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West Ridge - part C - Pony Express to Long John
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Dead Letter Department 

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

Type:  Trad, 2 pitches, 200'
Original:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c [details]
FA: Duncan Ferguson, solo, 1971
Page Views: 1,782
Submitted By: Ivan Rezucha on Jan 19, 2003

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (23)
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BETA PHOTO: Landy at the belay tree, (10 ft rotten rock is all...

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  • Description 

    This route is surprisingly nice with varied climbing. It's the large left facing corner at the right edge of the Mescaline wall. The route officially goes up the off-width at the base of the corner, and perhaps someday a 5.8 climber will actually do that, but it's much more sensible to climb a short steep right facing corner/finger crack a few feet left. Above that easy climbing leads to a steep intimidating corner. Gear is good, and footholds on the right wall make it reasonable. Swing around right onto a slab near the top of the corner. Above is a nasty looking chimney, but you can get inside and climb it easily on face holds. Above the chimney, the rock deteriorates a bit as you enter a tall red band. The route isn't clear here. We climbed just right of a large pine tree, and then angled left around the corner to a very nice belay ledge. From here angle left for a short pitch to the walk off. To do the walk off, walk straight left (north) being very careful not to knock rocks down on the very popular Mescaline area. Sneak past a narrow spot, then angle down a ramp. This is all very easy but somewhat exposed, and you would die if you fell off. 3rd class, meaning a rope might be advisable for beginners. The last 20 feet or so involve some 5.5 (??) moves to get past a chockstone to the ground.


    Standard rack. Big gear if you plan to climb the short initial offwidth.

    Photos of Dead Letter Department Slideshow Add Photo
    Rock Climbing Photo: Ben on the money sections.
    Ben on the money sections.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Ben in orange, down low on Dead Letter (others are...
    BETA PHOTO: Ben in orange, down low on Dead Letter (others are...
    Rock Climbing Photo: You can see the squeeze chimney above and right of...
    You can see the squeeze chimney above and right of...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Midway.  The climbing is mostly moderate.
    Midway. The climbing is mostly moderate.
    Rock Climbing Photo: At the wide start.
    At the wide start.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Dead Letter Department.  Climb a right-facing corn...
    BETA PHOTO: Dead Letter Department. Climb a right-facing corn...

    Comments on Dead Letter Department Add Comment
    Show which comments
    By Tony B
    From: Around Boulder, CO
    Jan 24, 2005
    rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

    Yeah, quite fun. 80' of great climbing, surrounded by 20' at each end of unremarkable climbing. 5.8 is about right If you were to do the OW start "pure" it might be harder, but it is so easy to stem out and walk up it, it's contrived not to do so. The seam at the OW, on the right side takes very good RP's or other brass and so there is no need for OW gear even for a "pure" ascent if you have a set of brass. The middle section (all be the first & last 20' protects on a set of nuts and a set of cams to 3.5" which will practially jump off of your rack into the crack.

    To descend, finish the climb to the right (southeast) to the BIG pine & rap from the newly refurbished rap slings & rings. A single 70M rope gets you to the main ledge & you walk off to the west a few meters.
    By Clint Locks
    From: Boulder
    Jan 30, 2011
    rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

    The description says this is two pitches. It can be done easily on a 60m as one. Ivan's "second pitch" seems to set you up for the Handcracker Direct walk-off above the Pony Express area, which seems to be a categorically bad idea. You can rap with a 60m rope from the aforementioned tree down to the anchors atop the slab finish of Hyperspace Roundup, though make sure to angle your rappel slightly up-ridge, or accessing those is a bit problematic. It's another short rap to the ground.
    By Jay Eggleston
    From: Denver
    Feb 18, 2011
    rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

    Fun pitch. The OW start is pretty good. RPs will protect it, or throw in a #6 Camalot which also protects it well.
    By Mathias
    From: Loveland, CO
    Apr 5, 2015

    I tried the OW repeatedly, but it's way beyond me. It was obvious I wasn't going to get it once I got a hand in there, but I tried it anyway because, why not? Then I took the line up the crack on the left as in one of the beta photos.

    I really enjoyed this route. If you're looking for solid 5.8 climbing, this isn't it, but it's very varied and I liked every bit of it. The steps up the flake were interesting, the face climb through the broken section with occasional stemming was a nice change of pace, the dihedral with the finger crack was challenging but rewarding, and the chimney was a lot of fun (even if a bit tight for me). Add in playing with the OW at the bottom and all the gear options, and this is something I'd happily do again.
    By Travis Provin
    From: Boulder CO
    Apr 9, 2016

    Instead of heading left after the red band of bad rock, we went right and ended up at the base of the last pitch of Handcracker. From here, if you are looking straight at Handcracker, we went climber's right (east) towards a short, fun crack with a bit of a traverse at the end. We topped out and walked northwest up and over to the standard walkoff. This variation was very fun!

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