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YDS: 5.12c/d French: 7c Ewbanks: 28 UIAA: IX ZA: 28 British: E6 6b

Type:  Trad, Sport, 1 pitch
Original:  YDS: 5.12d French: 7c Ewbanks: 28 UIAA: IX ZA: 28 British: E6 6b [details]
FA: Glenn Schuler and Kevin McLaughlin, 1997
Page Views: 11,562
Submitted By: Richard M. Wright on Aug 2, 2001

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (36)
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Mr. Dave meets the Manta-ray

Road & nearby private property MORE INFO >>>


Killer project and worth five stars on a three star scale, Starlight, fires smack-dab up the middle of the overhang on amazing features with a relentless demand on power. Edges, side steps, side pulls, and back steps all gun for a Manta Ray flake in the middle of the overhang. It is at least 5.12b just getting here. Pull around the flake on the right and launch a relentless series of crimps on progressively steepening rock. Jugs await below the lip of the roof, and a good thing too, since here again the pro shifts to the camming units. Just imagine tipping Ten-Digit Dialing back 30 degrees and you get the idea. Actually, some of these holds are incut, and a couple of square corners provide some relief and keep the continuity only a couple of letter grades harder than TDD. But what a route. Lowering from the top feels like Rifle, with 40 + feet between you and the wall. Starlight is a dream project on great stone with good moves and excellent gear. I have a bottle of champagne sitting around for the day this goes down.


Like most routes on the Wild Overhang Wall, this needs Friends or Camalots, QDs, and a 60 m rope.

Addendum: It can be lead with gear alone.

Photos of Starlight Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Glenn Schuler attempting Starlight.
Glenn Schuler attempting Starlight.
Rock Climbing Photo: A moment of inertia.
A moment of inertia.
Rock Climbing Photo: Hangdogging on Starlight. Note: I had no bald spot...
Hangdogging on Starlight. Note: I had no bald spot...
Rock Climbing Photo: It's a little steep. Kurt Ross working the moves f...
It's a little steep. Kurt Ross working the moves f...
Rock Climbing Photo: End of the long crux.
End of the long crux.
Rock Climbing Photo: Fully loaded pinky jam. This starts the long crux.
Fully loaded pinky jam. This starts the long crux.
Rock Climbing Photo: Stefan Doucette making the lunge off the right han...
Stefan Doucette making the lunge off the right han...
Rock Climbing Photo: Another way to do the manta ray move.
Another way to do the manta ray move.
Rock Climbing Photo: Starlight.
Rock Climbing Photo: Angus on Starlight.
Angus on Starlight.
Rock Climbing Photo: Dave Russell in the moment .
Dave Russell in the moment .
Rock Climbing Photo: Just passing the crux.
Just passing the crux.
Rock Climbing Photo: Kevin Mclaughlin sticking the Manta Ray move.
Kevin Mclaughlin sticking the Manta Ray move.

Comments on Starlight Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Nov 11, 2015
By Josh Janes
General Admin
Apr 21, 2008
rating: 5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b

Although this is an awesome route, I personally wish it had been developed as a trad climb. If it was, it would be a Front Range mega-classic along the lines of the Evictor or the Wasp. That said, I'm super thankful to the route developers for sharing this beautiful area and this amazing route in particular!
By Chris Cavallaro
Apr 22, 2008

I wonder how long that Manta ray flake is going to stay?
By Kevin Stricker
From: Evergreen, CO
Apr 23, 2008

Regarding the Trad comment, there are hundreds of sport routes that could be done naturally with the right gear and mindset. Thunder Ridge is a very traditional area, and very few routes could be considered sport climbs. As for Starlight while it is true that natural gear could be had in the face features this is a foolish comment considering the route is already bolted. You might as well wish that Thunder Ridge was 15 minutes from BRC. How about you climb it on natural gear and still call it .12b, that would be a proud ascent. Or better yet link up other natural features on the wall and have your own FA.

