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Machete Ridge
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Old Original 

YDS: 5.5 French: 4b Ewbanks: 13 UIAA: IV+ ZA: 11 British: MS 4a

Type:  Trad, 6 pitches, 800', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: 1970's?
Page Views: 7,831
Submitted By: Colin Simon on Oct 5, 2010

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (31)
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At the end of the climb an the start of the descen...

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This is a long, adventurous ridge traverse, often very exposed.

The climbing itself only merits two stars, but the setting makes it far more classic.

Approach: hike on maintained trails to the southern end of Machete Ridge. When facing Machete, move up and right along use trails to the southeastern end of the ridge.

P1: On the very end of the ridge, climb moderate face holds to easier knobs to gain the ridge. Difficult to protect, but right off the ground. Anchor on top of the ridge(5.7).

P2: Move down and right(exposed!) and through a horizontal chimney which eases and opens back onto the ridge. Psychological crux of route (5.7).

P3-4: Once back on the ridge, easier climbing for a long distance yields the base of a pillar. Rap off here if you like (5.1)

P5: Climb the bolted, protected tower to a really sweet summit(5.7).

Rap down to the ridge, or keep running around on the giant summit.


Traverses Machete Ridge, from southeast to northwest.


Light rack, lots of water(can be very hot).
A full set of nuts and a single set of cams from c3's to #3 camalot is overkill. Take every other size and half a dozen runners.

Photos of Old Original Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Nearing the top of the first pitch.  We were able ...
Nearing the top of the first pitch. We were able ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Starting the first rap after the end of the climb
Starting the first rap after the end of the climb
Rock Climbing Photo: Nearing the end of P5ish
Nearing the end of P5ish

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By John Knight
Oct 19, 2010
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a PG13

In my book, the traverse of Machete Ridge gets half a star for climbing quality and 4 stars for adventure quality. To make it into a full day, you can link Bullseye, Derringer and Old Original for a total of 17 "pitches" of climbing. I use the term "pitches" loosely since this includes the rappels and 4th Class descent as well. Check out my recent trip report here: Full Trip Report of Machete Ridge Linkup

BTW, I don't think there's a move harder than 5.5 on the whole route. However, there are several sections of runout 5.2 to 5.5 on loose rock. There are also several route finding challenges. This traverse is probably best suited for the emerging 5.7 leader wishing to expand his/her multi-pitch and route finding skills.


By Matt Leonard
Apr 25, 2011
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a PG13

This is truly more of an “adventure” that a traditional rock climb. Not much of it is vertical, not a whole lot is 5th class, but it’s all quite fun, and very beautiful. Route-finding was definitely the challenge of the day – both on the approach, as well as throughout the route. I printed out a slew of trip reports/beta from various websites and we still stumbled around a bit to find our way. Various reports rate this 5.3-5.7 – I felt there was definitely not a move harder than 5.5. Hopefully this beta will be some of the better stuff out there – and help get you spending more time on the route, and less time trying to find it.

We did this in a team of 4 (with 2 ropes), and had 1 person tie in short on the 2nd rope. We simul-rappeled a few times to speed things up – generally the rappel stations were bomber and modern. (if simul-rapping, please be aware of the added risks and concerns). We left the parking lot at noon, and were back to the car by 6, including a fair amount of time wandering around on the approach semi-lost, casual climbing (with 2 folks who had minimal experience outdoors), and a nice lunch up on top. Pack layers – it can be alternately windy/cold/shady/hot based on where you are along the route.

I would highly encourage carrying two ropes (we brought 2x 60m). We passed a lot of intermediate belay stations that likely would have allowed for a single-rope raps, but 2 ropes gave us a lot more options, and sped things up. There were a few places where shorter rope might have gotten you to a decent spot, but longer ropes allowed us to get on the most secure ground possible.
Everything is bolted – so a half dozen draws should suffice – we brought a few pieces that never left the pack and just added weight. There were very few spots for other protection anyway, just be prepared for easy but runout terrai. If you wanted to climb Middle Tower, a couple medium pieces to anchor a better below wouldn’t hurt.

