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Smooth as Silk 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c

Type:  Trad, 1 pitch, 80'
Original:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: John Bald & John Edgar, 1973
Page Views: 2,772
Submitted By: Brian Reynolds on Feb 9, 2003

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (55)
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Me leading Smooth as a Silk


Smooth as Silk can be divided into two distinct sections. The lower section involves bouldery moves off the ground to a short hand traverse before easing off into a lower angle slab. The upper section ascends a splitter finger crack up a very smooth, relatively low angle slab. A small scoop at the base of this second section complicates getting onto the slab and provides the crux of the route.

Smooth as Silk is located around the corner from the Freeway Wall, on the end of the buttress that faces the road. The upper slab is plainly visible from the car as you approach the parking area on the Lost Horse Road. A short boulder scramble gets you to the base.


Thin rack to #2 Camalot (even that may be bigger than you'll need). This climb sews up beautifully with nuts and TCUs.

Photos of Smooth as Silk Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: The 5.9 "Bear Hug" direct start of Smoot...
The 5.9 "Bear Hug" direct start of Smoot...
Rock Climbing Photo: Scott on the finishing rail - sweet.
Scott on the finishing rail - sweet.
Rock Climbing Photo: Nathan leading Smooth as Silk.
Nathan leading Smooth as Silk.
Rock Climbing Photo: Ilana doing the tricky start moves
Ilana doing the tricky start moves
Rock Climbing Photo: View of Silkworm and Smooth as Silk
BETA PHOTO: View of Silkworm and Smooth as Silk
Rock Climbing Photo: $eth contemplating the crux of Smooth as Silk (5.7...
$eth contemplating the crux of Smooth as Silk (5.7...

Comments on Smooth as Silk Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jan 28, 2015
By Donno
From: Newport Beach
Nov 12, 2003
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

I hate to up-rate climbs but this is definitely a 5.8. You can rap from the slings with a 50m rope.
By Brian Reynolds
Nov 18, 2003

I disagree -- it felt hard to me the first time I tried to climb it, but that was because I'd never climbed outside JT and I didn't know how to climb a finger crack. On the second try, my technique was better and 5.7 felt right on -- definitely more than one grade easier than the 2nd pitch of Central Pillar of Frenzy in Yosemite, which I think of as a benchmark for the grade. The toughest part was getting out of the scoop coming off the ramp, but once you figure out the sequence of (slightly muscly) moves, the rest of the climb goes fine.
By Carol
Dec 29, 2003
rating: 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c

it could be that my upper body is out of shape or my form is not as strong as I'd supposed. I thought this route's crux was harder than the hardest moves on Sail Away. however, I think that the main crack section was very clean and aesthetic. you might choose to take up webbing to back up the rap slings.
By Chrys Mitchell
Jan 7, 2004

Regarding AJ's comments on not being able to find False Smooth as Silk: A couple of months ago I studied the end of Filipino Wall trying to identify False Smooth as silk. On the right side of the wall's end (facing the road)is a wide crack I'd seen several parties climbing, and on the left side are two thin cracks, one a little above and left of the other. I think those thin cracks are the route. Last week I decided to climb the route, expecting to be able to positively identify it in response to AJ's asking if it's a red Herring. After I got back down to the road, though, and looked back at the rock, I realized I'd climbed the wide crack (or rather, the face next to the wide crack)that I'd seen other people climb. I still think the route is in the thin cracks to the left, but it seems the natural approach line through the boulders takes you to a little headwall below the base of the wide crack. I think it might be possible to traverse left to the thin cracks from the tree at the base of the wide crack--or it might be necessary to work out a less obvious approach up the left side of the boulders. This may be more work than the route is worth, but next time I'm in Josh I'm going to try to get to those thin cracks. The mystery has me hooked. By the way, the route I did climb (bypassing the wide section of the right-hand crack by the face on its right and eventually traversing left to the crack above the thin cracks) is an easy but enjoyable route.
By Dee Why
May 10, 2005
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

