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J-Crack Slab Area
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YDS: 5.9+ French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: E1 5a

Type:  Trad, 4 pitches, Grade II
Original:  YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a [details]
FA: S. Hickman & J. Bryant, 1964. FFA (headwall): Mike Caldwell. Billy Westbay and Dan McClure, 1973? D. McClure, M. Covington, B. Westbay, 1975 (from Ros
Page Views: 24,852
Submitted By: Charles Vernon on Jan 1, 2002

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (220)
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Traversing right on the slab.

Season raptor closures MORE INFO >>>


This is probably the most travelled route at Lumpy Ridge and one of the best finger cracks anywhere. The crack, a backwards J, is barely visible on the right side of the Book as you hike in. Follow the trail to the Book, bearing right at the end. The route starts in a broken corner system just right of the clean flakes that mark Pear Buttress and Loose Ends.

P1 - Climb the easy corner to a good ledge, right of the bottom of the "J". Alternatively, do the first pitch of Loose Ends and belay just below the standard ledge on that route.

P2 - Climb a short ways up a dihedral, then traverse left into the barely visible bottom of the J. Climb the crack to a belay on lower-angle rock below a steep headwall (5.9, long pitch). If you started on Loose Ends, then you'll traverse up right into the J past a piton and an old bolt. This is said to be 5.10 and scary.

P3 - Many alternatives: a) Climb straight up the crack through the headwall at 5.11, b) Climb up and traverse across a slab (5.9) to the crack system on the left, then follow that to a belay, c) Climb up to the headwall, place pro, and traverse right to a ledge, and follow that back left to a belay. The traverse can also be made lower on slightly better holds.

P4 - From "a" or "c", head up right to a break in the overhang, and climb through it to easy ground (5.7). Alternatively, head up to the "cave" and chose an exit, Cheap Date being thematically the most compelling.


Standard rack with extra medium stoppers to sew it up; RPs if doing the 5.11.

Photos of J-Crack Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Midway on the J.
Midway on the J.
Rock Climbing Photo: High traverse.
High traverse.
Rock Climbing Photo: Errett on "J-Crack", under a beautiful C...
Errett on "J-Crack", under a beautiful C...
Rock Climbing Photo: The money pitch.
The money pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: Chris starting up the J-Crack money pitch.
Chris starting up the J-Crack money pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: P3: Here's the option of traversing right, below t...
BETA PHOTO: P3: Here's the option of traversing right, below t...
Rock Climbing Photo: Martin Bennett at the start of The J Crack on a pe...
Martin Bennett at the start of The J Crack on a pe...
Rock Climbing Photo: Tori left the belay ledge (at the top of P3) and t...
BETA PHOTO: Tori left the belay ledge (at the top of P3) and t...
Rock Climbing Photo: The 5.9 traverse.
The 5.9 traverse.
Rock Climbing Photo: A party on J-crack.
A party on J-crack.
Rock Climbing Photo: Starting pitch 3, above the sloping stance.
Starting pitch 3, above the sloping stance.
Rock Climbing Photo: John on J.
John on J.
Rock Climbing Photo: Mike from Fort Collins just after the crux.
Mike from Fort Collins just after the crux.
Rock Climbing Photo: That's the crack all right!
That's the crack all right!
Rock Climbing Photo: Belayer on the ledge at the top of P1.  Climber is...
BETA PHOTO: Belayer on the ledge at the top of P1. Climber is...
Rock Climbing Photo: About to set up belay below headwall pitch.
About to set up belay below headwall pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down at the runout on the direct start 5.9...
BETA PHOTO: Looking down at the runout on the direct start 5.9...
Rock Climbing Photo: Lee reaching the belay.
Lee reaching the belay.
Rock Climbing Photo: Start of headwall pitch.
Start of headwall pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: Errett climbing pitch 3 of J-Crack. The "head...
Errett climbing pitch 3 of J-Crack. The "head...

Comments on J-Crack Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 26, 2016
By Anonymous Coward
Jan 1, 2001

One of the most superb and clean cracks I have done in my life! To avoid the 5.11c headwall I lead up and right from a stance and experienced an impressive run-out. Finished with the Cave Exit. Lots of fun!
By Anonymous Coward
May 25, 2001

J-Crack to Cheap Date and finish with the last pitch of Outlander is one of the best link-ups you'll do on the book. Okie
By Patrick Vernon
From: Estes Park, CO
Sep 15, 2001

Finally did the headwall yesterday and found it to be far more reasonable than I was expecting. Good fingerlocks on vertical climbing with poor feet. A bit sequential but not too bad, felt like .11a or b. Bigger finger sizes will probably find this to be significantly harder .11c or d. We also took the Loose J variation which has some short but excellent face moves to traverse into J-crack. The old quarter inch bolt protecting this traverse has been replaced in the last week with a brand new one. You do traverse 10-15' right of it, however the fall appears to be quite safe.
By Lyle Monzyk
Jan 7, 2002