Starlight is an awesome route as it stands, and while it may be easier for tall folks the rating seems pretty right on for most. Josh, did you actually send before downgrading?
By Chris Cavallaro
Apr 23, 2008

I belayed Josh on this. He got it on his first 'real' go. It was impressive, and I know that if anyone can speak to grades, it is Josh. I have seen him spend a lot more time on climbs at lower grades. Great route!
By Kevin Stricker
From: Evergreen, CO
Apr 23, 2008

Awesome job Josh...congrats on a proud send. Let us know when you fire it on natural gear!
By Stefan Doucette
Apr 24, 2008
rating: 5.12+ 7c 28 IX 27 E6 6b

The great thing about trad climbs, particularly up at Thunder, is that they don't need to be "developed," as Josh mentioned. Just stick the gear and go if you don't like the bolts, they aren't stopping you. And be sure to have someone take pictures, the climb makes for great photography as it is, and the trad element would make it that much more spectacular.
By Ben Scott
From: Fort Collins, CO
Dec 16, 2008

Did this route on Saturday before the snow...Awesome!
One of the best Granite Sport Climbs in Colorado?
Friend and I thought it was as good as Psychotomic, Monastery.

Bit easy for 12d, I'd drop the letter grade and say straight up 5.12.

BUT....what's up with that "old-school" anchor position?
Does anyone else feel the anchors should be at the last bolt?
the 5.6 to the top was fun, but do we need to ruin our ropes for it?
Back cleaning was a pain as well....
By Chris Cavallaro
Dec 16, 2008

All of the routes that I have done here top out too high in my opinion as well. I have noticed this in a lot of new routes lately; that the climb should 'stop' at a certain point, but for extra mileage they go to the top of the wall causing communication and backclean problems.
By Kevin McLaughlin
From: Colorado Springs
Dec 28, 2008

When I establish a route, I follow the most aesthetic line I can. I then put the anchors where the best location for them is in my opinion. I suppose you could lower off from any place you choose if you don't like my choice. As for back cleaning- do you think the reason it is hard might just be that the route is so steep?
By Kevin McLaughlin
From: Colorado Springs
Dec 30, 2008

Mr. Burns,
The top two bolts of Starlight have had quicklinks on them for awhile. I guess they are from people lowering off, avoiding the scenario you describe about rope drag. There really is no need for your opening paragraph, I am fully aware of how rope drag works.
I am glad you appreciate the ground up style of our routes. We have done our best to do best, but I cannot see adding anchors halfway up this -or any other wall. I have never seen or heard of anyone getting their rope stuck on this route. Anyone leading this route should be able to handle single pitch ropework. This particular route is worth a bit of effort.
You are quite right about Thunder Ridge being awesome. Enjoy.
By phil wortmann
From: Colorado Springs, Co.
Feb 12, 2009
rating: 5.12+ 7c 28 IX 27 E6 6b

There are two simple solutions to your rope drag problem.

1- back up the bolt at the lip past the manta ray with a bomber cam, and top rope from there.

2- back up the third bolt above the manta ray with a triple length runner around a bomber horn. TR from there.

The last climber simply climbs to the top anchors and cleans the route.
By blakeherrington
Jun 23, 2009

Does anyone know how stable or safe the flake is? We were afraid to get on the route today because it looks detached at all edges, and appears to be a KEY jug on the route. The wall is too steep to inspect it while rapping off other climbs.

Today I backed up the top bolt of the hard/continuous climbing with a purple sling and locker around a monster horn.
By Kevin Stricker
From: Evergreen, CO
Jun 24, 2009

The Manta ray flake is seems to look worse than it is. It get's dyno'ed for pretty regularly.
By Scott Bennett
Apr 10, 2010
rating: 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b

Absolutely stellar pitch!

Didn't think it was 12d hard, but that might be because I'm pretty tall (the move to the Manta Ray seemed reachy), and because I stepped left after pulling onto the vertical face (just before the rightwards traverse to the Manta Ray) and got a no hands rest.

Also, to echo Josh's comment above, this would definitely be a safe all-gear lead, for someone stronger than myself. A few good cams and stoppers would protect the initial overhang, and you could build a mini-anchor out of bomber gear before the crux lunge to the Manta Ray. The pump of placing everything would definitely add to the difficulty, but the gear's all there for someone with the guns to try it.

