Monday, February 3, 2020

Route Profile: The Bastille Crack, Eldorado Canyon

The Bastille Crack is one of the most climbed routes in North America, and for good reason. The approach is all of 45 seconds (watch out for your belayer getting hit by a car) and 350 feet of crack climbing awaits. This climb is a favorite in summertime, with it's all day shade (or atleast most of all day) and it's moderate grade of 5.7+ (some argue it is 5.7, others argue it is "5.7++"). Historically, this was first climbed by a couple of soldiers in the 50's utilizing aid tactics. Over time it has become the classic and busy route we know it as today. Disclaimer: Do not rely on this information, it is no replacement for qualified experience and instruction. Climb at your own risk.

The Bastille Formation
Pitch 1
Many unnecessary ground falls happen on this pitch. Start on the climber's right flake and then step across to the main crack system. The step across does not always get protected (it's about ~25 feet into the pitch) though gear placements are available, so: protect the step across! This is the only pitch on the route with a bolted anchor (it is possible to top rope just this pitch). If one is top-roping, clip some pins as a directional and try out the Northcutt Start (5.10d) climber's left of the Bastille Crack. This direct start was arguably one of the first 5.10s in the country, established in 1959.

Pitch 2
A short chimney leads to more crack climbing- the outsides of the crack are relatively well featured with feet and handholds.

Climbers finishing the second pitch of the Bastille

Pitch 3
This pitch seems to catch many Eldorado Canyon initiates by surprise. Given a 5.6 rating- many are surprised by how steep it is- steep enough that missing the right handholds on this pitch could pump out both the leader and follower depending on their onsight grade (as a 5.6-5.7 climber).

Climbers on the third pitch of the Bastille Crack, as seen from Whale's Tail

Pitch 4
Traverse left into a series of rather insecure cracks and holds that don't quite face the right way. Utilize decent body position and mindful footing to get all up to a natural break, if you've made it this far, the final pitch will likely come easily!

Climbers at the 4th pitch belay

Pitch 5
Fun chimneying and stemming provides a little cherry on top for a scenic summit. There is an enticing block to sling as you finish the pitch, using that block is not recommended (it wobbles) and there are ample alternative anchor options.

Head South through a sort of horizontal chimney and continue across the same ledge system all the way to the trail. Guided parties will likely rope up here, while independent climbers usually solo. It is indeed moderate terrain but there are specific sections where an unroped fall would be fatal (or at the very least leave a mark).

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