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The Whale's Tail
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Ahab T 
Amputee Love T 
Buffoon T 
C'est What? S 
Clementine T 
Dihedral One T 
Dihedral Two T 
East Slabs T 
Fight Gone Bad T 
Finger Crack T 
Free Speech S 
Gumbo T 
Gut Feeling T 
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Jim Crack T 
Kid's Climb T 
Left Arete T 
M aka The Divine Ms. M T 
Martindale T 
Monument, The S 
NED (Nothing Except Dynamics) T 
New Cambria T,TR 
No Problem T 
Northeast Arete T 
Second Coming S,TR 
Spoof T 
Spoof Roof T 
West Crack T,TR 
West Dihedral T,TR 
West Face [Whale's Tail] T,TR 
Yorkshire Ripper, The T 

West Crack 

YDS: 5.3 French: 3+ Ewbanks: 10 UIAA: III ZA: 9 British: VD 3a

Type:  Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 160'
Original:  YDS: 5.2 French: 3 Ewbanks: 8 UIAA: II ZA: 8 British: D 2c [details]
FA: ?
Fixed Hardware: 2 Rappel Bolts [details]
Page Views: 14,283
Submitted By: Dawn DuPriest on Apr 29, 2001  with updates from L Kap and 1 more

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (203)
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Leading the bottom portion of the route.

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  • Description 

    In my opinion, this is the finest beginner's lead climb in the state. It has excellent pro and easy but airy climbing.

    The traverse to the belay ledge is 4th class but exposed; it is a good idea to rope up on it. From the roomy belay ledge, the crack goes straight up - no rope drag and no route finding. The start is the most intimidating part, but it is easier than it looks.

    Holds are generously placed in and around the crack and always where you need them. There are a few easy jams and manteling moves. It feels harder than 5.2 - it's steep, and the wind blowing through the canyon gives the climb some exciting exposure. It has beautifully solid rock and wonderful, wonderful pro. I placed my entire set of stoppers and several hexes into the crack.

    Rappel from the two bolt anchor that is shared with West Face [Whale's Tail] and West Dihedral on the top of the route.

    If you are learning to lead, you must make this one of your first! Beautiful.


    Large cable used to be threaded around boulders at the top. Now there is a two bolt anchor with rings. You can sink your whole rack into the crack if you like - passive pro is best, lots of stoppers and hexes. If you like an anchor on the big belay ledge, a long runner to sling a boulder and a couple of large hexes will make a bombproof one.

    Photos of West Crack Slideshow Add Photo
    Rock Climbing Photo:  Climbers.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Eva leading West Crack.
    Eva leading West Crack.
    Rock Climbing Photo: The 4th class traverse.  Photo: Steve Nelson.
    The 4th class traverse. Photo: Steve Nelson.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Steve Nelson on top of the Whale's Tail.
    Steve Nelson on top of the Whale's Tail.
    Rock Climbing Photo:
    Rock Climbing Photo: Left over blue rope from the rappel. 60 meter rope...
    Left over blue rope from the rappel. 60 meter rope...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Leading the West Crack.
    Leading the West Crack.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Towards the top.  Photo: Steve Nelson.
    Towards the top. Photo: Steve Nelson.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Chris N. on top of the Whale's Tail.  Photo: Steve...
    Chris N. on top of the Whale's Tail. Photo: Steve...
    Rock Climbing Photo: First rappel on the new anchor.
    First rappel on the new anchor.
    Rock Climbing Photo: New anchor with cable clamps.  A 1/2" wrench ...
    BETA PHOTO: New anchor with cable clamps. A 1/2" wrench ...
    Rock Climbing Photo: David rapping off of the still-questionable cable ...
    David rapping off of the still-questionable cable ...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Steve Nelson rapping the route.
    Steve Nelson rapping the route.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Al is out of the crack, but he sure is trying hard...
    Al is out of the crack, but he sure is trying hard...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Starting up the West Crack.  Photo: Steve Nelson.
    Starting up the West Crack. Photo: Steve Nelson.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Bob is working too hard here. Climb the crack Bob!
    Bob is working too hard here. Climb the crack Bob!
    Rock Climbing Photo: Gear selection.
    Gear selection.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Lisa is just below the crux to West Crack here. He...
    Lisa is just below the crux to West Crack here. He...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Belaying from the top of West Crack.
    Belaying from the top of West Crack.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Look at two climbers on "West Crack" of ...
    BETA PHOTO: Look at two climbers on "West Crack" of ...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Al guns through the final mantle on his way to the...
    Al guns through the final mantle on his way to the...
    Rock Climbing Photo: My first lead in CO! Photo by Cora McLaughlin.
    My first lead in CO! Photo by Cora McLaughlin.
    Rock Climbing Photo: New anchor cable. 5/16" steel cable rated at ...
    BETA PHOTO: New anchor cable. 5/16" steel cable rated at ...

