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Whale Dome
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South Face 

YDS: 5.7+ French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b X

Type:  Trad, 5 pitches, 800', Grade II
Original:  YDS: 5.7+ French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b X [details]
FA: Kip Metzger and ?
Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
Page Views: 3,064
Submitted By: Jerry Cagle on Nov 2, 2003

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Mark finishing up the 4th pitch. Easy runout climb...


Between Moby Dick and Dem Bones:

P1: Start by the Madrone tree just up from the _guard_ rock near the bottom of the Moby Dick gully. Follow the quasi-buttress, chicken-headed path to a good ledge and belay here on gear.

P2: Follow the chicken head highway till it runs out (breathe...) then run it out to a semi-hanging stance on very large chicken heads.

P3: Continue upward along the path of least resistance to another good ledge.

P4: Continue up the direct route on giant c-h's till they run out. Prepare for an extremely long run out heading for the dike composed of large knife-like plates then laterally to the left to the belay station (two bolts) on the last pitch of Moby Dick.

P5: Finish on the last pitch of Moby Dick


Take slings for chicken head hiking and small to medium stoppers, tri-cams, and Aliens.

Photos of South Face Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Mark placing a low ball (his first piece) about 20...
Mark placing a low ball (his first piece) about 20...
Rock Climbing Photo: Kimberly loving the toprope!
Kimberly loving the toprope!
Rock Climbing Photo: Mark about halfway up the first pitch.
Mark about halfway up the first pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: Bill starting the first pitch. Squeezing under the...
Bill starting the first pitch. Squeezing under the...
Rock Climbing Photo: Crazy-huge chicken heads up high!
Crazy-huge chicken heads up high!
Rock Climbing Photo: Mark starting up the third pitch. It traverses rig...
BETA PHOTO: Mark starting up the third pitch. It traverses rig...
Rock Climbing Photo: A cool shot of Bill on the third pitch. If it wasn...
A cool shot of Bill on the third pitch. If it wasn...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down the second pitch. The first belay is ...
BETA PHOTO: Looking down the second pitch. The first belay is ...

Comments on South Face Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Feb 26, 2015
By Steve Pulver
From: Williston, ND
Aug 26, 2004
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b PG13

P4 can be done by traversing farther to the right instead of taking the direct route. This is slightly steeper but no scarey runouts; chickenheads can be used for protection.
By 1Eric Rhicard
Dec 30, 2008

Took all of my 70 meter rope to reach the belay ledge and fins at the end of pitch 3. It was a little hard to be sure we were on the route so we stuck to the easiest possible line. Pitch four we angled left on the plates then moved right on gator skin to a thin dike the quickly got bigger and a lot easier. Lots of fun unless you blow it, then you are dead!
By R.Owen
From: Morenci
Nov 17, 2010

The approach trail was a bit hard to find all the parts on the way up (more obvious on the way down), but river bed will work just as well when dry. Only gear used was stoppers bigger than BD #8 (single set), a BD 0.75 cam equivalent and a BD 2.0 cam equivalent. Plenty of slings of course! Probably more placements exist, but I hate mucking about with gear while thinking about the cheese grater fall. Well worth effort if you are comfortable with the runout.
By Bill Lawry
From: New Mexico
Apr 26, 2011

Getting there:

As of Arpil 2011, there is a huge fallen tree spanning the main approach drainage just below Whale Dome (4 foot diameter?). One can pass beneath this and then up on the Whale Dome side into the steep vague drainage that leads to Moby Dick.

The vague drainage will narrow after passing the base of the huge 'guard' rock on the left. Look for a kind of person+ sized easy slot heading right along the base of Whale Dome with the madrona tree in it. You've ascended past this slot (by 50 feet?) if you get to a point where the vague drainage to Moby Dick is spanned by an economy-car sized boulder. The base of the climb is at the slots madrona tree.

About P1: The madronna branch at the crux is dieing or dead and so provides psychological pro. Suggest a bolt as noted again in this Photo.

And here's a different way to do P2/P3/P4 ...

About P2: We ended pitch 1 at the top of the giant flake which made our P2 rather longish with some run-out up high before the unprotected traverse. We set out top-of-P2 belay just before the unprotected traverse. Next time I'd go higher on P1 just to keep the rope length down on P2 (reduce the stretch should the leader fall in the P2 runout sections).

