Peter Pan


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
This thread has been locked
Messages 1 - 20 of total 51 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - May 21, 2006 - 01:47am PT
Gary and I were up to do Peter Pan 5.9+ at El Cap, West Buttress Base area. I'd wait and post a photo trip report but I will just add to this later when the photos are available...

Gary was brilliant, I was horrible... somedays are like that, it's good to have competent partners.

There are good quality fixed ropes to aid in the approach, however, once on top under the climb the gully is very loose. Much care is needed not to launch large rocks and boulders down the butteress.

Looking at the Reid's topo you can start by going up onto the ledge atop the flake, and belay at a Bay tree (got ants, but not too bad). This makes it very easy to run pitch 1 and 2 together. The bolts at the top of Pitch 1 (two shown) are in good shape.

The belay at the top of pitch 2 was mostly around a really good flake at the base of the crack. (Note that the two bolts shown on the same ledge are not useful for a belay on this route.) Two #4.5 Camelots (old style) worked well in the start, you get a good chockstone. Then a #5 Camelot (old style) to get to the crux. This protects well with some smaller pieces too, and a nut, etc.

Once there the two bolts are in not great condition, one has its original hanger (a funky "Lost Arrow" like eye) the other is missing a hanger. Up and into the 5.7 squeeze at that point. Protection would be wonderful with two Blue Big Bros (forget the number, but it is the biggest of the small diameter Bros), we had one, Gary was hot today and ran it out. Other large pieces were good too, but don't bring the whole rack as there is mostly no place to put anything.

The summit ledge is really great, big and flat. The bolts there were also ok, look around as there seems to be a number.

We used two ropes to rap to the belay ledge. It is an outside possibility that one would do. The rap is right of the fall line as you look down, and you pick up the three bolts (two shown) in Reid's topo. One of these are ok, two are probably original. A two rope rap to the ground.

Our friend Steve saw my rig and wandered up with his sister to yell us a hello from the base. Thanks Steve!

On the way down we ran into 'Pass the Pitons' Pete and Nefarius getting ready on Dihedral Wall (good luck mates!).

Roger, as far as I can see, both Lost Boys and Smee's Come-on are still there. Smee's Come-on looked re-veged, however, with not many signs of having been cleaned for climbing. Today it was wet (not that we were going to get on it).

I'm sore and achey (retweaked my back, I think, on the crux) and unhappy about my performance, but, I think this is a good climb, though physical.

The state of the slings (hanging everywhere) indicate that this climb doesn't get climbed that much, and that people seem to bail off. We cleaned things up a bit, but I suspect that the next party up there will find the slings in a bad state.

The bolts should probably be replaced. I actually liked the climb enough to think about going up and doing better later this season. Maybe I'll take the bolt kit... any opinions?

I used tape and cams, but I cheated much worse than that today...

May 21, 2006 - 01:49am PT
It's a great route Ed, glad you liked it.

The right side is great too .......
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
May 21, 2006 - 02:46am PT
I can't remember which side of Peter Pan I've done, but I do remember using my jam to jam a wide crack as I was sort of mantling into an OW section.

I remember thinking "if my feet cut loose, I'll be hanging myself by the head!"



Trad climber
the south
May 21, 2006 - 07:52am PT
Those blue Big Bros are kinda cool, especially when you need one, haha!

Thanks for a climbing topic, Ed.

Maybe you could just talk a little about the ofwidth technique you had to use on this thing, and describe the 5.7 squeeze job.
that's an interesting idea, a squeeze chimney or crack that is easy enough to be 5.7, so probably very secure, but still, maybe a moment of introspection when run out, cause after all, you are just wedged in there, heh.


right here, right now
May 21, 2006 - 11:38am PT
did someone say 5.7 chimney, secure but causing introspection?
off topic, but the ear on salathe is an incredibly spicey and airy 5.7 pitch, eh?
(oops, i see it's now called 5.8)

also, right near peter pan is an obscure jardine 11a crack thing which is pretty good.

