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Strategic Defense 

YDS: 5.11c French: 6c+ Ewbanks: 24 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 24 British: E4 6a

Type:  Trad, 1 pitch, 95'
Original:  YDS: 5.11c French: 6c+ Ewbanks: 24 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 24 British: E4 6a [details]
FA: Dave Bingham & Mark Defournoux, June 1986
Page Views: 7,417
Submitted By: Nick Stayner on Jul 29, 2006

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Todd Skinner on Strategic Defense (5.11c), City of...


In the guidebook, Dave Bingham asks, "the best face climb in the City?"... find out for yourself! A slabby crux down low & a pumpy one up higher with an amazing variety of movement in a truly spectacular location.


The route is just left of the Crack of Dung (which is the first crack left of Crack of Doom). Look for bolts on the right side of a beautiful arete.


A small stopper (#4 or #5) and blue and yellow TCUs are pretty key, unless you feel like running it out and facing big/injurious fall potential. The climb is predominantly bolted. Chain anchors on top. Careful lowering, it's a long one!

Photos of Strategic Defense Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: getting through the crux.
getting through the crux.
Rock Climbing Photo: Just before the crux.  Photo by Chris Hash, Sept. ...
Just before the crux. Photo by Chris Hash, Sept. ...

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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 21, 2017
By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
Jul 30, 2006
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a PG13

What a route! Expect challenging climbing and excitement from the well spaced bolts. Bingham's latest book mentions that this is considered a "stiff" lead. I agree. I struggled up this route mentally and physically, but still rank it as one of the best climbs I've been on in the City. Definitely bring small wires and aliens/tcus unless you want even more spice! And watch out for the sting-in-the-tail above the last bolt.
By 426
Mar 21, 2007

Amazing position and climbing on this one...keep it together as it gets airy!
By hEatchel
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
Aug 10, 2009
rating: 5.11c/d 7a 24 VIII 25 E4 6a

Amazing route ! Getting to the 2nd bolt is intense .. Really cool route which requires some mental stamina
By Bad Sock Puppet
Sep 13, 2009
rating: 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a

A hard hard climb for the grade. I did Fat Lip (.12a) an hour before this and Strategic Defense felt way harder for me and is definitely one of the scariest sport climbs I've done. The crux is between the first and second bolt which involves a barely featured section of slopey arete. A small slopey ledge (horizontal crack) provides a meager rest. Another hard move to get up to the large flake, and keep it together as it gets balancy up top despite the "featured look". A small 20ft runout will land you at the chains. If you want to protect the climb with gear, it will take a full set of C3's. A must do if you're feeling exceptionally brave.
By Johny A
From: Aurora . CO
Feb 2, 2010

Did this one in 97. Kicked draw OFF 1st bolt above horizontal. WOW. Took getting to the next bolt VERY seriously. Remember the bottom being more tech than the top. Part slab- part sport. Def a proud lead for any 11 climber.
By Bones Perkins
From: Rexburg, ID
Sep 12, 2011
rating: 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a PG13

One of my all time favorites at the City. For me, the crux is basically a couple moves between the first and second bolt getting my body around the arete from the bolted face to the outside face. After that, it's just fun, techy smearing/laybacking up to the horizontal and then really fun, balancy moves to the chains. Such a classic! Not ridiculously physical, but enough to crux your mind when your making those super delicate moves!
By dave bingham
Nov 8, 2011

Should this route be rated 11d?
By Guy H.
From: Fort Collins CO
Nov 9, 2011
rating: 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a

Crack of Doom feels two letter grades easier than Strategic Defense, so 11d might be a fair grade.
By Brian in SLC
From: Sandy, Utah
Nov 17, 2011
rating: 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c

Dunno, Dave. I remember doing it years ago a few times and always thought it was 5.11a/b-ish.

Did it get harder?

Spud meets Hammerhead always seemed harder to me.
By Bones Perkins
From: Rexburg, ID
Mar 22, 2012
rating: 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a PG13

Dave - To me, I'd say where it's at with 11c is quite fair because it's pretty technical (more than an 11a/b?) and it has a bit of a spook factor. That's my addition to the consensus, at least.
By Deniz
From: Boise
May 26, 2012

This is the hardest 11c I have been on at the city.
By dave bingham
May 28, 2012

I've had people suggest adding a lower bolt because the nut before the 1st bolt is marginal and the 1st clip is a not easy. Any thoughts out there?
By zoso
May 28, 2012

+1 for that as I thought that 1st placement was a little spook.
By grk10vq
May 30, 2012

I can't imagine how scary that must of been for you to clean that first piece Zoso?

