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North America, United States, California—Yosemite, The Elusion

The Elusion. This route is unfortunately typical of the newer Yosemite climbs. It begins less than 100 feet left of an existing route, Commissioner Buttress. At the end of each pitch it is possible to traverse off onto easier climbing, and it connects with the Commissioner Buttress route on the last pitch. Its redeeming feature is that it is hard, so hard that only one member of our four-man party, Tom Higgins, was able to free climb all the crux pitch. We were attracted to the route by an obvious white scar from recent exfoliation on the second pitch. This forms a 75-foot F9 jam-crack. The first lead was a dirty F8 overhang that can be avoided by a third-class walk-up from the opposite side. Then came the third lead! While Lloyd Price, John Kanehejs, and I watched transfixed from below, Tom crawled up the steep headwall like a graceful, black-maned lizard, pausing occasionally to announce that it was F9 or so. His demeanor changed abruptly, and after grunting and groaning, he descended to rest. On the next effort, he mastered two successive F10 sections and his gutteral utterances turned to ecstasy. The rest of the party made more noises, less progress, and finished the pitch with a firm grip on the rope. Even though the route is close to a gully and seems at times contrived, it stays on a prow of its own and follows a separate crack system. NCCS III, F10.