Sweet Jesus, 5.9+


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Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - May 22, 2007 - 10:15am PT
Just did "Sweet Jesus" on Sunday with my good friend Bruce. I'd never done it before and thought it would be a good "warm-up" climb to get used to Tuolumne again...

Hats off to Tom Higgins and Chris Vandiver! Whew....one of the stoutest 5.9 climbs I've ever done. Bolts are all shiny new replacements with ASCA stamps.

I couldn't even tell if I was on route in some spots cuz you can't see the next bolt in many places. The new Reid guidebook was wrong about the third pitch belay as well.

Anybody got some cool photos of this TM classic? I could only find one pic on Tom Higgins' website...cheers, jb


right here, right now
May 22, 2007 - 11:16am PT
Did you do the One Toke Over the Line direct variation on the upper pitch instead of the long traverse out left?

That picture of Vandiver on Higgins' site captures the feel of the route.


Trad climber
Knob Central
May 22, 2007 - 11:28am PT
Where's Sweet Jesus?

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
May 22, 2007 - 11:50am PT
Imagine doing Sweet Jesus or any number of routes in Tuolumne or at Suicide in Kronhoeffers, that hard rubber, as opposed to having the high powered sticky rubber climbers are at an advantage to enjoy now. I can't imagine some of those down-sloping knobs we got Kronhoeffers and Cortinas and Spiders to edge on (we didn't have much friction or sticking power with those shoes). I remember first trying a route in Tuolumne with the new Fire shoes, and I literally could walk up things that were borderline desperate for me before. This is not to take anything away from today's great climbers, rather just to remind the new spirits that some of the old guard were pretty capable and bold. My often-partner Higgins always wore those custom glued Kronhoeffers, where he expoxied the inside upper leather to make it a little stiffer. Still, that rubber was stone age... compared to now. Taking it back to a time before Kronhoeffers, imagine again the earlier shoewear. Kronhoeffers were the amazing state of the art when they came out... and really allowed for some harder climbing. They say the shoe doesn't make the climber, and I guess I fundamentally agree, but a good shoe certainly does help.


Social climber
May 22, 2007 - 12:06pm PT
I did (or tried) to do that route in '83 with Kevin Fosburg. I was unable to pull the moves and had to batman up the rope to the bolts. Kevin fell at the crux once or twice. I remember him saying that he liked to be in the lead because it made him climb harder. What a great attitude!
Is that on medlicott dome? Seems to me there were some stout routes in that area

More Air

Big Wall climber
May 22, 2007 - 12:10pm PT
I remember backing off of Sweet Jesus back in the 70's...just too runnout. Sure looked like a good line though.

Gym climber
May 22, 2007 - 12:37pm PT
One time while I was wearing EBs, by buddy yelled:
"You've finally found a friend in Sweet Jesus!!"

We rapped shortly after.

Trad climber
fremont. ca
May 22, 2007 - 01:10pm PT
I made the "good warm up" mistake a couple of years ago, before shiny bolts (BSB)
It was real 5.9 back when 5.9 was something, hard and scary for leader and follower.
The Reid guide has an extra belay. The Alan Nelson guide has a good topo of this climb. You can Lead pitches 3 and 4 (Reid 3,4 and 5) as one. When you are at the top of the second pitch you wonder if Yabo's variation is less run out. Did 'One Toke Over The Line' get some big shiny bolts.

John Vawter

Social climber
San Diego
May 22, 2007 - 01:23pm PT
I've done it twice, with ('84) and without ('74) the Toke variation. I have to say that I like the original route much better. The third (IIRC) pitch is killer, and that's the one you miss if you take the variation. It wanders gracefully out to the left, up, then back right, on steep knobs and is more in keeping with the rest of the route: runout. In fact, I skipped a bolt on the variation because it was more trouble to clip it than it was worth. I felt a little cheated even. Kind of like the difference between Piece of Grass (full value), and Golden Bars (just another steep face), where the bragging rights go to the climb with the lower rating.

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 22, 2007 - 01:49pm PT
nboles - You're right, I ended up combining pitch 3,4, & 5 (in the brand new Reid guidebook) into one to get to the ledge in the dihedral.

John Vawter - For sure pitch three is the classic - no bargain for the follower either...if they fall after the second crux, there's a hefty pendulum to be had. One Toke looked good too, but I wanted to do the classic route. A long time ago, I always wanted to on-sight solo it - glad I didn't!

Oli - Glad I had sticky rubber. When I was at the crux, I was thinking about the shoes they must have been wearing - then I felt a little better...5.9+, yeah!

