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YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b

Type:  Trad, 1 pitch, 70'
Original:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: John Long - March 1974
Page Views: 8,525
Submitted By: M. Morley on Jan 1, 2002

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (165)
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Cory getting into the offwidth part.


Don't be fooled! While only 5.7, Dolphin is a "classic" grovel/grunt (if you're into that sort of thing). As one ascends, the crack widens. Towards the top, scoot your #5 Camalot up in between mandatory cursing.

To descend, either rap Bird of Fire or walk/downclimb via 4th class ramp to the south (climber's left).


Dolphin is 20' left of Bird of Fire.


Standard rack plus big stuff - #5 Camalot or equivalent for the top.

Photos of Dolphin Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Wideness. Dolphin. 1/2012.  Photo: James Sullivan
Wideness. Dolphin. 1/2012. Photo: James Sullivan
Rock Climbing Photo: Brian is just below the horn that marks the bnegin...
Brian is just below the horn that marks the bnegin...
Rock Climbing Photo: About to enter the crux, it's steeper than it ...
About to enter the crux, it's steeper than it ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Running it out into the offwidth.
Running it out into the offwidth.
Rock Climbing Photo: Half way up the width 4-29-12.
Half way up the width 4-29-12.
Rock Climbing Photo: Nathan Fitzhugh belayed by Agina Sedler.
Nathan Fitzhugh belayed by Agina Sedler.
Rock Climbing Photo: Mr Nick on the prowl.
Mr Nick on the prowl.
Rock Climbing Photo: Stacky on the Dolphin (5.7) circa 1989.
Stacky on the Dolphin (5.7) circa 1989.
Rock Climbing Photo: Princess Rope gun drags her Vasal up Dolphin, in s...
Princess Rope gun drags her Vasal up Dolphin, in s...
Rock Climbing Photo: Thanks For the #5!
Thanks For the #5!

Comments on Dolphin Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 5, 2017
By Josh Beck
Mar 21, 2003
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

For a moderate wide crack, Dolphin is hard to beat. Just because you abhore offwidths or squeezes doesn't mean this climb isn't a blast for those who enjoy them.
By Tyler Logan
From: Mammoth Lakes, CA
Apr 18, 2003

I thought I was tough enough to do this route with nothing bigger than maybe a #2 or 3 camalot... After all, it's only 5.7, right? After running it WAY out above my last piece, I became rather gripped. I decided to downclimb, which should have worked except that I was SOOO gripped. I actually thought I might fall downclimbing and hit the ground, and by this point going back up was not an option for me. I wedged myself in nice and secure at a good spot, untied, and had my partner hike to the top and drop me the rope. It just seemed like the sane thing to do. After climbing the upper section with the toprope I was even more convinced I had made the right decision. Not a route to be underestimated, I can attest to that.
By Art Morimitsu
From: Huntington Beach, Ca
Apr 18, 2003

Friends don't let Friends climb Dolphin.......I led this route to warm up for Bird of Fire, I've done "Bird" several times since but with Dolphin I've followed the notation I wrote in my guide book "Never EVER climb this route again!"
By Flying T
Apr 21, 2003

And if you must climb this route, do as another friend did. After placing that last big cam in the bottom of the offwidth, hang ALL your remaining gear on it for your second. Then, of course, follow ArtM's advice and never climb it again.
By David Evans
Apr 21, 2003

Dolphin can be fun with big pro and ow technique.
By David Evans
Apr 23, 2003

I just realized that my comment regarding OW's sounded a bit flippant, didn't mean that. When I started climbing it was important to us to be all around climbers. A guy (or gal, not enough women climbing then) who could climb hard face but couldn't climb the equivalent level in cracks was not "a Real Climber". We looked down our noses at them. Yes, we were pompous punks! Consequently, many would devote a season or more to the discipline they were the weakest at, usually OW! I always admired those hot Valley Locals that could crank any type of crack or face. Now the disparity is indoor vs. outdoor. How many hot gym climber's cry like babies in a Josh handcrack (or struggle on 5.11 in the gym and then claim 5.14 FA's in the high desert, oh , but I digress!)? I have always felt that a 5.9 OW or squeezer chimney is about as hard as 5.11- in any other type of crack. How about Totally Tubular (5.8) in Loveland, GNARLEY? How about the Narrows on the Steck/Salathe, yikes? Or that mega-classic 5.10a (to right of Slack) at the base of El Cap that ends with the 5.7 OW? Hurt me please!
By Gary Kleiger
Apr 23, 2003

