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Ground Control to Major Tom 

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

Type:  Trad, 10 pitches, 1300', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c R [details]
FA: Stewart Green, Dennis Jackson and Major Tom Lumen, 1980
Page Views: 4,014
Submitted By: Vince Anderson on May 10, 2003

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Ground Control to Major Tom is a good route for the grade considering its length. It climbs generally good rock and has superb views of the North Chasm View Wall. The climbing is serious in places and the route finding is difficult. Not for novices.

Approach the climb by climbing down the Chillum Stone gully and rappelling over the Chillum Stone (~140'). From the base of the rappels head down a short ways and left across a grassy ledge towards its end (boulders). This is where this route and the Cimmaron Slabs begin. Locate the route by finding a short, right leaning crack off the ground. Above this should be a larger, right leaning crack/overlap system. You should also notice a large Ponderosa tree leaning away from the top of the cliff far above near the culmination of the bottom part of the route.

Once you have located the route start up the crack. You will arrive at some grassy ledges before the larger crack system and can belay here if you do not have a long rope. Continue up into the overlap and follow it out to its terminus. This pitch can be strenuous 5.7. Turn the end through some bushes to a nice ledge with a not so nice belay. There is a rock with some old rap slings to use, but it is off to the left side of the ledge and is not in an ideal place to arrange a belay. You will figure something out.

The next pitch wanders out right from the ledge following an incipient seam. There is sparse pro at the start (5.6), but once into the next crack/overlap system there is plenty. Continue to a ledge and go further right to climb up an onto a large rock plaque that seems to just be sitting on the wall. Careful as you climb up and around this. You will rejoin the corner to your left as you step off of the plaque. There is little pro in this section and is about 5.6. At the top of that corner is another good ledge with a great rock to belay off of on its left hand side.

Pitch three now takes you back left, traversing across the blank slab, following the path of least resistance until you reach the large, right facing corner on the opposite side of the slab. This is a run out pitch. You can fiddle in a TCU at the start, but there really is no gear across much of it for 40 or 50 feet. You will reach a small breach just 15' from the corner and safety. Here you can get some gear and then you must make a commiting (5.7) friction move up onto the final slab. Once on it you easily move into the corner and belay.

Pitch four heads up the obvious corner system above. The corner turns to the right and is a bit of an undercling/layback for a few moves. Once around this, continue laybacking up to the top of the corner and some ledges. This pitch feels like 5.7+ or so. Here you can belay or can continue up and left into another, easier corner to a bushy ledge below a nice looking pegmatite chimney.

The next pitch either goes up the chimney on the right (recommended) which has NO protection and is 5.6 or goes left into a dirty, mossy corner with some pro. Either way you end up on a ledge below the sweet pegmatite slab above. Head up the slab passing one bolt towards a corner system above. This is one of the best pitches on the route and is a three star pitch in its own right. It is no harder than 5.5 or 5.6, but is very run out. There is the one bolt (an old 1/4 incher) and then nothing else until you reach the safety of the corners and flakes above. There is 60' runouts before and above the bolt on this pitch. With judicious route finding, the holds just appear and are great. Very delicate, but worth the fright. Head up through the cornes to below a roof and move right to a ledge and single bolt (can be backed up w/ large cam) belay.

Pitch six heads left through cracks, flakes, and corners towards the large ponderosa pine that has been looming above. Go arond the tree and belay on the right side of the wall above. There can be a lot of rope drag on this pitch (5.6).

On the right side of this wall is a lichenous chimney that can be climbed (5.6) up to more ledges and eventually the top of the fin/pinacle. At the top right hand side of the fin is an old rap anchor that can be used to belay from. Don't rap from here. You will be sorry if you do. Instead, move the belay up and over the top of the pinacle to the notch between it and the headwall above. It is a 4th class down climb into the notch.

Most guides say "scramble to the top" from here, but the excitement is not over yet. Head up the obvious hand crack in the headwall (5.8) and climb up to some ledges below a large roof. Belay and continue up and right around the roof. Keep moving up and do a little bushwhacking until you are at the top of the next shoulder. This should take a few pitches.

Now follow the shoulder towards the rim and find the best option for getting up to it. I have found that the nice looking thin hands splitter on the left side is the best. It is perhaps harder than any of the climbing on the rest of the route (5.9) but it is nice and has great pro. Alternatively, go right up a tricky corner with bad pro (5.8). You can also do a big traverse right to much easier ground, but it is hardly worth going this way as it is a whole pitch of traversing.

Once on the rim of the "island", follow it to its opposite end, staying on the right side of the island. You should find a notch between this island and the next. Descend the gully to the notch (4th class). Now, bushwhack your way to the base of the next island. Climb up corners and chimneys slighly left of the notch to the top of this island #2 (5.4). Easily cross this island to where there is a notch between it and the true rim (road). 4th class down to the next notch and then climb 5 minutes back to the road. This "descent" is much better than the one recommended in Robbie Williams book, which is longer and involves much more bushwhacking.