looking in my guide book now...
(must be thinking cuthulu or indubious battle)
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
May 21, 2006 - 11:45am PT
Peter Pan is an extremely high quality crack route of three pitches on the West Buttress of El Cap. First pitch is very easy up a left facing ramplike book to a standing belay on ledges. Second pitch is an undercling to the right for 6-10 ft, and hand jamming over the undercling (5.8) to the large pedestal that ends that lead. The third and final pitch takes off from the left edge of the pedestal and climbs a straight-in , smooth wide crack past a chockstone and up to an ear (30 ft+/-) formed by a 1 ft thick slab covering that straight-in crack for only several feet. Getting over the ear is the crux; standing ontop of it is “no-hands”. Thereafter the crack is a squeeze that is surprisingly hard in sections and has exhausted many, after this crux. The approach involves hiking up past Capt Hook, Wendy et al, and scrambling up somewhat iffy hummocks, scree and general pedestalish funkiness with a fixed rope as a handline. By the time you get on the climb, especially pitches 2-3, you are quite high up for the small amount of climbing you have done. It has superb views of the West Buttress etc. In general, one of the really good short crack climbs in the Valley. It originally was rated 5.8 in the red Roper guide, and now is thought to be nearly 5.10 at the crux which can be done a couple different ways. Most people resort to putting a foot above their hands placed at the top of the ear, and struggling (as Karl mentions) to kind of “saddle up” on the ear. Awkward and unusual. I first did this thing in 1964-5, and have done it probably more than a half dozen times since, even recently. Molly Higgins and I even did it back in 1974-5 and she found the 5.8 S-squeeze above the ear, really hard. It is “size-related” btw.

The story about the right side cunningly named “Peter Left” by Hargis is a classic one. In 1971 Schmitz and I did the regular route as described above, and rapped the long right facing dihedral of the unclimbed rt side, cleaned it out (which took several hours as it was really choked with tons of ferns, munge, dirt, and flakes---it looked really gross) and then intended to return to climb the thing. No one up to that point wanted to take all the trouble to do this so the thing right there at the base of El Cap, was undone even though it probably could have been climbed free in the 1950’s! As I had run out of money and had to work in the Bay Area for a month, Schmitz then went up there with Hargis and they unapologetically did the FA, which is 5.10b maybe with two distinct cruxes. It was surprising that they couldn't come up with something else to climb (back in 1971!) that did not have the aspect of blowing me out. This marked the end of my enthusiasm for Kim. At the time it really mattered as we were all trying to make our mark in climbing.

The right side climb is very intimidating from below, but it turns out there are tons of good "surprise" edges on the main wall on the final, big, pitch. Not typical of El Cap dihedrals! The short offwidth below that pitch is tougher than it looks and may repel some people. This is also a very very good route, and should be done more frequently than it is, as it has unique stuff happening, is safe, and is spectacular. The little routes under Peter Pan are also good btw.

right here, right now
May 21, 2006 - 12:00pm PT
cuthulu and indubious battle are direct starts to peter pan and peter left respectively.

so we must have done jardines cuthulu (actually 5.10) as a start for peter pan. i recall it as a good consistent crack.

you've got quite a detailed memory Mr Haan.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 21, 2006 - 12:53pm PT
Peter does have an incredible memory, and he nails the essential features right on the head! The crux, which Gary lead, was passed by the very same "foot up" technique, and looking about for pro one finds a good quantity of it, the best being a nut welded between "the ear" and the face left of the crack.

Below the crux foot work is a premium, and I became completely gassed struggling on this part. Not my best day, as I said. With modern wide gear the climb is relatively tame in the "hard parts".

Above the crux, standing on it in fact, is a great no-hands rest as you ponder the ancient bolts. Gary was about to belay me to here but my thoughts were threefold: 1) his description of the mank didn't inspire any confidence in me, 2) the top was within our rope length and 3) Gary has his chimney/offwidth game on these days. So I yelled up "what are you doing, just finish the pitch"... and he did, in great style.