I'll have to agree with Dave on this one. The dolphin is a great route.Really not hard for OW, and as Dave points out, at least some OW skillsare necessary to do super classic routes, such as the Steck-Salathe.By the way Dave, the classic 10a at the base of El Cap would be theSacherer Cracker.
By The Gray Tradster
Jul 24, 2003

This climb is an excellent introduction to OW. Just remember three things, a big piece, long pants, and climbing OW is like eating an elephant, (one bite at a time!) The pictures tell it all.
By Locker
From: Yucca Valley, CA
Jul 28, 2003
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

This is a great climb!!! I love it! But to each their own of course. Perhaps it is because I was born near the ocean in Florida. But I stand my ground stating that the Dolphin should not be passed by.
By Anonymous Coward
Dec 20, 2003

I had many people warn me not to do the Dolphin, saying it was the worst thing ever, but I loved it!!!!! It protected really easily and well with little gear (4 biggest Hexes and 3 biggest Tri-cams) which makes for a light rack. As far as OW goes, it was not that bad, being on inclined terrain. And it allows you to try all sorts of OW technique in a safe-ish setting, just don't rely blindly on cams to protect you :) Definitely a climb I'd go back and do next time I'm out at Split Rocks!!!!!
By Locker
From: Yucca Valley, CA
Dec 20, 2003
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

FINALLY! Another that thinks the Dolphin is a cool route. It is a hell of allot of fun! Whomever you are that posted the recent comment, right on dude or dudette.
By Jim Kowalski
Jan 29, 2004

I led this route a few years ago. My buddy belaying me was a beginner, and boy did he learn fast. I got up into the off-width (which didn't look off-width from the ground) and the biggest piece I had was a #9 hex. I placed it (if you can call barely hanging it on two crystals 'placing it'), climbed about 10 feet above and listened to it fall down to the piece below it. I was looking at a long-ass fall so I wisely chose to down climb the route.The route has bomber pro the whole way, just bring one or two of your biggest camalots for the OW. Great route.
By Adam Stackhouse
Jun 11, 2004
rating: 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c

Not sure how one can rate these kinds of climbs. But nevertheless, I was writing for the "Bird" and remembered this oldie. This was one of my early leads and I remember running out of pro quick. As a matter of fact I remember downclimbing and pulling my "biggest" hex and placing it later. Does anyyone know what a hex is? Dave, you should be able to appreciate that comment. Anyway, my summation of this climb is don't let the rating fool you. Afterwards I wanted Dead Bees because it had "bolts"...
By C Miller
From: CA
Sep 3, 2004
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

A nice crack that progressively widens through the sizes from hands to squeeze chimney. A single #4 Camalot or equivalent should work fine. Three stars out of five.
By Neff Rivera
Nov 21, 2004
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

Fun climbing. Once you place your last piece # 4.5 or a 5 Camalot just inch up through the OW to the top. This is definitely a sweet climb I'll come back to do again.
By Dustysdawg
Jan 18, 2005
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

This is a great climb if you like'em big. I found it about the same difficulty as "Hex Marks the Poot", which is also a great climb. We had up to a #5 camalot and that made it easy to protect.
By Daniel Hart
Feb 28, 2005
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

I too was spanked be this route. I stuck my hand in the bottom of the crack before racking up totally confident. My friend was going to need an extra #3 for his warm up the other side of bof. 10 feet from the top my #2 Camalot walked out I was greasy and would not have been testing any gear if I was to fall. When from out of Heaven I herd a voice you ok would you like for me to lower you a line. I gladly accepted. ow is hell.
By Anonymous Coward
Mar 13, 2005

Both of us got shut down at the top, left a 4 and a 4.5 Camalot at our highpoint, pulled our rope, climbed Bird of Fire, and cleaned the gear on rappel. Next time, we'll do the 5.10 to warm up for the 5.7, not vice-versa.No fear of a big fall - just a slow ooze and pure exhaustion. Love the 'like eating an elephant' comment. So true!
By Anonymous Coward
Oct 6, 2005

too wide!
By Ryan Franz
From: Boulder, CO
Apr 17, 2006

It's a good thing I didn't read any of this before I did the route...I would have stayed off thinking it was a horror show!

