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Pope's Crack 

YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a

Type:  Trad, 1 pitch, 70'
Original:  YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a [details]
FA: Craig Parsley & Mike Pope, 1975
Page Views: 24,115
Submitted By: C Miller on Jul 10, 2002

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Pope's Crack Photo by Bob Gaines


Starting from boulders climb the prominent finger/hand crack in a flared right-facing corner which slowly arches up and left passing along the left side of a small roof. A little ways past the roof set a high piece and then downclimb left along a dike to gain another crack system which is followed to the top. Three stars out of five.

To descend work down and right from the top to rappel anchors atop British Airways.


The crack was first spotted by Craig Parsley and John Long simultaneously in the Spring of 1975, but a sprint to the wall allowed Parsley and Pope to make the first ascent. Long stood at the bottom of the climb encouraging Parsley to peel so he could "bag a first." The climb was completed with only one piece of protection in the first 20 feet.


The obvious left-arching crack which passes along the left edge of a small roof.


Gear to 2.5", slings are handy up high

Photos of Pope's Crack Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Pope's Crack Area
BETA PHOTO: Pope's Crack Area
Rock Climbing Photo: Morgan across the highlight traverse on the onsigh...
Morgan across the highlight traverse on the onsigh...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pope's Crack overview.
Pope's Crack overview.
Rock Climbing Photo: Pope's Crack, composite of four snapshots (1989)
Pope's Crack, composite of four snapshots (1989)
Rock Climbing Photo: Another butt-shot of Pope's crack
Another butt-shot of Pope's crack
Rock Climbing Photo: Unsuspecting Steph, about to climb into the jaws o...
Unsuspecting Steph, about to climb into the jaws o...
Rock Climbing Photo: View from the base
View from the base
Rock Climbing Photo: 5.6 R variation finish to right up dike, high comm...
5.6 R variation finish to right up dike, high comm...
Rock Climbing Photo: JB after traversing on Pope's Crack
JB after traversing on Pope's Crack
Rock Climbing Photo: Pope's Crack
Pope's Crack
Rock Climbing Photo: Don't fall down low!  This yucca wouldn't feel too...
Don't fall down low! This yucca wouldn't feel too...
Rock Climbing Photo: Patty thinkin', "hey, this climbs just like a...
Patty thinkin', "hey, this climbs just like a...
Rock Climbing Photo: starting the crack
starting the crack
Rock Climbing Photo: The awkward section of Pope's Crack didn't slow do...
The awkward section of Pope's Crack didn't slow do...

Comments on Pope's Crack Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jan 19, 2017
By Anonymous Coward
Dec 7, 2002

Ya I think this route is probably 5.10a. I climbed it acouple of years ago after spending considerable time climing (and even leading a few 5.10s) in Squamish BC. This climb is great!!! But I was a whimpering baby at the top.
By Josh Beck
Dec 8, 2002
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Hard to say on the rating, I've done it a few times and, for me, there's one akward spot in the crack right before it lowers in angle but it's otherwise just good jams. In my opinion there are a lot of harder 5.9's in Jtree (also a lot of easier ones). 5.9 is kind of a messed up grade anywhere, and rerating a lot of 5.9 climbs seems like it would somehow disturb some greater balance :)
By Woody Stark
Mar 12, 2003

I've led this route five or six times over the years, and I and my companions have always felt it to be a solid 10a.
By Hayden Yurkanis
Apr 5, 2003

to finish the original (i think--and still great climbing) line, you climb up the crack till about 15 feet below the roof; from here you traverse left on the sloping ledge for about 20 feet (no pro) and make one final 5.6ish move to gain the crack. run it out some more on moderate ground so as to avoid killer rope drag (gear available though) and build an anchor at the top. walk down the other end of the dome.
By Craig Parsley
Apr 22, 2003

In the 1970's, the difference between 5.9 and 5.10 (or 5.11) was quite distinct. When Mike and I put up this route we figured it was a 5.9 based on the 5.10's being put up all over JT. Times and criteria change, don't they?
By Craig Parsley
Apr 22, 2003

When Mike and I put this route up in the 70's the distinction between 5.9 and 5.10 was stark. There was no 10a,b,c, etc. So, if you think its a 10a, it could be. If its still a 5.9, okay. Nevertheless, it sure is a sweet line.