Has anyone tried to aid the 11b crack? I'm wondering because I've done the 9 traverse, but I would rather not do it again.
By Leo Paik
From: Westminster, Colorado
Mar 13, 2002

Big fingers made much of the 2nd pitch really pinch your cuticles. Painful! Not much joy in J-crack. The headwall seemed much less painful.
By justin dubois
From: Estes Park
Mar 22, 2002

The headwall pitch is very reasonable and in my worthless opinion, not 11c. It is however, steep, rad, and the most direct and beautiful way to finish the J.
By Errett Allen
Jun 4, 2002

While doing Femp, I watched someone aid the 5.11 headwall on J Crack. They didn't seem to have any problem at all aiding it.
By Lon Black
Jul 9, 2002

I climbed J-Crack yesterday with a guy that's been climbing since the 50's. He showed me an alternative finish to the 4th pitch. It is called the Hurley Traverse. Head up toward the cave. Then move right out onto the exposed face. Take it up to the finish. There is one awkward move in this section. I think he said it was 5.7+. Have fun.
By Joe Huggins
From: Grand Junction
Oct 4, 2002

Last Saturday I removed the last piton from the J crack. With two fingers; a Leeper Z, definite Hall of Flame material. By the way, if the .9 traverse unnerves you, do the headwall, even if it's too hard to free the gear is cheap and easy for casual yarding.
By Nate Christiansen
Mar 24, 2003

Just curious, how many RPs are needed for the 5.11 headwall? me it looks cooler than the 140 feet of 5.9. How long is the headwall section till the belay, too?
By Bernard Gillett
Mar 24, 2003

Nate: the headwall can be lead safely with no RPs. Bring a couple the first time you do it to keep your options open. I place a #3 Rock at the bottom (sometimes with a small TCU), then a #5 Rock a few feet higher, and then a #2 Rock at the crux (in a perfect slot just below the horizontal slash coming in from the left, and just above the pin scar tips jam). From there you can punch it to the belay (10 more feet), or drop in one more small/medium wire. Great gear the entire way if you have to aid it (though as with any 5.11 crack, it's hard to place the gear while free climbing). The headwall itself is only 20-25 feet, the middle 12 being the most difficult, and the last bit above the slash is hard with a pump. If you lead it from the traditional belay in the long 5.9 crack, the headwall is the last 25 feet of a 65-70 foot pitch. I've led the entire J-crack (with headwall) in one glorious pitch using a 205 foot 9 mm rope (it's a 60 meter rope that apparently got cut a little long), and I think my belayer was just beginning to climb as I latched onto the finishing jugs. I'd call it a 210 foot pitch (with a fat rope, the crux clip would be harder).
By Nate Christiansen
Jun 27, 2003

This is a great crack! The headwall is very well protected and is ceratainly desperate for about 3 or 4 moves. great climb. onsight!
By Joe Collins
Aug 4, 2003
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a

I think 11c is fair for the headwall variation on lead. It might feel easier on TR, but the pro (which is good) is strenuous to place and requires a bit of tinkering unless you know the exact nut size. Though short, it's similar in character (right leaning) and difficulty to the crux section on Max Factor (Vedauwoo), but thinner.

This is an 11c lead. Harder than Living Dead (11b). Comparable in difficulty to Max Factor (Vedauwoo, 11c).
By Graham Morgan
Jul 22, 2004

If you are using 2 x 9mm ropes there is another good option for the third pitch that is both easier and safer than the rightwards traverse. From the belay in the crack climb up and place a piece in the crack and clip one rope, and then making a descending traverse LEFTWARDS to join an easier crack (pitch 3 of Visual Aids? 5.8). Using the second rope to protect this section, continue up this crack to belay above the J-Crack. Using two ropes both leader and second have great protection and the climbing is only about 5.8. I found this to be a great way to climb the J-Crack without too much excitment on pitch 3.
By Danny
Oct 10, 2005
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Great climb! Getting into the bottom of J-crack is not as bad as I expected, the feet are really good. As for the crack-it is awesome. I chose to aid the headwall which was actually really cool. This was my first "planned" aiding experience and I thought is was very reasonable; the aid section is only about 20 feet. I used nothing smaller than a #4bd stopper. My second freed most of it. Enjoy!!
By Steven Lucarelli
From: Moab, UT
Apr 24, 2006
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a

Outstanding route but the headwall is definitely 11c. Thin and insecure. I was really glad there were a couple fixed nuts on it.
By Ian
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 3, 2008
rating: 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c

I went from Loose Ends to J-Crack today. I didn't see the pin or the bolt and was looking at a 60 feet factor two fall past the belay. Scary! After that, the 5.11c crux didn't feel bad even in the rain. Finished on Cheap Date for a classic linkup.
By Jeff G.
From: Fort Collins
Jul 27, 2009
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a

