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Flakes, The 

YDS: 5.10+ French: 6b+ Ewbanks: 21 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 20 British: E3 5b X

Type:  Trad, 14 pitches, 2000', Grade V
Original:  YDS: 5.10+ French: 6b+ Ewbanks: 21 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 20 British: E3 5b X [details]
FA: FA: Ken Trout & Bob Sloezen, 1977 FFA: Ed Webster & Steve Hong, 1977
Page Views: 10,433
Submitted By: aaron voreis on Aug 31, 2005

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Darkness in the Black Hole.

2016 Raptor Closures MORE INFO >>>


Flawless cracks, immaculate movement, spacious belays.

Complex route finding, substantial runouts, crumbly rock.

The Flakes is THE 5.10 test piece in the Black Canyon.

Having climbed the Scenic Cruise, Cruise, and Astro Dog my partner and my 12 a.m. opinion was that The Flakes is finally what we expected grade V to be. Strenous, sometimes dangerous climbing from sun up to after sunset. Below are a few details.


See topo for most of the information. Aviod topo for a better adventure.

Rappel the Astro Slog. Leave the piglet and the #5 (save for after the X chimney) two pitches from the ground on a fixed anchor.

Climb first two pitches of The Dog. Traverse left and climb 250 feet of steep, immaculate 5.9 with great ledges.

Climb the 5.9X bombay chimney. This pitch is X. You will probably die if you fall. There is no reason to fall as the rock is perfect and the climbing reasonable. No gear bigger than a 1 camalot is needed.

Climb the pitch after the bombay chimney. This pitch is pretty scary if you do not bring the huge cam. It is harder than the previous pitch. Belay after the perfect 5.7 hands.

Pitch 7 5.10+ Tricky Route Finding. Do not go right or up. Go left on unprotected edges to a weakness in an overlap. Place fantastic gear and go up weakness. Superb climbing. Continue til rope runs out. Belay.

Climb more ambigious broken terrain trending right towards base of right-angling, rotten, chimney monstrosity.

Pitch 9. Crux. 5.10+ Stout. The rock on the lower section is junk, but gets much better the higher you go. Black Canyon Legend Robert Warren gave me one piece of advice for this pitch; bring hexes. Bring Hexes!

There, you've done it... see topo for how to get to the rim.

The Flakes is more serious than Astro Dog, and just as good.


Rack: Standard Black Canyon rack + 2 hand-sized hexes & #4 & #4.5 Camalots. 2 ropes for Astro-Slog. 1 haul-able bag and #5 Camalot recommended.

Photos of Flakes, The Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Getting started in the crux chimney.
Getting started in the crux chimney.
Rock Climbing Photo: Good gear midway up the X chimney.  Gold offset nu...
Good gear midway up the X chimney. Gold offset nu...
Rock Climbing Photo: The line Bob and I followed in 1977.  The divergen...
BETA PHOTO: The line Bob and I followed in 1977. The divergen...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Flakes topo.
BETA PHOTO: The Flakes topo.

Comments on Flakes, The Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 7, 2016
By Anonymous Coward
Sep 20, 2005

If I've been told correctly, the line described above was first climbed on the FFA. The FA took another line near the crux offwidth pitch, does anyone know if they actually climbed the crux pitch of Astrodog?
By Anonymous Coward
Sep 21, 2005

Ken nailed the astrodog crux on the FA of the Flakes.
By Bryan Gilmore
From: New England
Jun 17, 2007

Hexes not needed... honestly.
By Ken Trout
From: Golden, CO
Jan 19, 2009

Ed and Steve did a one-day, free, version of the Flakes. I'm pretty sure they did their route a week before Bob Sloezen and I did our version. Ed and I spent some time comparing our routes from the Hallucinogen, but my memory is uncertain about how they topped out. To begin, they bypassed the lowest "flake climbing" by approaching from the the Chillum-Stone Gully (left). After the runout chimney pitch, they may have climbed to the top via a rotten and tough looking chimney, left of the Astro-Dog finish.

Bob SLOEZEN and I did the complete version of The Flakes, using some aid, and spending three night out. We brought gear like slung stoppers, hexes, I-beams, a few pins, and a some copperheads, but no bolt kit.

The first day was used getting to the start of the lowest flake. From near the Dragon Overlook, we placed our own anchors on four rappels down to the notch, behind the big pinnacle. Then crossed the river twice and hauled our loads up a couple hundred feet of 4th class to a bivvy. The overhanging, wide-crack, start of the real "flake" climbing was super scary with hexes. When the chimney/crack ended, maybe just below the bolt on A-Dog, a tension traverse was done left to the next flake system and a belay using some horizontal knife-blades in perfect granite. Then we joined up with Ed and Steve's route. Fun cracks led up to the nice bivvy ledge below the runout chimney. Bob led the squeeze and fixed a hanging belay from poor pins on the right wall. (Today's longer ropes must help get to the better part of the crack for a belay)

The next day we climbed another pitch or two of good climbing up to the looming, rotten, headwall. We dodged Ed and Steve's crux chimney via a really long hand-traverse right. After lowering the bag across, the traverse pitch had to be followed, not jumared. Then we pioneered a finish now known as Astro-Dog, finding better rock and high exposure. The crux aid was the same section that is now 5.11 and shown on the cover of Jeff Achey's book, "Climb!" At the crux, a large block had to be tossed off. Even with pulling up rope and getting the belayer sheltered under the haul bag, it was still a near miss for ropes and climbers. This pitch was finished in the dark and the night was spent perched on tiny stances. We climbed the summit corner, next morning, twenty pitches total, and Jimmy Newberry met us at the top.
By stevecurtis
From: Petaluma California
Jun 4, 2010

Well, Pat and I finally did this thing. For me, it is best done just once. Fun and compelling, but nausea inducing none the less. Notes.

