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Sunlight Spire
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Standard Route, Sunlight Spire T 

Standard Route, Sunlight Spire 

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

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 150'
Original:  YDS: 5.10 French: 6b Ewbanks: 20 UIAA: VII- ZA: 19 British: E2 5b [details]
FA: G. Bell Sr., D. Michael, J. Marshall, 1961, FFA: Jeff Achey, 1988
Season: Summer
Page Views: 10,421
Submitted By: George Bell on Jun 19, 2007

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (9)
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On lead!


From the standard route on Sunlight Peak leave the trail at about 13,700' and head up a steep slope to the base of the summit block. This approach is 3rd class but rather loose and steep for about 300 feet.

A short Class 4 to 5.6 pitch (depending on line chosen) leads to the base of the overhanging crack. This crack is a perfect size for jamming but is rather sustained and made more difficult by the altitude. The start is made easier by a ramp you can work your feet along, but the ramp eventually is too far left. The crack reminded me of Supercrack where every move may be "only 5.9" but it is sustained and difficult to recover, especially at nearly 14,000'. Look for places for wired stoppers and smaller cams to save hand-size pieces.

Near the summit the angle kicks back to vertical which makes it slightly easier. A fixed anchor on top facilitates 2 raps back to the base.

You can also aid the crack at C1, there are now several fixed pieces. The first ascent proceeded up a somewhat different route, however. Instead of tackling the crack from the bottom, my father climbed an easier crack system to the notch NW of the spire. From here the upper part of the free crack is only about 7-10 feet to your right. Climb right, clip a bolt and pendulum or tension traverse into the crack and follow it to the summit. This variation is no longer possible because the bolt is now missing.

This is a decent climb, but it is a long way to carry a rack for 60 feet of overhanging crack.


SW Face of the summit "Obelisk".


Standard rack to #3 Camalot.


This route was freed by Jeff Achey when he was leading a group of Outward Bound students. He free climbed the crack using only a few hexes and stoppers for protection. I led it with a much larger rack, but was totally gassed by the altitude.

Photos of Standard Route, Sunlight Spire Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: From below.
From below.
Rock Climbing Photo: From above.
From above.
Rock Climbing Photo: Fun stuff.
Fun stuff.
Rock Climbing Photo: Spire on the right, Sunlight Mtn. on left.
Spire on the right, Sunlight Mtn. on left.
Rock Climbing Photo: Some of the trash we packed out.
Some of the trash we packed out.
Rock Climbing Photo: Trails & Timberline, Feb '62, FA (courtesy of Ray ...
Trails & Timberline, Feb '62, FA (courtesy of Ray ...
Rock Climbing Photo: It's not 3/8".
It's not 3/8".
Rock Climbing Photo: The Spire.
The Spire.
Rock Climbing Photo: The view from the sharp end.
The view from the sharp end.
Rock Climbing Photo: Sunlight Spire, seen from the Windom-13472 saddle....
Sunlight Spire, seen from the Windom-13472 saddle....
Rock Climbing Photo: The crack from the approach. Note: some people rop...
The crack from the approach. Note: some people rop...

Comments on Standard Route, Sunlight Spire Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 14, 2016
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 24, 2007

This climb took me several attempts. I made it to the base of the technical climb once (with my wife belaying) just as it started to rain. Several years later, when approaching with "rope gun" Tom Karpeichik, he pulled on a huge solid-appearing block during the 3rd class approach, and it broke free and tore up his leg as it slid past (he received a nasty laceration that required stitches). After Tom was patched up and walking down, Bill Wright was descending from Sunlight Peak and we teamed up for the ascent, but by this time it was late and looked like rain. We topped out just as a thunderstorm was coming in, and immediately rappeled off.
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Sep 18, 2007

Check for a 2007 trip report on this route. Some good photos of the route!
By Doug Winter
Aug 15, 2009

Hey, my friends and I made the slog from Purgatory to climb the 14ers and this route. We had a blast; it's an incredible area. If anyone is interested in a 2009 trip report with photos, click here:
By PKelley
Sep 10, 2009
rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

