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Brinton's Buttress
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Brinton's Crack 

YDS: 5.6 French: 4c Ewbanks: 14 UIAA: V ZA: 12 British: S 4b

Type:  Trad, 1 pitch, 80'
Original:  YDS: 5.6 French: 4c Ewbanks: 14 UIAA: V ZA: 12 British: S 4b [details]
FA: FL: Bob Brinton, 1942
Page Views: 19,821
Submitted By: Jay Knower on Jan 1, 2002  with updates from James Schroeder

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Reception at the Hilton. Early/mid 80's


Brinton's is perhaps the most classic among the many classic moderates at Devil's Lake. The elegance of the line, the interesting moves, and the exposure are unmatched.

Follow the main weakness on the left edge of the buttress. This will take you to a cramped alcove. From here, traverse to the right across good footholds, but miserable hand holds. Many consider this the crux. Protection for the traverse is "adequate."

After the traverse, climb straight up a short jam crack (crux #2) to a blocky, airy finish.


Brinton's is a popular lead because the pro is pretty good. Bring nuts and cams, heavy on the 1-2 inch sizes.

Photos of Brinton's Crack Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: The smile should tell you how fun this route is!
The smile should tell you how fun this route is!
Rock Climbing Photo: Enjoying a Brinton's belay
Enjoying a Brinton's belay
Rock Climbing Photo: Photo by Andrew Burr.
Photo by Andrew Burr.
Rock Climbing Photo: Rudy clipping the anchor after his first lead of B...
Rudy clipping the anchor after his first lead of B...
Rock Climbing Photo: Rudy leads Brinton's for the first time (I think)....
Rudy leads Brinton's for the first time (I think)....
Rock Climbing Photo: Ryan on brintons. Probably the best climb at the l...
Ryan on brintons. Probably the best climb at the l...
Rock Climbing Photo: Rick on Brinton's
Rick on Brinton's
Rock Climbing Photo: Ryan engaging the brintons step across. A very spi...
Ryan engaging the brintons step across. A very spi...
Rock Climbing Photo: Topping out Brinton's Crack 2014-08-17 (2)
Topping out Brinton's Crack 2014-08-17 (2)
Rock Climbing Photo: Brinton's Crack in the winter.
Brinton's Crack in the winter.
Rock Climbing Photo: Corey Vanluchene repelling down Briton's corner.  ...
Corey Vanluchene repelling down Briton's corner. ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Winter aid.  Always a fun place to hang out.
Winter aid. Always a fun place to hang out.
Rock Climbing Photo: Joel hanging out on top of Brinton's.
Joel hanging out on top of Brinton's.
Rock Climbing Photo: Another satisfied leader
Another satisfied leader
Rock Climbing Photo: Brinton's Buttress
BETA PHOTO: Brinton's Buttress
Rock Climbing Photo: Walnutz tying in for a fun climb up Brinton's Crac...
Walnutz tying in for a fun climb up Brinton's Crac...
Rock Climbing Photo: Me at age 15 in '70 starting the traverse in my be...
Me at age 15 in '70 starting the traverse in my be...
Rock Climbing Photo: Warming up on Brinton's Crack
Warming up on Brinton's Crack
Rock Climbing Photo: James arrives at the traverse on "Brinton's&q...
James arrives at the traverse on "Brinton's&q...
Rock Climbing Photo: Snapped this shot of gal from SLC leading Brinton'...
Snapped this shot of gal from SLC leading Brinton'...
Rock Climbing Photo: Bobby following me up!
Bobby following me up!
Rock Climbing Photo: Going for that last hand jam
Going for that last hand jam
Rock Climbing Photo: Topping out Brinton's Crack 2014-08-17
Topping out Brinton's Crack 2014-08-17
Rock Climbing Photo: Brintons in 2 pitches.
Brintons in 2 pitches.

Show All 34 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Brinton's Crack Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Aug 17, 2017
By Anonymous
Apr 19, 2002

ultra-classic? yep. without a doubt.

The climb follows an obvious crack up to a point where you... obviously (I guess) need to traverse to the right to gain another crack _system_ to the top. going directly up is a 5.9? variation. After you get to this other crack, you have a bomber #5 stopper placement which protects your potential pendulum, and the potential crux. IMHO the crux is that first couple feet after the traverse which is this weird off-width thing with lousy feet below you. Typical devils lake ice skating edges.
By Anonymous
Apr 24, 2002

My first ever lead. I've climbed this route uncountable times, including once by a full moon. What a classic. Mark M.
By Dave Bohn aka "Old Fart"
May 4, 2002
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

CLASSIC- ULTRA CLASSIC! This is the one "must do" that anyone visiting Devils Lake of any skill level has to get on. This was the second climb I ever did back in '70 and though I live (and still climb- see in Colorado; Devil's Lake and this climb in particular still have a fond spot in my memories. I seem to remember the traverse as being the crux.
By Tom Anderson-Brown
From: Madison, WI
May 15, 2002

