall with NO bolts. I've only done the route that once [21 years ago], and I never
repeated it, but I heard through friends that someone (I don't know who it was) placed a bolt to protect that bit of dicey face off that exposed upper belay, and getting up to the big horizontal overlap on the second-to-last pitch. I was quite dismayed to hear about that bolt, and I take great offense to it, as it ruins the original quality of the route. I led the entire route when we did it; and it took me a lot of concentration to figure out those thin face moves where the bolt is now, and to get up the nerve to do them, right above the belay (and as I recall, a peg behind a flake for pro) to reach the big overlap and plug in a Friend under it. So, I would be very happy if you went up there next spring and removed that bolt. Hack saw it off, carefully hammer the stud into the hole, and epoxy it over with some rock dust to hide the hole if you can.

Thanks again for being in touch. And by the way, I'm living in Maine now; I moved away from Boulder 2 years ago. With very best wishes,

sincerely, Ed Webster

Photos of Checkerboard Wall Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: This is not my photo. I grabbed it from the pictur...
BETA PHOTO: This is not my photo. I grabbed it from the pictur...
Rock Climbing Photo: Wyatt follows the 3rd pitch
Wyatt follows the 3rd pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: Christa Cline on pitch 3.
Christa Cline on pitch 3.
Rock Climbing Photo: A view of the Checkerboard Wall (and Maiden Voyage...
BETA PHOTO: A view of the Checkerboard Wall (and Maiden Voyage...
Rock Climbing Photo: Crux pitch, photo taken by Mark Flis.
Crux pitch, photo taken by Mark Flis.

Comments on Checkerboard Wall Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Oct 23, 2015
By Ross Keller
From: Parker, CO
May 25, 2004
rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

A good route with two excellent pitches. There is a bit of questionable stone, but not much. The gear tends to be good and the route is much less runout than the guidebook would indicate.
By Max schon
May 25, 2004
rating: 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b

We did the route in three pitches. With a little simul-climbing you can easily reach the beginning of the 5.9 finger crack/face. From there you can do a long pitch to the shallow dihedral up high. One last pitch to the ledge. I thought the crux was the short lieback at the beginning of the long pitch, right after making the tricky face moves Josh described. Make sure you stay in the gully when hiking out. It's easy to get sucked onto some easy rocks on the left, but they don't go where you want.
By Charles Vernon
From: Tucson, AZ
May 25, 2004

I agree with Ross-this route is exciting, but did not seem terribly runout, at least compared to what I was expecting from the guidebooks. I led both 5.10 pitches, and didn't find either of them to be nearly as scary as Journey Home P1 (probably 'cause there's no potential to deck). However, after talking with Josh Janes, I believe there are 2 different ways to step out of the corner on the crux pitch. I stepped out at the first possible place, instead of continuing with the obvious chalked-up corner for 15 more feet. For me, getting to the pin invovled thought-provoking 5.10 moves, but there was some gear to be had (small nut--perhaps a yellow alien would have been better). I know of a couple of people who indeed have taken violent falls in the 25'-longer range from where Josh describes stepping out!

The last pitch has much more gear than you'd expect above the final overlap. The climbing on these crux pitches is great.
By Ross Keller
From: Parker, CO
May 27, 2004
rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

I stepped out a the lower spot as well. After setting the belay, I looked down at it and got the impression that the higher option looks a bit eaisier. I did manage a good small alien and a decent RP below the fixed peg.
By Anonymous Coward
Aug 10, 2004

I think the runout rating in a lot of guidebooks was given before the bolt went in on the last pitch. This route seemed real safe to me.
By Rob Dillon
Aug 21, 2004

I think the bent-double pin explains why the bolt was added... bet there's some good stories there.

We mistakenly climbed the upper of the two approach ramps, which was rotten, loose, and runout. Don't go this way.
By david goldstein
May 25, 2006

This route is quite good but climbing it did not seem quite as cool as I thought it would after having looked at it from the Cruise Gully and routes on the west side of the gully.

P1 & 2: Don't see much advantage in linking these pitches -- there is a good fixed anchor at the end of P1 at a decent stance. Note: For those as clueless as we were, after the fixed anchor, go up, eventually joining a higher ramp which is parallel to the one you started on and which is not visible from the rope up point; alternatively, continue up the original ramp and do a sketchy 5.9ish connector pitch to rejoin the normal route.

