Your favorite Royal Robbins route


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El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 16, 2017 - 07:11am PT
For many of us, the only way we knew Royal Robbins was through his routes.
And if you're like me, you're probably recounting some of those climbs after hearing of his passing.

He certainly bagged some gems, oftentimes the plum of the wall!
If you've done some of his climbs chances are they were classic , a breakthrough for you, or a feather in your cap...maybe all three!

He got around too, and left something for just about everyone-
big walls, free climbs, even boulder problems. Classics stacked on classics that have stood the test of time.

I've done a fair share of Royal Routes, here are just a few maybe lesser known classics.

Mecca 5.9
Thumb Butte
Prescott, AZ
FA Royal Robbins, Rusty Baillie 1971

At a generally scrappy area, Mecca is the most prominent splitter on the cleanest rock in the best location. Classic Royal. If you were working your way up the grades, Mecca was a milestone and a right of passage. The added aura that it was a Royal route sure figured strongly.

I don't even have to tell you where Mecca is.
I don't even have to tell you where Mecca is.
Credit: drljefe

The Vampire 5.9 A3
Idylwild, CA
FA Royal Robbins, Dave Rearick 1959
FFA 5.11 John Long/ Rick Accomazzo/ Mike Graham/ Bill Antel 1973

Most know The Vampire as the all time classic Stonemaster free route, but it was Royal who had the vision and climbed it first as his closing statement to his reign at Tahquitz. And guess what? It's the most audacious line on the biggest, blankest, baddest section of the rock.
It was a high point for Royal and I'm sure freeing it was a feather in the cap for those guys.
It sure was for me, one of the best routes I've ever done. History, setting, rock quality, climbing- this one checks all the boxes.

Just look for the steepest, blankness.
Just look for the steepest, blankness.
Credit: drljefe

Royal said, "We were so far out there, on those thin flakes. It was a new step for us, just like when we did Half Dome."

So anyway, that's how I figure is a great way to honor and remember the Legend, by his routes.
Please share your favorites!

And thanks Royal.

Trad climber
No. Tahoe
Mar 16, 2017 - 07:21am PT
Fantasia, Lovers Leap. 5.9R.

You know you're a climber when you lead this tricky, meandering route.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Mar 16, 2017 - 07:23am PT

wayne w

Trad climber
the nw
Mar 16, 2017 - 07:26am PT
The N.A.

Trad climber
Spokane, WA
Mar 16, 2017 - 07:29am PT
Many good memories of routes that Royal pioneered, but there are two of them which I'll note here.

#1 is Fantasia at Lover's Leap: Because Royal wrote so eloquently about it in Advanced Rockcraft, it had quite the reputation and I was afraid of it for a long time after I started leading 5.9. So when I finally psyched-up and did it for the first time, it felt like I had broken a mental barrier in leading. I enjoyed several ascents of it later too and always reflected back on my first time.

#2 is The Prow on Washington Column: This was my first Big Wall and I climbed it in March of 1976 with Mark Hudon. We had an uncomfortable sitting bivvy and just beat a snowstorm. Good memories!

Thank you Royal for all of the pioneering that you did for us. Your memory will live forever!

Eric Barrett
Spokane, WA

Mountain climber
Mar 16, 2017 - 07:41am PT
Nutcracker . Allan Bard led my first ascent in 1979 & it has always been a Valley highlight .Sticky rubber was a game-changer .

Mar 16, 2017 - 07:42am PT
Salathe Wall and North America Wall. Both circuitous exploitations of weaknesses a Robbins thumbprint. When you climb those routes you sense the FA party's insistence on natural systems and low hole count. Result: more good climbing and fun penjis, fewer ridiculous hole ladders.

Open Book (FFA) and The Long Climb (FFA) at Tahquitz are well-loved and oft-climbed moderates. I can repeat those forever.

Cool idea, jefe.

Psyche, wayne : )

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Mar 16, 2017 - 07:46am PT
Great idea Jefe! A memorial/tribute thread with a twist that allows us additional reflection.

Royal's routes in Yosemite were some of my most memorable major projects.

I have done a number of them, including The Prow, North America Wall, Salathe, and the Regular Route on Half Dome, among the big ones.

But for me, as a 17 year old in 1978, the Direct NW Face of Half Dome has to take the cake. I climbed it after a couple routes on Washington Column, but before my first trip up El Cap.

It was monstrous, situated on a steep imposing wall, far above the rest of the valley. The psychological barrier alone was immense. I had done the slabs approach, with haul bags, TWICE, and found ample excuses to scurry away with my tail between my legs, before we finally committed to the wall. This was one of the reasons that the Oregon climbers were known as the "approach masters". We were always picking far away things in the early days. And in this case not actually doing the damn thing!

To my youthful credit though, I had insisted that the Direct would be my first Half Dome route, nothing "Regular" would do.

The straight shot of that line just had a lock on my mind like no other.

Leading the Crescent Arch I felt as though I was in a giant cathedral. Ahead lay difficult aid, difficult free climbing, harder route finding in those stacked flakes than I ever imagined, and bivouacs seemingly on the Moon.
I admired Royal then, and I admire him now.

Credit: survival

The line just pops here, with all the right facing flakes. Both Terraces and Big Sandy ledge are also easy to spot.
Credit: survival

Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
Mar 16, 2017 - 07:54am PT
This may sound silly and I don't mean it to. I've done a few Robbins routes but my favorite one may be the early morning drive from Modesto to Yosemite. :) I repeated that route a few hundred times I think.

Cheers my friends
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Mar 16, 2017 - 08:04am PT
Nutcracker like a third of everyone here.

Since he trained so many of us to climb, aren't they all RR routes?

He once told me one of his favorites was Pacifico Rocks in the San Gabriels. Not so long ago he would dirtbag camp there when visiting LA to see his Mom.

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 16, 2017 - 08:10am PT
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
Mar 16, 2017 - 08:20am PT
Incubus 5.10B X at the Leap. Not anywhere near his best quality route, but indicative of the headspace he was capable of.
The Warbler

the edge of America
Mar 16, 2017 - 08:25am PT
It just struck me that 3 of the 4 grade sixes I've done were Robbins' routes, RNWF and The Direct on HD, and The Salathe. So the best wall route I ever did was The Salathe at the ripe old age of 17. Mike Graham and I went back later and freed to Mammoth. Mike thought there were too many bolts on the slab...

Nutcracker is a classic, probably my favorite Valley moderate, and I always thought The Meatgrinder was a classic and burly in its day.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Mar 16, 2017 - 08:34am PT
Not necessarily my favorite, but I do have a second ascent of one of his obscure routes. :)

The Robbins Route, (5.9) Pigeon Cliff, Susanville Ca.
FA: Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen, Steve Roper 1969.

While attending Lassen Community College (76-78) I was enrolled in an English class that was taught by Joe Fitschen.
Being a climber and knowing Joe was as well, I inquired about climbing in the area.
Joe told me about Pigeon Cliff and a route that he had done with Robbins and Roper.
He told me where the route was, that it was dirty and loose, and that no one had likely repeated it or done any other lines on the cliff for that matter.
Eager to climb, my partner Dane Scott and I jumped at the opportunity and nabbed the 2nd ascent of the line and added a few new routes to the area. :)

Joe also told me of a virgin granite crag above Janesville, Ca..
He said he had not climbed there, had only seen it from the road but it
had climbing potential.
What we found was a cherry crag ripe for the pickin.
BITD we called the place Cannabis Crag, today it's called Tom's Thumb but that's another story.

Thanks again Joe for the beta and education,


Trad climber
Mar 16, 2017 - 08:34am PT
Self Abuse. Sugarloaf,CA FA Royal Robbins 5.10b/c
I think he did in the late 50's

epic striking OW.

Thanks RR for everything!
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Mar 16, 2017 - 08:36am PT
The Salathe with the great Greg Corliss of Mammoth and Bishop. Man, we did some good climbs together.

I remember swinging through the roof at sunset, doing the headwall in the dark, sitting out rainshowers high and low on the route, nicknaming the haul bag for an ex-girlfriend of Greg's, dry heaving with fear atop El Cap Spire, and being awestruck with the excellence of the first ascent.

Huge mental leap for me.

dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
Mar 16, 2017 - 08:44am PT
I'm finding it really hard to narrow it down but the quick pick is The Vampire. Tis-sa-ack....damn...see what I mean?

Gym climber
Mar 16, 2017 - 08:49am PT
I once tried to solo Royal's route on the Higher Spire. I turned around at the base of the Chimney of Horrors.

Looking into the maw of the chimney, I kept thinking that Royal had soloed Ahab, a route I could never touch. And now here I was a the base of a chimney that scared him so much he actually placed a bolt some 80' up.

It didn't take me long to make a decision--out came the second rope.

So maybe that's my favorite unfinished Royal route...

Trad climber
Lander, WY
Mar 16, 2017 - 08:55am PT
Where do you start? The man was amazing...the stuff of legend.

I think my favorites are:

The Prow
NW Face of HD
Fantasia (Lover's Leap)
Tricouni Nail (S Dakota)

All of them such high quality and challenging. I was blown away when I led Tricouni Nail, thinking how he did the first ascent in Klettershoes. Wow. And of my favorite routes...but can't imagine being up there on the first ascent.

Legendary...even in his own lifetime...that is quite the statement for anyone.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Mar 16, 2017 - 09:04am PT
Gotta go with Reg NW Face Half Dome. Always wanted to do his American Direct on Les Drus but never got around to it. Pretty sure that woulda supplanted Half Dome.
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