I once heard that the Chicago Mountaineering Club (lead by Paul Stettner?) used to take members to this climb prior to making the trip to Devil's Tower. To be approved for the trip to the Tower, members had to first competently climb this route. Anybody heard this before?
By Anonymous
Jul 17, 2002

whoops. made a mistake. it's not a "funky off-width thing". it's really just a slick and rather large hand-jam. sweat caused me to ooze out of it... and i fell... again... on a devil's lake 5.6.
By Tom Anderson-Brown
From: Madison, WI
Jul 17, 2002

Devil's Lake 5.6 = Joshua Tree 5.8 (IMHO)
By Stephen D. Schaefgen
Jul 18, 2002

I've climbed all over the country. A Devil's Lake anything is way, way, way underrated. A Devil's Lake 5.6 is easily a 5.8 on granite.

By Jay Knower
From: Campton, NH
Jul 18, 2002
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

Compare the Lake climb Roger's Roof (given 5.8) to Hobbitt Roof (given 5.10b) in Joshua Tree. The climbs are almost identical--the same moves, the same gear, though Hobbitt does have better friction---yet Hobbitt is rated much harder.

Those of us who have climbed at the Lake a bit (and throughout the continent) accept Devil's Lake ratings to be accurate and the rest of the world's ratings to be soft. That's just the way it is...Brintons is, and always will be, 5.6. Either accept it or move to Minnesota.
By Stephen D. Schaefgen
Jul 18, 2002

I agree with Jay. I always use Devil's Lake as a guideline elsewhere. If it is a 5.6 on granite, it will typically be a cake walk. Typically.

By Terry Kieck
Jul 19, 2002

I was just having a ratings discusion yesterday at the lake. It is my belief that the ratings at the lake are top rope ratings. Meaning, once you have the route wired how hard is it - not on-sight lead ratings that you find throughout the country. Since DL is where I do the majority of my climbing those ratings will always be my baseline for comparison. Its nice to know that if you can climb "insert rating here" you can climb that rating anywhere.
By Dave Bohn aka "Old Fart"
Jul 31, 2002
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

Interesting thread running here. I learned to climb at "The Lake" starting in '69 and while the majority of my ascents were TR , I did lead a far amount of climbs. IMO the ratings at "The Lake" are what I grew up with and for me are still my standard for comparisons. I would say Eldorado Canyon is very comparable while "The Valley" classics always seemed soft to me. Go figure ; I thought we were "supposed" to be following Yosemite standards. The harder grades are another story but I think you've fixed that by now. I always LOVED Flatus (TR'd in 72) but thought it was a bit hard for a "F10B"; but I can make the same statements about a lot of the harder climbs I did here in CO after moving here in '73 ( "I was climbing an 11 and didn't even know it; good thing or I'd never even gotten on it back then"). I still don't have a total handle on the "Sport Route" grading. It seems to vary to a much greater degree between even local areas, depending on limestone or granite and what you're used to.
By Anonymous Coward
Sep 27, 2002

I find Terry's comment regarding DL ratings being top rate ratings as a little strange. The YDS rating system is suppossed to represent the hardest (crux) move on the route from a technical perspective. Thus, a route with one 5.6 moves and the rest 5.4 is a 5.6. Furthermore, and more to the point, the ratings aren't intended to reflect the level of commitment, etc. In my mind, 5.6 is 5.6 whether you are TR, leading or seconding. That said, if 5.6 is ceiling on top-roper, you probably don't want to be leading 5.6, at least trad 5.6.
By Terry Kieck
Sep 30, 2002

Maybe I should restate it as red-point rating not an onsite rating. Yes in the YDS rotes are supposed to be graded on the hardest move and I believe they are at the lake. My point was that the concensus on a rating of a particular route at the lake was gained after the route was done several times by an individual and several other poeple and not after their first ascents of a route. I hope that clarifies my earlier statement.

Also the YDS is not always based on the hardest moves. There are sport routes atthe RED that have no moves harder than 5.10 but because of their length and steepness are 5.12.
By Dave Bohn aka "Old Fart"
Oct 18, 2002
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