Standard trad rack including one set of wires and cams up to 3.5"

Photos of Ground Control to Major Tom Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Not the greatest rap anchor - a buttonhead in the ...
BETA PHOTO: Not the greatest rap anchor - a buttonhead in the ...
Rock Climbing Photo: The P3 traverse.
The P3 traverse.
Rock Climbing Photo: Chad at the top of the pillar.
Chad at the top of the pillar.
Rock Climbing Photo: Chasm View from the route.
Chasm View from the route.
Rock Climbing Photo: Nearing the end of the climb.
Nearing the end of the climb.
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch one.
Pitch one.
Rock Climbing Photo: Second pitch.
Second pitch.

Comments on Ground Control to Major Tom Add Comment
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By aaron voreis
Dec 3, 2003
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

FYI: The Chilliumstone Gully is mis-marked in the BC guidebook. It is actually one gully west of the one marked.

By clustiere
Jun 27, 2007

Question: do I really need to bring 2 ropes for the raps if I have a 70 meter???????
By jayci
From: Flagstaff
Sep 15, 2007
rating: 5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c R

Two ropes is a very good idea for anything in the Black unless you know exactly what your getting into. 60m raps where about perfect for this route. Don't expect a leisurely journey because the grade is moderate. I remember that the left traverse was very serious indeed. It is true that you can fiddle in some small gear, but a huge, swinging whip would most defnitely put more than max force on some small piece of pro that can only take 6kN or so. Bring your soloing hat!
By John Peterson
May 18, 2011
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c R

A really good route. This description is awesome! If this didn't have the runout on P5 and the grunt down the gully, it would get a lot of traffic.

The start was marked by a small cairn. It's on a clean face to the right of a mossy grove.

You only need one rope for the descent - a 60m should work OK if you rap the gully.

The only runout that was intense was on P5. There was a short runout on P2 (not the start - that protected with small cams). The runout on P3 wasn't bad at all - we got decent gear all the way across. The 5.7 step is about 5 - 10 feet past pro. P5 starts easy but definitely gets intense before the bolt (a nice new shiny one!). After the bolt, we found occasional gear to keep things reasonable. Didn't see any possibility of pro before the bolt. Only 5.6 though.

We found P4 was wet but there was an easy alternative to the left. The mossy groove to the left of the peg chimney wasn't bad. We set belays on a good ledge about 30' below the chimney, then on the ledge above the chimney - it's a good place to give moral support to the leader on the runout. We were able to hit the pine from this ledge on a 70m rope.

We really wanted to do the over the top exit but were worried about daylight. We weren't sure exactly which crack was the 5.8 fist coming out of the notch and decided to bail down the gully. This goes in two raps, both should be fine on a single 60m. The anchors were crappy but we beefed up both of them. The second anchor was a couple of antique buttonheads - definitely could use some improvement. Unfortunately you have to drag yourself back to the rim from almost to the Chillumstone. Not fun.

No idea why you would take big bros on this. We used a couple of RPs but the small C3s got a lot of use. There were no rap stations on the route - go to the top or prepare to say goodbye to a lot of your rack.
By Bosier Parsons
From: Colorado Springs, CO
Aug 21, 2013

Some updates as of 8/18/13 ascent with Hilaree O'Neill:

Fixed rope on rappel down Chillumstone was good. If it's not there, a single 70m would definitely work.

The large ponderosa pine tree at the top of the main part of the route has fallen over (from wind or lightning) and cannot be seen until right on top of it.

The route description above is pretty good. Though I probably made an error on the 2nd pitch, which was by far the most serious pitch on the route for us. I climbed up from below and right of the first big, hanging block/plaque of rock. I thought I followed the description to a T, but I was WAY runout, and on 5.8 or so technical thin slab climbing. It's definitely hard to tell where to go, as you can't see the plaque from down below.

I found plenty of gear on the third pitch traverse, which was pretty easy climbing, especially after the second pitch.

The peg chimney on the 5th pitch took a #3 Camalot, and 2 small C3s (purple and green). The peg slab above which is the money pitch definitely isn't that hard, and there are a few other spots for gear besides the single bolt. I placed a 9 stopper, #0.4 Camalot, #2 Camalot (could also place a #4). Just follow the obvious weakness and look for the bolt at a small ledge out right.

The first pitch out of the first notch is fun but probably a little harder, like 5.9, on the 2nd section below the roof. The pitch after that (the way we did it) has a weird, leaning off-width off the 2nd ledge out left. This was the physical crux I thought and was probably just a few moves of 5.10. The 3rd and top-out pitch on Island #1 was not a thin hands corner but fists and off-width, 5.9+ or 5.10 for a move or two, then step left on the big ledge and finish up a steep 5.9 finger crack.

All in all, a pretty fun but adventurous route, and quite serious, even for being moderate. We hung out a bit on the summit fin/pinnacle before starting up the exit island pitches, but it basically took us about 11 hours rim-to-rim. I spent a lot of time on the 2nd pitch making sure I didn't fall 160', and we spent extra time route-finding all along the climb, but, again, the description given was really pretty accurate. We took a single set of stoppers, doubles from #0.4 - #2 Camalots, and a single #3 and #4, and that seemed to be pretty good. I'll post some pictures if it looks like they might help. Enjoy!

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