Are you a crack addict? Do you constantly dream about jamming your hands and fingers in all sorts of wild places? If so, here are 10 crack climbs around the country worth sticking yourself into.
Featuring routes from many of the most spectacular spots in the United States—you won’t be disappointed to climb your way up any of these magnificent, moderate lines.
Top moderate crack climbs of the US
1. Autumn (5.9-), Red River Gorge, KY
Most people come to The Red to test themselves on long, pumpy pocketed sandstone routes—but don’t be fooled: there’s a lifetime of exceptional trad climbs to explore there too.
Autumn, in particular, is a RRG route that you don’t want to miss. This classic, strenuous line heads up a thick, left-facing flake on a corner that requires some exciting girth and attention. Some consider it more challenging than the grade might suggest, so you’ll want to be a comfortable 5.9 climber. Also, unless you want to finish on a bit of a spicy runout to the anchors, beta advises that you bring a #3.
My third real rock climb Autumn 5.9 Climbed with a weak ass single rack so we ran it out 20 feet at the top… On a 50 foot climb. There is a massive streak of blood a few feet left of the crack. Wear Your helmet kids. #dirtbagging #redrivergorge #birdwatching #longwall #traditional #tradclimbing #tradclimb
Maybe I’m being blasphemous… But, I dare say I like this more than Rock Wars. Awesome handcrack that alternates between lay backs and jams.
2. Straight Shooter (5.9+), Pine Creek Canyon, Red Rock, NV
Notorious for the often arduous desert approaches, climbing in the canyons of Nevada’s Red Rock Conservation Area guarantees an adventure. While the hikes can sometimes be demanding, those who venture out will be rewarded with truly world-class sandstone cracks (and loads of face climbing, too).
At Pine Creek Canyon, climbers can find the 60′ Straight Shooter—a short, but perfect little finger crack who tends to favors those with smaller hands. And if you’re sick of jamming after you reach the top (doubtful!), consider setting up a TR on the .11a thin slab to its right.
Really fun 5.9 finger, ring, and tips locks. Good feet. The rock quality is perfect. I only wish it were longer. Led on 3 pieces and felt quite safe.
3. The Coffin (5.9), Little Cottonwood Canyon, Wasatch Range, UT
The quartz monzonite rock found in Little Cottonwood Canyon offers a tremendous array of bouldering, sport, trad, and ice climbing worth trying; however, one experience that no crack fiend should overlook is The Coffin.
This 80′ finger crack perfectly splits the face of the hard-to-miss feature that is the Coffin Buttress, reaches a roof, and offers two options: traversing out left or to the right to finish. To warm you up for the delight of this line (and make the approach more fun), it’s suggested to reach the buttress by climbing Crescent Crack (5.7, 2 pitches) to reach the base of the climb.
Some folks just don’t like a nice granite crack climb….but if you do….this route is a GREAT, MUST DO LCC classic. aproach keeps the lighweights out but is no big deal, or for a more varied outing do Cresent/final link to the Coffin…or better yet, lead the coffin and the second pitch corner all as one! great stuff!
4. They Died Laughing (5.9), Cathedral Ledge, NH
For the New England trad climber, Cathedral Ledge—located just outside of North Conway, New Hampshire—is the premier destination for gear plugging and crack climbing. But don’t take its trad climbs lightly; many of the routes here were established in the 60s and 70s; meaning you’re bound to feel some serious stiffness in the grades.
Nevertheless, They Died Laughing surely is one line you must climb. This 100′ single pitch classic follows a beautiful finger-to-hand crack with some sustained movement that leads up to a triangle shaped hole in the rock. While this route saw its FA in 1972, of course only using the protection of nuts, it swallows gear, making it a safe lead … in fact, some even claim to have plugged 30 pieces in this single crack!
When I did it it was called 5.9+, which everyone knows could be anywhere from 5.9 to 5.11. It was stout for a .9 I thought … Great route though!