The Roper guide gives the equipment list as 10 pitons including a 4" bong. You all have to know that this means roughly 70 to 100 feet of chimney is climbed without any protection. Modern contrivences like Big Bros now make this protectable. Just as in other climbing locations whose geography/topology require a particular climbing technique (e.g. cracks and Yosemite Valley, overhangs and the 'Gunks, etc.) relatively low ratings for seeming really difficult cruxes are common. No one could believe a 5.3 overhang in the 'Gunks, for instance, but they exist. Similarly a 5.7 squeeze chimney seems impossible, but this was.

The squeeze chimney is size dependent, and the feeling of security is entirely a belief in one's technique as you could screw this up badly a number of ways. Like most of climbing, the security you derive comes from inside, your head. Above the crux, the left edge of the crack is sharp, the right side protrudes out of the plane, suggesting: right side in, right knee bar or knee-heal jams, left foot heel on right side, toe on left side edge, left arm "gaston" and right arm chicken wing/arm bar/push. Then you just go. Sometimes you are in, sometimes you are out, and its all 5.7.

It is a beauty, but you have to have your technique dialed to send it.

I tweaked my back pulling on the crux and really made my life hell doing the 5.7 part. Please note that you can't really be pulled up by your partner, and falling out as a second will send you swinging on the plumb line 10's of feet right of the crack. While the fear of taking a long ride is gone with the rope above you, you still have to climb the crack.

At some point you get to an internal flake, a huge blade jammed deep in the crack, just past it gets a little wide. It's nice to get it cause it breaks the repetitiveness of the lower section, and offers better protection (or I should say, some protection).

The last bit of the pitch is spectacular to contemplate. We went up an incredible smooth squeeze chimney, the faces vertical facets of some sort of small crystal rock, brownish, with two horizontal bands of quartz intrusions. This up to a tunnel leading to the summit block. One contemplates the force which shattered this part of the cliff into these flakes and blocks, cleaving them from the main rock and balancing it all one on top of the other for our climbing pleasure.

Gary should post, but he is spew-averse, he did a great job.

I am home licking my wounds and holding my aching back... it is a great route.

This post boarders on microbeta, but, no description I can provide does justice to the climb itself. You actually have to do it, talk is cheap. I only admonish those who may try that it you should be very much on your own chimney/offwidth game. And be free from back ailments...

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
May 21, 2006 - 01:19pm PT
Peter...I don't understand the "cunning " of the name Peter Left (on the right side of Peter Pan). What was the story? I've been on a couple of your climbs labeled 'fists' in the guidebook that were fully ow for me...You must be a big a guy.

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
May 21, 2006 - 01:35pm PT
Mid 70's went up to do this armed with some of them newfangled tube chocks for the OW. On the third pitch I put everything up to the #6 (6") getting up to the "ear". I hadn't brought any other gear except the tubes for the pitch, back then there really wasn't any good guidebook description so the "ear" took me by surprise. Looked like someone had pounded a pin in the flake at one time or another but it wasn't there now and, I was looking at a 40+ fall onto a #6 tube if I blew the move.

So I backed off, downclimbing the offwidth and praying that I wouldn't knock out the tube chocks as I climbed past them.



I'm so over it
May 21, 2006 - 02:10pm PT
Splendid thread--thx Ed, Peter, all. Pan is on the '06 shortlist. Pictures, Ed? Anyone?

Melissa: Peter (Haan) cleaned the route but then Peter Left.

Smee's Come-on, 5.11. Dave Bircheff & Roger Breedlove, 1976. Stories?

Breedlove and Bircheff pose with an unidentified fan after the climb:

Gary Carpenter

SF Bay Area
May 21, 2006 - 02:12pm PT
Peter.. Thank you for posting.

I’m sitting here this morning nursing some random aches and pains and looking at my old man shins (I would guess from your writings that I’m a couple of years older than you) that are pretty beat up from yesterday’s adventure.

Your memory of the climb is dead on accurate!

