Capitol Gorge, 5.10a-5.13

Capitol Gorge, 5.10a-5.13

Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Lat/Lon: 38.21261°N / 111.18824°W
Activities: Trad Climbing
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter


Faded Midget Rattlesnake
Faded Midget Rattler below False Premonitions

Second only to Basketball Wall in terms of solid multiple splitter climbs clustered together, the routes on the south facing wall in Capitol Gorge offer a solid day out (.1 mile in on the Capitol Gorge dirt road, just park at the paved parking area at the end of the paved scenic drive). This area includes the test piece for trad in the entire park, Mystery Splitter (5.13):  A short but stout featured five star route in Desert Rock (photo). In contrast, further in canyon is the easiest splitter in the park I have climbed, Classic Handcrack (5.10a). This route is on the right side of the canyon (NE facing) on the right side of an arête about 200’ above the road as you take a rightward bend (half mile in on the dirt Capitol Gorge road). This is by far the softest rating I found at Capitol Reef. This crack is low angled and could be 5.8 in many areas. This soft rating is not necessarily typical of the area.
Unnamed, 5.10+
Dow on Unnamed, 5.10+

The highlight of the entire area was my third close encounter (Cochise and Canyonlands) with a Faded Midget rattlesnake. Their rattle is so exquisite and unmistakable to me (cross between an electrical current and loud bee). I have been warned three times now. In one instance I believe most any other snake would have struck. I thought the noise was a bee interested in my chalk bag and kept swatting at it without looking. Swatting at a rattler within one foot of its face over and over and it never struck but continued to make noise in the coiled position the whole time. I finally looked down at my waist area. That was in a remote section of Cochise Stronghold, by myself working a remote descent. Let’s just call them patient and reserved, but fearless. In all three instances, none of the three ever slithered away or backed off (photo).
Mystery Splitter, 5.13
Mystery Splitter, 5.13

Another notable route in the cluster of routes to the right of the infamous Mystery Splitter is False Premonitions (5.10a) which is not found in Desert Rock but listed and given high praise on Mountain Project and worthy of such. Several of the other routes I spied are unnamed and I could not find them published. The one that I enjoyed the most was a route to the right of False Premonitions (photo): a C4#4 left facing and slightly overhung corner crack. Whilst from below it looked like fist jams and #3’s, it turned out to be mostly #4’s and I had just one on me. This was a beautiful and physical lead. All anchors I found in Capitol Gorge were in good shape (2016). A single 60m rope rapped all of them I investigated or climbed but they claim you need a 70m to get down from Capitol Gorgeous (5.10a) which I did not climb but sounds worthy and is listed on Mountain Project but not in Desert Rock.

Drive down the paved scenic drive to its end at approximately 8 miles from the visitor center. Park here for the majority of the routes or park at a pull out half a mile in on the dirt Capitol Gorge dirt road for Classic Handcrack. If going for the cluster, part at the paved area and hike along the dirt road for .1 mile and scramble up the obvious gully on the left. There is a cairned faint climber’s trail that works up the right side all the way to the base of the wall. False Premonitions and Mystery Splitter are to the left. The unnamed wide overhang crack is to the right.

Route Description(s)

Routes Listed Left to Right (west to east) as you Face the Wall

  • Mystery Splitter- 60’-5.13*/

  • Capitol Gorgeous- 135’-5.10*/

  • False Premonitions- 100’-5.10a*/ The MP beta is a little mis-leading in that it is not as far as 100 yards to the right of Mystery Crack (which is the most easily identifiable route on the wall) but rather is about 50’ to the left of where you top out below the cliffs if you followed the faint climbers trail (2016). Scramble approximately 10’ and climb another easy 10’ to the base of the left facing corner hand crack. The initial 30’ is true hands.  The crux is near the top where it gets wide (awkard) but protects with medium gear in back. Standard rack, tight hands in places, so C4#1’s are the most useful. I stirred up a Faded Midget rattlesnake in 2016 near the base. Dow

  • Unnamed- 90’-5.10+*/ This aesthetic C4#3-4 overhanging corner is taller than it looks. Starts out fast and gets pumpy at the overhang/roof (crux) then eases off to the fixed rap on the left wall. You can place a few C4#3’s and even though from below it all looks #3, I would rack four #4’s if I did it again.  Instead I had it woefully run out.  Dow

  • Further in Canyon, Right Side, NE Facing

  • Classic Handcrack- 100’-5.8/ The Desert Rock guide calls it 5.10a and Mountain Project has it at 5.9+. The angle of this route is so low, I have no idea how it can be harder than 5.8? Definitely the softest rating we found in Capitol Reef. The guide also references double rope raps, but a single 60m gets you down no worries. Single rack should do the trick vs the huge rack called for on Mountain Project. Double #.5 to # 2 if not competent at the grade. Dow

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