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Desert Solitaire 

YDS: 5.11- French: 6c Ewbanks: 22 UIAA: VIII+ ZA: 22 British: E3 5c C1

Type:  Trad, Aid, 6 pitches, 350', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.11a French: 6c Ewbanks: 22 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 22 British: E3 5c C1 [details]
FA: KC Baum, Andrea Heath, Tom Archibeque, Peter Hollis, March 1989
Page Views: 6,515
Submitted By: aaron voreis on Mar 7, 2004

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (25)
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First pitch of DS.


Access this stellar route via the Lower Independence Monument trail. The route is located 400 yards up trail from Monolith Spire and 1/4 mile before Independence Monument. Look right for the beautiful lightning bolt splitter 2 pitches up with a left-angling, 4th class ramp leading to it. Approach via drainage after trail passes in between two large boulders. This route is south-facing and very sunny.

P1. Crux pitch. Locate a beautiful left-facing Wingate corner that leads to a left-arcing hand crack. 110 feet of the best the Monument has to offer leads to a perfect 3 bolt anchor with chains, 11a.

P2. Choose your own adventure. Either coil yer ropes and traverse around right or climb interesting 5.6+ choss straight up. Either way requires some 3rd class junk.

P3. Choose a better adventure. Now you have the choice between splitter hands via the lightning bolt crack or another perfect Wingate corner. Bolts with chains at top of corner, 5.10ish, 55 feet.

P4. Climb excellent fingers straight up from the chains with a few interesting aid moves to a new bolt. Belay in a cool pod thing from bolts, 10a C1, 60 feet.

P5. Continue up the crack fingers to excellent tight hands to a large belay ledge with a fixed anchor, 11a, 60 feet.

P6. Climb one of the cracks off the ledge into a chimney below a block. Continue through roof with hands to a 2 bolt anchor, 5.9, 60 feet. Rap from here.


One 60m rope will get you off in 2 raps with a 4 class downclimb. A 65m would be better. A note on combining pitches: pitches 3 and 4 can easily be done together with the standard rack. Combining pitches 4 and 5 would require extra small cams. If you don't have a bunch of time, pitches 1 and 2 are sooo good.

Enjoy! Aaron and Eric


Your six favorite md-large nuts, six draws. 2 sets cams TCUs to #1 Camalot. 5 #2 Camalots (#3 Friends fit better.) 1 #3 Camalot.

Photos of Desert Solitaire Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Kat pulling through the horizontal section of the ...
Kat pulling through the horizontal section of the ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Kat getting close to the top of P1 on Desert Solit...
Kat getting close to the top of P1 on Desert Solit...
Rock Climbing Photo: Kat battles it out for a jam elbow deep into the c...
Kat battles it out for a jam elbow deep into the c...
Rock Climbing Photo: Just below the short aid section.
Just below the short aid section.
Rock Climbing Photo: Dave moves up the very enjoyable 5th pitch.
Dave moves up the very enjoyable 5th pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: Joseffa Meir follows up the aid pitch of 'Desert S...
Joseffa Meir follows up the aid pitch of 'Desert S...
Rock Climbing Photo: Joseffa Meir follows P3's left variation (5.10+ or...
Joseffa Meir follows P3's left variation (5.10+ or...
Rock Climbing Photo: Joseffa Meir leads the original P3, the right-faci...
Joseffa Meir leads the original P3, the right-faci...
Rock Climbing Photo: Desert Solitaire (III, 5.11a, C2) ascends from eit...
BETA PHOTO: Desert Solitaire (III, 5.11a, C2) ascends from eit...
Rock Climbing Photo: Joseffa Meir climbing on P5 of Desert Solitaire (5...
Joseffa Meir climbing on P5 of Desert Solitaire (5...
Rock Climbing Photo: Tony leading the final moves of Desert Solitaire (...
Tony leading the final moves of Desert Solitaire (...
Rock Climbing Photo: Tony at the summit belay of Desert Solitaire (5.11...
Tony at the summit belay of Desert Solitaire (5.11...