Modern gear makes protection of the OW crack above the pedestal relatively easy even though we found the climbing very challenging. Ed was able to use 4.5 Camalots above the pedestal pushing one up the crack ahead until he could sling the chockstone. He had trouble moving above the chockstone so he lowered and it was my turn.

The lower portion of the crack is not quite wide enough to jam a knee. I pulled my knee pads down so I could get a knee in as soon as possible. The crack widens above the chockstone and a #5 Camalot works up to a couple feet below the “ear” (pulled up the knee pads here). I was also able to get a large nut under the ear where it overlaps the left side of the crack (this nut was in tight and couldn’t be cleaned).

As you say, the crux move is awkward and unusual. Grabbing the top of the ear is very positive and it is easy to pull up to chest level but the crack above the ear is so wide that it was impossible for me to get a good jam. After a couple of attempts, I stumbled on the technique you mention. Lieback enough to get the left foot up on top of the ear then pull up and get into the wide crack.

Two rusty old bolts, a tattered sling, a bail biner and a very long squeeze chimney greeted me. Ed talked me into continuing. After back cleaning the #5, I started up.

It looked like a looong way but the climbing was straight forward 5.7 squeeze chimney as advertised. I moved up easily for what seemed like a pretty good distance and decided to place our only #4 Bigbro. It took awhile to get a good placement and when I looked down I wasn’t nearly as far up as I thought (30-35 feet I would guess). With a lot of wide crack above and no more Bigbro I realized that I was going to have to pace myself in order not burn out before I could get to get up to a place where I could set the #5 Camalot.

As I continued I looked for places that felt very secure where I could stop for a couple of minutes and get a rest before continuing on. I think this is a key strategy. In the last couple of years Ed and I have practiced a lot of 5.7 squeeze but nothing anywhere near this long and sustained. We’ve recently been practicing downclimbing 5.7 squeeze and that is a confidence builder when you’re a long way above the last pro. Once I got to the large flake that is wedged in the crack things got easier and the rest of the climb is well protected.

As Ed says, the belay ledge at the top is great and the view is spectacular!

It was a great adventure. Thanks Ed.

And thanks to you Peter for your insight and all those bold leads “back in the day”.


Trad climber
the south
May 21, 2006 - 03:04pm PT
Need more threads like this one, great stories, insights, advice, what else can you say but nice job?

I have a feeling you three guys, Peter, Ed and Gary are all fairly big.
Gary Carpenter

SF Bay Area
May 21, 2006 - 03:49pm PT

Don't know about Peter. I'm 5'9" 160#. Ed's about the same. A big guy might find it easier through the crux but hardier in the squeeze chimney.


Sport climber
Venice, Ca
May 21, 2006 - 04:02pm PT
I remember Peter Left as being very poorly protected with Hexes--all we had beck then. A really classic corner in a neat place.

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
May 21, 2006 - 05:00pm PT
About the Peter Pan crux. The usual method of solving the problem of getting on top of the ear is as we all have said, putting your foot up over your head and hands and grossly driving that foot and leg into the resuming chimney above the ear.

However, for those who might wish a more elegant solution, there actually are some subtle stemming holds around and on the ear and to its left, which I have used when strong and fit, in conjunction to the finger/lieback edge the ear gives. The moves are NOT obvious and at that point most people are starting to get a little worried as the exposure plays a big part in how you are thinking at this point. You feel like you are 700 ft in the air.

Yes, I am big. In the day, 185-195 lbs, 6-2". I never met a climber who had hands as large as mine, not even LLoyd Price. But the curse was that my fingers are huge also and climbs with thin cracks usually were hideous for me. Thankfully I was also really strong, could do a dead-hang one-arm pullup (1 rep only) on either arm even weighing that much. Guys much stronger than Largo and I usually had gymnast backgrounds and couldn't seem to get with climbing thinking. Richie Goldstone, truly the strongest climber I have EVER seen, actually had a continually hard time in the Valley, even though we all liked him so very much. But I guess Sharma is the first I have seen that is stronger strength/weight ratio-wise. Richie could sustain front levers and iron crosses on the rings he had set up, and did all these floor exercises that displayed a level of power that seemed only fabled. And then he would get spanked on 5.8 and 5.9 cracks sometimes. So, irregardless of some of one's attributes, climbing comes more from the mind than we usually realize. Tunnel Vision is the real enemy .

