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Educational Climbs - Part 2

by Dan Zimmerlin

This is the second installment of a list of what I am calling "educational climbs." Based on an idea in Dan Duane's book "El Capitan," these are, in my opinion, good routes on which to learn traditional skills in practice. This is not a list of classics, though there are classics among them. For example, I have left out such classics as Steck-Salathe on Sentinel in Yosemite and Solid Gold in Joshua Tree. The educational climbs below are the climbs that you should do to help get good enough to do the big classics or eventually the big walls. I also have left out climbs like Rosanne on Fairview in Tuolumne. Your skills already have to be in place before you attempt serious climbs like that. These educational climbs then are climbs that are reasonable for the developing climber to stretch their skills on. If you lead these climbs in good traditional style, you will definitely learn technique, anchors, protection, etc. On the other hand, climbers should not restrict themselves to these climbs. You should be doing lots of different routes to solidify your skills.

In Part 1, I listed my picks for educational climbs in the 5.6-5.8 difficulty. I think one could be a very happy recreational climber without ever leading above 5.8. However, being able to lead harder climbs opens up a much broader range of classic traditional routes. This is probably best illustrated by the large number of 5.9 climbs that I see as educational. In fact the list was so long and varied that I decided to break it into two parts, into short and longer routes. By separating them, I found that I could also compare difficulty much more easily. Within short climbs, a comparison of say Needles & Spoons and Dixie Peach is pretty clear. But how would one compare Needles & Spoons to say East Buttress of Middle Cathedral? Needles & Spoons is technically more difficult and sustained. But the East Buttress has a whole separate level of difficulty associated with route finding and commitment. So I have attempted to roughly order the climbs by difficulty, with the easier ones listed first, within each category. Here then are my picks for educational climbs in the 5.9-5.10a range:

5.9 Short Routes

  • Lena's Lieback, Swan Slab, Yosemite - Lieback flake
  • Dixie Peach, Stately Pleasure Dome, Tuolumne - Delicate climbing up shallow corner and across bolted face
  • Aqua Knobby, Pywiak Dome, Tuolumne - Steep corner climbing and some face
  • Stick to What, Echo Cove??, Joshua Tree - Thin bolted face climbing
  • Shuttle Madness, Glacier Pt Apron, Yosemite - Awkward start leads to excellent hand jamming
  • Truck n' Drive, Lembert Dome, Tuolumne - Thin face climbing, with run-outs
  • Pope's Crack, Echo Rock, Joshua Tree - Solid crack climbing
  • Invisibility Lessons, Future Games Rock, Joshua Tree - Steep crack climbing, hand jamming
  • Scimitar, East Wall, Lover's Leap - Corner climbing with delicate moves
  • Black Widow, Low Profile Dome, Tuolumne - Steep knob climbing pockets, creative protection in pockets
  • Sunnyside Jamcrack, Sunnyside Bench, Yosemite - Crack climbing, thin and steep at times
  • Touch and Go, Echo Rock Area, Joshua Tree - Steep corner climbing
  • Needles & Spoons, 1st pitch, Pywiak Dome, Tuolumne - Sustained knob climbing with bolts
  • The Line, East Wall, Lover's Leap - Steep dike climbing with crack protection
  • Reed's Direct, pitch 1& 2, Yosemite Valley - Steep, strenuous jamming to short flare

5.9 Longer Routes

  • West Crack, Daff Dome, Tuolumne - Boulder move off ground lead to varied crack climbing
  • Lower Cathedral Spire, Regular Route, Yosemite - Few moves across blank face, protected
  • Regular Route, Fairview Dome, Tuolumne - Crux on 1st pitch is a few moves up polished face
  • East Buttress, Middle Cathedral Rk (5.9 A1), Yosemite - Varied and long, crux is small roof with crack.
  • One Hand Clapping, Black Wall, Donner - Interesting, varied crack climbing
  • Touch & Go, Black Wall, Donner - ditto
  • Eagle Buttress Right, Lover's Leap - Crux is a wild mantle
  • Higher Cathedral Spire, Regular Route, Yosemite - Blank face where arete fell off is major difficulty
  • Cryin' Time Again, Lembert Dome, Tuolumne - Lots of steep, varied climbing
  • Angels' Approach to Lucifer's Ledge, Glacier Pt Apron, Yosemite - Thin face climbing with bolts
  • Crescent Arch, Daff Dome, Tuolumne - Flared chimney, hand crack, delicate lie-backing
  • Traveler's Buttress, Main Wall, Lover's Leap - Steep dikes with 15' of difficult flare on 2nd pitch
  • Central Pillar of Frenzy, pitches 1-5, Middle Cathedral, Yosemite - Awkward corner, steep cracks, burly roof and wide crack


  • Maxine's Wall, 1st pitch - Thin, bolted face climbing
  • Peruvian Flake, Base of Royal Arches, Yosemite - Thin crack climbing
  • Arete Butler, Base of Royal Arches, Yosemite - Well-bolted face climbing
  • Great Circle, Daff Dome, Tuolumne - Easy crack to thin, bolted face, little bit run-out
  • Y Crack, Base of Royal Arches, Yosemite Valley - Somewhat steep crack climbing
  • Darth Vader's Revenge, Low Profile Dome, Tuolumne - Steep knobs, well bolted.
  • Mama Woolsey, Hidden Valley CG, Joshua Tree - Thin crack to thin face climbing, somewhat run-out
  • Loose Lady, Houser Buttress, Joshua Tree - Well bolted face climbing
  • Exorcist, Hall of Horrors, Joshua Tree - Steep crack to bolted face moves
  • Heart and Sole, Echo Rock, Joshua Tree - Delicate bolted face climbing to corner
  • Hospital Corner, Main Wall, Lover's Leap - Steep corner stemming with cracks
  • Church Bowl Tree, to bolts, Church Bowl, Yosemite - Steep, polished crack climbing

I initially continued the list with climbs in the 5.10b category, and I think there are some really good educational climbs in that range, like Sherrie's Crack and New Dimensions, pitches 1 & 2. Perhaps I will continue the list in another installment. Or perhaps Part 3 will include climbs to move into big wall climbing. Let me know what you think of my choices for educational climbs and what you would like to see in Part 3.