There was even a 'poot' biner on the second bolt of the first pitch..I can see why - from there you can't even see the third bolt yet! Oh yeah, the third bolt is now a rap station??? That kind of threw me off a little. I thought it was a belay station for a while, then I kept going (and going, and going) until I got to the real 1st belay. Was that originally a rap station on the first ascent??

Truckee, CA
May 22, 2007 - 02:01pm PT
Tried to lead the first pitch when I was 14 years old, backed down sensibly. Imagine that route in the context of few other steep lines in that area, and so improbable looking, mid 70's. The next route to the left was Shambles, and that was put years after Sweet Jesus. Grew to appreciate it a few times as a special route for special clients, (witht the One Toke variation) and did it with Tarbuster once I recall.


portland, Oregon
May 22, 2007 - 02:08pm PT
I have great memories of doing it back in 76' with Shawn(rip) and Pope. Perfect sunny day, everyone was climbing well and it went down real smooth. We even did the One Toke variation. Shawn had lots of good photos, not sure where they went. Last year, watched some kids do the first pitch after failing on the 10b pitch of Ciebola, man I was gripped watching them, old bolts and shakey sixteen year olds. Yikes. Glad the bolts were replaced.

Isolated in El Portal and loving it
May 22, 2007 - 02:14pm PT
Protection aside, does Sweet Jesus feel harder than Cibola?

Mountain climber
Anchorage, AK
May 22, 2007 - 02:24pm PT
Did Sweet Jesus the summer Mountain magazine came out with a Tuolumne guide, I think it was in 1977 or 78? My first trip to Tuolumne. After climbing Sweet Jesus we sought out many of the Higgin’s routes. Another of his routes I remember was Fairest of All on Fairview, I remember a pitch on Fairest with a long runout only to get to a ˝ in spinning bolt to add to the pucker factor. Tuolumne is just awesome, will be going back this summer for the first time in 15 years.

'cross the great divide
May 22, 2007 - 02:52pm PT
This morning, while reading the thread about the folks looking for someone to lead them up Snake Dike, I was thinking that the Internet has had an amazing (and often very strange) effect on the communication of all things climbing. After reading this thread I am really in awe.

We have MR. Bachar, who is truly one of the giants of our obsession, "speaking" on this thread in a way far more mortal than I ever could have guessed he would speak. (You've been one of my heros for 25 years.) We have MR. Ament "speaking" of what climbing was like at a time before many of us (not me) were even born. I cannot imagine climbing a run-out Tuolomne route in the shoes he described. (They seem to be plenty challenging with modern rubber.)

By the way, Eldorado is another traditional area where a rating of 5.9+ can be translated into . . . .buyer beware.

Trad climber
May 22, 2007 - 04:30pm PT
I want to hear more about this climb.


Gym climber
May 22, 2007 - 04:35pm PT
No, the third was not a rap. Party foul.

right here, right now
May 22, 2007 - 05:24pm PT
My first time up it, with Eric Erickson & Craig Fry, early summer of of '80, we arrived at Yabo's One Toke variation and it was my lead. I had sworn off weed, like really made a good run at it, like hadn't toked for a WHOLE two weeks. Eric demanded that if I were to get lead rights on the pitch, that I was absolutely required to suck down a solid inch off the skunk bud spliff he'd just rolled, so that's what I did and and up over the line I went.

Another goofy ascent was with Maysho in '87. Peter, you might remember, maybe it was as two parties of two with Shelley & Helga; well there was somethin' funny going on there with our rope skills on pitch one, like simul leading to make use of the waning afternoon light, and bolt sharing? I remember the girls didn't approve...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 22, 2007 - 09:05pm PT
Oli- the amount of concentration, grit and drive needed to establish bold face routes pre-EB's has always been a source of inspiration. Back when it was tricky rubber so much more attention to foot position and weight distribution was needed to avoid calamity. The Meadows was a perfect proving ground, not so much lichen and grunge on those gleaming slabs. My footwork has always benefitted from starting out in stiffer shoes. Blue RR's, a blue Mammut 11 mil rope and a blue Joe Brown brainbucket. Into the blue.

Cat's Paw Brand rubber ring a bell as a popular option/upgrade?

Glad to hear the spice is still in clean slab religion.

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 22, 2007 - 09:07pm PT
Yes, I think the ASCA changed the third single bolt on the first pitch into a double bolt rap station for some reason. Greg, what's the scoop?
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