Still an interesting thread! I finaly got to go back and climb at "The Lake" after a 30 yr. absence due my move to CO. I was back in Aug. on a perfect chilly day and went to visit a lot of my old favorites. (The one thing that shocked me was that it was more crowded on Weds. than I ever remember a weekend back in '72-'73! )The ratings at "The Lake" are STOUT !! I'm still climbing 5.11-12 sport routes and trad to 5.10 and going back to repeat a lot of routes I did as a High School kid was shocking to say the least. Birch Tree Wall (I guess they call this The Stretcher now) in my local CO/WY climbs would go 10d/11a. Birchtree Crack 9-, D'arcy's Wall 9 etc.. I had been gearing myself up to see "How Small" everything looked; and yeah, these cliffs look like Duncan's Ridge or Table Mtn. (local top rope/ short sport route areas.) But the ratings are REALLY STIFF!!! Don't slight yourself if this is your training ground. You'll rule when you go to anywhere else!! Got to Love the "Lake" !
By Jay Knower
From: Campton, NH
Oct 21, 2002
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

Dave--thanks for the comparison. It was very accurate and well informed, in my opinion. I just returned to the Lake after climbing out west, and I agree that the ratings are stiff. I also agree wholeheartedly that the Lake (though short) offers some of the best and most challening cragging in the United States. What the climbs lack in stature, they make up for in lack of friction. Their technical nature (I watched a climber on Rubber Man execute ten moves to gain about five feet of height)makes DL routes difficult to onsight. Brinton's Crack, when wired, is probably comparable to a hard 5.6 in Yosemite. When climbed as an onsight, Brintons can definately feel a few numbers harder. If you botch the hand jam move above Hilton Ledge, you could easily find yourself doing some 5.9 laybacking. And, here at DL, you can't smear to save your ass. No matter where I travel to climb, I always enjoy coming back to the Lake to test my mettle on these challening routes. We trully have a climbing gem here in Wisconsin.
By Anonymous Coward
May 27, 2003

Led out Brinton's Crack Saturday morning bright and early at about 7:45 and I don't know if it was my early morning mental state or what, but, the delicate traverse in the middle of this route really got my attention. Super fun! If your new to the lake beware what you start up! All the climbs are sandbagged.
By Tom Anderson-Brown
From: Madison, WI
Jul 13, 2003

I love the photo of the reception at the Hilton. That's great!
By Don LaBelle
Jan 31, 2005
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

good route for a beginner.
By warthog
Feb 5, 2005
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

I had just gotten anew set of koflachs and needed to scuff them up a bit. I met some friends and while andy and joe were leading something between brinton's and boy scout, andrea and I did brinton's. I came over the top and this guy belaying on berkley just about jumped out of his skin. "I didn't think anybody lead around here," he said in a southern hemisphere accent. "Ozzie or kiwi?" "Kiwi."andrea comes up bare foot and the guy drops his jaw. About this time andy pops up on the hard side. the guy looked at andy and says "I gotta see what You're wearing on your feet. He's wearing mountain boots and she's barefoot. you Yanks are all nuts." We all made some good friends that day. Climb for fun and leave competition for those who keep score.
By Colin Erskine
From: Madison, WI
Sep 19, 2005
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

I did Brinton's Crack as my 2nd climb on 9.17.2005 up at the lake, and it was just a smooth great climb besides all the bees that were around that day on the face b/c i guess it was their day to mate. Anyway i would suggest to try this as a warm up or for a beginner climber it was great.
By Doug Hemken
From: Madison, WI
Oct 17, 2006
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

Can be led at a "G" level on just hexes, retro '70s style!
By Peter Arndt
Aug 10, 2007
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

I would respectfully submit that anyone that would not rate "Brinton's" a CLASSIC has no perspective on Devils Lake climbing history. Heck, 1st climbed in 1941 (according to Swartling's guide). The legendary Fritz (freakin) Wiesner had to back off the thing before Bob Brinton had the "nads" to go for it.

If you want history, exposure, height, and tricky yet doable moves Brinton's has it all.

I would also agree that Brinton's 5.6 rating in some other areas around the country might be in 5.8 land.

I would go so far to argue that Brinton's is THE CLASSIC among Classics of Devils Lake.
By Sunny-D
From: SLC, Utah
Nov 1, 2007

I spent a year climbing at Devil's Lake and loved the climbing--one of the few reprieves in a flat land for a mountain lover from the West. I think the grades are about the same as elsewhere Just different types of rock with different skill sets. It will be fun someday to go back and climb there again.
By 1Eric Rhicard
Apr 4, 2008

This was my first lead. I did it in 1976 when I was 17 years old. Learning to set up TR anchors taught me how to place hexes and stoppers. Still at it in 2008 minus the hexes.
By Kevin Fons
Apr 27, 2008

So who / why / when was the huge old ring pin a the top of the climb pulled? It's been there since probably the 60's? I can;t understand why it would have been removed or even how it was removed. Anyone know what the deal is?
By James Schroeder
From: Sauk County, WI
Apr 28, 2008
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

Pretty sure it's been gone for at least a decade...
By Kevin Fons
Apr 28, 2008

Nope, I've been climbing there since 1980 and it was there a couple years ago, possibly even last year.
By James Schroeder
From: Sauk County, WI
Apr 29, 2008
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b


Could you please describe where it was? I've never seen it there that I can remember (I think my first go on Brinton's was 1999ish). Was it out in the open by the cliff edge or back away from it?
By Kevin Fons
Apr 29, 2008

About 4-5 feet back from the edge, in a large crack slightly bent over. It was identical to the huge ring pin on top of the Leaning tower.
By Jay Knower
From: Campton, NH
Apr 30, 2008
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

I remember that ring pin. Wasn't it basically a piece of rebar that was pounded into the crack?