I soloed the route to take pictures of my friend leading Bird Of Fire. Seemed very solid, with some fun squeezing up top.
By Meredith DB
From: Boulder, CO
May 14, 2006
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

Great climb, good introduction to offwidth.
By Cory Harelson
From: Boise, ID
Mar 23, 2009

My first real offwidth, and it was every bit as slow, painful, and bloody as I imagined it would be. That being said, I loved it! Once I figured out how to get my foot to stick in a heel-toe (which took several slips and left most of the skin that used to be on my ankle on the rock :)) it wasn't so bad. I was also amazed at how bomber the "arm bar" felt. I brought a #5 and a #6, and boy was I glad for the #6! Maybe if you were more comfortable on this type of climbing you could do without it . . . The only thing I would do different next time is wear socks. I'll be coming back to do laps on this one until my OW technique improves.
By Pat C
From: Honolulu
Apr 14, 2009

all you really need is gear up to a #4 and a sling to lasso that horn. Just run it out, you're not going to fall, just scrape down the squeeze inch by inch. Get your body in there tight!
By Rick Shull
From: Arcata, CA & Dyer,NV
Aug 18, 2009

I remember doing the Dolphin with John Marinovich in 1986. We were just starting to lead and could only afford a few pieces of gear. I think we only had about 10 pieces between us and none were cams. The biggest thing we had was a #10 Liberty Hex. We bought and strung the Liberty's because they were cheap compared to Chouinards. John had a pair of EB's and I was wearing first generation five tennies that I had shoe gooed the toes of to work better in cracks. Of the 10 pieces of gear, only about 4 fit the crack but we figured it would be hard to fall out of the OW. Somehow we survived. I think this was our first or second 5.7 route. After that, we started looking for hand and finger cracks....
By lars johnson
From: San Francisco, CA
Dec 20, 2009

I left an entire layer of skin in the off width. My buddy Marty left none. It's all about poise and style.
By nealg
Mar 29, 2010

definitely bring a 4 and 5 Camalot size piece in order to relax and enjoy the top third. a worthy climb and a nice stretch of OW.
By Carl A
From: brooklyn, ny
Jul 12, 2010

This thing is amazing, I thought I was going to die. I made some noises I've never made before, I lost all the skin off my ankles and wore through my favorite pair of socks. And I got up it. whoo hoo?
By Kyle Wills
From: Chicago, IL
Aug 15, 2010
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

I loved it as well. At the finish pulling onto the top, after just being utterly worked by my terrible OW technique was an amazing feeling. I later told some friends I felt like a newborn passing through the birth canal. There was a moment during my struggles I was just so exhausted that I wanted to give up and just fall ( fairly run out as was anyone I am sure at this point) but basically realized it was going to take even more effort to pull myself out to even let myself fall, so I just kept trucking. I think it is for sure worth doing, if only the first 40 feet were as compelling as the last 15.
By Andre Kovacs
From: san diego, ca
Jan 28, 2011
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

This climb sounds like its going to be mellow from the name and the rating. Think again!!! OW hell!!
By mark felber
From: Wheat Ridge, CO
Apr 8, 2011

An excellent climb and a great place to learn OW technique. Walking the last cam (#5 Camelot) up as you go makes the last bit very safe. I only lost a little skin around my ankle, which is pretty good for a J-Tree offwidth.
By John Long
Jul 14, 2011

Interesting fact: the first time we went to this area I soloed up Dolphin to get a look at the top of Bird of Fire because it looked hard from the ground. But it wasn't. That was in 1974 and we were kids climbing on swamis and hexes. Couple nuts and call it good.
By Brian Chastain
Jun 20, 2012

I can see how you soloed this Mr. Long. The bottom feels 5 easy and once established in the width, you pretty much can't come out. Although I'd say it has a little grunt factor in there at the top.
By GDavis
Nov 19, 2012

Only brought a BD 2, 3 and 4. 4 was tipped out completely about a foot above the horn (I slung and left the #2 on it). Quite a run to the top from there, but if you've led bird of fire you shouldn't fall on it.
By Nelson Day
From: Joshua Tree, CA
Jan 7, 2013
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

I took a 2 C4, a 3.5 camalot, a 4 C4, a 5 C4, and a 6 C4. They all placed really well! This climb is lots of fun. I would recommend wearing some sort of shoes that protect your ankles though. Not hard as off width at all. The initial section is typical hand and fist jamming. The upper section (for me anything #5 C4) is all arm bars and heel to toe jamming. Good fun! If you don't know how to arm bar, I could see how this route would be really hard. You can belay from bolts on top of the formation on climber's left. If you are setting this up as a TR (like I did), bring a long, long cordalette. The bolts are about 10 feet from the top of the climb, and rope drag can be pretty bad for followers.