By Scott Bennett
Oct 12, 2010
rating: 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b

Sent this thing yesterday, clipping no bolts, and taking advantage of the abundant and high quality stopper placements all over the route! Seriously, this route doesn't need bolts, there's an obvious, A1 placement within feet of every bolt.

The fall off the crux is only slightly longer than the bolted fall, and it's totally clean. You're lobbing onto a nest of gear worthy of a belay. We called it the "Life Station"; think multiple huge stoppers, each in different cracks!

I had clipped bolts last time I was there in the Spring (see above comment) but after realizing that the gear was so good, I tried to work it just on gear this time around. I'm sure there are many many (non-5.13) climbers around who would be psyched to try this ground-up on gear!

Also, before anyone asks, no we didn't place any gear behind the Manta Ray Flake. While it seems solid enough for a jug, I wouldn't want to be the one whose cam tore it off and destroyed the climb. You can place a great cam in the horizontal crack/jug up and right of the Ray.


Heres a link to a blog post about the climb, with photos and gear beta:
The Big Wide West
By Kevin McLaughlin
From: Colorado Springs
Oct 12, 2010

Scott, Good job! We have always known this route was a good candidate for an all gear lead. Like many other routes, you just have to want to give it a go - oh yeah - also it helps to be a bad bad man like yourself! Congrats again.
By Glenn Schuler
From: Monument, Co.
Oct 22, 2010

Hey Scott,
You don't mention it in your post above or your blog - I'm assuming you placed all the gear on lead during the red point send, yes?

By Josh Janes
General Admin
Oct 22, 2010
rating: 5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b

Scott placed all the gear on lead.

I was wondering if the FA party would be open to removing the unnecessary bolts from the route.
By Pinklebear
Oct 22, 2010
rating: 5.12d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b

How about, instead of leading existing routes on gear then aiming to remove the bolts, you guys go out instead and find new gear-only leads to establish? Seems like a much better use of everyone's time and a much less ambiguous statement about style, etc. There's no shortage of rock out there if you get after it and start looking. We live in the ***Rocky*** Mountains, after all.

As stated above, the bolts were used to dial the line prior to leading it on gear, even if there was some separation between the two efforts. So obviously, they were of ***some*** use.

Headpointing is a fine style, I think, for first ascents, but at this point as someone who's climbed this route clipping the bolts, I'd say just leave them in. Why muddy the waters on an undeniable classic? If people want to skip the bolts, then Scott has made a fine lead that shows how it can be done. And if they want to clip them, the bolts should stay in for the clipping.
By Josh Janes
General Admin
Oct 23, 2010
rating: 5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b

Just for the record, I'm not trying to ruffle feathers or get on anyone's bad side, nor am I trying insult the first ascentionists. I just thought I'd ask. My attitude is simply, "this stretch of rock would be even more beautiful, and still safely climbable (!), if it were restored to it's natural, pre-bolted state. Who on earth *wouldn't* want that?" That said, this is an amazing route, bolted or not.

I'm not being ambiguous about "style". My position is that if there is good natural pro, any bolt to be placed would be a mistake, and any bolt that has been placed is a mistake. I fully realize that few share that position (though I do feel proud that Royal Robbins is one of them). Personally, I view every bolt I've ever placed as a marker of my own limitations as a climber. If future climbers were to agree that a bolt on a route I've put up was unnecessary, I'd fully endorse its removal - even if that meant I no longer had the fortitude to climb my own route. I'd do my best to be amazed (as I am by Scott's ascent) and not insulted, though I suspect it would require some gritting of my teeth.

Read Scott's blog entry - muy impresionante!
By Kevin Stricker
From: Evergreen, CO
Oct 23, 2010

Here's an idea Josh, why don't you try and lead the direct start to Starlight and establish you own trad route.
By Glenn Schuler
From: Monument, Co.
Oct 23, 2010

Cool, must have had one hell of a pump fiddling with stoppers and the "life station" all while hanging on for the send. Impressive effort, Scott.