The Loose- J variation is an awesome and, I think, the best way to get into the J-crack. Climb the ENTIRE first pitch of Loose Ends, not just to the horn with slings around it. About 10 feet below the belay ledge that is shared with Pear Buttress climb up a small flake with good gear to a fixed pin. The pin looks very solid. About 10 feet above the pin is a new stainless 3/8" bolt. Clip the bolt and climb amazing stone up and right into the crack. The last few moves are exiting but the fall would be safe. I was able to link Loose Ends and the J-crack with a 70m rope. Unbelievable 200+ feet of climbing! One of the best pitches in all of Lumpy.
By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Sep 11, 2010
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

If going right below the headwall on P3, it seems most reasonable to climb up to the headwall, place pro and then downclimb about 12 feet to a small dike that heads right. Move right on this dike and then up.

The Gillett book suggests moving to the right just at the base of the headwall. My partner did this and it looks very thin. The traverse with my feet on the little dike worked out very well and is 5.9ish (but still a run out).
By percious
From: Bear Creek, CO
Jun 10, 2012
rating: 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b

This is a great climb but definitely a sandbag at 5.9. Expect throbbing toes unless you have excellent crack technique (I do not). Stiff soled shoes might also help. The traverse on p3 is heads up on tiny edges but is all there (5.10c). The rest of pitches 2, 3, and first 1/2 of 3 are sustained 5.9.
By Mark Hanna
Jun 17, 2012

I was up on J-Crack today with 40+ mph wind gusts. At the traverse below the headwall, we decided to bail, as I almost got blown off of the crack a few times and didn't want to try the unprotected traverse. So I left a few nuts/biners/slings. If anyone finds these and can return them, I'd appreciate it. Call me a 303-856-8722
By Tom Kelley
Feb 24, 2013

Wonderful route. I've done it 5 or 6 times, always with the headwall finish, and I've always ended up leading the headwall pitch. The headwall finish is definitely old-school 5.11c. Short, but bouldery and pumpy, with a nasty landing on the slab if one decides to forego gear on the pumpy exit and has the misfortune to blow it at the top (in theory, I've never tried jumping off at that point). I'd probably say it nets a rugged 5.11d rating on a modern scale.

A finish via the Cheap Date and Outlander makes for a really fun outing. You can also gain more quality 5.9 footage by starting on the Loose Ends finger-tip layback and traversing right (where Loose Ends moves left) rather than doing the standard J-Crack first pitch.

Regardless, if in the area, do this route by any of the variations!
By Noah McKelvin
From: Colorado Springs
Jun 9, 2013
rating: 5.11b/c 6c+ 23 VIII- 24 E4 6a

The crux of the headwall is fiddling in gear, especially your first time. Great route.
By Jason Albino
From: San Francisco, CA
Jul 18, 2013
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

Climbed this on our first ever trip to Lumpy Ridge last week.

Took ~ 1 hour total to approach at a normal/leisurely hiking pace from the parking lot - expect easy half the time on flat trail to "The Book" turn-off sign, followed by the other half on a steep climber's trail to the actual wall (I'm sure the fact that this was our first day at altitude was a factor in how strenuous the climber's trail felt, because it doesn't look bad at all).

Seems like there are several ways to do P1 - I chose a well-protected line up a left-facing flake and then up a shallow "chimney" feature of sorts to the belay stance.

As for P2, this was an awesome full-value pitch, but I'm really surprised to see it was rated 5.9 by some. Though I'm no finger-crack specialist, I thought it was more like 5.10a+. After some delicate moves to get to the base of the crack, expect a relentless ~100 feet with very few secure finger/hand jams and a good bit of flare to deal with for both moves and gear. Though it protected well, there are very few legitimate rests and where there are, they come at the expense of painful foot jams. The moves are certainly all there, but the feeling of exposure is sustained and you have to pick your spots for solid placements due to the recurring flare.

After P2, I took the 5.10a R right-traverse P3 version - definitely spicy, but after setting gear as high as possible in the 11c part of the crack, there's a good mini-slab ledge for feet (after traversing 10-15 feet or so) where you can work out the crux move to a good right hand on the lip of the left-leading groove/flake.

From there, the route gets a good bit easier.
By George Bracksieck
Aug 24, 2015

FFA of headwall: Mike Caldwell.
By RandyFarris
Aug 30, 2015

FFA headwall was by Billy Westbay and Dan Mclure in 1973.
By Rob Davies UK
From: Cheshire, UK
Oct 10, 2015

UK climbers, be aware that the 5.9 rating for pitch 2 is probably worth E1/2 5b, as it is very sustained - not that many decent finger-locks, some shallow hand-jams, and it's quite difficult to get your feet secure in some spots.
By Russ Keane
Sep 26, 2016

What a sweet crack. It climbs pretty easy up to the headwall. I would grade this pitch at 5.8. Not sure where the 9+ comes from. Maybe the traversing business? We went straight up the headwall and did the 11 section, so I am not sure.

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