    Comments on West Crack Add Comment
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    Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 6, 2017
    By Barry Gereb
    May 25, 2001

    Great climb, it was my first trad lead. you can avoid the ledge scramble on the descent by dragging an extra rope and rappelling over the westernly roof to the talus below.
    By Aaron Shupp
    Feb 4, 2002

    This is a great date climb to introduce your non-climbing significant other to the fun that Eldo has to offer. It is not very intimidating, and your partner's success will give you a strong argument when you suggest going to Yosemite for a month or two.
    By Dan Mottinger
    Apr 1, 2002

    This is a great climb for being so easy-- steep, somewhat exposed, and full of friendly holds where ever you look. Be careful pulling the rope down after rapping since the crack system will gobble it up.
    By Alan Klein
    Jul 26, 2003

    I led this today. Still a great beginner's lead. Several pigeons are living in the crack, and just jump out at you as you approach. The fixed wire at the belay is getting quite frayed. It has cut up the old webbing, which was pretty stiff and sundried anyway (good for tomatoes, BAD for webbing). I removed the dangerous slings, and backed up the wire with a new sling. Careful poking your fingertips on the frayed wire while inspecting it and the sling. If anyone knows [how] to make [another] wire anchor, and has the equipment to do so, it would be a great thing to do for this well used route (you will accumulate much good karma).
    By James Garnett
    From: Bellingham, WA
    Aug 11, 2003

    Ah ha, Alan, so you must be AK; I think I've seen your slings on other raps in the area. I almost cut your new webbing off since it was marked "2002," but came to my senses after a closer look. The quicklink/rapring are showing some rope wear; anyone who has a spare quicklink might want to bring it up and put it in.
    By Anonymous Coward
    Mar 22, 2004

    Easy climb felt like a 5.4..there was a "fixed" stopper yesterday and it looked like it would come out with a pound of a hex and cleaning tool couldn't get it out...guess I need to hit the gym.
    By William McGehee
    From: Choctaw, OK
    May 24, 2004
    rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a

    Though the start appears very intimidating, a little coaching will have your green-leader up to the cable in no time. This crack will eat up smaller nuts, so please don't give your newbie a #4 to haul up there. Also, small nuts actually DO get eaten up here, so place as many as you can PLEASE! I like new gear, especially bootyed gear! A little secret I'll share for y'all: bring along the blue and black aliens. In case you come across a 'fixed nut,' you can place the alien next to it, sling it and stand on it and 10:1 the nut will move. Just a little hint...~Wm
    By ac
    May 25, 2004

    Hmmm.... Can anyone actually tell the difference between a 5.2 and a 5.4? I'm not much of a climber - 5.8 usually feels pretty stiff for me; 5.10 is out of the question - but I've never been able to tell the difference. I like Gerry Roach's scale: 5.0-2; 5.3-4; 5.5; etc. Let's face it: even if you are climbing in approach shoes or hiking boots, there are simply not five gradations of difficulty between 4th class and 5.5.
    By Jeff Gustafson
    Jun 1, 2004

    Great climb. Did this on a Thursday (no waiting). Very nice route, I belayed my second at the little alcove about a third of the way up to see if she wanted to lead the rest. As it turns out she did not, however this would be an option to get a beginning leader past the more difficult start and on to the easier top two thirds of the pitch. This crack takes so much great gear I was worried about running out of slings and draws... For those who need practice setting passive gear (nuts and hexes), this route is just the ticket.
    By Rob Migliore
    Jun 25, 2004
    rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a

