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Ship Rock
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Regular Route 

YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a C0

Type:  Trad, Aid, 1700', Grade V
Original:  YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a C0 [details]
FA: David R. Brower, John Dyer, Bestor Robinson, Rafi Bedayan, 1939 FFA: Rogowski, McCalla - May 29, 1959
Season: year-round
Page Views: 9,808
Submitted By: Camster (Rhymes with Hamster) on Apr 11, 2008

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PG setting the summit speed record (1hr 50m)...fre...

  • Ship Rock is located on the Navajo Nation, and currently climbing is ILLEGAL on the Navajo Nation; including Ship Rock. MORE INFO >>>
  • Climbing on the Navajo Nation is ILLEGAL. MORE INFO >>>

  • Description 

    Note: This description is from memory of a 9/2006 ascent. It might be blurred with two other routes I've done on SR (a new route on the East Face and the Longs Couloir var. to the Regular Route), so please email me corrections at Eric B. encouraged me to record this ASAP before I friggin lose my mind. Cam

    Route: Hike around the NW side of the monolith and into a huge bowl with a black basalt intrusion. Ascend into the bowl. You'll soon find you can't get very far as cliffs ring the lower part of the bowl. They're not high---maybe 80 feet tops, but they bar access to the Black Bowl above. Over to the left you'll see the cliffs even overhang. That's where, if all goes well, you'll likely rap down. But for now, move to the right side of the bottom of these cliffs and climb one or 1.5 really easy-but-kinda-ugly pitches to gain the Black Bowl (via a series of crumbling ledges and protectable rock).

    Now you should be in the Black Bowl (that's its real name) proper. Move up and left into a low-angled gully. Follow this for two very easy pitches (can be scrambled) or about that distance (several hundred feet). The gully curves up and right and puts you atop a sort of rounded pillar (the gully forms the left edge of this rounded pillar). Up and right is an ugly looking right-slanting crack. It looks worse than it is. Climb it. Soon you'll be at the Colorado Col. From here, descend directly east into the obvious notch, then climb out (a bit scary as there's little pro), to reach the Sierra Col (the Colorado and Sierra Cols are very close, maybe 50 feet apart--but there's a gap between them, as you'll find. That's the scary, unprotected bit). From the Sierra Col, you go down---the Rappel Gully, that is. Fix a rope and rappel. A 165-foot rope should be considered the minimum (length-wise) here.

    At the bottom of the Rappel Gully, traverse right (south (right if you're coming out of the Rappel Gully)). There are two main variations to this traverse (one high, one low), and both require a bit of route-finding/common sense to navigate. Remember these when you're coming back. With both, you end up at a cave. Move left out of the cave and up steep ground (5.7-8 or so; this is the upper part of the Honeycomb Gully) until it gets easier.

    Now, you can unrope and scramble to the Lizard (shit, is that what it's called?), the famed horn of rock jutting out (from the right or north side) into the col that separates the north and south summits of SR.

    Climb the Lizard. Pretty much just draws are needed (there are many fixed pins and a couple of bolts), then belay. A short traverse right along ledges leads to a short, steep vertical crack (this is often overlooked as parties go farther right) that requires a 5.8 (or so) move to gain easier ground. From here, keep moving up and right (4th class) until you can scramble to the summit.

    The descent from the summit is fairly straightforward into the upper part of the Honeycomb Gully. The traverse from the south side of the cave back towards the Rappel Gully is the key to getting back, and, again, there are two variations to it.

    Then, jug the Rappel Gully. You'll need to traverse from the Sierra Col to the Colorado Col to descend. The rap from the Colorado Col can hang up ropes, so be aware there. Then, there are several big bolted anchors down the middle of the Black Bowl (this is typically not where one ascends, as you are viewer's left of this line) that let you descend to the final, short cliff band around the base of the Black Bowl. Wander far right (north), and you'll find an easy, short, free-hanging rappel out of the Black Bowl. It's a hike from here.

    There is endless loose rock in the Black Bowl, so extreme caution (and helmets and body armor) is advised.


    Not a lot is needed. A regular-sized rack (full set of cams, full set of stoppers, a dozen draws and stoppers, etc.).
    Jumars, definitely.
    Bring at least two ropes as you'll need to leave one in the rappel gully for return to the Sierra Col.
    If there are more than two climbers, you'll definitely want more than 2 ropes.

    Photos of Regular Route Slideshow Add Photo
    Rock Climbing Photo: The road way down there!
    The road way down there!
    Rock Climbing Photo: Yours truly climbing the Horn pitch
    Yours truly climbing the Horn pitch
    Rock Climbing Photo: That's a long way down! Spot the car
    That's a long way down! Spot the car
    Rock Climbing Photo: I plucked this photo from George Bell's collection...
    I plucked this photo from George Bell's collection...
    Rock Climbing Photo: The 1st set of anchors for the descent off the sum...
    The 1st set of anchors for the descent off the sum...
    Rock Climbing Photo: From the top of the Black Bowl, the route goes up ...
    From the top of the Black Bowl, the route goes up ...
    Rock Climbing Photo: The Traverse Pitch after the rappels
    The Traverse Pitch after the rappels
    Rock Climbing Photo: Charlie French and Cam in the Rappel Gully, trying...
    Charlie French and Cam in the Rappel Gully, trying...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Cam and Charlie French screwing around in the Blac...
    Cam and Charlie French screwing around in the Blac...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Cammo pretending to be a real climber but actually...
    Cammo pretending to be a real climber but actually...