I don't know Dave? The superstitious side of me says to shut-up, but would you go back and change the lyrics to a classic song?

Part of what makes this route so great is it's character - the top to bottom experience. Heads-up, highly focused climbing off the ground. The micro nut in the initial seam, the wild moves to the arete, the spacing of bolts, that cam in the horizontal!

Its your route and your call, but I wouldn't change a thing. If you do decide to add a bolt to the bottom, maybe alter the name too?
Something like A Slightly Less Strategic Defense.
By zoso
May 31, 2012

I actually tried to give it a lead back before, you know, I sucked.

Maybe Grk is right. Leave it to those that are capable of doing it. The more memorable routes for me have always been the ones with heady parts to them.
By John Steiger
May 31, 2012

Grk nailed it, DB. When I first climbed here, about 1988, this already had a reputation as an outstanding but heady and stout route (I recall rumors that even Skinner flailed on it). Between that and its intimidating aspect, over the next few years I continuously walked past it, nervously coveting it, while doing virtually every other 11 in the City. After several years on the East coast getting fat, I moved back but continued to avoid SD, waiting to be in top form to give it a go. More years passed, and I finally led it a few weeks ago, thus ending over 20 years of unconsummated longing. It is one of the truly classic pitches in Idaho. I wouldn't mess with it.
By Bones Perkins
From: Rexburg, ID
Jun 24, 2012
rating: 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a PG13

This line is much too classic to alter. Obviously, I'm just repeating what has already been said, but much of the character of this spectacular line is the heady aspect of protection. Combine that with the breathtaking setting and amazing movement and.... really, it's perfect. A route's reputation (however intimidating it may be!) and history sometimes can be part of what makes it so great. I guess I vote for the side of nostalgia and old school City!
By Tim Wolfe
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Sep 7, 2012
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a

I think the current grade is appropriate and the protection is adequate. My best recollections are from heady climbs like this that require focus and commitment. I still clearly recall the wonder at how unique the moves and gear were on this line during my ascent of this route shortly after is was established. Please leave that experience available for my kids in their future. We have plenty of generic sport climbs. I prefer keeping this route as it has been since the 1980's - a classic mixed route requiring a variety of climbing skills including placing small brass and climbing over it with a calm head.
By James Yates
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
Sep 24, 2012
rating: 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a

WOW! this route is full value and very BOLD... I barely sent it. My tidbits on the rating discussion... It's every bit 11c if not harder. I thought this climb made Crack of Doom feel like 5.9... Maybe not quite but it was seriously quite a bit harder. At 5'8" with essentially zero ape index, I had a real problem reaching through to some of the better holds on the middle portion of this climb(the holds you see is all you get and really nothing in between until it starts to dome to the top). Standing on the quartz dike that comes in from the left and trying to reach up to the next chalked crimps was an extremely frustrating experience, as I was only a few inches away at full (tippy toe) extension. It was a brutal reminder of how short I am. A difficult arete pinch and a thin gaston helped get me to the better holds. This was the crux for me for sure. My partner who is 6 ft even, boldly onsighted this sucker (VERY PROUD ONSIGHT). He was able to do this portion much more easily and suggested that it didnt feel any harder than COD. Just my two cents....
By Mark SLC
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Sep 26, 2012
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a

I found a large dmm offset brassie then small gold dmm offset nut took some of the spice out of the first clip. You can also get a purple c3 in and pull it after you clip to take out the drag. After that, all that's needed are draws and an orange metolius for the horizontal.