Comments on Desert Solitaire Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Mar 12, 2017
By Anonymous Coward
Mar 10, 2004

Great route!!
By mike schlauch
Mar 11, 2004

Chip Ruckgaber and I freed this route in Feb 2000. It involved some hard crimping on friable flakes that may or may not still be there. At the time it felt like Eldo 5.11d, but that will depend on what holds are still available. The free line went left initially past the first bolt, then crossed back to the right.

cheersmike schlauch
By Jason Nelson
From: SLC, UT
May 9, 2007

It still goes free. The holds I used seemed like they'll be around for a while, but were very sandy. The route might be slightly harder now though, hard to say.
By david goldstein
May 20, 2007

5 out of 6 pitches have high quality climbing, a very good ratio for CNM.
The last pitch is great, a poor man's version of the mega last pitch of Infrared. Even if you're baking, don't give in to the temptation to skip it.
The fixed anchors are very well thought out.
Mostly comfortable belays.

Less than prime rock quality throughout.
Not much of a line -- you can scramble into the route at 1/3 height.
Not a tower.

We thought the 5th pitch was the crux, considerably harder than the first.
Rack: We would have been happier if we'd replaced one of the #3 Friends with a #4 Friend or #4 C4 Camalot, particularly at the crux of the first pitch and the start of the sixth which was unprotected w/out a larger piece. We made only one placement w/ our "medium to large nuts" but could have used a couple of smaller (#2-4 Rocks) in the aid section. As far as TCU size gear, we placed at most 1 green Alien size on any pitch (though I could see placing more); we didn't use any smaller cams except in the aid section where we placed both a 00 and a 0 C3, though leaders whose aid mojo was running stronger could get by w/ at most one of those pieces.
With a 70M rope you can rap directly to the start, avoiding the circuitous downclimb, in 4 raps. Combine the raps for the 4th & 5th pitches as well as the 2nd & 3rd but be careful as both combined raps are stretchers.
By Matthew Seymour
From: 1996 Dodge Van, USA
May 31, 2007

The above comments do a good job describing the route, but I'd like to say just a bit more about pitch 4, the old aid pitch.

It is freeable at a grade in the mid 11s, so if you are taking the rest of the route free you should definitely attempt to free his pitch, everything you need is there. The main difficulty might be that the crux here is more of a face climb, where the rest of the route is a straight crack. However, the crux is short, and you have good pro that you can double up on right at your feet. Go for it!

I climbed it 5/30/7. The holds in the crux are probably among the most solid bits of rock on the upper section, but yes it is a sandy route.
By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Oct 29, 2007
rating: 5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c C1

Aid section is probably C2. There are a few questionable placements in a row in soft rock. I broke off a few holds trying to free the moves before losing the stomach for it.
Note: you can go up P3 via either way (both are not only worthy, but excellent) and then rap and do the other way to add a **** pitch to this awesome route.
By dbyte
From: Carbondale, CO
Mar 11, 2008
rating: 5.11b/c 6c+ 23 VIII- 24 E4 6a C0

Did this Sunday w/ 2 friends. We all agreed that if you can do the other 5.11 pitches then the aid section isn't much harder & is reasonably protected. We felt the moves (3 of them) to be ~11c & protected by 2 purple Black Diamond C3s (size 00), the highest of which was just below our feet when we reached the bolt.

