If 5.11 is where things really start to get good at the New, then 5.12 land is nothing short of heaven. Whether you’re looking for one-move wonders or sandbagged classics, spooky slab or straight up roof thuggin’, the New has more than a few 5.12’s for you!
GOOD “FIRST OF THE GRADE” CANDIDATES
LOW BROW 12a (Meadow) – First NRG 5.12 for both CragDaddy and me. It is a slab, which not everyone likes, but if you have good footwork it shouldn’t be too bad. Great rests + lower angle means there is not a big pump factor, although there’s a move at the chains that will keep you honest.
FIRED FOR SANDBAGGING 12a (Bubba City) – Seems like everyone migrates away from Bubba City once they graduate past 5.10, but there are several harder gems if you are willing to look! This one features one very well-protected hard move down below, the rest is no harder than 11a. Work the opening sequence, then pull the rope and fire for the send!
HOMERECTUS 12a (Endless) – This route can either be a super hard 11b, or a pretty easy 12a. Keeping the line at 11b requires a long but easy traverse at the 8th bolt to avoid pulling a bulge. Going direct here will make it 12a, and if you aren’t blessed with a giant ape index, the 12a move will likely feel only slightly harder than the 11b crux down low. A great way to get experience both ways is to climb the 11b way, then try out the 12 moves on the lower, then pull the rope and go for the 12 send.
STARRY 12a (Meadow, Third Buttress) – Loooong route, but the first 2/3 are no harder than 10a. Be on the lookout for the lay down rest!
MINISTRY 12b (Butcher’s Branch) – Crux is pretty thin, but short-lived. The majority of the route is 5.10, with a great rest before the business at the finish.
While I don’t have a ton of experience at the harder grades here at the New (more on that below), the following were my firsts of the grade here, so they are probably good entry level routes.
GREEN ENVY 12c (Beauty)
BOSNIAN VACATION 12d (Fern)
THE RUCHERT MOTION 13a (Beauty)
NEW WORLD ORDER 12a (Endless) – Full value climbing, with a lot of variety!
PREPARATION H 12a (Kaymoor) – Delicate arete climbing that, in my opinion, deserves more action than it’s neighbor around the corner, Pockets of Resistance.
LOST SOULS 12a (Butcher’s Branch) – I couldn’t decide whether or not to put this one in the above category….it’s giant, monkey swinging moves definitely cater to gym rats looking to bag their first 12, but if you’re not a great “gym climber” you’ll probably find the opposite – that was CragDaddy’s and my experience. But regardless whether you think it’s hard or soft, it’s still a fantastic rock climb that is worth waiting in line for!
FREAKY STYLEE 12a (Endless) – Technical face to a big-whipper potential crux move at the top.
HELLBOUND FOR GLORY 12a (Endless) – FA Doug Cosby likes to say that this one was once known as “most flashable 12” in the gorge. That statement might be a bit of a sandbag, but it’s a great route for sure – once you get past the awkward start, that is.
RECKLESS ABANDON 12a (Summersville) – The position out over the water is spectacular!
BLACKHAPPY 12b (Endless) – Everything you could want out of rock climb – thin, technical crux, big moves to big holds, and a spicy (but clean) runout to the chains. Yee-haw!
MODERN PRIMITIVE 12b (Endless) – Due to it’s orientation, stays in the shade til late in the day, unlike the rest of Endless Wall. Good candidate when the rest of Endless is too hot.
LE FUTURISTE 12b (Endless) – The “optional but recommended” dyno mentioned in the guidebook is not optional for me…but I can see why it’s recommended regardless!
BIG FAT SANDBAGS
‘Nuff said. Transport these routes to another crag and they would probably receive at least another letter grade. These are all amazing. And also amazingly hard for the grade.
JESUS AND TEQUILA 12b (Endless) – This one has sentimental value for me, see here for more.
THUNDERSTRUCK 12b (White Wall)
HARLEQUIN 12b (Endless)
THIEVES IN THE TEMPLE 12b (Fern)
CHUNKY MONKEY 12b (Beauty)
ROUTES FOR THE TALL NOT SMALL
I don’t like the term “height-dependent,” because I don’t want to limit what we small folk are capable of. However, unless you’re at least 5’10”, don’t expect these to feel the grade the guidebook gives it.
STRETCH ARMSTRONG 12a (Bridge) – After trying this several times off and on over the years, I finally sent the day after sending my first and so far only NRG 13. Honestly the crux of this felt almost as hard for me! CragDaddy, however, found some amazing beta that almost turned this line into a one move wonder.
FLY GIRLS 12a (Fern) – Also a great candidate for a first of the grade if you can make the reach. If you can’t, you’re campusing on crimps.
TECHMAN 12c (Endless) – There are some intermediates in the crux, albeit pretty terrible ones, but if you can’t reach a key foothold at the end of the traverse, the exit move of the crux will be pretty low percentage, and will quickly turn this tweaker into “hard in a not fun way.”
