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Fingertip Traverse 

YDS: 5.4 French: 4a Ewbanks: 12 UIAA: IV ZA: 10 British: VD 3c

Type:  Trad, 4 pitches, 500'
Original:  YDS: 5.3 French: 3+ Ewbanks: 10 UIAA: III ZA: 9 British: VD 3a [details]
FA: Jim Smith, Bob Brinton, Arthur Johnson, and William Rice, September 1936
Page Views: 13,886
Submitted By: Roger Linfield on Feb 24, 2006

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (111)
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Just after the 5.3 lieback... which in my opinion ...


From Lunch Rock, walk right until the rock starts to curve sharply around to your right. Start the climb by going up a third class gully to a tree below an overhang. Climb the tree and exit left around the overhang, and then continue up easy ground to the top of a shrubby area and belay. An obvious right-facing lieback (5.3) goes up to a broken area and an optional belay. Step around left to the obvious fingertrip traverse which gives the route its name. Continue up and left along this crack to easier ground. Broken 4th class climbing takes you up to Lunch Ledge. The easiest way to the top from here is to move up over some three foot steps. Continue up and right along an obvious gully to the shoulder of the rock.


standard rack

Photos of Fingertip Traverse Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Here's a pic of the 5.3 layback.
BETA PHOTO: Here's a pic of the 5.3 layback.
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbing topo of Fingertip Traverse at Tahquitz.
BETA PHOTO: Climbing topo of Fingertip Traverse at Tahquitz.
Rock Climbing Photo: This fixed piton and the dihedral to the right is ...
BETA PHOTO: This fixed piton and the dihedral to the right is ...
Rock Climbing Photo: The first half of the fingertip traverse. Taken on...
The first half of the fingertip traverse. Taken on...
Rock Climbing Photo: None of this tree nonsense is necessary. You can e...
BETA PHOTO: None of this tree nonsense is necessary. You can e...
Rock Climbing Photo: The actual fingertip traverse section, the money p...
BETA PHOTO: The actual fingertip traverse section, the money p...
Rock Climbing Photo: Debbie just after stepping off the tree onto the f...
Debbie just after stepping off the tree onto the f...
Rock Climbing Photo: Christy leading the tree start.
Christy leading the tree start.
Rock Climbing Photo: Sitting comfortably at the lunch ledge.
Sitting comfortably at the lunch ledge.
Rock Climbing Photo: Russell usually free solo's this route. He was my ...
Russell usually free solo's this route. He was my ...
Rock Climbing Photo: I thought I was on the 3rd pitch but it was just o...
I thought I was on the 3rd pitch but it was just o...
Rock Climbing Photo: At the base.
BETA PHOTO: At the base.
Rock Climbing Photo: The 3rd/4th class at the start is kinda spicy. ;)
The 3rd/4th class at the start is kinda spicy. ;)

Comments on Fingertip Traverse Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Aug 7, 2017
By Christian "crisco" Burrell
From: PG, Utah
Aug 14, 2007

Easier than Fingertrip. But nowhere near as classic. I suppose if you want a multi-pitch experience with no difficulty at all, this route is ok. But there are better routes.
By Fat Dad
From: Los Angeles, CA
Jan 22, 2009

I could disagree more with cisco. Mathematically, it's impossible. As a beginner's climb, I can think of few better routes, with the possible exception of, say, the East Face of the Third Flatiron. From the step across out of the tree on the first pitch, the exposed lieback on pitch 2, the even more exposed fingertip traverse on pitch 3, it's just all too good. Do it and you'll see.
By Brian Hench
From: Costa Mesa, CA
Aug 10, 2009
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

I would think that many would want to rope up for the "third class gully". It seem more like fourth class to me. If you have a beginner in tow, I wouldn't ask him or her to solo that gully.

We finished the traverse pitch by continuing up and left to a large tree located above and right of lunch ledge. From here we continued up Angel's Fright and finished with the slab at the top. A total of four pitches.
By Tyler Williams
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 16, 2010
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a

watch out for the ant tree
By Justin Tomlinson
From: Monrovia, CA
Jul 3, 2011
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

While most of the climbing here is easy, I would not rate Fingertip Traverse a perfect beginners climb. (See The Trough for perfect beginners climb).

If you have a super noobie, I think they might find the exposure of the fingertip traverse combined with insecure feet and thin fingers quite spicy. Not terribly difficult, per se, but maybe not a confidence builder, especially with swing potential in the event of a fall.

Don't let the 5.3 rating fool you into thinking this is an easy walk up. Climbing the lieback requires some skill in technique for a move or two that might pose problems for some super noobs.

For a rating, I would give this climb a 5.5 based on the lieback and the traverse. Definately harder than anything on the Trough. Plus, you still have to top out coming off of Lunch Ledge, which offers runout 5.4 slab, delicate 5.6 tips/lieback, or I think there is (?) 5.0 slab up there.

Anyway, an okay climb.
By Josh Cameron
From: California in my Mind
Jul 17, 2011
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

Combined with the first pitch of "Fingertrip" this is one of my all-time favorite routes. A great beginner climb and a great climb for a mellow cruiser day.

The first time I climbed it I had too much rope drag at the start of the slab on the last pitch. I built a belay off the little tree (yikes) then belayed up my girlfriend. When she got to the tree and saw that the climbed ended just up the slab, she let the expletives fly right at me. But, she must've had fun since she's now my wife.
By RockyR
From: Encinitas, CA
Aug 12, 2011

Did this route on 8.11.11 w/ a local climber, Russell Romero. This was my first multi-pitch trad lead. It was definitely fun! On the 2nd pitch, climbing up on the tree to the rock was pretty interesting!

