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Uncle Tom 

YDS: 5.11d French: 7a Ewbanks: 24 UIAA: VIII ZA: 25 British: E5 6a

Type:  Sport, 1 pitch, 50'
Original:  YDS: 5.11c French: 6c+ Ewbanks: 24 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 24 British: E4 6a [details]
Page Views: 1,145
Submitted By: Caliza on Mar 20, 2013

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (14)
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Start to the right of Kill Uncle on Lower Arete and traverses into and continues on Kill Uncle after the first bolt. The traverse is probably the crux of this variation. Going left at the 3rd bolt gives a mellow finish; whereas, trying to go directly up or slightly right at third bolt bumps up the grade to 11d or 12a.


4 bolts to chains. Make sure and have an extended draw for first bolt to reduce rope drag. Stick-clipping first is recommended.

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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 14, 2015
By Caliza
Jun 14, 2013

Did this by using the big jug above the first clip on the arête then down-climbing and traversing to the left to the second bolt. I've done this route twice, first time I exited left of the 3rd bolt using the good right hand pinch and pretty much joining the finish of Swallow My Pride. The second time I finished the route by staying true to the bolt line. I exited directly above the 3rd bolt avoiding going left to Swallow My Pride and used a thin not too obvious right-hand undercling slightly left of the 3rd bolt and did a big left-hand throw directly above the same clip. Felt this finishing variation was a lot harder and feel comfortable calling it 12a. I think the direct start, Kill Uncle, with the latter finish would definitely be 12c and probably the hardest climb at the crag.
By Salamanizer suchoski
From: Vacaville Ca.
Nov 30, 2014
rating: 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a

Why can't we just call this route what it is? 5.12A. 5.11d maybe if you want to go for the "I've got all the moves totally wired" grade.

Kill Uncle start too. I may have indulged in too much stuffing and Halloween candy lately, but .12b it is not. Much harder.
By J. Albers
From: Colorado
Nov 30, 2014

Agreed Sal about the grade on Kill Uncle...others state much the same in the comments for that route. Can't remember this one though, however you are likely correct.
By Caliza
Jan 2, 2015

The concenous based on the votes does not call it 5.12. I would hardly call it "having the beta dialed," given that I got it second go. The hardest move on Uncle Tom is moderate at best. Low end 5.11d I could see, but solid 5.11c suits it best in my opinion. No way is Kill Uncle harder than 12b, maybe if you can't crimp. The crux for Kill Uncle is solid V4, no harder, which puts it in the 5.12- range.
By J. Albers
From: Colorado
Jan 2, 2015

Easy Caliza, everyone is entitled to their opinion and there is no need to tell people that there opinion can only be valid if they can't never know, the people you are talking down to may be able to onsight at your send limit ;)
By Caliza
Jan 3, 2015

First of all, my response was meant for one post in particular. And secondy, I don't see any huge relevance in your "onsight" comment. I believe 99% of climbers fall within that catargory of their limit being someone else's onsight. I agree that everyone is entitled to their opinions just as I am to mine, which includes grade suggestions.
By Salamanizer suchoski
From: Vacaville Ca.
Jan 4, 2015
rating: 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a

The consensus does not call it 5.12 because of your single rating of 5.11c, which brought the consensus down to .11d. The fact that you didn't onsight this route is further evidence of my point. You had to "dial the beta" on the first go before sending it on your second try. Then you downgraded it because it "felt" easier after knowing the beta. I'd suspect with your abilities, if it truly was a 5.11c, you'd have had no problem with the onsight, as I did at 5.12a. I would agree though, there are no moves harder than about .11c+, but there are quite a few of them all stacked on top of each other for a bit.

Crimping is actually one of my specialties. I've climbed and put up a lot of painfully crimpy routes over the years, so I don't think that was the problem.
Here's one of my latest ones if you want to go check it out.
Actually, I'm looking for a consensus on it's grade and would like for some strong climbers to go out there and see what they think. 12d might be a bit stiff.
Anyway, I know what a V4 problem feels like. I usually get them first go, but occasionally get one that's a real stickler and takes a second or third try. The start of Kill Uncle took a bit to get and is at least as hard as the crux of Silly Willy crack and Grand Delusion. Even though it's short, everybody I've talked to about it says, and I would have to agree that it's mid to hard 5.12. So .12c seems a fair estimate. Maybe you just don't know how strong you really are? A lot of people don't, especially when they're climbing toward the peaks of their careers, seriously.
By Caliza
Jan 11, 2015

Acording to what you suggest both Uncle Tom and Kill Uncle go at, 12a and minimum 12c respectively, there would be around a two letter grade difference or more between both routes. I find that there is a discrepancy between that and Mountain Project's consensus for both routes, 11d and 12a/b. There would have been an even smaller disparty if I would have voted 11d or 12a for Uncle Tom.

I don't find any significance in my failing to onsight Uncle Tom and the grade. I did it about two years ago when 5.11+ was at my onsight limit. Not every climb that shares the same grade with a route I've onsighted/flashed before will go down in the same fashion. In addition, I only fell once on my first go cause I miss-aimed going for the first 5.9 jug after having climbed all the 5.11 portion clean.

