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The Bastille - N Face
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Interceptor T 
Lilliburlero T 
Liquor Mart T 
Madame Guillotine S 
March of Dimes T 
Marie Antoinette T 
Model Citizen T 
Nexus T 
Northcutt Start T,TR 
Northeast Corner T 
Northwest Corner T 
Outer Face T 
Outer Space T 
Prow Finish T 
Saturnalia T 
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X-M T 

Northcutt Start 

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

Type:  Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 60'
Original:  YDS: 5.10d French: 6b+ Ewbanks: 21 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 21 British: E3 5b [details]
FA: Ray Northcutt, in 1959, amazingly enough.
Fixed Hardware: 2 Lead Pins [details]
Page Views: 10,323
Submitted By: Michael Komarnitsky on Jan 1, 2001

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This is such a cool climb for everyone!

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  • Description 

    Northcutt Start is a beautiful, short climb with a terrific tempo.

    Follow the crack in the corner of the left-facing dihedral 10 feet to the left of The Bastille Crack. Fantastic jams and laybacks gradually grow more strenuous up the steep corner. Then move to the right and turn the corner (there's a trick - if you can't figure it out ask someone, and they'll probably be able to tell you). The first time I got this one I got to the ground and was grinnin' from ear to ear.


    Smaller pieces, and a nice quickdraw to clip the piton quickly and move on. You can toprope this via the anchors at the top of the first pitch of the Bastille Crack...assuming that anchor is not already occupied.

    Photos of Northcutt Start Slideshow Add Photo
    Rock Climbing Photo: The north and west faces of the Bastille.  5. Werk...
    BETA PHOTO: The north and west faces of the Bastille. 5. Werk...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Zach taking the whip on that wonderful pin.
    Zach taking the whip on that wonderful pin.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Zach on the opening finger crack, sooo good.
    Zach on the opening finger crack, sooo good.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Sweet!
    Rock Climbing Photo: At the crux.
    At the crux.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Stretching into the crux.
    Stretching into the crux.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Moving into the blind arete move.
    Moving into the blind arete move.
    Rock Climbing Photo: My first 5.10 lead...  summer '85 (also my first l...
    My first 5.10 lead... summer '85 (also my first l...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Kermit with the toprope onsight.
    Kermit with the toprope onsight.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Cruxing out, check out the feet for some key beta.
    Cruxing out, check out the feet for some key beta.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Clipping the fixed pin.
    BETA PHOTO: Clipping the fixed pin.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Phyllis Fahey cruzing....
    Phyllis Fahey cruzing....
    Rock Climbing Photo: Mike doin' it up on NorthCutt.
    Mike doin' it up on NorthCutt.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Pat Vernon, climbing BAREFOOT! What a hardman....
    Pat Vernon, climbing BAREFOOT! What a hardman....

    Comments on Northcutt Start Add Comment
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    Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 24, 2015
    By Matt Robertson
    May 31, 2001

    I love the story of the first free ascent. Ray Northcutt, who must have been strong as an ox since he could do 100 pullups, was incorrectly told that Layton Kor had freed the direct start to the Bastille Crack. Upon learning this, Northcutt went out the next day and fired the line, only later learning that his was indeed the FFA.

    I think this is generally acknowledged to be a bona fide 5.11- pitch nowadays, and when you consider that it was nearly a decade later that Ament, et al. were being credited with climbing the "first" 5.11 routes in the U.S., it serves to emphasize Northcutt's achievement on this short route, as well as the powerful impact one's mindset can have on climbing performance.

    Free your mind...
    By Kreighton Bieger
    Jul 20, 2001

    Well, if you're wondering what Eldo 11- feels like, try this. I didn't get the route, but I can say, in case you're wondering, that the old ring pin (circa 1959??) will hold. At least, as of this morning it held two pretty good whippers from around the corner (and three smaller ones too!). Yes, I made it past the crux and around onto the 'good' slopers and came off. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful route and it is a shame the first part of it doesn't go on for another 100'.
    By Kristo torgersen
    Aug 1, 2001

    I find 10d to be a suitable grade, considering the first 30 feet are no harder than 8+, and the crux is so short. Even if the ring pin did pull/break, the pin below it is great and the gear options below that even better (.75 Camalot). Also, I find this pitched linked with P2 of the Bastille into Outer Space to be a good warm up to the X-M/Outer Space link-up: the difficulties are similar, only difference is the quality of gear.
    By Brian Sorden
    Aug 24, 2001

    Adendum to the historical note. This was the first 5.10 in Colorado, and very possibly the first in America. Not only was Northcutt sandbagged into doing it in 1959, there wasn't another 5.10 done in Colorado until well into the sixties. I do support the 10d rating. The "trick" is a tiny foot cup stemming right onto the arete, two inches below a small upside down triangular lip.
    By Hayden Yurkanis
    Nov 6, 2001

    Great climb!!! Wouldn't consider it to be harder than 10+
    By Lon Black
    Apr 29, 2003

    What a sweet pitch. Ray Northcutt did a hell of a job.