Follow the directions on the main page to west side of the park – taking Hwy 146 from Soledad. Jump on the Balconies Trail from the picnic/parking area, and walk about a half mile, passing most of the west face of Machete Ridge. There is a big obvious sign that says “Machete Ridge climbing access” to the right, just before a footbridge (maybe the 3rd or 4th bridge).
Follow this trail up to the base, and head right (moving south), doubling back the way you came along the base. Continue to follow this trail ALL the way around the south side of Machete Ridge, and then back up around the back side (east) of the rocks. We had a hard time finding this – because we kept thinking we had gone too far. It feels like you almost do a complete lap around of the ridge – but after passing much of the east face, you’ll see two large pine trees up to the left between a saddle. There wasn’t much of a trail, and you pass lots of confusing trees along the way – but these are 2 pines that are pretty much on their own, right up in the notch.
Alternately – you could hike in from the east side of the park, meeting up with the Balconies Trail. Haven’t done this – but should be possible, and would take a few hours.

Pitch 1 - 5.3:
From the notch with the pine trees, scramble up the rock just before the 2nd pine. You will find a grassy ledge about 50 feet up, with a small pine tree on the north end. Just left of the tree you can see a small patch of bush/grass about 15’ feet up on the left – with your first (fairly high) bolt just above that. Head up and left to that bolt, then move right to a 2nd bolt at your feet. Just above this you’ll fine 2 bolts at eye-level for the belay. Very short pitch.

Pitch 2 – walk (3rd/4th class):
You can walk about 30 feet to a small notch on your right (before the tree). Don’t climb down the notch – but hop up on the ridge to the right of the notch, doubling-back the way you came but on higher ground. Follow the exposed ridge down, with few (if any) options for protection. It might be possible to belay someone from the top of P1 bolts – but you wouldn’t be able to see/hear each other well (the rope would start below the ridge, and go up and over the other side). We walked it – but it is exposed, and you have to down climb a bit on the last 25 feet to get to a gully, which is the start of Pitch 3.

Pitch 3 – 5.5
There is a notch here with 3 bolts – 2 newer solid ones, and a 3rd on an old/homemade hanger. This pitch involves a few short exposed moves moving right around a bulge. You can see the first bolt from the belay. Once you get around the bulge, you have a crouching traverse (at least for tall folks like me), past a 2nd bolt at your feet. It’s an easy walk past the 2nd bolt, but I stayed roped in. 40 feet later the ridge flattens out, and you can climb an easy 8’ notch up to the obvious grassy area with a few small Manzanita trees. I belayed from here off a manzanita (and we ate lunch).

Pitch 4 – walk (3rd/4th class):
From the manzanitas – walk up and over the ridge to your right, following the ridge down to nice set of chains. It’s an easy walk, but once again very airy and exposed. If you are concerned, you could belay from the Manzanita – but it would be mighty runout, and no real protection along the way.

Pitch 5 - rappel
From these chains, we did did a double rope (60m each) rap to the NW gully below. It’s a low-angle rappel on class 3 and 4rock (could be downclimbed easily) for most of it, but the last 30’ or so are overhanging and a free rappel. We passed 2 intermediate rap stations that I would assume would allow for a single rope rappel.

Pitch 6 – scramble/rappel
From the gully, you can either walk around right, or scramble over to another obvious gully. You’ll see a U-shaped notch (not the W-shaped notch to the right). You can climb the notch (easy 5th class – but not 3rd class the way some guides state) Find a single bolt in the notch (left hand side), and either rap down, or downclimb the lichen-covered rock to a protected gully. You can scramble out of the gully, and over to the base of Middle Tower – where there is another rap station that ends the route.