As much as I enjoy talking about grades, I do have to say Uncle Tom is one of the best lines at the crag and Kill Uncle even more so. Regardless of whatever people might think of the grades, the real beauty is in the climbs themselves.
By Jerry Dodrill
From: Bodega, CA
Jan 26, 2015
rating: 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a

This route has been consensus .12a, albeit soft, since it was put up way back in the day. Because it flows so nice, once you do it a couple times it does feel easier. Kill Uncle has always been a sandbag at .12b. Moving left onto Swallow at the 3rd bolt is an easier variation, but not the route.
By Caliza
Feb 16, 2015

Hey Jerry, I've been traveling a lot all over California the last two years climbing in destinations from Echo Cliffs to Jailhouse, Tahoe to the Column of the Giants. Compared to 5.12's Ive done in all these areas, I whole heartedly feel Uncle Tom does not stack up to 12a's in these other areas. I think it's an excellent route, just don't believe it has enough umph to be 12a. If Jason is 12b, then Uncle is at least to grades easier than Jason. But that just my opinion.
By Cody Hanson
Feb 24, 2015

Here's my two cents, since there is so much discussion about the grade. For me Uncle Tom has always felt about 5.11d. The direct start, Kill Uncle, was very difficult for me and took a lot of "goes". For me 5.12b/c. Kill Uncle for me felt harder than Jason, but if you're taller I think the boulder problem is easier. I am not a tall climber, by the way. Maybe I had harder beta too. The boulder problem felt harder than almost every V4 I've ever done. Maybe it was the fact that I climbed it in almost 90 degree heat, maybe not. And yes, I can crimp.
By Caliza
Feb 28, 2015

I have to admit, it is entertaining to see how a suggested downgrade gets everyone riled up. I'm not sure if it's cause certain egos can't handle a lower grade being suggested for something that they perceived to be harder. I'm sure we've all done V3s somewhere that have felt harder or V5s that felt easier than start to Kill Uncle. I'll call it a V4 start and know others who feel the same and am obviously aware of others who thinks it's harder. In the end, it doesn't matter to me what "you" think of the grade to the direct or indirect. All this discussion is just taking away from how sweet this climb is. Since we're all stating it, I can crimp too.
By Jerry Dodrill
From: Bodega, CA
Mar 18, 2015
rating: 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a

Caliza, I think I see why there is a discrepancy here. Its in the first sentence of your original post. If you are "using the big jug above the first clip on the arête then down-climbing and traversing to the left to the second bolt," then exiting left up higher, you are basically skipping all the harder moves of the route we have historically called "Uncle Tom." In fact, despite the efforts of well meaning out-of-area guide book authors, the route starts on the arête, but moves left UNDER the bulge, avoiding the huge jug on the arête, and instead moves directly toward the route's second bolt on reachy 11+ terrain. At the third bolt it either goes straight up through the bolt line, or you move up and RIGHT, finishing up the face to the anchor of the Arête, which is the best climbing.
The beta is to stick clip the first bolt and climb thin arete pockets before moving left under the bulge (with heel-hook), reaching the frisbee like jug below the second bolt, and going directly up from the crimps at left. Doing it this way the climb is more sustained and has an additional low crux, rather than just one .l1c move at the third bolt. See photo diagram. Its a bit confusing, and I hadn't realized the book was incorrectly directing people up over that bulge/jug on the arete. I call that variation Easy Uncle and agree with your .11c grade for the upper crux only.

Rock Climbing Photo: Uncle! Too many options...
Uncle! Too many options...
By Caliza
Apr 27, 2015

Hey Jerry, so I did do the loop around which appears to be the Easy Tom. With the first bolt far to the right it seemed like the obvious way to go was to the jug/bulge. But the picture seems to suggest that Easy Tom goes to the left onto Swallow? When I did Uncle Tom I did the start the way I just described but stayed on Uncle after the second bolt. It seems like Jason, Swallow have over a dozen variations to them even tho there 3 climbs.
By Jerry Dodrill
From: Bodega, CA
May 14, 2015
rating: 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a

Its true these lines are squeezed in tight together but if careful they are mostly independent lines without feeling like eliminates. For Uncle Tom you stick clip its first bolt, not using any bolts on the arete. Climb as directly as possible to the second bolt by either doing the Kill Uncle start, or starting on the pockets on the arete and moving left under the bulge to the second bolt. The easiest way from the second bolt to the anchor is to move left onto Swallow, skipping upper crux of Uncle.

The pure finish to Uncle is to go straight through to the third bolt and the Hueco, clipping the fourth bolt and then it is easy terrain to the anchor.

In my opinion the best finish is to move right at the third bolt and climb up the face and crystal lined pockets through the fourth bolt of the arete, finishing on its anchor.

But you know what? No matter what you do, its fun climbing on cool rock and none of the grades or specific routes make a bit of difference.

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