Josh, I'm fully against any bolt removal from our route. Starlight has been done and enjoyed by many climbers for 15 years now, it is what it is. We put the route up in what we felt was a reasonable style, I'm sorry you and Scott don't agree. I'm with Matt - go find your own "Front range classic" and establish it how you see fit.
By Scott Bennett
Oct 23, 2010
rating: 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b

Yes, all gear was placed on lead for the send. I did have everything sussed by then, though, with each stopper at the ready on its own QD, so I can't say it was really any pumpier than clipping the bolts. An onsight, well, that would be impressive... .


If Kevin and Glenn want the bolts there, they should remain. It's their route.


Matt is right, establishing new routes is way cooler than retro-tradding old ones. I just hope that future first-ascentionists fully consider the potential for safe, removable gear before altering the rock with bolts.


Also, the direct start looks interesting, difficult and scary. Also very close to the much easier and safer (on gear) normal start.


I posted some of these sentiments on the comments section of my blog, but since you're both here, I'll write them again:

To Glenn Schuler and Kevin McLaughlin: I realize that the tone of my blog might have offended you. I apologize. I mean no disrespect to either of you, I am very thankful for your efforts establishing routes at Thunder and elsewhere. I do disagree with your decision to bolt Starlight, but this judgment is easy to make with the benefit of hindsight. As I said above, my intent is to influence future routes and ascentionists, not to debate the status of an already classic route.
Thanks again,
By Kelly Hartman
Oct 25, 2010

I was at Starlight today and saw many people climbing the route. All were using the bolts. The bolts should stay for many reasons. mostly in respect for the style of the first ascent. The developers have the right establish a route however they like. I think it is rad that they had the vision to see the route and were motivated to do the hard work required to create a route of its kind. As the sport progresses, I believe it is important to focus on the positive and give respect to the people who advanced the sport in there time. Like putting up Starlight 15 years ago.
By slim
Oct 25, 2010

If the route was done ground up, onsight (i.e. not headpointing, not sussing out all of the gear), I think the request would be somewhat worth debating. But this not being the case, the request seems, well, kind of cheesy. It reminds me of when some dude dogged Anarchitect into a ruthlessly wired state, sent it on gear (probably R or X rated), and then wanted to remove the bolts.

Also, who determines whether is it safe or not? If (I should say when, actually) Honnold solos the Bachar-Yerian, is he going to say that route can be done safely without the bolts? If there is an 50 foot runout of 5.10 climbing on a 5.12 route, is it a safe route? What if the runout is only 5.9, what if it is 11a or 11c, etc? I've been lucky enough to climb with/around Scott a couple times, and he is one of the boldest climbers I have climbed with. Also, Josh, I know that you are bold as hell as well. I gotta say, your interpretation of a safe pitch would probably cost me $100 in tighty whities at Walmart. :)
By Kevin McLaughlin
From: Colorado Springs
Oct 25, 2010

To all, here are the facts as I know them..... Every single person who has ever been on Starlight (to my knowledge) has said the route is a four star classic. Bar none. That being the case - I believe the route stands on its own merit. As is, no question. 'Nuff said. Enjoy!
By Albert Newman
Oct 25, 2010

Josh Janes quoting Royal Robbins, ha ha, that is pretty funny.
Is this the same guy who was recently photographed in an R&I article called, "Defying the Bolt Ban in Red Rocks?"
By Scott Bennett
Oct 28, 2010
rating: 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b

To respond to a few comments:

Slim is right, I did not do the route ground up on gear. I wish I had, it would have been totally safe, but I had every reason to believe that the bolts were needed. I have much respect for the Thunder Ridge crew, and on most of the other routes I had climbed there, bolts were not added where removable protection could be used. So I assumed that, despite the appearance of natural cracks, the gear was less than ideal. So I clipped the bolts.

Once I saw first hand the gear opportunities, I worked the route on gear, taking falls and testing placements. So while my style wasn't perfect, I wouldn't describe it as headpointing.

As to the safety of the route, I can say without a hint of sandbagging that it is very safe, even for someone dogging their way up it. The first good placement is perhaps 12" above the first bolt, and solid passive pro appears regularly along with every bolt. The crux "Life-Station" is maybe 2-3' to the left of the crux bolt, which makes the fall there slightly longer, but it's still all air.