    Well Kreighton, that pin on the traverse still holds a fall. I took one on it today because I'm a dumbass. It's amazing how much harder a move can be when you don't use your head and eyes to find footholds.
    By Bo Johnston
    Jun 2, 2006
    rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

    I toproped this 2 days ago and pulled it right away. I'm not convinced that I could pull it off as quickly on lead but I'm gonna try! I didn't have any beta on the route and can't see why people find the move so mysterious. It was simply hard on my fingertips. Ouch!
    By Kurt Johnson
    From: Estes Park, CO
    Nov 2, 2006

    In his mid 70s, Ray still is as strong as an ox. When he shakes your hand he just about breaks it!
    By Meredith DB
    From: Boulder, CO
    May 4, 2007
    rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

    The pin at the crux traverse was still good when I fell on it last week...
    By tooTALLtim
    From: Boulder, CO
    Aug 7, 2007

    Amazing climb! Great crack climbing with an exciting finish. If you can't lead it (like me), TR it from Bastille's anchors, very fun.
    By Bruce Hildenbrand
    Jan 31, 2008

    You can do a variation at the top of the climb. Rather than traverse right at the pin, continue up the ever thinning crack to the anchor. Not much protection for the leader. On a TR it felt about 5.11b.
    By tooTALLtim
    From: Boulder, CO
    Apr 7, 2008

    The pin is still good :-p
    By Darr
    Jun 10, 2008

    I had a question on the route. Can I safely get to the anchors to setup my own top rope? I'm going to be climbing solo and while I have all the logistics setup so I can do that safely (backups to all of my protection), I need to be able to get up to the top anchors for this route without any protection. Can it be done without having to go really far out of my way to get up the rock? Thanks for any help.
    By George Bell
    From: Boulder, CO
    Jun 10, 2008

    Easiest way to get to the anchors is pitch 1 of Bastille Crack. So unless you can free solo 5.7, you can't get to the anchors without protection.
    By GeoffElson Elson
    Jun 27, 2008

    The pin is still good, but doesn't really come into play if you put one of your smallest cams in the pocket a few inches to the left, the pocket isn't really essential for the move. I placed a tiny gray TCU, and it fit easily with space on either side.
    By RiggerMortis
    From: Albuquerque New Mexico
    Jul 11, 2008

    I'd say it's all 5.7 to 5.8 except for the crux move. BTW, it CAN be done without the mystery foothold. You just have to place your left foot really high and hang from the sidepull in the dihedral with your left hand while reaching around the corner for a pinky and ring finger lock in the crack. Then grunt and send. This worked for me (but my partner swore it wouldn't 'til I did it:) Might not work if you're short. I'm 5'10"
    By Top Rope Hero
    From: Was Estes Park, now homeless
    Apr 29, 2010
    rating: 5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c

    Feels like 5.11 death if'n you've got fat fingers and can only wrench at most your tips at the crux finger lock.

    Oh--and decades later, that pin/ring is still holding leader falls....
    By TBD
    May 26, 2010

    The grade isn't really that important to me, but for context this feels harder than the first pitch of Genesis and at least as difficult as the crux on the Northwest Corner.

    Fun little route.
    By Phil Lauffen
    From: The Bubble
    Sep 12, 2010
    rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

    Harder to onsight.... Once you fall on the pin once, you get the general idea, and it's relatively easy.
    By Marty Combs
    From: Boulder, CO
    Apr 7, 2011
    rating: 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c

    A superb climb, but it is a little spicy cranking the crux above the 2 old, rusty pitons. Old pitons are always good until they're not.
    By NickViator
    From: Denver, CO
    Aug 25, 2013

    Luckily I didn't have to test the ring piton on this climb yesterday, but the party below me took a fall on it and it held. From what I've read, that piton must have held thousands of falls over the years. Great short climb nonetheless.
    By bonnie bonbits
    From: colorado front range
    Jun 6, 2014

    Delicate, thin bits at the crux, yes, but with the piton and good pro just before and after it, it totally goes. Full-on technical bits, definitely not strengthy. So being 5'3" at best, and in Eldo, I'm quite rather surprised by the 5.10"d" rating. Especially since the entire bit to the crux is smooth jammin' and restful climbing (because I'm definitely not an Eldo 5.10 leader, and I've backed off Eldo 5.9s harder than this).
    By Peter Lewis
    From: Bridgton, Maine
    Sep 16, 2014

    I remember falling on that pin in 1983. Nice to know it's still good.
    By Austin Cooner
    Jun 24, 2015
    rating: 5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

    So good. Stellar movement. Wish this was a full pitch!

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