But right Melissa, there is no relationship between what is a fist crack for me and what it is for you . But you will get even if we are doing 1/2" to 3/4" cracks, as my fingers are more like 1" and stuff can actually be unclimbable. Lynn's thing on the Great Roof is the final laugh at the rest of us, talking about size. With huge thin-crack craze that swept the Valley around 1974-1980, I had to kind of crawl over to the sidelines.

best to you, PH

Trad climber
the south
May 21, 2006 - 05:09pm PT
HAHA, you are all big to me!!

At my favorite climbing weight, I weigh 132, 5'10". I could actually weigh about 128 but that would be pushing it. Will fit in most things. Little fingers. I get perfect ring jams and thumb cams where you big handed guys get misery.

On the other hand, your fun fist crack or even decent hand jam is my fvcking nightmare, hahaha!

Most of the time I go with, "Light Makes Right", hehe.

This does make it hard to belay my 235 pound counterweight sometimes.
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 21, 2006 - 06:22pm PT
Hey Ed, I think it is great that you climbed Peter Pan and seem to be generating some interest in the climb. I think it is one of the best in the Valley at its grade and it should be on everyone’s list. I also like hearing Peter's comments about Peter Pan and also Peter Left. (Hey Peter, I know how you must have felt to have Kim and Mead climb the right side without you after you cleaned it out--similar things have happened to me—different climbers.)

I always climbed the crux of Peter Pan the second way Peter describes it without draping my leg over the top, but by dinking around with small foot holds and finger jams behind the flake. Ed Drummond and I climbed it the last time I did it, so that Ed could learn something about Valley off width-squeeze chimneys. As I remember he cruised right up it.

Hey Ryan, cute picture of me and Dave in our alter egos of Smee and Captain Hook. How did you know that we worked at Disney land? We tried to keep that quite.

'Lost Boys' and 'Smee's Come On' don't have much to recommend them I am afraid. Dave and I sort of scoped out both of those corners from afar and then went up and tried to find the bottoms of both of them. If I remember correctly, they both start after climbing blocky, vegetated corners--sort of approach pitches.

I think 'Lost Boys' may end on something that allows a traverse left to more of the same near the bottom of the start of Wendy or Peter Pan--not so sure anymore.

'Smee's Come On', which ends at the bottom of the Windy chimney, is more distinct. However it also has an approach pitch on the buttress rock. The main corner is the last corner before the large expanse of slabs that runs across to the Dihedral Wall. It has a nice exposure to it. The 'Smee's Come On' corner angles off to the right and forms a roof but because the main wall is relatively low angle it is not desperate. However, the climbing up this leaning corner is awkward and the rock on the face is not so good--the rock under the corner is protected from the weather and is scaly. Nothing washes it off.

At the end of the leaning corner, that has turned into a roof, is a vertical, right facing corner with a nice finger crack. I would guess that about 15-20 feet of laybacking and thin jams get you to the large ledge at the base of Wendy. That short little section is the best part of the climb.

I don't think I know of anyone who did a subsequent ascent. I have no idea who rated it. I was surprised to see it in George's guide when it came out.

I think that there is also a direct start or something to get to Wendy--a very nice straight in crack at 5.9. It is long step to get into it, but very nice. (I would be more precise, but I don't have a guide book with me.) I would add this is a list of climbs in that area to do.

Nice thread.

Best, Roger
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
May 21, 2006 - 07:02pm PT
Nice to meet you guys!

Just chillin' and drinkin' and stayin' dry. It's supposed to rain today and tomorrow, then be dry. Guess we'll head back up then.

May 21, 2006 - 08:00pm PT
Messages 1 - 20 of total 51 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta