Snibble Tower

Page Type
Route Type:
Technical Rock Climb
Time Required:
Most of a day
5.9 C1 (or 5.9 A0 or 5.9)
Number of Pitches:

Route Quality: 3 Votes

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Snibble Tower
Created On: Jul 11, 2005
Last Edited On: Feb 14, 2008


The route climbs a prominent chimney/groove and ramp system on the east face of the Smith Rock Group (will provide long range photo). More specifically, the climb traverses terrain on the east face directly below The Platform spire (overview shot of Smith Rock Group spires is here). To access the base of the climb, either:
(1) Follow the approach directions on the Carabid route page. From base of Carabid, traverse a faint climbers' trail ~150 yards rightward closely following base of the wall. OR,
(2) Follow the approach directions on the Sky Chimney and/or Sky Ridge pages (heading for Asterisk Pass). From below (on east side) Asterisk Pass, walk left (class 3) shadowing the base of the wall (~150 yards from pass).
Climb starts at the base of the obvious chimney/groove with some mid-sized evergreens immediately at the base.

Long range, select east face routes overview shot:
Select multi-pitch routes on...

Route Description

Shirley back aiding the A0...
Leading the A0 ladder on P3...
Looking down from the base of...
Shirley nearing the top of...
Beginning the lead of pitch...

This is a great fun adventure climb (though with a lower committment factor than the original line due to some fixed belay anchors) on the prominent and imposing east face of the Smith Rock Group. Watts in his guidebook gives the fifth pitch (technical crux of route at 5.9) a 4-star qaulity rating (if this pitch were right off the ground, it would rank among the best pitches of the grade at Smith acc. to Watts) and mentions that the other pitches deserve NO stars due to the loose nature of the rock. Perhaps so, but the route is still a very worthwhile outing away from the usual gym-like atmosphere of Smith. In fact, during the last 4 or so years that we've been coming to Smith, we've only seen one party climbing this route. The route we climbed is a variation of the original line that takes advantage of a nearby sport line to bypass the first 1.5 of the original choss pitches. See topo.

Pitch 1: (VARIATION) 5.9, 90 feet. Given rating is an estimate (route is not published anywhere). Immediately left of the chimney/groove, the face has been bolted (new bolts, comfortably spaced). Follow the bolts straight up (crux is a steep bulge with juggy holds ~20 feet below belay) to a doubly bolted belay anchor atop a 1-foot ledge. The bolt line shadows the chimney/groove for its entire length. The original pitch one, starts at the same spot and follows a runout 5.6 ramp leftwards and up away from the chimney/groove (30 feet to old and manky-looking belay bolts that are still there). The second pitch of the original line, then traverses back to the (loose) chimney/groove and follows it to top of pitch 2 (same belay station as described below).

Pitch 2: 5.7, 80 feet. From belay bolts, traverse right toward the chimney/groove. You can clip the first bolt of the sport line that takes off into steep terrain directly above belay - this is your first and last good pro opportunity for a while. Rejoin the chimney/groove (it's about 8 inches wide inside at this height; one spot on the route where a #5 Camalot might be used). Tread lightly up the 5.6-5.7 loose groove and above (as terrain directly above steepens into 5.9 acc. to Watts and loosens in quality even further) traverse right on low 5th (but loose) sloping ramp terrain. Belay from two shiny new bolts (original manky bolt anchor can be seen at your feet) atop a spacious ledge. Another sport line takes off straight up from this point. Ignore it. Look lower and left for a few new bolts marking the beginning of the A0 ladder of pitch 3.
VARIATION: According to Watts (untested), you can avoid the bolt ladder traverse of pitch 3 by continuing straight up the chimney/groove to gain the beginning of the ramp system. The going is supposedly 5.9 but the rock is total crap.

Pitch 3: 5.8 C1, 60 feet. Move back left along belay ledge and start aiding across leftwards and slightly up. First 3 bolts are brand new and then there's a couple of the originals (not too bad) mixed with more retrobolts. There's a total of about 7 or 8 bolts. After that, you're faced with a free step out of your adiers. I chose to do two more clean aid moves (C1; small nuts) as the terrain immediately left of the bolt ladder is very loose. The step out of the aiders still felt about 5.8 (not 5.6 as per Watts). Belay from two new bolts at the base of the left trending ramp system (this is the top of the sport line that took off straight up from top of P1 of variation; see topo). Note that this is your last chance to bail w/o leaving gear (rap straight down to top of P1 from here; double or single ropes - not sure?).

Pitch 4: 5.6 - 5.7, 120 feet. Climb the left trending ramp system. It looks like a ramp system from afar - once face to face with it, it's more of a groove/gully with chockstones in it. The going is easy and the rock is not too bad (mostly solid if heavily coated in lichen). Crux comes about 2/3rds of the way up as you move up the left side of some obstruction. Belay (gear incl. #5 Friend and red Alien + 1 ancient bolt) ~20 feet below a small roof next to a large block with a finger crack on its left side.

Pitch 5: 5.9, 140 feet. This is the reason you've slogged up all this way through questionable rock and bad pro. This is the 4-star rated pitch (per Watts) on perfect rock! Move up the finger crack on the left side of the block to a stance 20 feet up directly below the small roof (~5.8). Step around leftwards into quality rock heaven! You're now at the base of an ~80-foot dihedral composed of the most solid rock Smith has ever seen! Going starts easy (~5.7) with a perfect hand crack. The crack then opens to fists and beyond for a short section (~5.9). Above the crack closes to fingers and then vanishes (crux? 5.9) for a few feet but good nubbins for feet keep things low stress. The exit from this stellar dihedral is marked with a wide section you might have to chickenwing your way through (2 moves). Hike the loose (fun is over) 4th class ledge system above another 40 feet until things level off. Belay from gear and one old manky bolt.

Pitch 6: 4th - low 5th class, 300 feet. Traverse the very loose 4th/low 5th class ledges further into the gully (admiring the seldom visited twin spires of Smith Rock Summit on the left) going down and left. Pro is sketchy and rock is sketchy and things are exposed enough where you wish you DID have SOME pro. Pick the easiest line and make your way to the top of the gully. Belay on solid ground (look for a climbers' trail).

You are now on the unexposed terrain - rolling meadows of the west side of the Smith Rock Group. To your north are The Platform and The Arrowpoint spires. To your east are the twin summits of the Smith Rock Group. Hike roughly south or away from any of those formations (very faint climbers' trail) until you can see gently rolling terrain dropping off to your right (west). Follow the now more distinct climbers' trail down to reach the main river trail. Once on the river trail make a left (and hike around the south side of Smith Rock group back to the base) or a right (and hike up to and through Asterisk Pass).

Essential Gear

Shirley belaying me from...
Leading the left-trending...

Obviously comfort dependent (rack listed on topo is a low end version IMHO). Helmet is comfy if you value your brains (lotta sh.. there waiting to fall on your head). Double set of cams from about 0.5 inch (green Alien) to 3 inch (#3 Camalot). I liked having triples #0.75 - #2 Camalots. Also had a #5 Friend, #4 C4, and a #5 Camalot. The last item was essentially useless (did place it low on P2 in the crappy chimney/groove mostly to get rid of it). A set of nuts including small ones. Some aiders/fifi hooks were handy for the bolt ladder - note that it's (of course) easier for your second to back-aid this traverse than to jummar it.

Route Topos

 Snibble Tower route on the...
 Snibble Tower on East Face...

More Route Photos

Shirley finishing Snibble...


Temporary SubmissionSolid Stone

Snibble Tower

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