(photo above Banana Peel) The rock features Banana Crag and Beef Jello represent the true “Inner City” in that they are located approximately the same distance between two major trailheads: North Fork and Circle Creek. To complete one of the best 5.10/11 cirques in the park, I recommend starting out by climbing Beef Jello, 5.10d*** (east facing), then cross over the creek to climb Banana Belly, 5.10a** and Banana Split, 5.10d* (east facing), followed by the bolted two pitch arete on Nameless Tower, Sub Zero, 5.11a*** (west facing), and finish the day on the Great Wall on a stellar and unique two pitch trad climb named Birth Canal, 5.10d** (west facing). In this order they are set up to keep you in the sun on cooler days. This cirque of routes is off trail and makes sense when you do it this way in terms of elevation gain/loss.
All three of Banana Crag’s published (2020) routes are worth doing. They are located on its steep east face. The left arete is bolted and named Banana Peel, 5.9**, featuring aesthetic rock, position and view of the Inner City. Banana Belly (middle of the east wall) is an excellent, mostly bolted, route somewhat reminiscent of Yellow Wall (what many consider the best 5.9 in either park featuring similar rock color, huecos and recessed wall). A fun climb with exposure, but well protected. Banana Split is also a mostly bolted mixed route to the north end of the east wall. It offers a crux traverse roof pull at the grade, but again, well bolted at the crux. All three have bolted rap anchors and can be rapped with a single 60m rope. All three of these routes deserve more accolades than the local guide gives them, in comparison to routes closer to the road. The author typically discounts more remote routes just for being, well, remote.
I prefer to approach by parking at the Circle Creek Trailhead. I have approached from both directions, but North Fork involves a lot more elevation loss and gain vs the relatively level approach the whole way in from Circle Creek. Pass Stripe Rock on your left as you go through a gate and continue on the North Fork Trail past Nexus on your right. After Nexus, Nameless Tower’s excellent arete climb, Sub Zero, 5.11a***, can be seen at the top of the hill on your right, a broad faced arete. Beef Jello is the smaller feature still in front of you on the left. To reach Banana Crag requires a short bushwhack NE from Beef Jello, following the drainage north. Look to ascend the sage covered slopes up to the south end of Banana Crag The first route you come in contact with is Banana Peel on the southeastern arete.
Banana Peel, 5.9**/ A short, fully bolted, arete at the south end of the east face of Banana Crag. A worthy gem, but too short for much praise. The positioning of climb, quality of rock and the “rawest” view of the City of Rocks makes it worthwhile for sure. Nylon webbing rap anchor was recently fortified (2020). Dow
Banana Belly, 5.10a**/ This stellar 100’ mixed route up the center of the east face of Banana Crag is shorted in the local guide. It is one of the top 5.9/5.10a routes in the park. Quite similar to Yellow Wall (5.9) which has more acclaim and a 1000 more accents (despite no longer having access as of 2020). Start facing out to ascend a short chimney problem to reach a ledge. Traverse right and up via several pieces of gear to the first bolt on the plated face above. Continue up the juggy, but steep, varnished face to a brief encounter with the left facing corner out right. Place a medium piece or two in the corner and pull up and over to the upper face, traversing right and then back left (airy) through the bolts to the top and a fixed rap. Gear to #2. Dow
Banana Split, 5.10d*/ Just a few meters north of Banana Belly is another mixed gem at the grade. Although the oft errored guide (as of 2020) has Belly at 90’ and Split at 100’, Banana Belly is definitely 100’ and Banana Split is only 60’ to rap chains. Start below an obvious left facing corner. Climb with gear below the grade to the bolts above. Make a physical and pumpy hand traverse right as you pull the slightly overhanging roof with a swing mantel of sorts. This hefty crux at the grade is fully bolted. Rap chains immediately above. Gear to #2. Dow