Jack Knife (5.5) and Cave Crack (5.6)

Jack Knife (5.5) and Cave Crack (5.6)

Page Type Page Type: Route
Additional Information Route Type: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.6 (YDS)
Sign the Climber's Log


Upper Cave Crack from the top of Jack Knife
Upper Cave Crack from the top of Jack Knife
Although this is not officially a multi-pitch route, as the individual lines are considered parts of different crags (Throne Rock and Orange Peel, respectively), the two link perfectly, and many climb them both as a way to reach the top of Enchanted Rock and then walk off.
Additionally, many consider each route the best at its grade in the park. Jack Knife is one of the best choices in the park for someone's first lead, as the climbing is pretty easy and the protection is great.
Cave Crack, in spite of the moderate grade, is among many park climbers' favorites because of the fun climbing and the awesome location. That location, starting inside a "cave," makes it one of the few summer-friendly routes in the park.
In fact, this whole sequence is a summer-friendly climb as long as you start early. Both routes face west, and the sun rises in the northeast at that time of year, so you can climb Jack Knife in shade, and the first half of Cave Crack is always shaded and cool. Be aware, though, that the finish, however short, as the second part is easy and fast, will probably be in full sun. In summer, camping here and then starting the climb, not the approach, about an hour before dawn would make a lot of sense.
Cave Crack finishes near the top of the dome and close to some scenic boulders called the Lunar Rocks. There are some established bouldering problems there.
Top of the DomeTop of the Dome
Lunar RocksLunar Rocks

Getting There

Set out on the Summit Trail and then take the Echo Canyon Trail. When that trail reaches a board with lots of information posted, take the purple trail. Go uphill and right until you find Jack Knife. Approach time is 15-20 minutes.
Echo Canyon and Enchanted RockEcho Canyon and Enchanted Rock-- Cave Crack is visible; click for details and then enlarge.

Route Description

Jack Knife (5.5)-- About 80'. Bolted anchors. Climb the gear-friendly crack and dihedral. There are a couple airy moves, but the climbing is never hard. Don't be afraid to look for and use holds on the face and arete. Caution: if you rappel this route from the anchors, throw your rope well left or right of the line, as it it easy to get a rope stuck here; I have seen the remains of terribly jammed ropes other climbers had to cut, and when solo-leading this route, I had to spend much more time than planned freeing the rope while cleaning the route.
Jack Knife, 5.5Jack Knife, 5.5
Jack Knife, 5.5-- Upper PortionJack Knife, 5.5-- Upper Portion


To get to Cave Crack, rappel down the back side of Jack Knife's anchors or scramble down (Class 4). Work your way left into a small opening and then enter the "cave." You'll see a beautiful crack splitting the wall from the very bottom. That's the route.
Cave Crack (5.6)-- The crack starts as fingers and quickly goes to hands and then fists. There are always good holds and jams; again, don't be afraid to find things on the wall. Because the roof/back of the cave is so close, you can use chimney technique to move, rest, or place gear. The first time I climbed this, I did not touch the roof/back, but the second time I was feeling lazy and I did, and I think the chimney version makes the route a little easier. Exiting the cave is the crux, as you are forced out onto a slab. This feels scary the first time, but the feet are good, and there are good hands if you reach up (helps if you're tall). After the crux, you reach a ledge. Some build an anchor here because it makes communication easier. From the ledge, there is a short section of about 5.4 or so, and then the grade relents to the point that it is really a walk up the rest of the crack to a large tree and boulders where you can build an anchor. Note: it is against park rules to sling or tie off trees.
Cave Crack from Inside the CaveCave Crack from Inside the Cave
Cave Crack, 5.6Cave Crack, 5.6
Cave Crack, 5.6-- FinishCave Crack, 5.6-- Finish

Essential Gear

A standard rack of cams and nuts will do for Jack Knife, though you can find places for a 3.5 and a 4 and a 5 if you want (near the top, the crack widens, but the climbing is really easy, though you might place a piece just for responsibility's sake).
For Cave Crack, cams in the 2-3 sizes work at first, but most people will want 2 or 3 #4s after that, especially to protect the crux. After the cave exit, the crack gets big enough to take a #5 and even a #6 or a Big Bro or Valley Giant, but at that point, it's really a walk.
Rope: from the start to the big tree, Cave Crack is about 140'. A 50m rope will probably do, but a 60 or 70 will guarantee it.