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Sacred Space climbs one of the most dramatic walls in Indian Creek: the steep 200 foot south face of the King of Pain. One can get a good glimpse of this route from the base of the Bridger Jacks, and an up close and personal view from Hoop Dancer on Hummingbird Spire. If any more inspiration is needed, read about the FA in Jeff Achey's essay in the David Bloom guidebook. Most of what is said about this climb is true.
Approach via the original first pitch -- a long, chossy corner that leads up to the notch between Hummingbird Spire and the King of Pain (5.9 R). An alternative, much better option is to climb Egg Drop Soup (5.12-), the beautiful lieback corner just right. Egg Drop Soup's second pitch eventually joins with the original first pitch and leads to the notch. When we did the climb we used our tag line to haul up all the big gear we'd need for Sacred Space, and then lower down all the extra small gear we had used on Egg Drop Soup. This worked well. Once sitting on the narrow perch below the base of the Sacred Space crack, arrange a belay. Negotiating all the loose rock on the first couple pitches, and then gazing up at the splitter system full of wandering cracks and massive chockstones, gives the distinctly disquieting impression that the King of Pain tower is indeed falling apart. That feeling is only amplifed as one begins climbing the route, but hopefully it won't all come down until after the ascent is complete.
P1: Begin in an obvious, 30' long #5 Camalot (C4) crack. For most this should be perfect handstacks and knee locks; near the top things get wider and more creative. Continue up very steep rock and twin hand cracks, eventually reaching a cave inhabited by two massive chockstones. One of these (the refridgerator-sized one) is loose and requires mandatory yarding on. The other one (the car-sized one) seems solid. Jam around this second block and up a cruxy dwindling crack to an awkward move into a second, more cramped cave. After a good rest, initiate an incredible rising hand traverse to the right via a #6 Camalot crack before cutting the feet loose (!) and swinging over to a small ledge on the overhanging wall. The exposure here is massive! Arrange some more so-so gear and continue with the traverse to the base of the huge gash-like squeeze chimney of the second pitch. Standing up to reach the belay anchors requires a bit of grovelling and pulling on toaster-sized loose rocks in the chimney which feels altogether desperate on the lead. The anchor consists of a modern bolt and a drilled pin (both eyelets of which are cracked). The hanging belay here is uncomfortable (for a variety of reasons) and a replacement for the pin might make things much safer. This is a long pitch of spectacular, unforgettable, and full-on climbing.
P2: Launch up the squeeze chimney. At about the 20' mark there is a horizontal in exfoliating rock that can take a bad purple TCU, and at about the 30' mark there is a decent #6 Camalot placement WAY back in the chimney (only available to those that are thin). Otherwise it is 100+ feet of unprotected 5.9 squeeze, barring large tube chocks. Tunnel into the depths of the tower and emerge up top, belaying on a pile of loose caprock just below the summit. My partner, who had just done the first all-female free ascent of the Moonlight Buttress, said this pitch required her to work harder than any other pitch in her life. I thought 5.9 was fair, but the seriousness of this pitch should not be understated: With the anchor in it's current state, a fall in the first 50' could result in the death of the entire party.
Topping out involves an easy lead to the summit with the protection of a lone star drive. Getting down is another matter. Downclimb and stem to or, more boldly, jump to the north tower across a sickeningly exposed gap. Lead up to the north summit and then make a double rope rap to join with the Wild Flower rappels. Two ropes required. There might be another anchor near the top of the squeeze chimney which would allow rapping back to the notch.
Double set of cams from yellow TCU to #6 Camalots. A couple extra hand-sized pieces. A small cam for the chimney. This rack implies much walking and back-cleaning of the larger gear.
Edit: I've been told that the crappy belay before the final chimney pitch has been upgraded with a second bolt.
By Ben Kiessel
Mar 29, 2010
This route is AWESOME!
It should get way more traffic then it does.
The pitch off the notch is physical, but only has 30' of splitter off-width, and then is super varied and fun. The second pitch is chimney if you are a 12 year old boy, other wise it is off-width.
Bring a #4 big-bro or two.
I'll say it again.
Bring a #4 big bro.
It's not fun looking at an anchor fall from 30-40' up.
Climb the route, its not as hard as everyone says.
Oh yeah. Man up and jump the gap.
By Sam Feuerborn
From: Durango, CO
Nov 15, 2013
Ben is right on this route is super rad and the jump will gain you tons of street cred!
Don't even bother with Bloom's book beta.
By James Xu
From: Flagstaff, Arizona
Nov 24, 2016
rating: 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c R
Did the Egg Drop Soup to Sacred Space link-up.
The route description is pretty spot on as far as pro and risk goes.
I linked both pitches of EDS with a 60m, but because of rope drag I was only able to get to the big and incredibly chossy ledge 20' below the true notch. While belaying my partner up I noticed a fair amount of scarring from rock fall on the ledge, including an abandoned rope that was core shot (probably from rock fall) in at least 5 or 6 places. Recommend climbing EDS in two pitches (belaying at the kokanee corner anchors). The rock between the big ledge and the notch is considerably loose, be mindful of your rope and your head!
As for Sacred Space, the climbing is amazing and varied. However, there is a lot of very loose blocks resting inside the crack throughout the entire climb that WILL most definitely fall out if pulled/stepped on. Whenever the crack becomes horizontal or approaches the chockstones, there are softball to microwave sized rocks just barely sitting inside. This made it terrifying not only for the leader but for the belayer and people below (there was a party below on the first pitch of Hoop Dancer that were directly in the line of fire!). If someone went and cleaned out the crack this climb would be much more classic and safe.
Save a #5 and #6 for the traverse at the top of the first pitch (thank me later) and don't fall on the piton! For the second pitch, it's an offwidth that is half an inch bigger than an open #6 camalot in the back and flared chimney on the outside with little pro. If you don't have a big bro or valley giant, it'll be about 30-40' of awkward unprotected climbing over micro cams before you can fit your body in the chimney. Also, the follower shouldn't fall on the second pitch as the anchor at the top is just a single star drive and a #3 camalot in the loose summit blocks!
After all that climbing, the tower jump will seem tame ;)
If you want some adventure at the creek, this is where you'll find it.