Time for the final round of Hidden Valley recommendations – this time for 5.11 and up. And guess what – fall sending is almost here! So if you are in the market for some good projects, this list might be a good place to start. While the moderate routes can get quite crowded on good weather weekends, you’ll find that the queues drastically decrease as the grades increase.
GREAT “FIRST OF THE GRADE” CANDIDATES
ROADKILL 11a – A little pumpy, but straightforward, and you get a good rest once you pull the roof.
GRISTLE 12a – I know lots of folks who claim Gristle as a first 5.12….but I also know someone very near and dear to my heart that has dozens of 12’s under his belt that hasn’t been able to do it yet (not to call you out CragDaddy, just making a PSA.) If you know how to heel/toe cam and have decent lock off strength, this one might be a good candidate for your first 12. But if you are super tall and that heel/toe cam just doesn’t quite lock in, know that you’re in good company!
USDA 12a – If Gristle isn’t working for you, try out it’s neighbor to the right. No moves as hard as the crux on Gristle, but the climbing as a whole is a little more sustained. Multiple roofs, but multiple rests, especially if you aren’t super tall and can get “squatty.”
RAINY SATURDAY 12a – This one is going to be low-hanging fruit for the boulderers. A powerful sequence right off the ground leads to 60+ feet of climbing that is no harder than 10a. Two things worth noting – the boulder problem will definitely feel harder if you are short, and there are a couple of chossy sections up high, so tread lightly.
FLEDGLING 12b – I know the guidebook gives it 12b, but if you know how to use your feet it’s a lot easier than some of the other 12a’s, certainly less powerful. Plus it was a first ever 12 for a friend of mine. And it’s an awesome route!
NEVER SEEN A MAN BEAT THE SNAKE BEFORE 12b – This climb is more weird than it is hard. Once you figure out the beta it’s not that hard to put together.
POCKET FULL OF RATTLEBUGS 11a Definitely the best of it’s grade, this route is in the runnings for best route at Hidden Valley. Lots of variety – pockets, finger locks, power, commitment – if you climb 5.11 do NOT skip this route!
PRIME TIME PLAYERS 11b – This one never sees any action, but it should! Mostly easier climbing, with a little power move in the middle and some thin moves at the finish.
GODZILLA 11b – This is listed in the guidebook as a route that “stays dry,” if you end at the first set of anchors, which keeps the route 11b (13a if you go out the roof.) We went down to do it over a Memorial Day weekend after a week filled flooding rains and it was soaking wet. Go figure. To be fair however, routes we had never seen wet before were waterfalls that weekend, so my guess is that under normal rain circumstances, it would probably be fine. That said, I’ve never done it, but I know plenty who have and say it’s as good as it looks!
GREAT WHITE 11b/c – This is Oregon Trail 10c’s older brother. Pumpy goodness, with a crux that is not-so-obvious from the ground, but you’ll know it when you’re in it.
CHERRY CORDULES 11c – We discovered this hidden gem while working Death by Chocolate 12d. It’s a great warm-up for harder climbs, and a super fun route in its own right. Fair warning the opening moves are a little weird, and while it’s not required, a little gear to supplement to the ledge might not be a bad idea.
KESTREL 11c – This route features super fun technical face climbing. If you are looking to do some of the harder routes on the wall, this one is a better warm-up than THIN SHELLS 10d, despite the grade difference. While the moves are harder, the holds are a little less tweaky.
MATING SEASON 11b OR 11d – Looking for a short, techy 11b with most of the business at the bottom? Stop at the rainy day anchors. Want to add a side of pump to your 5.11? Keep going out the roof to the top of the cliff. Note: be careful in the roof as there is some friable rock. My first send attempt was foiled by a broken hold.
FLAVORED WITH MEAT 12a – If you like thin face climbing, this one was made for you! Plus, it’s always fun to do the “cover route” on a guidebook.
BLUES BROTHERS 12a – The best 12a at Hidden Valley? Just may be! Definitely the most varied – little bit of crack climbing, little bit of steep jug hauling, little bit of crimpy face climbing culminating with a committing mantel. It all adds up to a lot of fun!
YABUISHA 12a – This one is pretty hard for the grade – rumor has it a jug undercling broke at the finish. In my opinion that heartbreak finish bumps this one up a letter. But regardless of grade, it’s technical face climbing at it’s absolute finest! Do it!!!
MEATBALLS 5.12a/b – Short but sweet little face climb. Note: If climbing with small kids, this route starts up on a ledge that you probably wouldn’t want the whole family to join you on, so not a great choice if you don’t have extra adults for kid-watching back-up on the ground.
CAPTAIN FUK 12a – One of two awesome 12’s on the Right Side’s Ship Rock area. If you are into burly gym routes, this is the one you should choose, though there will still be enough thin (and sharp!) face climbing to make you earn it!
BLACK BEARD 12b – The other of Ship Rock’s treasures. This one is all about technique and endurance. No hard moves for the grade….but can you hang on til the finish?
DDT 12b – Another technical testpiece on the Falcon Wall, this one will require a little bit of power with your technique. Highly recommended!
CONEHEADS #2 12c – Awesome, full-value line. Requires some power and finesse, as well as a cool head at the finish. FYI the fall at the anchors is big but totally clean – ask me how I know 😉 More on that one here. Worth noting is that there is a just as good, but slightly easier link-up by climbing the initial crack of Coneheads #2, then heading right to the upper face of Coneheads #1, finishing on the right side of the conehead feature. More on that one here.
DEATH BY CHOCOLATE 12d – Though not my hardest send on paper, this one might be my proudest. It’s a gorgeous line that stays dry in a downpour and never has any traffic. Short, technical and powerful, I won’t recount the entire saga here (but it’s here if you want it.) But I will say this – you might wanna save it for good conditions!
Looking for 5.13’s and harder? There’s plenty to do there, but neither CragDaddy nor myself have a ton of experience at that level. I will say though, that both of our first 13’s were sent at Hidden Valley – RODENT’S LAMENT 13b for me, and SPURS SLAB 13a for CragDaddy. The former is a one move wonder (for a more detailed look at that climb, check out this post), and the latter involves a slab dyno, then a ledge and a finish up the ever popular Spurs 10c. My guess is that both of them would be considered good first of the grade candidates for others as well.
There are a few notable routes that get a lot of stars but we haven’t tried yet. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to get on them soon, and when we do, I’ll be sure to update this post. (If you’ve tried ’em, please let me know how they are!)
OPOSSUM TONGUES IN ASPIC 12c
THE CARNIVORE 12d
RIVETED JEANS 13b
But until then, you should have plenty to keep you busy from this list! Also, don’t miss this other posts in this series.