MACAULEY’S IRISH STOUT 12b (Meadow, The Other Place) – Most dyno at the crux, but I’ve seen it go static…unfortunately the static beta is just as reachy.
If you are sub par when it comes to height, don’t get discouraged. Most routes in your grade range can still go down for you at the New, provided you are willing to get creative and try harder than you think you should have to at times. That said, the following are great options for smaller people, either because the typical beta involves a compact body position that caters to a smaller frame, or because of multiple intermediate options for hands and feet.
ROUTES THAT ARE SWEET FOR THE SHORT
PSYCHOWRANGLER 12a (Cottontop) – Be ready for a queue on a weekend day.
BULLET THE NEW SKY 12b (Endless) – If you can get your feet up on small holds, this route will feel LESS reachy to you than it will for your taller counterparts!
POCKETS OF RESISTANCE 12a (Kaymoor) – Yes that last move is big, but if you can get your feet high early you’ll be able to use the undercling better.
NARCISSUS 12a (Summersville) – Plenty of intermediates and multiple ways to go at the crux.
GIFT OF GRACE 12b (Endless) -Be super careful clipping the 3rd bolt. Safest way to do it is to sling it really long so you can clip early. Your ethics may vary.
JUST SEND IT 13b (Fern) – I’ve only been on this route once, and it definitely shut me down…but certainly not because of height!
AVOID THE CROWDS
As mentioned in the 5.11 post, none of the “must-do” lines listed are a secret. If you’ve done most the classics, or are looking for a way to avoid the queue, here’s your list. These routes are all good solid rock climbs, and most rarely have any takers.
AUDIOPHERING 12a (Cottontop) – A little weird in places, but definitely worth doing.
POWERFUL OPPOSITION 12a (Bubba City) – Prepare to get funky on this one.
MICHELIN MAN Variation 12b (Bubba City) – Fabulous steep jug hauling to a delicate, reachy traverse. There’s an 11d version that I’ve never done with a different finish, that’s probably good too?
FINE MOTOR CONTROL 12a (Endless) – Power moves down low, classic Endless face up high.
CONTROL 12a (Butcher’s Branch) – Powerful little boulder problem traverse to better holds and a giant sit-down ledge, followed by more moderate climbing.
FANTASY FACE 12a (Endless) – If Aesthetica and Blackhappy are at Rush Hour, take this back road of technical slab fun.
KAOS 12c (Butcher’s Branch) – Much harder neighbor to the aforementioned Control.
THE STRATEGEM 12a (Bridge) – Did you know there were sport climbs at Bridge Buttress? Most other people don’t either. Check out this one, TEAM MACHINE 12a, and STRETCH ARMSTRONG 12a (described earlier) for a sweet bolted trifecta.
UNBROKEN CHAIN 12a – The view is spectacular and the approach can’t be beat. Plus you’ll never run into anyone else…but bring your A-game because this thing is hard as nails.
WALL DRUG 12c and it’s next door neighbor BOSNIAN VACATION 12d (Fern) – A little sharp, a little tweaky, but cool movement, great views, and I’ve never seen anyone else on them but us!
While there are very few true NRG “black holes” at this grade (you know, routes that are so bad they take stars away from other neighboring routes), there’s one that comes close. One of these is LET THE WIND BLOW 12a, found on the right side of Bridge Buttress. There are a few reasons why folks end up on this line. It can be toproped from an awesome full value hand crack – HIGH TIMES 10c, and it stays dry in a downpour. Don’t waste your time on it though – it’s overchalked, polished, and the holds are sharp and tweaky.
As opposed to a pretty even spread throughout the grade range in prior posts of this “best of” series (5.10 and under here, and 5.11’s here), you might notice that my 5.12 recommendations are a little bottom heavy. As in, mostly in the 12a and 12b range. Looking at my tick list, the reason for this is pretty obvious. Counting only routes I’ve sent at the New – 15 are 12a, 7 are 12b…and then I have one each of 12c, 12d, and 13a. I’m slowly but surely working to rectify this imbalance, but for now the 12+ and higher recommendations will be grossly underrespresented. In the mean time though, you’ve got plenty to keep you busy from this list!
Oh and one more thing. The following is a list of routes that probably should be on this list but I can’t personally recommend because I’ve never touched them. A few of them may or may not also be on the list of potential fall projects (hence the obvious technical face climbing slant!)
PUDD’s PRETTY DRESS 12d (Endless)
SLASH AND BURN 12d (Kaymoor)
LIBERTINE 12d (Endless)
STEALTH AND MAGIC 12d (Endless)
BLACK RIDER, aka POCKET ROUTE 13a (Endless)
QUINSANA PLUS 13a (Endless)
If anybody else has any recommendations for hard 12’s and easier 13’s, especially ones that hypothetically might be a good fit for a 5’5″ frame, please let me know in the comments!