Swing Shift was put in by Herbst and Moore in '77. It had historical significance with the crowd around at that time as a test piece in the canyon but has seen little to no ascents over the past few decades. Unfinished Symphony and Weenie Juice are my favorite routes on this wall, but Swing Shift is as good as La Cierta Edad which is the only route with classic status on this wall. This is yet another example of zero reason to wait in line to climb a classic when a comparable route at the grade is right next to it.
The first and last pitches are inconsequential. The 2nd pitch by far offers the best rock on the route (5.9). The 3rd pitch is the mental crux of the route via an exposed traverse (5.9+). The 4th pitch is quite soft for the grade (5.10b) but offers good climbing in a flared crack. The 5th pitch is the technical crux (5.10c) which is short lived on black rock in a stem corner. Micro cams and/or nuts protect the moves well. The sixth pitch is full of trees and poorly described in Handren’s guide and his photo topo is inaccurate as well. The upper raps were rotted and laying on the ground. We have re-established the raps with passive gear (2016).
Park at the Ice Box Canyon trail head. Hike into Icebox Canyon on the well-traveled trail. Amazing Grace and several other single pitch routes are located in a deep recess with a significant pine tree on the left side of the canyon (Refrigerator Wall). La Cierta Edad makes up the right side of this recess whereas Swing Shift makes up the left side. From the canyon floor is a sometimes hard to find climbers trail below La Cierta Edad. You can also scramble up the left side below Swing Shift. There is an obvious bushy ramp system (shown in Handren’s photo topo) that gets you to the base of the 2nd pitch on Swing Shift or you can climb it direct from the bottom. Either way, it is mid-5th class climbing to the base of the 2nd pitch which is an obvious right facing corner/multiple crack system.
Route DescriptionSwing Shift, 750'+/-, 5.10c
1st Pitch- 120’- 5th/Handren’s guide references the first pitch at 5.6 and 60’. However, on his wall topo, he shows the route climbing the obvious left to right brushy ramp to the base of the obvious 5.9 crack system. Whether you pick a line directly under or follow the ramp (120’ vs 60’) the climbing is uneventful to a small ledge directly below the nicely varnished start of the crack system that makes up Swing Shift.
2nd Pitch- 120’- 5.9/This is the most aesthetic pitch of the climb. Although Handren’s guide labels it a “thin crack”, in reality it is mostly hands via multiple cracks. A well-protected, on the easy side, 5.9 crack pitch. The last few meters are up a unprotected face (or left up less quality ground) to a modern fixed belay/rap. This belay was put in by an infamous heavy set local dude who mostly aids his way up single pitch routes or the first pitch of longer routes and puts in bolts so he can brag that he retrofitted a route. He also added one pro bolt on the 3rd pitch but put it in the wrong location, it needs to be removed.
3rd Pitch- 50’- 5.9/Despite this pitch being followed up by 5.10b and 5.10c pitches, this is the crux of the route in terms of exposure. Move up and left into the dirty corner. Climb it up to the FA bolt and nut (2016). Clip these pieces and/or put in your own small to medium pro. Down climb one move and start a right to left hand traverse on chossy rock. The modern pro bolt is in the wrong place and will cause rope drag issues if you attempt to clip it. Instead, side-pull your way into the next crack to the left and get a solid .4-.5 piece in. Extend it and climb the crack to a comfortable ledge up and left. The FA bolt atop this ledge mentioned in Handren’s guide (2016) is of no use. Rather build a micro cam/nut anchor in the small crack in the corner (the rock is decent).
4th Pitch- 80’- 5.10b/I thought this pitch was quite soft for the grade. Climb the short unprotected face up and right (5.7) on varnished holds to regain the crack system. Climb up the flaring varnished corner to another comfortable, but smaller, ledge. The mantel onto the ledge might be the crux (5.9+). We left a solid hex and nut rap there in 2016.
5th Pitch- 100’- 5.10c/ This pitch offers the crux climbing of the route that is well protected with modern gear (mentioned as difficult to protect in the FA’s original notes). Head up the black corner placing micro cams/nuts. The crux portion is short and involves intricate foot work at the grade for a move or two in a closed off portion of the thin corner. A jug in-cut allows you to quickly pull out of the crux and onto easier climbing that leads past a slung tree. Climb another short section to reach a more comfortable belay. Handren’s guide references this spot as a “recess below a chimney” but that description is not very accurate.
6th Pitch- 180’- 5.9/This “chimney” that Handren’s guide references is not much of a chimney. Neither is there much of a ledge to traverse left on. The topo in his guide shows going up to the significant orange roof and then traversing left. That is what I did, but there is no ledge below the roof. I believe a safer lead, particularly for the second, is to start traversing left about 40’ below the roof via chicken heads and easy but run out climbing to the gully out left. Continue up this chossy/bush choked gully to a large pine with a rap on it (2016). I would not call any of this much of a chimney pitch. Not that the climbing is overly difficult at the grade either.
7th Pitch- 80’- 5th/To reach the best line to rap the route, you need to complete this last pitch which gets you back over the route. Scramble up past the next large pine and break out right onto a blockly ledge. We found a nut and knot rap laying on the ground here. We re-established the rap with new webbing.