The Balcony Route on the Northeast face of the North Twin Sister in the City of Rocks was supposedly established by Tom Whittaker back in the 60’s.
The initial impression of this steep north face with its multitude of large roofs and angles would lead one to believe that no moderate free trad line could reach the summit. But one just barely qualifies: The Balcony Route
. It meanders its way up several smaller, but fantastical, roofs just to the right of the most prominent one. All three of its pitches are classical in their own right and combined make for the most classic multi-pitch route at the City.
The first pitch, although mostly 5.9 stellar crack climbing, offers as tough of a crux as the final two pitches through the roofs.
The crux of this pitch is it’s hard to protect mossy slab traverse right that connects its two steep crack sections. The existing bolt is to old to be of use.
From the second and third pitches, the Balcony route is quite committing. With a moderate amount of down climbing, one can easily bail from the top of the first pitch with a 70m rope from a slung block. The rightward traverse and subsequent crack climb (2nd pitch) to below the right end of the before mentioned huge roof on the upper face is not near as bad as described on Mountain Project
. It protects well to that point and the climbing is inconsequential. The first roof pull is the crux of the climb
(still 2nd pitch) again in contrast to MP, but consistent with Bingham’s description. There are several awkward sloping steps on the right side of the large roof and the one finger side pocket you need to heave on to pull your entire body weight to the top of the overhang is also your only option for protection.
Therefore an off-set wire will serve you much better than an off-set cam as it will take up less space. The third pitch involves physical full-on body moves and protects like a charm.
Park at the campsites below the Twin Sisters. Hike up to the col between the Sisters from the south. Suit up at the col (your rap descent off the summit will return you here) and circumvent the North Twin Sister to the southeast until you are directly below the northeast face. The first pitch is quite obvious, a 5.9 splitter located off a large boulder. This crack jugs right. Another way to locate it is to line this splitter up directly below the very right edge if the biggest roof on the upper face.
Route DescriptionBalcony Route, 350’+/-, 5.10+
1st Pitch- 140’- 5.9/
A stout and sustained pitch at the grade. Start up the great corner/splitter. When it ends, traverse right past an unreliable bolt. This bolt is not worth clipping, rather step up and place one small off-set cam in the left side of the roof above and tension over to place a much better C4#.4 under the right side of the roof and then make the crux, mossy, face moves right and up into the next corner/crack section. Follow the hand crack to the top of the pillar with several large blocks in which to belay from. There is no longer a fixed station at the top of this pitch as referenced on the topo in Bingham’s guide.
2nd Pitch- 100’- 5.10+/
The crux roof on this pitch is stout and awkward for the grade and referenced from 5.10c-5.10d. Traverse straight right on easy ground. Head up the obvious crack below the right side of the huge roof. The crack peters out for gear, but there are several micro cam/RP type pockets. There are two pitons under the roof. If you clip either, make sure to make adequate extension or the rope drag will be an issue on pulling the final part of the roof. Step up onto the first awkward (sloping) block. To pull the roof, you are looking for a small side pull crack pocket. A #C4 .4/.5 off-set cam protects here but also steals from the essential hold. An off-set wire would be better. To get this move clean without gear in the slot makes it run out due to the nature of the roof and thus the dynamics of a fall. Make an aggressive and exposed left leg mantel on slab over the top of the roof. Follow the closed crack up to the next small roof directly above and set up a gear station (C4#.5’s) at a stance.
3rd Pitch- 120’- 5.10/
By far the best pitch of the route. Mountain Project calls this 5.10d, Bingham calls it 5.9. In any regard, it is easier to protect and climb, albeit physical, then the second pitch. Finger jam up onto the C4#.75 finger crack and follow it to below the next large roof. Traverse left on hands and protect with a C4#3 to the C4#.75 crack that pulls the roof. Lay back, stem and reach for an aggressive hand jam to finish the pull. From there, sweet hands lead to easy ground which leads to the summit.
Walk down left (it is not 5.5X as Mountain Project reports, more like 3rd or 4th class)
and then back right to a large ledge with a fixed rap. Take two single 70m rope raps
down the west face. Neither rap quite makes it, but easy down climbing allows you to make up the difference on both raps. If you are comfortable climbing this route, you should not have any problem with doing this rap with a single 70m rope.
70m rope. Single from micros to C4#3. Doubles from C4#.4 to C4#2. Full set of wires. Several off-set cams are recommended as well. The first pitch is long and sustained at the grade, you could easily place more gear if you wanted to bring it. The three cruxes are protected with small gear to C4#.75.
The first belay is a slung block, the second uses two C4#.5’s and on the summit, medium to large gear. This route is northeast facing and can receive a lot of wind. In June, in the shade with a lot of wind, temps can be quite cool.