Craig Parsley
By Steve Powell
May 3, 2003
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Finally climbed this crack. looks easier than it is. I agree that the crux is just before the angle eases back some. Not sure if this is a 10a. I think it's probably an awkward 5.9. Some people think Touch N Go could be 10a. I found Touch N Go to be easier than Pope's Crack.The downclimb on Pope's is classic. If you pop off the friction slab at the top, you sail. There are certainly harder downclimbs in Josh.
By Anonymous Coward
May 12, 2003

Just did Pope's on the last day of our trip last week (my 10th to JT or so). What a sweet line! I don't really think its .10a - especially by JT standards. I thought the jams in the crack were just about perfect the whole way. But, I also climber in Veedauwoo, WY for 5 yrs, so my sense of "perfect" may be a little twisted. Even if it is a bit awkward in a couple of spots, the gear is bomber. Especially if you take a big cam (3.5 or 4 camalot) to stuff high in the lower crack before the traverse. Enjoy!
By mike harrison
May 12, 2003

i made my partner lead it thank god! dan nay fought it all the way then bailed at the top. after wathing him i balked. glad i did too. he said no 5.9 here hard 5.10 in the sun!

perfect stars

wasnt no 5.9 maybe 5.10

route finding a must
By Dynomight510
Sep 12, 2003
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Well protectable route and the moves are 'funky' as I have found typical for J Tree. It's not simple waltz but requires some good body english for the leader. It protects very well and if you can handle the crux then the traverse should not be a problem for you. Falling at the traverse to the left can reap serious percussions. So be solid. Pro to 3" mostly medium. THe route faces south-southwest so afternoon sun is present and there is some shelter from high winds. Great quality rock.

Classic and good quality

Funky body english required.
By David Evans
Sep 15, 2003

Every year this thing gets more and more slippery! I led it in the sun last year for the upteenth time and dang if it wasn't 5.10-!
By Steve Powell
Sep 17, 2003
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

I think this is one of the trickier five-nines in the park. If this route is 5.9 then Touch and Go is 5.8
By Woody Stark
Sep 25, 2003

I don't know why anyone would down climb this route when all you have to do is walk around the large block to the right, down a bit and rappel off the anchors.
By Steve Powell
Sep 25, 2003
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Downclimbing the route is half the fun. Anybody can rap.
By Randy
Sep 25, 2003
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Ah yes, downclimbing the route. Always trickier for the "follower;" make sure to protect the 2nd well, particularly when they try to reverse the face traverse.
By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Jan 13, 2004
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

I'd give the route 5.9. Funny, as one reviewer mentions it, I'd also give Touch and Go 5.8. Both are fun in any case.

Coming from the outside (I am a frequent visitor, but no local) it's been my observation that J-tree has a skewed rating set. I'm stronger on cracks in some areas, on face in others, but can usually climb about the same. Still, I always seem to find J-tree friction routes with thiny sloper holds harder than graded, and seem to find the cracks easier than graded. Perhaps modern J-tree 'local consensus' is being delivered by people who are slab masters and not as strong on cracks?

And whatever goofy AC posted the "it's a crack climb, go up it" comment was ignorantly proving his irrelivence. Obviously, anyone who says that has not done the route. What an embarrasment.
By Kayte Knower
Feb 1, 2004

This was one amazing route. Once the technical crux is beneath you the route still keeps you thinking. As an inexperienced slab climber, I found the traverse to be the mental crux of the route, although I doubt that it's actually difficult. Next time I would bring two #3 Camalots for the first half of the route and a #4 to place high before starting into the traverse. Double length runners for sure!
By Tommie Cockletoes
Nov 22, 2004

By Steven Powers
Nov 24, 2004
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

this route is one of the best for the grade, good pro for the most part, make sure and toprope the british airways on the way down!
By Ron Olsen
From: Boulder, CO
Nov 27, 2004
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

A classic line and one of my JTree favorites. Longer, more sustained, more varied, and trickier than Touch and Go. Solid 5.9; maybe 9+.
By Larry Stone
Jan 5, 2005

Great route.. did the route right after Mike put it up..SA I think..and it is a little harder today than 30 years ago..some of the holds inside the crack have broken off and on the face also...Like the DC3 a timeless classic..I agree with Dave..10-
By David Evans
Jan 5, 2005

Larry Stone? Larry the Lion Tamer, Larry Loads, Larry that helped crack the famous Louie Case?
By Bo Johnston
Feb 6, 2005