    Try to lead with only nuts. Seemed like a long route and I might of ran out of draws. Would be a good place to take a newbie, but the sketchy approach is best done in rock shoes. Also, not much room on the belay ledge to hog up while showing a newbie everything.
    By Anonymous Coward
    May 19, 2005

    Great beginner lead. Consistent climbing, good exposure, nice straight line, pretty good rappel anchor. The crack gobbles (and sometimes keeps) good small pro. There is now a large fixed nut and a small fixed cam on this route. Much better than West Dihedral (to the right). Beginners want to crawl into the crack - this makes it much more difficult than stemming outside the crack.-s
    By jay baichi
    Oct 26, 2006
    rating: 5.2 3 8 II 8 D 2c

    This was my friend's first climb outside of a gym. She loved it! I would recommend this to any first-time climbers to Eldo.
    By tooTALLtim
    From: Boulder, CO
    Jun 12, 2007

    Wow, thanks tectonics for a great beginner trad climb, it sure puts one at ease early in a trad career when you can sew it up.
    By Ben Helgeson
    From: Denver
    Aug 11, 2007

    Don't go to the gym after work. Go climb the West Crack. Downclimb the east slabs for a technical descent.
    By B immele
    From: Louisville, Colorado
    Jul 31, 2008

    I have a permit from Steve M at Eldo to replace the anchor at the top of this climb. He has approved the cable and rings and I hope to install it this week end. It should eliminate any distrust in the anchor as the cable was frayed and useless along with too many slings/rings.

    By HTP
    From: Longmont, CO
    Sep 15, 2008

    The info on this climb says: One pitch, 160 feet. Just to clarify, one pitch is accurate, one 60 meter rope will do. It's about 90 feet from the belay ledge to the anchors. And the most challenging part of the climb is the approach!
    By Rick Blair
    From: Denver
    Sep 30, 2008
    rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a

    I am not incredibly brave and I found the approach not too scary, I thought it was over-hyped, my second disagrees. I went to the left and built an anchor south of the tree, the pictures lead me to believe I should finish at the cable, did I do a variation? Hmmmm. This is the steepest, longest, most sustained, airiest pitch I have climbed at this level but I can't argue too much with the rating because the holds are all there, I did it in approach shoes. Feels much more intimidating to me than the 5.4s and 5.5s on Wind Tower. I lead with all passive pro, the crack ate up nuts and hexes, clipped an old piton near the top plus one cam for multi-directional at the start and cams for anchors. The rappel start is very easy, rampy, perfect for a beginner. I recommend stopper knots because if you rap just a little to the SW, the ropes can be 5 feet off the ground.

    B Immele - Nice job on the cable!!
    By Matt Ting
    Oct 4, 2008
    rating: 5.2 3 8 II 8 D 2c

    As many of the previous posts advertise this is a great place to bring beginning climbers. Fun routes with nice diversity (West Crack, Face, Dihedral) and exposure. We did encounter some wasps near the top of the Crack and Face; hanging about in some of the pockets. Approach is more difficult than the climbing but the ledge comfortably held 3, fairly big guys ... plenty of space once you arrive. NOTE: a 50m rope WILL toprope the crack off the cable anchor to the belay ledge with plenty left on the ground. Not sure why, but previous posts stated that a 60m was necessary.
    By Ryan Day Thompson
    From: Phoenix, Arizona
    Dec 26, 2010

    Did this with a buddy who climbed in his Converses. He did fine. The feet and hands are all there on every single move. I think this is a great introduction to airy climbing and a great introduction to climbing period. I was totally freaked out by the scramble up to it but got over it eventually. I think the crux and the opening move should make this a 5.3...if such a thing exists. As always, this EATS gear from #0.5 to #4 Camalot. GREAT place to teach gear placement and especially passive pro placement.
    By Joshinator
    From: Longmont, Colorado
    Aug 19, 2011