P4: Traversing low, as per CV, seemed less hairy but the first move after the traverse, which is at least marginally top rope protected, seemed clearly the hardest on the climb.

P5: There is no need to "run it out ... for 25 feet" at the start as there are at least two good pieces before the pin. Don't wear yourself out looking for the "obvious weakness" in the roof; the weakness is juggy and maybe 5.8 -- you'll know it when you get there so keep traversing until you hit a spot where it appears relatively quite easy to go through the roof. The slab above the roof seemed to me to have OK gear and felt noticeably easier than the 5.9 on P3 although there is no obvious line and maybe I just got lucky and found an easy one. Hard to avoid rope drag on this pitch.
By Steve McCorkel
Jun 10, 2007

Several years ago, I did something different on the last pitch from what is described here. Instead of going left to finish on the upper slab, I continued up and right to a short seam. This seemed harder and scarier than the rest of the route. I wonder, does someone know what this is?
By Ben Kiessel
May 12, 2008

We climbed this route two weeks ago and froze on the first 4 pitches.
"Walker, I can't feel my hands or feet."
"Me either."
The rock on pitch 4 was worse then I expected. Or maybe it just seemed bad because it was cold?
But the sun came around for the runout pitch and all was good. Great route. Didn't seem to need the bolt. It's in a stupid spot anyways.
By Kirill Kireyev
From: Boulder, CO
Sep 16, 2008

I feel like I have to balance out the comments here.

The 5.9 stretches on P3 and P5 ARE runout. They're not death falls, but you need to be competent climbing delicate 5.9 face/slab and placing marginal gear. P3 "crack" (after turning the corner) is more like a thin seam. I wouldn't lead it if leading 5.9 is your limit.

Otherwise a sweet climb for sure.
By dbyte
From: Carbondale, CO
Sep 29, 2008
rating: 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b

I agree w/ Kirill's comments above. NOT a good 1st Black Canyon 5.9 if you're new to the grade. That being said, I felt the "climbing w/ consequences" nature of these pitches added to their quality. HUGE props to Ed Webster for his vision & commitment on this spartan line. Apparently I lack both, because I clipped the s@#$ out of that bolt on the 5th pitch!
By 303scott
Oct 27, 2008

To get a few more pitches in, Maiden Voyage can be easily rapped from an anchor beneath an enormous boulder about 80 feet climber's left of the last pitch. Three double rope raps leaving slings on horns to be recovered on the way back up.
By Adrian Weaver
From: Buena Vista Co
Jun 10, 2009

I think I went the lower way on the crux pitch and did not see any fixed pin after stepping out of the dihedral. You can place a decent small cam and a few rp's however. The bolt on the last pitch is kind of stupid because it is only a few feet above the fixed pin and there is not much benefit from clipping it.
By luca moz
From: italy
Sep 8, 2009
rating: 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b

Did the route 09/05: no pin on the crux and very difficult to place pro: kind of run out. I think Ed Webster is right, but I'm not bold and I liked to find the bolt. After the liebacking it is possible to put some pro: not a very runout route. Very good.
By randy baum
From: Minneapolis, MN
Jul 24, 2010

As of 07/24/10, crux 5th pitch has pin and a shiny bolt in the face section above the belay (but before the arch). The section above the arch is still runout.

Pin on pitch three is still around.

Belays for pitches 1 and 2 have fixed nuts, with equalized slings in good condition.
By Mike Soucy
From: Longmont, CO
Oct 30, 2010

P3 pin is gone. Pulled it out easily. #3-4 stopper will fit where it was.
My second time on the route (and leading P5), and I would support that bolt being chopped.
By Ben Griffin
From: Durango, CO
Jun 6, 2011
rating: 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b

I climbed this route recently with my buddy Rio! Here is some beta:

Pitch #1: Climb the obvious ramp that follows a crack full of bushes to a comfortable ledge (5.7).

Pitch #2 & #3: From the ledge, look right and find a crack that goes climber's left to the above ramp. Do a really cool mantle onto the ramp and traverse climber's left and up to the top of the ramp. I remember fixed gear at the top of the ramp and being at the base of a overhanging slot. The climber can belay their partner up from here or link the 3rd pitch. From the top of the ramp, move right around a corner. I didn't find much gear besides a BD #0.4 in a shallow horizontal. I definitely did not see a fixed pin. After moving around the corner, head up a really spicy face that is graded 5.9. This section froze me for a couple of moves because of the run out. Climb straight up to some pin scars and fit something in them. Belay at the comfy ledge. The 3rd pitch is a bit spicy, it froze me up for a second getting comfortable on hard, thin, run out, 5.9 face climbing.