Took my first lead trad fall on the 3rd pitch where there's a lie back section. BD #2 is what I fell on! It was definitely a great section.

On the actual traverse, since I am not used to being that exposed and high up, I had to really get out off my head to do the traverse. Thankfully Russell was very patient w/ me and I did it clean! Placed 3 pro's during the traverse. WHEW!

The descent was more spicier than the actual climb. Russell took me to a different longer route and still nerve wracking. Guess I will have to keep going back up there to get use to it :)

Overall, it was definitely a fun climb!
By Richard Shore
Sep 23, 2011
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a

Classic as it gets for the grade. Add some extra spice by doing the 5.4 slab finish off Lunch Ledge.
By Tristan Burnham
From: La Crescenta, CA
Oct 24, 2011

We did this route today. My parnter couldn't get my yellow master cam out from a spot in the middle of the traverse. If you get it, congrats on the booty and it's a pretty new cam with no falls so you can trust it.
By RockyR
From: Encinitas, CA
Jul 12, 2012

Love this route. Did it again on 7.10.12 w/ a buddy that has never been to Tahquitz. Finished the last pitch with the fingertip lieback section. Fist time me leading that section. Love it!!! Super fun day!

By Colin Parker
From: Idyllwild, CA
May 25, 2013
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

I have to agree with Justin Tomlinson on this one. It's a great route, but it's certainly NOT 5.3, and probably not a good climb for super noobs. I brought two friends on their first outdoor climbing trip up this thing yesterday and I made the tough call to rap before the traverse. I scouted it and downclimbed it and it felt every bit of 5.5 to me. You have positive fingertip holds and marginal foot holds at the crux. Also, lots of exposure here. The lieback on pitch 2 also has a few difficult moves near the top, definitely not 5.3. So I highly recommend this to people breaking into the 5.5 grade and even novices comfortable with exposure, but not your average beginner.
By The Gray Tradster
May 26, 2013

The Tahquitz decimal system (later to be adopted as the YDS)was originally based on a list of climbs that established the basis for the grading system by Chuck Wilts in multiple editions of his guidebook.

5.0 The Trough
5.1 Fingertip Traverse
5.3 Northeast Farce
5.4 Angels Fright
5.5 Ski Tracks
5.6 Sahara Terror
5.7 Fingertrip
5.8 Mechanic's Route (Booksellers Route)

Later additions were
5.9 Open Book
5.10 Blank
5.10+ Blankety-Blank

Just explain to the beginners what a "fingertip traverse" is and that you aren't supposed to try to walk across it.

Tried that as a NOOB my first time at Tahquitz about 45 years ago.

By Chris D
From: the couch
May 4, 2014

There's no reason to argue about the grade on this route (or other easy Tahquitz routes), but not because it's actually a "modern" 5.3 (whatever that is)...

This was one of my first leads, and I've done this route a number of times with a variety of brand new seconds on the other end of the rope and the lieback, while short and easily well-protected, is a mandatory lieback, very smooth on the feet, and includes a couple of moves that would earn a rating of 5.6 or .7 if it was FA'd somewhere else today. It's not The Slab, which is rated 5.8, and felt like 5.10 to me, but maybe Tahquitz is a place with people who historically were really good at liebacking. Ha!

The slab finish would probably be called 5.6 at Big Rock (for comparison) even without the massive rope drag you'll probably have if you placed any gear at all above lunch ledge.

The actual fingertip traverse is probably 5.3.

Just rambling, but my point is that a new leader who feels like having a throw at multipitch should totally not hesitate to do this climb. It will teach you routefinding skills, and while mostly very easy, has short sections of well-protected challenges in the still-easy range to keep it interesting.
By Dean Olson
Jun 22, 2014
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a

That "third class gully" is definitely fourth class, but not hard. Can be done in Chacos. The lieback is the first part of the climb that actually gets your attention. Do not climb too far up the right leaning crack and miss the traverse (I had to down climb some 10 feet because of this).

Super fun route that is an easy-to-do introduction to increased exposure. If you are still cutting your teeth, this one will take you for a ride.

Edit: Also, yeah, that ant tree sucks.
By Kyle Wills
From: Chicago, IL
Sep 6, 2015

Definitely trend right from the belay after the traverse. The "layback flake" is the best way to finish, adds just a little technical climbing to a fun route. Also there is NO REASON to use the tree to start the first pitch of climbing after the gully.
By Ben Crowell
Jul 16, 2017
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c

I posted a topo. Comments and corrections would be welcome. I climbed this yesterday, and both I and my follower spent some time messing around with different possible ways of getting out of the ant tree belay and onto the rock while minimizing time spent in the tree getting eaten alive. In the description on the topo I gave a method that worked well for me and seemed pretty easy physically, which was basically to use the tree only for a little bit of stemming. We didn't try climbing the broken overhangs at the back, although multiple people have told me that it's easy.
By MariaZ
Aug 7, 2017
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

I did this this past weekend. The hardest part was the angels fright finish slab.

I got to lead the fingertip traverse pitch and it was AMAZING. One of the most memorable pitches I've done at Tahquitz so far. Despite the exposure it was hard to remember to put lots of pro in for the follower.

Also got to lead the pitch where I had to climb the tree. I thought this was hilarious and good fun. I girth hitched the tree to protect the move where I flopped onto the rock.

Used my standard rack of a set of nuts and .3-3 cams.

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