I climbed this route on 9/4/09. While the crack has many good hand jams, it undulates between finger locks and cups, with many difficult thin hands sections in between. A good rack would be doubles or triples of #0.75 through #3 Camalots. The 5.7 section can be easily combined with the upper crack in one pitch. The approach ledge to the climb is not bad at all. The anchor needs work too, and currently consists of a 1960s vintage 1/4" cap/hex head bolt with poor hanger, an ancient 1 1/2 inch angle pin that can be lifted out of its placement by hand, and a green Lowe Tricam with a UV deteriorating sling. I think it's a sandbag at .10b, and felt more like .11- with the altitude. The severely left-angling nature of the crack makes this climb very difficult (tough feet).
By Doug Winter
Sep 25, 2009

As to the grade this climb: our party believes after our August trip that the route goes at 5.10a. We climbed with two teams (two leads and two seconds), before the route got full sun in the morning. After scrambling the first pitch, the first party led the crux pitch with no falls; the next group followed with one exciting fall, followed by an enjoyable break on the summit. We rappelled off the fixed anchor, using an unweighted secondary anchor for safety. The last man had no problem trusting the anchor for a rappel. We all had a blast on this climb, because of the spectacular setting and the incredible summit pitch. This is a highly recommended climb for those solid at the grade and those who don't mind a long approach hike.
By Carl Dowdy
From: Golden, CO
Jun 25, 2010

Was traversing below the Spire in early May and noticed a rope hanging from the top. I would assume it had been there all winter. Just a heads up.
By Nathan Hoobler
Nov 14, 2011

Looking at pics, I've often wondered if an ascent of the slab on the south face would be possible. After seeing the Spire in person in August, I'm pretty sure that it would be possible, but protection might be very difficult.
By dancesatmoonrise
Aug 27, 2012
rating: 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c R

My take? The "first pitch" is not 5.7. It's a third class scramble. But then, at least for my size 8.5 hands, the crack is not 5.10, it's harder. Also note that the butress on the left "follows" you for the first half of the route, just below. Any degree of run-out will result in cratering on this buttress, until the second half of the route is attained, where one can feel a little more free to just climb and run it a little.

The anchor backs up well with a #9 hex. But don't take one; we donated ours and equalized it into the anchor. I'll post more photos of the anchor if anyone wants.

This is a really fun climb. If you have time before the storms, get a TR run on it. Best part of the day.

PS - we should have cut down those manky ropes that are hanging from the top and the crux belay. Apologies. Whoever goes up next, would you mind terribly cutting those down? Thanks so much!
By Ben Burnett
From: Colorado
Jul 2, 2013
rating: 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b

Spectacular line in a spectacular place! I concur that no move seemed harder than 10a, but you would need to be able to cruise 5.10 to actually send it on lead due to the elevation.

We cut down a tattered rope, replaced the oldest looking webbing at both belays, and removed discarded webbing left deep in the summit crack. LNT - or as little as possible.
By goingUp
From: over here
Aug 15, 2013
rating: 5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b

What a challenge! Got this one in on Monday before the weather moved in. The 5.7 approach isn't actually very difficult, it's one move at a time over blocks that returns to class 3-4 depending on where you traverse to get there.
The top anchor currently consists of a hex, an old tricam, the ancient piton, and an old bolt. The webbing is equalized and run through two opposing non-locking beiners. We had no problem rapping off of them. Plenty of placement for pro, there are 3 fixed nuts (one entering the business, and one more higher up along with the old piton), I placed one #3 cam 3/4 the way up. 1-2 inch gear can fit most places.
I would say this FELT harder than 10a, maybe b or c, and the overhanging nature and ELEVATION means you NEED strength and stamina to pull off the send.
By ConorCarroll
Jul 30, 2015

I solo aided the line a few weeks ago. I followed Roach's directions and took his 5.4 downclimb to a grassy ledge and then up to the 5.7 move right before the second belay station.

I agree the climb goes at C1. There are 4 fixed pieces of pro in the crack. The anchor is in decent shape. If time marches on too much longer, it would be well advised to replace some soft goods at the top. I've posted more details about my climb and the rack I schlepped around here:
By Long Ranger
From: Boulder, Colorado
Sep 14, 2016

A new, modern bolt seems to have been placed at the top, and (some?) of the fixed gear/tat has recently been removed. (discussion on ethics on The bolt party apparently went through the right channels to do so.

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