Also, as to your side comment about Matt Lloyd's ascent of Anarchitect, Matt would agree that he headpointed it, and I don't think he ever advocated chopping the bolts. In fact, he publicly supported keeping the bolts.

By slim
Oct 29, 2010

Scott, thanks for setting me straight about Matt Lloyd's view of the bolts on Anarchitect, it sounds like another person advocated removing them, referring to Matt's (impressive) ascent. Matt, not sure if you ever check in here, but if you do, I apologize for the error.
By blakeherrington
Oct 29, 2010

Kevin and Glen- Thunder is a gem, and I've had so much fun there. Thanks for the time and money involved in putting anchors and bolts up across The Ridge.

1. Starlight would be a completely safe trad lead to do ground-up and onsight for anyone able to place nuts and cams. It would be a shame for future climbers to neglect this potential due to a mistaken impression received from Mountain Project that the gear is infrequent or unreliable.

2. Though irrelevant to this discussion, I want to defend Josh against Albert Newman's comment above. I wrote the piece in Rock & Ice ("Thin Red Lines"). In it, Josh is photographed on a route called 'The Warrior', which is one of the most obvious, natural, trad lines in the area, but seldom done. I wanted to write about excellent routes that weren't popular. Warrior's 5-pitch corner was FA'ed onsight and ground up, without bolts, and its inclusion in the article was meant to demonstrate the variety of high-quality new TRAD routes available in the area. Josh has indeed climbed 'The Warrior' and that alone doesn't in/validate his views on the 'protectability' of Starlight.
By Stefan Doucette
Nov 22, 2010
rating: 5.12+ 7c 28 IX 27 E6 6b

Haha, Phil! Well put, except the 120 pound climber comment. That is hitting too close to home for me. I guess my saving grace is my lack of ability.
By Scott Bennett
Nov 29, 2010
rating: 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b

Phil wrote:
"Get a life....pansy asses...removing the bolts now wouldn't change shit....
...Let others enjoy this ultra-classic, instead of just a few elitist pricks...
...Unlike most climbers, I don't worship the 120 lb. douchebags... sure aren't curing fucking cancer...
...Scott, Blake, Josh, you're all a bunch of tools in my opin. If you want to discuss it further, find me in the parking lot."

Wow. Classy.

By Hank Caylor
From: Glenwood Springs, CO
Jan 2, 2011

Kevin and Glenn, this route sounds so kickass that I'm giving it 4 stars, and I haven't even been to Thunder Ridge! Yet.
By Phil Lauffen
From: The Bubble
Jun 8, 2011

I think the crux move to the manta ray is pretty height dependent. At 5'9" I could not figure out how to do it for the life of me. My 6'3" friend with a +5 ape index got the move really quick. Or maybe I'm just weak.

There is currently a sling draped around a horn right above the last bolt that allows for easy lowering.
By Jamie gatchalian
From: denver, co
Oct 17, 2011

With all the talk of gear vs bolts, I'm now confused. Is this rig fully bolted or is some natural pro still necessary to supplement the bolts? I don't really care who has sent it in what style, just want to know what to expect if and when i get down there to try this thing. For what it's worth, it looks stellar!
By Kevin McLaughlin
From: Colorado Springs
Oct 17, 2011

Gatch, the route is indeed stellar. This route is all bolts if you stop where the angle breaks above the hard climbing onto the lower angled upper section. This is how most people climb it these days. Enjoy.
By SteveZ
From: Denver, CO
Mar 9, 2013

I would give this route 5 stars if it let me. Also I agree the height dependency on the move to the manta ray at least with the stand up method. Maybe an all out lunge if you're shorter than 5'9"?
By Abel Jones
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 23, 2014

The link-up into g-route makes this line 4 stars and puts the icing on the 12d.
From: Denver Colorad
Oct 18, 2015

This is the best 12 I've done in Colorado. If I could give it five stars, I would. Hope the Manta Ray flake doesn't break one day. It would be cool if there was a way to secure or somehow bolt it on, but it would also be risky!!!
By eddie m
Nov 11, 2015
rating: 5.12c/d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b

This route is so much fun. The crux is probably the coolest move I have ever done on any route, go do this route today!

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