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North America, United States, California, Sierra Nevada, Balloon Dome, Various Ascents

Balloon Dome, various ascents. The Crucible (IV 5.11 A1). Dave Nettle and I started this route in late October 2005 and retreated from the bivy ledge atop pitch five, due to an early winter storm. Chris LaBounty, Neal Harder, and I completed the remaining pitches during the following June in extreme heat. The route follows a natural line from the San Joaquin River up to the bushy ledge that divides Balloon Dome in half. This line follows a prominent drainage originating from the middle section of the dome, hence slippery rock from pitch three onward. The climb starts in a left-facing dihedral that is below and right of two parallel, splitter, wide cracks three pitches up. The route then follows the left parallel crack (5.11 fuzzy off-width). Super-slick rock leads up to the base of a right-facing dihedral, which is on the skyline when viewing the route from the river. This dihedral is a mixture of thin A1 and 5.11a climbing for 180'. One more 200' pitch ends the technical climbing, and 3rd and 4th class bushwhacking is required to get to the base of the upper dome.

Northwest Ramp (5.10). This route follows the prominent right-leaning ramp up the northwest face of upper Balloon Dome. Four 200' pitches reach the end of the ramp, then two-and-a-half more lead up steep dihedrals to the summit. Chris LaBounty, Neal Harder and I completed this in June.

Beckey’s Leaning Tower Route – Free Dike Variation (IV 5.11+). This follows the excellent Fred Beckey route to the top of the spire that leans against the east face of upper Balloon Dome. From the top of the spire, rappel 50' and belay in the notch from two bolts. Instead of climbing the A3 cracks above the notch, follow the dike that heads left and clip one bolt. Gain the intersecting dike that heads right and clip seven more bolts to the belay (5.11+). Two more pitches lead to the top. Chris LaBounty, Neal Harder, and I completed this in June.

Brandon Thau