Fun climb with good pro for the aspiring trad leader. I rapped down British Airways to the right to get down.
By Kevin Currigan
From: Lakewood
Feb 26, 2005
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Whew! It is sustained but great pro the entire way. So, if you left your rack in the crack like me there are several features at the top you can sling with your rope.
By Lizzy Trower
From: Stanford, CA
Jan 27, 2006
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Climbed this route for the first time recently. I thought it was great! The moves were all interesting and it protected very well. It was definitely 5.9, especially by J-Tree standards and compared to the 10b's I have lead in J-Tree. The traverse is also not that bad if you've lead some of J-Trees sportier "bolted" routes. Its really not that far...
By susan peplow
From: Joshua Tree
Oct 9, 2006

I just love to read comments stating it goes harder than 5.9. On-sighted it just yesterday with expectations of a slick and hard route. I was pleasantly surprised and didn't have any trouble at all which by definition means the route is no harder than 5.9!! Maybe it was temperature related - late in the day, shady and low 70's. No slick rock, great protection and fun, fun, fun!
By Jesse Davidson
From: san diego, ca
Mar 10, 2008
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

Hey... to you guys who bailed, thanks for the red tricam, the faders quickdraw, and the #11 stopper!
yeah, I'll second the awkward 5.9 motion
By Kyle Joe Turner
From: Santa Rosa, CA
Feb 22, 2009

just did this line last week, its classic. as for the 10a rating, id go with an awkward 5.9 for sure. but i could imagine in the baking summer heat in josh it could bump it up a notch. but this time of year the friction is awesome! my partner lead this one and stayed in the crack the whole time and struggled, i followed, stemming is the ticket for sure.
By Colonel Mustard
From: Sacramento, CA
Jan 18, 2010
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Cruiser 5.9. I actually think Touch and Go has a more cruxy section than anything on this climb. All that aside, it is a great line. Don't be scared off by a "stiff" rep. If your crack skill is solid, this feels very moderate.
By Paul S.
From: Orange County, CA
Jan 22, 2010
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

I led this a few years ago, thought it was hard, but now think it is a solid 5.9. I seconded this route about a year later and thought it was considerably harder having to clean. Go figure.
By Ian G.
From: PDX, OR
Feb 28, 2010
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a PG13

Although this route is only 5.9 I would not recommend it for anyone not comfortable leading JT 5.10. The pro at the traverse is solid but little funky to place and the traverse itself can be pretty heady. Save a yellow tcu for your first piece of gear after the traverse. I was glad I had it.
By Alan
Mar 5, 2010

No offense at all to Zeke, but don't let anyone try to convince you that this route is "cruiser 5.9". Yes, it's cruiser if you generally climb and have experience climbing much harder than 5.9 (i.e. you have solid crack skill as stated) or if you're solidly leading 5.9. I'm certainly not a proponent of upgrading this route, but I would say that if you are breaking into 5.9 or don't have that many under your belt, then the odds are you'll work for this one. With that said, it's generally well protected and the friction traverse is not bad but should be heads-up if you have limited slab experience. Place gear high, extend it, then downclimb to the traverse.
By The Gray Tradster
Mar 5, 2010

I had about a ten year hiatus from climbing much and upon returning to the insanity (early 90's)decided to make a project one year out of on sighting every 5.9 and 10a in the Monument that Vogel gave five stars to and Bartlet gave three. Got most all of them.

I felt that Pope's was squarely in the middle difficulty wise of the 5.9's

Now a couple of caveats;

The crux move has a size dependent wide fist jam and is much easier if your mitts fit.

The lower section is now about as polished as J Tree can get.

The traverse however is dead easy and only a head trip.
By Colonel Mustard
From: Sacramento, CA
Mar 22, 2010
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Re: Alan, maybe it is one of those 5.9s that initially feels hard but once you get enough experience it feels moderate? For my skill set (which includes polished Yosemite climbing) it felt like a simple (and very fun) 5.9. Honestly, I've run into a handful of 5.8's that feel harder, but I guess that's the nature of trad climbing.
By nealg
Mar 27, 2010

5.9 if your BMI is less than 25 kg-m2; 10a if your BMI is greater 30;

great route; great pro. - do this route!!!

easiest to use rap station to climber's left; best with a 70m rope.
By Dynomight510
Jan 19, 2011
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

An enjoyable line that is 5.9. It requires solid crack climbing technique and I am referring to more than just handjams. The position of the crack gives you a variety of ways to climb it and there are face features just where you need them. Good technique (jamming, body position and footwork) made this climb feel like 5.8 to me.

A PG-13 rating is not necessary. You can use the cracks to shorten a fall at the traverse. You can literally put yourself on top-rope.