Pitch #4: (5.10) The climbing is awesome on this pitch. Climb up a easy ramp that leads to a fixed pin that is directly climbers right of the dihedral above. Clip the pin, then head climber's left into the dihedral. The dihedral is well-protected, but getting to the dihedral is a little spicy. When the climbing in the dihedral starts to get easier, exit the dihedral climber's left to another right facing dihedral. At the base of this dihedral you will see the bolt. Climb towards that bolt, which is right above a flake. Build a hanging belay from the bolt, flake, and a fixed pin. Rio was able to fit a good red C3 in the flake next to the fixed pin.

Pitch #5: (5.10) Climb into the horizontal corner above. There is a section of spicy face climbing to get to the horizontal corner. There is good gear all through this pitch, but it is hard to place the gear, because you can't see the crack too well. I was more feeling the crack and placing gear. Follow the horizontal corner until you run into a weakness. The face above is easier then the 5.9 face climbing on the third pitch. This face climbing is run out. I was able to fit some decent stoppers in some scars. Finally, climb a 5.7 or 5.8 hand crack to the top.

The climb is fairly short. You can combine pitches 1 & 2 or 2 & 3. You might want to plan to climb something else after you finish this climb. Have fun.
By orin salah
Jun 9, 2011

Just climbed this a couple days ago and wanted to share that I only saw two fixed pins. One is near the top of the pegmatite formation, just before starting the first crux pitch (4th). I didn't use it because it is way down and right of the climbing line. The other pin is just a few feet below the bolt on pitch 5.

I back up the opinion that the bolt is unnecessary. There is good gear just below the pin, and there was only one hard move just at the bolt. Considering the difficulty of the climbing before that point, the move should not be a problem for anyone leading the route. Besides, it's poor style to add bolts to someone else's first ascent.

All in all, I thought the route was quite well protected for the Black. That being said, you would want to be fairly comfortable at the grade. But then I don't think many people go to the Black in order to push their grades.
By Rob DeZonia
Sep 2, 2011

That is messed up to bolt someone else's route! Chopping can end up being even more messed up though depending on the added damage you cause to the rock out of shear ethics and bravado. I was glad to clip the bolt. Pitch four was full on. A burly, rattly, peg corner.
By themostdirect
Nov 21, 2012

Just wanted to put a public notice out there concerning the restoration of The Checkerboard Wall, as per first ascentionist's request:

We removed the hanger from the bolt in question on 11/17/12. The stud remains with stripped threads and needs a hammer and epoxy finish. It was not drilled perpendicularly to the rock and slopes slightly downward, preventing it from being useful without a hanger.
By Ralph Swansen
From: Denver CO
May 24, 2013
rating: 5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b

We did the simul-climb of the first two pitches with a 60m, well worth it and easy. I felt the gear was very fair on the upper pitches, seemed regular for the area and not terribly runout. For those that know how to find and place gear, it won't be a problem. Bring small cams too. The bolt above is not necessary. What wonderful climbing!

I think this route is well under 750 feet of climbing. More like 550 - 600 not including the hike out.
By Kishen Mangat
May 11, 2014

Climbed this fine route yesterday. The hanger on the pitch 4 retro-bolt has been removed but the bolt is still there. The bolt is unnecessary and detracts from the pitch especially given the route history.
By Neil Wachowski
From: Fort Collins, CO
Jun 2, 2014

As stated above (which I unfortunately glossed over), don't start on the upper of the two ramps - the one you have to do a few easy class 5 moves to get to. I stupidly climbed up and down about 30' of this ramp, giving myself quite the scare. The climbing is easy, but the rock quality is abysmal.

I only led the first three pitches, but the 3rd one caught me off guard a bit. The climbing is reasonable, but the placements can be tricky. I kind of wished I brought offsets in a few spots. Not a big deal for the average person willing to lead this route, however.
By Eric Fjellanger
Oct 23, 2015

The bolt shouldn't have been placed without FA approval or community consensus, but at least while it was there, it served a purpose. Now there is an ugly, useless, potentially dangerous piece of metal sticking out of the rock. Ed Webster was even explicit about how he wanted it chopped and patched. Merely stealing the hanger is a really half-assed, embarrassing effort that nobody could view as "restoration".

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