Easily one of the best face climbs at the city if not anywhere. I'd say 11c, but there's variety and it keeps coming at you. Awesome.
By Michael May
From: Boise, Idaho
Jun 22, 2013

Dave, keep the bolts how they are. If someone is scared or nervous about the bolting then they probably shouldn't get on it. It's just fine the way it is.
By David Hutchinson
Dec 22, 2013

I did this route about 20 years ago. It was the guidebook cover, a 4 star must do route and it was solid .11c at the time. At 65, and still climbing, I look back and see it the same solid rating. A really quality climb.
By Chris Humphries
From: LA
Jul 14, 2014

An amazing climb - equally as hard for the head as the fingers. I definitely would not have wanted to fall just before that first bolt - if you are nervous about 11c slopey aretes this is not the climb for you. One of my proudest climbs of the year and maybe ever.
By Phil Lauffen
From: The Bubble
Jul 26, 2014

It was scary getting to the first bolt... but there are options to rap in to pre-clip it if necessary. The scary thing to me was having ONE qd between me and the ground... shit happens. Maybe use a double locker qd.
By Bob Rotert
Jun 23, 2015

This is an Awesome climb, but I second what Phil says. Shit can happen and I don't like having one bolt between me on the technical crux and a 25’ plus fall to the rocks below. It's possible that I just didn't look hard enough but I didn't find anything I would call adequate protection to put in leading up to the first bolt. By adequate I mean something I would be confident could hold the fall if that first bolt failed. Getting to the first bolt is a bit sketchy but my concern is more about moving above it. My opinion on Dave Bingham's/FA question about adding another bolt before the first bolt, is adding another bolt 15' or so lower would not alter the character, mental fortitude, and skill required to clip the first bolt and do the rest of the climb but would mitigate the risk of death or severe injury to some one if the present first bolt/pro failed for any reason.

Having been climbing for over 45 years and having personal experience with multiple bolt failures and seeing accidents where ropes have come out of biners or biners have failed during falls is what motivates me to say this. At the minimum I would recommend folks leading this to use a locking biner on the first bolt.

For another example see Johny A's comment post for this route above.
By bheller
From: SL UT
Jun 23, 2015
rating: 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a PG13

Of course its never a good idea to have one piece of gear/bolt between you and the ground- especially when that bolt is 25 ft off the ground. The point is that on this climb C3's (purple and or green?) and brass nuts (astro nuts) actually do offer adequate protection no more than a body length away before clipping the first bolt. This whole "add a lower bolt for safety" argument is moot- multiple opportunities for adequate gear exist. Also, I have redpointed this route many times over the years and only one time have I managed to climb it well- its a bit stressful and insecure at those cruxes.
By Maynard
Jun 3, 2017

I found a small cam that worked perfectly getting to the first bolt, better than every nut and piece of brass I tried. Very confidence inspiring.
By Mark Paulson
5 days ago

I read these comments and then did the route this summer. The climbing is great, but that first bolt placement is pretty ridiculous. You're standing on a nice little no hands ledge after the first 20' of easy climbing. Instead of being able to clip from there (the obvious stance for both climber and driller), you're forced to do one very insecure move up and left to reach the bolt. If the route itself necessitated this risk, so be it. However, in this case the risk is completely contrived by the FA'er.
By bheller
From: SL UT
5 days ago
rating: 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a PG13

Mark- you may be correct that the first ascensionist didn't place that first bolt in the ideal location. Perhaps he was too busy doing his part inventing what would become sport climbing and simply made a mistake. Or perhaps he envisioned people would climb the route with pre-placed slings or long-draws in-situ? Maybe he only had 6 bolts and a hand drill and made due by spacing things out? Whatever the case, he has offered to re-engineer this route and many people have expressed their preference to not alter it after all these years.(31 years and counting!)I think the key point that you omitted is that adequate natural gear exists within reasonably close proximity prior to clipping that first bolt, and this ultimately does take the heart out of all the arguments about the bolt location. What is the difficulty of that insecure slab move there...10a-ish? On a classic mixed route graded old-school 11c I think that is entirely acceptable. Finally, and be honest- what was the memorable part about climbing strategic defense for you? I think for many it's the psychological strength it demands... It is bold, but it's not objectively unreasonably dangerous. I think most climbers will have an internal battle with a feeling that it is actually dangerous. I know I have;) For these and other reasons, this route has proven to be a timeless classic in it's style.
By peter heekin
3 days ago

There is ample protection in the micro crack to the right if you have DMM brass offsets. I think with a "stiffy" QuickDraw fixed with a locker on the rope end one could clip from the secure stance and be fully protected to go for it. I have lead it several times and absolutely love this route, that being said I don't think it would take anything away from the route if another lower bolt were there.

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