    Comments on Regular Route Add Comment
    Show which comments
    By George Bell
    From: Boulder, CO
    Apr 13, 2008

    I would like to point out the the original closure was precipitated by an accident, and that the lower part of this route is hazardous. The basalt is very loose, and the black bowl is a death trap under another party. The climb is also technically closed. So whatever ascents you do not plan to do, be extremely cautious!
    By Camster (Rhymes with Hamster)
    Apr 13, 2008

    Good post, George!
    By Camster (Rhymes with Hamster)
    Apr 13, 2008

    ...Uh, not exactly from my many critics over the years. Several Sierra routes---I'm told---sprouted bolts long before the boys got to SR.....
    By Pat Goodman
    From: Fayetteville, WV
    Dec 1, 2008

    Pretty sure that the descent description mentioned above is a bit out dated (i'm not calling you old Cam!).
    1st - don't fix yer cords in the rap gully.
    2nd - locate a set of anchors on the summit. Best way I can describe their location is this. The 1st big flat boulder you climb to on the summit,(but that is not the summit boulder) it should have the ammo can somewhere on it. Crawl into the cave/hole (east) under the boulder east of the big flat boulder. Sounds harder than it is, just look around. 4 double rope raps down the N. Face get you into the Longs Couloir.
    3rd - scramble and make 4/5 more double rope raps to the base.
    This is by far the safest way to descend!
    look at this photo
    By Camster (Rhymes with Hamster)
    Sep 15, 2009

    Oh, thanks, Pat. I had no clue about that rap route.
    By Noah McKelvin
    From: Colorado Springs
    Oct 31, 2010
    rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a C0 R

    Some more bolts seem to be missing on the traverse pitch. Only found 2 manky pieces 15 feet from the anchor then a runout of well over 100 feet is required on dicy friction where everything seems to be breaking. Didn't fix the rope. Rappeled in 7. An amazing route. Not for the climbing like Steve says but for the adventure. Something I'll never forget.
    By Gary Lee Hicks
    Jul 11, 2015

    After looking at the pix here and reading the "comments", I figure it's ok for me to say a little something about "our" ascent of the main summit from my notebooks from 1979. Please bear w me about my trying to extract from my written notes about a wee bit of the history of climbing in New Mexico with all of my Dear Friends who helped me realize even more than I could have ever dreamed possible.
    I'm a natural acrophobic and can barely climb a six foot ladder without getting the "hibbie-jibbies"! :oP

    According to my notes taken from 1979,,, "Important Climb #96 " was on May 10th, 1979 . My notes read;

    " Shiprock Traditional route May 10th
    III, 5.9 Lots of leading and rappeling on both 9mm ropes.
    Doug Bridgers, Wayne Taylor, Peter Prandoni , Bruce Holthouse
    First true use of 9mm ropes and [ Diamond C ] daypack . "

    I recall our Dear Friend Mike Smith dropping us off at the end of the road and we hiked around the base of ShipRock and located the start of the climb. I do not recall which of us actually lead up the short pitch to begin the climb, but it may very well have been myself cuz I had a horrible phobia of following ON TOP ROPE anybody anywhere :oP In my early days I was more comfortable leading every pitch on a climb than trying to clamber up behind someone else,,, perhaps because I was used to soloing roped and unroped by myself???

    When we did the raps to the traverse I was appalled by the cluster of [ 1/4 " ] bolts. There were approx 16 of them!!! Decisions decisions !!! Which ones to clip into ? All of them? We didn't have that much gear!

    We did the traverse and 3rd class up near the "wings" of the two summits. It got windy there.

    Scrambling to the base of the final pitch, I belayed Wayne up the poorly protected crux. I was scared as hell he might fall and yank all the anchors,,, including my belay anchors. I guess he was too scared to fall himself cuz he made it!!!

    As we all came up to the summit and relaxed... there was still the summit block to reach. Only problem was,,, there was a cluster of hornets (about 3" in length! ) swarming on the actual summit. Oh well... it gave us time to go thru the summit registry and see all the stories from the other climbers ( like Fred Becky's ).
    Perhaps we all got within 5' of the summit... but we were ready to jump 30' off the summit to keep from getting swarmed on :oP

    There's more to this story but this will have to do for now :o)
    By Karl Kiser
    Aug 25, 2015

    FFA Pete Rogowski & Tom McCalla, 29 May 1959

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