    I think this is a great beginner climb, but I wouldn't call it 5.2. Seems harder than that, personally. I lead it yesterday and I hesitate to admit this, but I had some trouble with footing in the crux. However, it is easy to protect and still a lot of fun. I think for a beginner lead the West Dihedral may be a better choice, but that might just be me.
    By Bill Olszewski
    From: Colorado Springs, CO
    Jun 16, 2012

    Best sub-5.5 climb I've ever done and as good as any 5.5! Not sure about the rating, but then this is an old school area. The line, the movement, the exposure make this a true classic at the grade!
    By Eben Daggett
    From: Boulder, CO
    Jun 23, 2012

    Gave this 4 stars because it is such a memorable lead for a beginner! Could be lead almost exclusively with medium to large stoppers. Exposed and steep but not scary. A great confidence builder! Definitely stiff for it's 5.2 rating, but the holds are always there and the climbing is easy. Really loved this route. The traverse to the belay can be a bit scary for some, but it is easy moving and can easily be protected if you choose to rope up for it. For those who are confused by the page saying the route is 160ft and a 60m rope works for the rappel to the belay... the entire route, INCLUDING the traverse pitch, is 160ft. The actual climb is just shy of 100ft and can easily be repelled with a 60m rope. This may be obvious to most, but as the route was not listed as a multipitch I was a bit confused.
    By Bob Carmichael
    From: Boulder
    Apr 29, 2013

    Climbed this route yesterday with Billy Roos. He and I were climbers dating back to 1968 in Eldorado Springs. So we decided to go up the easiest route in Eldorado. We used to solo it often, but now we are senior citizens and it was an Adventure!

    Bring a 60m rope to rap off the first pitch. Downclimbing the east slabs is not EASY and is time consuming.

    The route loved Stoppers and Aliens and Camalots and ALL manner of pro. It is a GREAT beginner lead providing you've done your homework on placing safe gear.

    Bill Roos, is head of the safety committee for Outward Bound and formerly a GREAT climber in his day with all manner of skills: rock, altitude, and snow/ice. Great to be sharing a rope with someone you climbed the Yellow Wall with in 1975.


    Bob Carmichael
    By Mike McHugh
    Apr 30, 2013

    In addition to being one gnarly individual and about the nicest guy you'd ever meet, Billy is responsible for a LOT of the trail work in Eldo. Every time I'm looking at a trail disaster, I think WWBD.

    Puts a BIG smile on my face to hear that he's climbing.
    By Benjamn P
    From: Boulder, CO
    Mar 16, 2015

    LOST GEAR: my girlfriend borrowed my rack & got a cam stuck on 3/15/15. We went to climb & retrieve it a day later. We saw a group summiting at 1pm who probably got it as we went to attempt something on Redgarden first (I was assuming it was really stuck & even brought hammers & lube).

    Please return for a six pack of your choice & good karma! I'm posting about something I found today too. PM me for a description & to return! Much Thanks!
    By Gregger Man
    From: Broomfield, CO
    Jul 18, 2015

    New double ring anchor installed, cable removed.
    By zaq
    Sep 11, 2016

    If you are climbing to the chain anchors, it is right of the roof at the top, not left where the cable anchor was.
    By L Kap
    From: Boulder, CO
    May 6, 2017

    Please be aware that there is just ONE 2-bolt anchor at the top of the west face of the Whale's Tail. (The cable that used to exist at the top of West Dihedral has been removed.) The sole 2-bolt anchor is located at the top of West Crack and also shared by West Dihedral, West Face, and Jim Crack. A leader can build a trad anchor at the top of West Dihedral / West Face, but there is no easy walk-off that I'm aware of, so that party will still eventually need to unbuild their trad anchor and traverse over to use the West Crack anchor to rap down.

    If there are other parties on the ledge using or headed for the West Crack anchor, the polite thing to do it talk to each other before you get into a clusterfuck. When there is wind and/or roaring water in the creek, it can be hard to communicate from the bottom of the pitch to the top, so it's best to figure out anchor use before your leader leaves the belay ledge.

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