This is a cool little route--a good way to start or finish the day. You can do a harder direct start by bearhugging the small "buttress" to the NW of what I think is the proper start, hopping up to a small ledge, putting in pro [a .4 cam], then sidepulling the crack while smearing up the face. If that's the correct start, then 5.7 is a real sandbag. The crux of the main finger crack [in fact, off-fingers] is easier if you stem as high as possible before laybacking the crack. As of 5/7/05, there were good slings and 2 rap rings at the top.
By Bob Gaines
May 11, 2005
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

The direct start (the right-slanting crack to the left of the gully) is about 5.9, with an interesting "bear hug" crux.
By David Wang
From: San Francisco, CA
Nov 5, 2006
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

I definitely think this climb is 5.8. I have fairly regular sized hands and the entrance to the proper crack has 2 - 3 moves at a very awkward size for me.
By Darren D.
Mar 28, 2007
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

A boulder problem to a finger splitter crack. A nice climb.
By Will S
From: Joshua Tree
Mar 30, 2007
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

A beautiful, clean, mirror-smooth slab with a fingercrack, barely two minutes from the car...if it were 5 times as long it would be an all time classic. The crux is probably the first move or two off the ground or possibly the entry moves into the upper finger crack. The finger crack is more technical than it looks. I remember expecting to just plug in perfect finger locks and being surprised. Takes good gear, easy to find, rap off.

Edit: As a sidenote, this has been up-rated to 5.8 in the new Vogel Joshua Tree West guide.
By Bill Olszewski
From: Colorado Springs, CO
Apr 8, 2007

Sweet finger crack! If only it were about three times longer... I'd give it more stars.
By Mark L
Apr 30, 2007

The slightly overhung finger lock crux is partly finger size dependent. My fingers are possibly bigger than most folks and I had a painful insecure time getting through the crux. Plenty of pro at the crux though so you wont go anywhere.

Once above the crux (getting into the crack) it gets wider and face edges (for feet) are there if you dont want to practice keeping your feet in the crack - Less painful but less interesting.

Theres always webbing and rap rings hanging from a horn at the top but eyeball it before heading up.
By DaveGustafson
From: Palm Desert, CA
Nov 11, 2009
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Found the webbing that we were planning to rap off of... but decided it needed a little more TLC. We added a little redundancy with another quick link and rap rings to ensure a safer rappel.
By Kimberly Segasser
Dec 1, 2009
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Great crack at the top, but the direct start is really hard if you are not tall enough to do the "bear hug" move. I am only about 5' and the bottom felt MUCH harder then 5.7.
By Chris Owen
From: Big Bear Lake
Dec 5, 2010
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

I enjoyed this route and feel that this moderate splitter quite unique at Joshua Tree, therefore I would recommend it to any 5.8 leader as, when at the bottom of the splitter, you're sure to think "WTF?"
By Mary Moser
From: Joshua Tree, CA
May 8, 2011

Just donated slings and biner at the top of Smooth as Silk for the rappel. The old slings had been cut (they looked ancient, so that was a wise move). I agree the route feels more like a 5.8.
By susan peplow
From: Joshua Tree
Dec 28, 2013
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Direct start crack as Bob describe above seems like the most obvious line and best value for your climb. Eats gear off the deck with the fun little move (bear hug) before gaining the slab. The transition into the thin splitter on the upper wall is most certainly the crux and takes small gear. From the stance I was left wondering if I had enough small stuff but the crack continues to open up as you ascend towards the anchor.

Anchor today consisted of way too much webbing and a few superfluous biners just to add to the junk show. It's clean now with three sets of runners with various carbon dating but all with life left in them along with two rap rings. The rap appears to be problematic with a bush directly below the anchor. Not to worry, drop the line down climbers right (avoiding stacking rope in the flakes below) and rap what is basically the 5.9 route. Step back a few feet on the pull and it's clean with no hang ups.
By Josh Cameron
From: California in my Mind
Jan 28, 2015
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

Crux felt like it was getting established in the crack. After that probably 5.6.

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