5. Golden Locks (5.8+), T-Wall, Tennessee Wall, TN
Tennessee Wall, located in the climber haven of Chattanooga, serves as the go-to trad climbing destination for the Southeast. Riddled with a high concentration of quality sandstone single-pitch routes, climbers of all abilities (from 5.6 to 5.13) will find routes that suit them well.
But for a crack connoisseur of any level, Golden Locks should not be missed. This instantly recognizable splitter crack provides incredible exposure just above the Tennessee River and serves as a great warmup to the harder cracks that surround. Some note it to be a rather stiff 5.8, especially due to a somewhat boulder-y start, but don’t let this early crux keep you from getting into the superb hand jams above … A spotter might be nice though!
Superb in every way! A perfect introduction to southern crack climbing…and, a must send!!!
6. Rye Crisp (5.8), Elephant Rock, City of Rocks, ID
If you’re fortunate enough to venture out to City of Rocks in Idaho, then you know that the name truly illustrates the magic that you will find there: rocks, rocks, and yes, you guessed it, more rocks. While you can certainly find plenty of high-quality granite sport climbing in the area, make the trip to City of Rocks for the gorgeous and unique trad routes.
As most of you know, cracks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and one unmistakably unique feature to find on a route are flakes—especially ones like Rye Crisp: a 120′ long flake system that calls for a variety of techniques, including laybacks, hand-stacks, foot stacks, and finger jams. Need I say more?
This is hands down the coolest flake in the world. So fun I climbed it twice right in a row – great pump!
7. Sail Away (5.8-), Real Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree, CA
Joshua Tree needs little introduction as a paradise for funky and unique granite crack climbing. And while it holds countless classics, Sail Away is one of the best.
Located on a standalone rock, this climb is an absolute must-do for any trad climber—whether you climb 5.8 or 5.13. This gear-eating line comes fully stocked with great jams, locks, and face holds that keep it exciting, yet secure … plus, an impeccable view at the top.
What an absolute joy of a route. I can’t recall having that much fun on such a beautiful hand and finger crack! It only has one weakness…it’s over too quickly.
8. Bishop’s Terrace (5.8), Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, CA
While Yosemite offers more classic routes than perhaps any other destination in the world, it’s worth ensuring that Bishop’s Terrace makes it on your tick list. Prepare to see parties on this route, but don’t be deterred: it’s well worth the wait.
Rarely do you get to experience 150′ of utterly delightful crack climbing with an enduring double crack section; a feature in itself that makes it an immediate classic. This moderate route, like most of the others on this list, can be sewed up. Just make sure you bring enough gear to make it to the top—it’s a long one! Also remember: it’s Yosemite 5.8, with an FA that came in 1959.
Marvelous crack climbing; spectacular! Solid at 5.8. Takes all the pro you would ever need—or want.
9. Ant’s Line (5.9-), The Trapps, The Gunks, NY
Less than two hours outside of NYC, The Gunks is a popular destination no only because of its proximity. This gorgeous area offers unique horizontal crack and roof systems that lends itself to a completely different style of trad.
Whether you’re a regular or a first-timer to the area and a confident 5.9 leader (another old school graded place!), then you’d better plan on trying Ant’s Line to experience a taste of what the Gunks is all about. This is a fantastic, pumpy, and surprisingly steep route that climbs a corner with a mix of stemming and jamming to the top.
One of the most aesthetic lines in the gunks… just screams “Climb me!” a certain must do for the 5.9 gunks climber
10. Incredible Hand Crack (5.10c), Indian Creek, Moab, UT
If you really love cracks, then I need not tell you much about Indian Creek. It is crack paradise.
Narrowing down what to try might prove challenging, but one that certainly deserves your attention is Incredible Hand Crack. The name of the climb speaks for itself. It really is an incredible crack that offers 100′ of laybacking and hand jamming up a corner and over a roof. Get after it!
Oh my god. This climb is sooo much fun. I want to mate with the Incredible Handcrack and make baby IHCs that will hopefully resemble the original.
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