About our P3: Our's started by making the unprotected traverse up and then right, right off the belay, building a belay anchor where the chicken head's run out. This seemed about right for our P3 - besides, this way, a 60 meter rope won't reach the anchor bolts just before the last pitch.
By brian benedon
Feb 23, 2014

I'm glad I didn't know it was rated X when I climbed it back in 97, I would not have climbed it if I had known, don't tell my mom.

I don't remember it that way though. My only concern were the single head belay stations.
I chose to simule climb all but the 1st and last pitches so we could keep a few pieces between us.
By bikesrockswaves
From: Tucson, Arizona
Feb 4, 2015
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R

1) Not an "X" route. The hardest and scariest move is the first 20' of the route; if you can get off the ground, you should be fine, as long as you're comfy on regular 20' runouts on good rock. However, not for a 5.7 leader, though if swinging w/ stronger leader, probably Pitch 2 and final pitch okay for *solid* 5.7/5.8 trad leader. Pretty reasonable and spectacularly perfect climb for solid .9/.10 trad climbers. (The slab part of P4 is basically 5.4 R/X on perfect, sticky stone, a fun romp if you don't mind a 80' runout.) Generally, just follow the line of least resistance and maximum radness, and that's the route.

2) Rack: Light single rack w/ lotsa lotsa long runners. Maybe two .75 & .5 BD C4s.

3) South Face Direct Finish / "Mobius Strip" Variation. The mega-cool way to finish this classic route is to run straight up the vertical wall midway between Moby Dick and Dem Bones (which are about 60' apart). Move straight up into hanging copper colored dinner plates, then angle slightly right, then back up & left. 5.7+. Good gear once you sling the first dinner plate. Can combine w/ P4 w/ 80m rope (maybe w/ 70?) (LC & JHS)
By Jerry Cagle
From: Tucson, AZ
Feb 18, 2015

Get it straight. R, X, etc have nothing to do with the difficulty or with likelihood of a fall. They are a consequence of lack of viable protection.


"Danger ratings

However, all the various rating systems do not describe the danger level faced by the leader should the leader fall (which is one reason why the YDS should not be used in climbing gyms). Various rating systems were introduced to include some description of the potential falls. These ratings which describe danger and psychological difficulty are not nearly as refined as the ones describing physical difficulty. Currently, the most widely used is the R, R/X, and X ratings. These crudely describe the danger level.

R runout, where a fall would likely result in serious injury
R/X very runout, where a fall at the wrong place will likely result in at least serious injury and possibly death
X extremely runout, where a fall at the wrong place will likely result in death"
By Jimbo
Feb 19, 2015

Crap I thought R/X meant really excellent. No wonder I've always been so scared on the really excellent routes I've done.
By jbak
Feb 19, 2015

Ha !... solid humor Jim.

Jerry I guess you are right technically. But whenever I see an R or X rating my first (mental) question is: how hard are the stretches with bad pro ? It is definitely germaine to the idea of attempting the route.
By Jerry Cagle
From: Tucson, AZ
Feb 25, 2015

Good one, Jimbo. John, the "danger" ratings are intended to add a degree of objectivity to the route description. How hard the moves are is highly subjective. How hard for who? Alex Honnold? It's about how big your hospital bill or your funeral expenses might be... The difficulty rating tells you how hard the moves are, you don't need to fine-tune the danger rating based on the difficulty. That (highly subjective) information is given in the difficulty rating.
By JoeS
Feb 26, 2015

Jerry, I'm a little confused on your comment. Are you saying that difficulty grades are subjective and danger grades are objective? It seems to me that both are subjective and if there is a difference that difficulty grades might be more objective. If I look at a climb on MP that has been rated by at least 25 people I usually find that about 90% of them rate the climb within one letter grade of the consensus, while the danger ratings (i.e. no rating, PG13, R, & X ratings) can be all over the place.
By jbak
Feb 26, 2015 lawyer speaks ! I knew that $200K retainer was good for something !
By JoeS
Feb 26, 2015

You bet! The Master Debater doesn't come cheap.

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