This is the “official” end of the route, but Middle Tower can be climbed as a side-excursion (2-bolt 5.5), or possibly traverse farther out towards the other towers.

The descent isn’t hard – but it does take some time. From the final bolts at the base of Middle Tower – rap down the eastern gully (NOT the west face towards Balconies – there has been at least one death from this attempt). The gully (and the face) can be fairly wet and lichen-covered. You could downclimb most of the gully but if you want to avoid slippery lichen and poison oak – rapping is MUCH faster, and more enjoyable. With 2 60m ropes – we were able to rap most of it, just scrambling a final 40’ or so to a small tree with some slings and a rap ring. A single rope rap here dropped us to a big grassy area overlooking the Balconies Cave area, and a much larger tree with more slings and a rap ring. Another double-rope rap took us down the grassy area, over another lichen-covered wall, and to the “Ground” below. A short scramble through some talus dropped us into the Balconies Caves, and back to the trail. Most of this could be downclimbed –but rapping it felt MUCH safer, and much faster – especially in wet conditions.
By Joe Forrester
From: Palo Alto
May 15, 2011

Not a hard route, but a GREAT adventure for the grade. Highly recommended. If you can climb harder than 5.6 you could probably solo the whole route. Very casual climbing but serious consequences if you blow it. The descent can take awhile, especially in hail/rain.
You could probably climb all this at 5.3 or less.
By Shane H.
Feb 18, 2013
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a PG13

Spent yesterday doing Old Original. Absolutely stunning. We bypassed the first short pitch in favor of linking Bullseye and Derringer (both 5.5) to the ridgetop. The extra 300ish feet of fifth class was a blast, and I can't recommend that start high enough.
By Floyd Hayes
Jan 23, 2015
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b PG13

I have David Rubine's older guide, not Brad Young's newer guide, so I don't know how good the directions are for the alternative Derringer Direct (Bullseye Variation) start, which I highly recommend. I couldn't find much information online, so here's my description:

APPROACH: After hiking uphill past the steep south buttress of Machete Ridge you arrive at the lower angle southeast face. Just below the first pine tree (of five), scramble left across sloping ledges to the base of the largest groove that ascends the middle of the face. You'll see a bolt just above the base of the groove, which can be reached by a few class 4 moves of downclimbing. Belay from the bolt.

DERRINGER DIRECT PITCH 1 (5.5): Climb up the groove 175' past a two-bolt anchor (don't use it unless your rope is short) and two more bolts to a two-bolt anchor just below a steep but short headwall.

DERRINGER PITCH 2 (5.5): Traverse right 75' below the steep but short headwall until the angle lowers and then 35' up past a bolt to a tiny Interior Live Oak bush, and belay off a single boat just left of the bush.

DERRINGER PITCH 3 (5.0): Climb up and right 25' to a bolt, then up to the ridge. After 120' (from belay) you reach a manzanita (I think) on the ridge where you can belay, or you can continue 225' (easy simulclimbing with a rope shorter than 70 m) to the three-bolt anchor in a notch atop OLD ORIGINAL pitch 2.

Matt Leonard's description (see above) of Old Original is the best I could find online. We thought the short traverse past the bolt-protected bulge was real easy (like 5.3) while climbing below the bolt. The hardest climbing was the short but steep 8' notch that is bouldered (no protection needed) at the end of the pitch with the bulge (we thought it was 5.7).

Don't skip climbing Middle Tower (5.5), which was the highlight of the day. Don't bring any cams for the cracks at the base; slinging the top of the block at the base is more useful, but not necessary. The two bolts on the tower protect the hardest moves.

There are four long rappels from the base of Middle Tower, the first three off bolts and the fourth off a tree in a grassy meadow.

Good luck finding your way to the Balconies Cave! We went left, which looked closer, but had to downclimb a low-angle class 5 chimney to get to the trail. It may be easier going straight down the hill.
By Floyd Hayes
Feb 5, 2015
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b PG13

A video of the route is posted at

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