Pitch 7 was a dirt filled crack. Luckily, someone scrapped out a few placements enabling me to free it. A fall at the crux would be clean but long. Pitch 8 is very loose and dangerous. However, pro is generally OK. Pitch 8 will require two or three pitches for most parties because of loose rock and meandering. I went close to 200 ft on the first section, then did a 50 ft pitch into the base of the chimney. Finally, I did a very short pitch around a huge loose flake to get my partner onto a good belay and into the chimney. We trundled a few blocks that could kill the belayer.
Pat found gear in the X chimney. I found it easy with a pack. The belay above was marginal.
The crux chimney pitch 9 goes on for 200 ft. It looks awful, but is fun to climb. I didn't use hexes, and used one handsized piece for the belay. Expect to run it out with a set of doubles. Pitch 10 is very short--70 ft, and fun stemming. Pitch 11 is easy 5th. The last two pitches are on Astrodog.
By Neill Prohaska
From: Tucson, AZ
Jul 13, 2010

A query: does anyone know if you can use Big Bros to make the X-chimney less X? How long is the chimney, approx.?
By aaron voreis
Jul 16, 2010

You might be able to use the giant Bigbro, but unless you brought 2-3 of them, it would still be X. There is much more difficult unprotected climbing on the route, so Bigbros in the chimney wouldn't really solve the issue.
By Neill Prohaska
From: Tucson, AZ
Jul 16, 2010

Hmm...thanks for the feedback, but this leads to another question: if the route has many other x-rated pitches/moves, why is it only the Bombay chimney I have ever seen labeled as such? Also, anyone out there who has actually tried to place a #3, #4, or #5 Big Bro in the Bombay chimney?
By -mn
Jul 20, 2010

I remember thinking.. you could get a big ol' Bigbro in there for the last section of the .9x chim. - but I wouldn't haul one up there just for that. This pitch will seem easy compared to some other sections you'll encounter higher up. Great route with all the usual BLACK funk thrown in here and there. I'd do it again for sure - enjoyed it more than Astrodog.
By chris righter
Jun 18, 2012
rating: 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R

Not as good as Astrodog. Didn't really see where hexes would be any better than a cam.
By Rowan Hill
From: Durango, Colorado
Jun 18, 2012

Great climb! A #6 Camalot is a must for the pitch after the crux chimney, and my partner Drew still found it to be a runout pitch.
When rapping the Astro Slog, be mindful of a small crack just below the last rap anchors, we got our ropes stuck in it.
By Drew Thayer
From: Denver, CO
Jun 26, 2012

Climbed with Rowan, we found a rack of offset nuts, green and red C3, double Camalots #0.3-3, and singles of #4, 5, and 6 Camalot to be adequate.
Hexes were not necessary, and the #6 Camalot is only needed on the 2nd chimney pitch, a #3 BigBro would be lighter and fit earlier (less scary).

It is possible to link the chimney pitches, but I don't recommend anyone do this. Because it's a 90m pitch, you are simul-climbing with the second in the first part of the chimney, and you have 60m of rope out at the insecure crux (I had serious tunnel vision and skipped the belay).

Other than the chimneys, this climb is well protected, the rock quality is good when the climbing is hard, it's a good long strenuous day, and everything I was looking for in a Black Canyon classic.
By jborof borof
Sep 18, 2014

This one is worthy. Definitely a Black Classic. In the last two weeks, I've climbed Atlantis and Crystalvision and thought this route was by far the most strenuous and physically demanding of the three. I got stuck in the 9X chimney, too much crap on my harness and worked like a dog to get through it. Thought the 10+ pitch above that was spicy but fun, and I found the bombay chimney to be pretty hard. Ran out of long draws on that one and got rope dragged for the last steep bit.

All in all, it's worth doing, a completely different experience from Astrodog. The link pitch to escape the bombay onto Astrodog looks fun, by the way.

We also used the #6 Camalot a bunch, but only really cuz we brought it. It was super useful on the ow above the 9X but not really necessary elsewhere.

We took forever on this one. Plan a long day!
By Greg Cameron
Sep 7, 2016
rating: 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b

I think that this might be my favorite 5.10 (+ for sure) of the Black Canyon grade Vs I have done. It is right there with The Cruise/Scenic Cruise on the other side. I remember having done a bunch of North rim routes before ever doing a South rim route -- this was my first, the first time with Mike Pennings, circa 1992.

We did it in something like 6 hours, accessing it from the north rim (better camping). We hiked down the SOB, crossed the river, did some scary-assed third-classing, did the climb (I got the .9x lead), thrashed and rappelled back down to the river, crossed the river, and hiked out the SOB, all before sunset. I was all "who IS this guy?"

I did it again with George Lowe in 2007? Did the Astroslog that time to get to the start of the route. We did it just fine but in a more conventional time. Funny thing is, we ran into Mike Pennings and Jonny Copp on our rappels to the start. They were doing the Falcon Wall or something.

RIP, Jonny Copp.

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