After leading this, I walked straight over and onsighted Bird of Fire. I didn't give the OW enough credit for the exhaustion factor because Bird of Fire felt like a total endurance crux at the top... Both great routes!
By jeffblankman
From: San Diego, Ca
Feb 18, 2013

Personally, I liked it. Heel-toe and arm-bar is the ticket in the OW. Managed to climb with an old Camalot 3.5 as biggest piece. Plugged it about a foot above the horn, waaaay back, and seemed solid enough. It was run-out, but as others have mentioned I didn't feel much risk of falling out of the crack.
By Bob Gaines
Feb 18, 2013

Stemmed up the entire corner on TR. It's about 5.10b when done this way.
By doblackj
Feb 26, 2013

Last Monday (2/18) I was climbing at Isles in the Sky in Joshua Tree (Bird of Fire Area). A father and son team were climbing the route next to us (Dolphin) and they accidentally mistook my Katanas for theirs. If you have them please respond to this post.
By wesnice
From: Brevard, NC
Nov 18, 2013

"People fear what they don't understand and hate what they can't conquer." The Dolphin's pleasures are deep and gritty. Don't wear your nice shirt on this one.
By Matt N
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Jan 1, 2014

The best reason to lead this, is to belay from atop and hear your followers curse and struggle (just like I did) right under you!
By BigRed11
Mar 30, 2015

An absolute blast - I loved every wide inch of this thing. It's easy in terms of technique, and you can always rest on your leg jams and heel-toes. It's the perfect place to learn technique on top-rope, and then practice it on lead. LOVE LOVE LOVE this route! Bring a 6 if you want to do the whole thing on top-rope.
By Melissa Thaw
From: Merced, CA & South Lake Tahoe
May 28, 2015

This route is great and super fun! The large crystals make heal-toe cam relatively easy. The wide section isn't that long, but I did place a 5 and 6.
By Rory Macomber
From: Redlands, California
Apr 4, 2016

Super fun route. Just accept the fact that progress is going to be made in inches and get to work! Chicken wings, arm bars, and heel toe jams will get you to the top. Don't get suckered too far into the squeeze, stay out where you can move. Gotta find me some more routes like this!
By Ronald B
From: Los Angeles, CA
Oct 21, 2016

I just led this one last week! I was very thankful for having two #4 cams, but I'd say the #5 is optional. After placing the second #4 as high as I could before it got too wide, I only went about another body length up before my torso was securely inside the crack and I felt very safe running it out to the top. But certainly if you crave the warm and fuzzy feeling of being extra secure, a #5 would be nice to have.
By Fernando Cal
From: Long Beach, CA
Feb 6, 2017
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

What a great climb! The start of the climb is cruiser and once you get to the wide part, the cursing (fun) really starts! Not big fan of OW but all the other routes were taken, so i said "what the heck" and went for it. Only had one #4, but felt safe with my body jammed the last 20ft. Super fun route (if you're into that kinda of stuff...)!
By amockalypsenow
From: San Diego
Feb 6, 2017
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

Great fun! Hadn't been in the wide for a couple months; I ran out the 5easy lower section but I got slowed way down in the wide quagmire at the top, trying to arm bar out of it with little gains, it felt five HARD... but then I remembered to chicken wing and fast progress was made, just in the nick of time. Used a #5 cam and a #2 big bro for kicks. (that big bro placed pretty darn nicely in there). I am not surprised Largo soloed this- homey is a beast- but I reckon I'll give it another roped go before I think about going so-low.
By Suz Zak
From: New Haven, CT
Mar 27, 2017

What a wonderful climb! If you're looking for your first off width, this could be it. I brought up a #4 but even that piece felt somewhat unnecessary. Definitely can do it without the #5, but I'm pretty tiny so by the time you could use the #5 I was inside the climb, not goin no where. Epic top out at the end coming into the sun from the depths of the dolphin
By Dustin Stephens
Apr 11, 2017
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

You will need a BD6 to actually protect the top section. Very stout for the grade.
By MariaZ
Jul 5, 2017
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

Its a classic if people reference it when describing other routes. And I've heard the Dolphin come up when describing other offwidths...

I LOVED this route. It felt safe except for the fact that I had to bump my BD 5 as far as it would go then climb about 10ft above it to top out. This is the first time I ever had to bump a cam.

I didn't make it look glamorous, though. No one would follow to clean up my pieces.

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