This route is superb & doesn't see nearly the traffic it could/should.
By Skyeler Congdon
From: his van
Dec 1, 2009

The Lightning Bolt Variation is so friggin' classic. One of the best single pitches in the Monument! But it means you can't link pitches 3, 4. Worth it, though.
By notmyname
From: Sandy, UT
Apr 1, 2012
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b C1

This route is really fun and low commitment. Every real pitch is awesome, albeit short. The 5.11a pitches felt incredibly soft for the grade, and the cruxes are very, very short. Grade II 10b and ten feet of C1. The 5.6 moves off the 1st belay are the crux. 5 #2 Camalots is an insane amount. You can easily get by with two. The #4 is nice on the 6th pitch, but doing the crack to the list makes it unnecessary. The aid placements are bomber, and even if freeing, you only need one 0 Metolius TCU/Mastercam. You get a bomber yellow TCU and even more bomber green Camalot just before the bolt. Throw in a last piece after the lightning bolt crack so you don't freak your wife out with a major pendulum if belaying off the chain anchors. All combination of pitches are easily linkable with a set of doubles to yellow and one blue and grey (#3 & 4) Camalot.

Raps with a 70. Pitch 6, pitch 4+5, pitch 2+3 (watch the ends), pitch 1.

Approach via the slope to the right, not the gully to the left.
By Nathan Welton
From: Estes Park, CO
Sep 24, 2012
rating: 5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c C1

Re: the above comment, no way is this 5.10b! And you need the recommended 5 to 6 hand-sized pieces unless you like extremely sandy 25-foot runouts on moderate to poor quality rock.

That said, it's a fantastic line, with every pitch being awesome aside from the grunge pitch. The funky blocks on the last pitch are more solid than they look, and the final moves onto the anchors are rad.

We brought doubles from blue Metolius to red Camalot, 5 or 6 hand-sized pieces, and 1 blue Camalot, along with the larger nuts in the set. I would have loved to have an extra 0.75 Camalot and would have left the big nuts and taken the smaller half of the set for the aid section. A 0 & 00 Metolius will get you through the aid section with minimal fuss, and would be preferred for sending it free.

Recent rains had turned the route into a sandbox for us, but it was dope nonetheless.

For the descent, we made two 35m raps on our 70m rope (off of P6 chains, off of P4 chains) and then scrambled to the ground. The first rap was exactly 35m long and a total rope stretcher, so beware!!
By Brett S.
From: Colorado
May 19, 2013

Fun climb. 2nd pitch sports some pretty terrible choss, more like climbing on dried mud than rock. I would have liked to have had an extra #0.75 Camalot (three in total) for the thin hands pitch. The very short C1 section goes free at .11+ and is well-protected. Leave the aid gear!
By craigw
May 18, 2015

I found the gear beta for the first pitch to be a little different than previous posts. #2 Camalots are pretty tipped out and won't even work in the arching hand crack section of pitch 1. I ended up placing a #3 Camalot (overcammed) and running it out for 15-20 feet (a little scary on sandy rock). If you have cams in between #2 and #3 (#2.5 Friend??), that would be much better. Another option is to place another overcammed #3 higher up. Having a #4 is very helpful on this pitch.
By claytown
From: Boulder, CO
Nov 14, 2016
rating: 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c C0

Really fun route with some subpar rock that is sandy/soft in spots. Agreed that a big fall could pull seemingly solid pieces if they are shallow. We thought 5.11 seemed accurate for the aid section, and besides the thin gear, there is plenty of gear right below that.

70m. I agree with other rack comments about triple 0.75, 3-4x #2 (with one of them a #3 Friend if possible) and taking the #4. For the pitch after the crux, keep 2x 0.75 for the last 30 feet. The last 5.9 pitch has some of the worst rock of the route.
By Kat A
From: Bart and Lisa Ville, CO
Mar 12, 2017

Gear beta: stoppers, doubles from black Alien to red Alien (or #0.5 Camalot), 3 #0.75 Camalots, 2-3 #1 Camalots, 4-5 #2 Camalots (ideally 1-2 of those a #3 Friend(s)), 1 #3 Camalot, 1 #4 Camalot (new sizing). If linking pitches 5 and 6, it would be nice to have a 4th #0.5 and #0.75 Camalot for the last pitch.

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