By BrendanC
From: Sherman oaks, ca
Mar 18, 2011
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Solid JT 5.9 crack. One of a handful of the benchmark 5.9 cracks here. 5.10a? Probably, just not in Joshua Tree. More tricky and technical than strenuous. I was only able to sink a few bomber jams in the main crack, all the others were just OK with one solid foot in the crack and one precariously smedging the face. Just don't want to hang around in this section for very long, just plug and go. Wouldn't want to climb this above 70 degrees in the sun, that's for sure. Traverse is simple for any leader that sent the crack below, it's all about the second here. Final crack is small sizes and 5.7ish so don't load up thinking you need bigger stuff up top.
The direct finish straight over the big roof looks killer. Next time.
By Cpn Dunsel
Mar 23, 2011

Felt it was not as hard as Colorado Crack.
By Adam Stackhouse
Apr 9, 2011


By Colonel Mustard
From: Sacramento, CA
Apr 19, 2011
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Ouch is right! He rested on the wrong piece of gear.
By Locker
From: Yucca Valley, CA
Apr 28, 2011


That fall is hilarious!!!...

Talk about a "Wake up call"...

Good footage...
By BrendanC
From: Sherman oaks, ca
May 15, 2011
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

That piece pulled on body weight!? Looks like he ripped the one below it too (or there was way too much slack in the system). And the pro on this climb is first class...if you can't set bomber gear (or at least body weight gear) in that quality a crack you might consider a helmet...
By Eric T.
From: St. Augustine, Florida
Nov 16, 2011
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Just got on this sucker. I thought it was super fun, but not quite a classic. Also thought it to be the epitome of Josh 5.9. If Bird of Fire is .10a, Pope's is definitely easier.

Thought it was pretty similar in difficulty to Touch and Go. I want to do it again with the roof variation. How is that move pulling the roof? Looks fun!
By generationfourth
From: Irvine, CA
Oct 22, 2012

Felt like 5.9 to me if not easier for Jtree... I thought Touch and Go was harder. Good jams, good foot jams for your left foot, and good stemming edges for your right foot. Maybe I was having a good day
By Stephen Nayfach
From: Walnut Creek, CA
Nov 25, 2012
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Fun climb and no harder than 5.9, IMO.
By Mike Holley
From: Boone, NC
Dec 11, 2012

Super Fun Climb with amazing gear all the way up! Felt the grade was true to the climb! The Top is super duper fun! Do it!!
By nate maxon
Jan 3, 2013

Nice looking line but not so great - very awkward with a rather coarse crack.
Feb 19, 2013
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Great climb with great jams. One little tricky section but alot of small edges on the face next to the crack and solid jams make this one very comfortable.
By MN norske
From: Henderson
Oct 3, 2014
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

Led this and wasn't too impressed. The local climbing shop dude even said it was his favorite and to do it before i left j tree. Maybe i wasn't too impressed because it was 85 degrees out, and hand jams were not too impressive. I will say the 10b variation at the roof was fun. I cannot comment on the original 5.9 route since i never did it that way but, the other two in my party said the original 5.9 was fun.
By sdrockstar81
From: el cajon, CA
Mar 4, 2015
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

This crack sent pretty smooth for me, then I went to Touch and Go and got shut down. Pope's is def not a 10a in my opinion. Great gear placement the whole way. Felt more like a 5.8+ to me but that's just how subjective crack climbing is. Had a blast none the less. I recorded myself climbing popes crack with an Ion Air Pro, should have it up on youtube soon.
By Jason Kim
From: Encinitas, CA
Mar 22, 2015

Great route, having just done Touch and Go I would say this is definitely the easier of the two. Pope's has better stances and is less sustained, but longer and the traverse is exciting (but relatively trivial if you made it that far).
By kili
From: 29 palms, ca
May 2, 2015

Lets see if I can summarizes these comments...

If you climb 5.11, you think its a 5.8
If you climb 5.8, you think its a 5.10

If you climb crack, you think its a 5.8
If you climb face, you think its a 5.10

So the average is 5.9

I am used to Vedauwoo, I would agree with the average.
By gradymellin
Oct 24, 2016
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

It's pretty heady for 5.9 in some parts but I don't think there are any parts hard enough to call 5.10, that being said its probably my favorite climb in JTree such a cool climb!
By Hobo Greg
Jan 19, 2017
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Not usually a rating rouser but I felt like this was no harder than 5.8 maybe even 5.7. Tons of edges on the face for feet. Direct finish whooped me a bit, but it's so worth it.

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