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The Surprise 

YDS: 5.10a French: 6a Ewbanks: 18 UIAA: VI+ ZA: 18 British: E1 5a

Type:  Trad, 3 pitches, 400'
Original:  YDS: 5.10a French: 6a Ewbanks: 18 UIAA: VI+ ZA: 18 British: E1 5a [details]
FA: Pete Spoecker & Steve Herrero, 1965
Page Views: 5,258
Submitted By: M. Morley on Jul 10, 2007

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Quinn Miller and Bailey Crawford on The Surprise.

Closures for Peregrine Falcon Protection MORE INFO >>>


While not quite as classic as neighboring climbs like Munginella and Commitment, The Surprise provides 2 excellent pitches of climbing. Supertopo lists the route as 5 pitches, but it is very easy and recommended to link pitches 1 and 2 into a single 150' pitch.

Start at an ant-infested tree and climb dirty corner past a small pine tree. Continue up to an oak tree (long sling helps reduce rope drag), and start traversing right along broken ledge system, passing one ancient 1/4" bolt about half-way along the ledge. Belay below a nice-looking, clean hand crack.

Pitch 2 ascends the clean 5.8 crack above, with a cruxy step left at about 90' up. Belay at 135' at a good stance and one solid bolt.

Pitch 3 tackles a 5.9+ crack with perfect finger locks. When the crack suddenly ends (surprise!), make a delicate couple of steps left (5.10a) and continue up easier ground (5.7) to the top (115').

As for all the routes at the Five Open Books area, be exceedingly careful not to dislodge loose rocks from the top.

To descend, walk to climber's left for several hundred yards along good (but sometimes exposed) trail.


The Surprise is located to the right of both Munginella and Commitment in the middle of the cliff.


Standard rack.

Photos of The Surprise Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Is this rusty quarter incher part of the Surprise?
BETA PHOTO: Is this rusty quarter incher part of the Surprise?
Rock Climbing Photo: The beautiful finger crack on pitch 4.
The beautiful finger crack on pitch 4.
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking up at the Werner's Ant Trees start, taken ...
BETA PHOTO: Looking up at the Werner's Ant Trees start, taken ...

Comments on The Surprise Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 29, 2017
By caughtinside
From: Oakland CA
Jul 24, 2007

Be sure to make the traverse. I went straight up and did "The Old Surprise" one day. Went straight up the book (hey, it's one of the 5, right? Right?) and found lots of dirty, R, and uninspiring 5.8. I was 40' above a totally rusted 1/4"er when I pulled around the semi-blind crux. A different kind of surprise.

EDIT: as it turns out, I was on the wrong route! I was actually on the Hanging Teeth!
By Dennis
Mar 11, 2008

Start with Werner's Ant Trees.... great fun.

The second and third pitches are excellent splitter cracks from fingers to hands.
By ccmski body
From: Seattle, WA
Oct 17, 2009
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

4 star linkup starts with Werner's Ant Trees variation. The upper Suprise Cracks are so splitter and a worthy outing. This linkup can be done in two long pitches with a 70m rope.
By Alex Bury
From: Ojai, CA
May 27, 2010

Good climb, some dirt....but the upper crack(s) are well worth it.
By tallmark515
From: San Francisco
Nov 8, 2010
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

Did the 3 pitch, Werners Ant Tree, to the 2 pitch Surprise combo, great route. 5.8 pitch is super fun and .10a thin hands/finger crack above was stellar.

Be mindful of your rope drag, belay early or suck it up and deal with the nuisance on easier terrain above the crux section of Werners.
By Rodger Raubach
Mar 15, 2011
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

The upper crack is outstanding! My GF led the last pitch and took her first, albeit short, leader fall on the 5.10a section. Didn't faze her at all. We both loved the climb.
By Mark P Thomas
From: Draper
May 23, 2011
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

Fell at the .10a crux when a crimper flake broke off. Something not too common on a route in the Valley! Apparently this route doesn't get climbed a lot :-) Really fun last 2 pitches though. 1st pitch was dirty & forgettable.
By caughtinside
From: Oakland CA
Nov 18, 2011

Finally found the Surprise, 4 years later! Funny that the description above says The Surprise is not as classic as Munginella or Commitment. When combined with Werner's Ant Trees, this is the best of the Open Book routes.
By thecornyman
From: Oakland, CA
Apr 30, 2012

I tried the Werner's Ant Trees alternate start this time and it caused some problems. The 10a lieback is awesome but then at the roof I couldn't figure out the 10c move so after about 10 min I tried the more obvious 10d way, got pumped and went for a ride on a purple tcu behind that scary thin flake. Any one remember beta for either the 10c or d section?
By Rodger Raubach
Jul 29, 2012
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

I've done the Surprise both ways, the "old way" and the "direct." Do the direct, since it's really an outstanding crack climb at 5.10a. The first belay in an ant tree is "forgettable."
By J. Albers
From: Colorado
Jul 30, 2012
rating: 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

C'mon now Rodger, saying that the direct start (Werner's Ant Tree) is 10a is a little bit of a sandbag, don't you think? It is a good pitch, but probably closer to 10c than to 10a.
By Zachary W
From: San Francisco, California
Jan 24, 2014

Doing the three-pitch linkup of Werner's Ant Trees -> Surprise makes for the best route on FOB!
By Kush Khandelwal
Nov 9, 2015
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

Great climb. Chose to do the 5.8 beginning and will recommend not linking the first and 2nd. Bad rope drag.
By Chris Aufdemberg
Aug 17, 2016

Does anyone know the name/rating of the route indicated with arrows in the photo? It's the dihedral left of the Surprise. Climbed it last week...enjoyable climbing on clean rock. It has a single bolt and a sling on the corner of the 2nd "roof". Bring some large cams.

Rock Climbing Photo: FOB
By Bruno Beltran
From: Stanford, CA
May 29, 2017
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

What a fun climb! I belayed my follower up to the oak tree before traversing over, since we were waiting for a slow party ahead of us anyway, but I would probably do the same thing again.

Book has the first splitter pitch rated 5.8, which I felt was a little sandbag but my follower thought was fine, probably because my hands where too fat so I had to use rattly ring locks for the whole thing. Traversing right around the bulge right before the anchor to use the huge hole in the face is exciting and I recommend it.

The crux pitch protected well. I definitely felt the "surprise", but had a green C3 left to slot in right at the crux, after which it wasn't scary at all. Continue climbing until you reach the tree by the path that leads to the walk-off. You lose communication with your follower, but the party behind you will be really grumpy if they watch you pitch it out and just want to start climbing already *cough cough*. After all, you've agreed on rope commands already, right?

A detailed description of how we did the traverse, since we watched the party in front of us botch it. A couple steps up past the oak tree gain you a big ledge (or a thin ledge and big jug hands if you stay lower down) that angles down and right until you reach the ancient bolt mentioned in the description. I clipped that sucker for a blind downclimb off the ledge to the right (turned out to be <5.3) to reach another ledge that traverses over until you're right outside the left of a right-facing "mini-book". Ample small gear protects the only real fifth class move, downclimbing a step or two to get inside the dihedral where a comfortable stance to build an anchor and shade await.

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