I think it disappeared a couple of years ago.
By James Schroeder
From: Sauk County, WI
Apr 30, 2008
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

I know of the one on top of Leaning Tower, and I have vague recollections of the one above Brinton's now that I think about it, but I'm pretty sure it's been gone for quite a while, as I've been spending a lot of time in that area the last few years and I can remember the one on Leaning Tower (which I haven't been on top of in probably 6 or 7 years) better than the one on Brinton's...
By mattso
Apr 30, 2008

I remember that old peice of rebar. I remember being upset that it got yanked out because I always used that as part of my anchor. It got pulled pre 2003. Thats all the more detail I can give.
By Kevin Fons
May 3, 2008

I'd like to meet the knob who has it in their basement as a trophey on the wall. There have also been several pins that have been pulled from various climbs in the past 5 years. It can be a real pain in the butt when you are leading and a pin you ave used for years is ripped off and not replaced.
there is really no need for the one on top of Brinton's but it was part of the history of the area ...
By John W. Knoernschild
From: Wisconsin
Feb 2, 2009

What an amazing 5.6

Has to be one of the best 5.6 leads in the park.
By martygrosse
Nov 18, 2009

Someone (mod?) should change the type to include TR.
By Jay Knower
From: Campton, NH
Nov 19, 2009
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

Marty, I think that the fact that it can be TR'ed is implied because it's at Devil's Lake.
By Ryan Strong
From: Golden, CO
Sep 1, 2010
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

good lead , well protected, great exposure (for the lake) ...onsight lead climbing at the lake is no joke...5.6 may or may not be stiffer at the lake but the routes arent always so straightforward and cruxes tend to sneak up on you...
By Forestvonsinkafinger
From: Iowa
Sep 7, 2010

Airy crux traverse is a creeper, bring lots of yellow #2s, a doss #3 and long runner in the alclove before the traverse makes the traverse less thrilling. Avoid the v slot below the top and other rope drag spots...if I were to do this again I would traverse back left at the top, or go strait up after the alclove. Stiff 5.6 with a platter of technical moves.
By Ben Sherwin
Jun 6, 2011
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

Loved loved loved this climb. On TR, naturally, the traverse was not so bad. The crux was the two required hand-jams one after the other right above that. Smooth climb, diverse climb, all-around nice climbing.
By Sam Malamis
Jul 14, 2011
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

Such a fun climb! Enjoyabe from start to finish. Anyone else notice a #3 C4 stuck in the crack about 15ft from the top? I couldn't get it out.
By Adam.IA.climber
From: Cedar Rapis
Jul 23, 2011

Great exposure and great views from the top!! Going to be a frequently visited climb from this guy!
By CharlesErickson
From: Evergreen, CO
Aug 10, 2011
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

A must do for anyone visiting the lake.

An excellent first lead for a climber that chooses to do it the old fashioned way!

Bring along the gonads a nice rack and if you have it a few BD number twos, threes, and perhaps one four

A definite classic with great exposure
By Alex Zucca
From: University Heights
Apr 7, 2016

Hand-jamming felt insecure to me, so I stood up and pulled an under cling wide out left to get through this section.
By Ted Pinson
From: Chicago, IL
Aug 18, 2016

Finally got around to growing a pair and leading this thing...and I chose to do it on a hot and muggy summer morning. Still an amazing climb, but much headier; the bomber hand jam towards the top became a slick, insecure jam that honestly made the upper section feel like the crux rather than the traverse, although that's always pretty thrilling. Also stirred up a hornet's nest in the upper section and had to climb through it while being stung repeatedly, which made for a pretty epic lead.
By Jacob Krenn
From: La Valle, WI
Sep 1, 2016

Led this absolute classic this evening, after having followed it once before. Was able to place two solid pieces w/slings in the alcove before the traverse, and it gave me the security needed to make the step across. From there, it's totally classic moderate crack climbing at its finest (imho) ! Plenty of good gear to be found. I agree with others comments regarding the wasp's nest, and I stirred them up a bit, but was able to place a #3 and then traverse left to finish the climb left of the main crack, thus avoiding the bulk of the wasp's. Overall, this is a totally classic climb, highly recommended!
By Tim H
Aug 17, 2017

The wasps' nest is still up there..

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