Kearney-Thomas, Big Kangaroo III 5.11b or 5.10b C1


Washington Pass, Washington, USA

  • Currently 4.0/5
Avg time to climb route: 4-7 hours
Approach time: 3-4 hours
Descent time: 3-4 hours
Number of pitches: 8
Height of route: 900'
The Kearney-Thomas is a good, albeit slightly burly, climb on one of the sweetest features in the Washington Pass region. The South Face of Big Kangaroo, one of the larger walls in the area, is steep, sunny, and clean. You canít see a road or hear a car while on the wall, which gives it a very remote feel and adds to the alpine flavor.
The Kearney-Thomas is a modern adventure climb with many quality pitches. There are only a few loose sections and these are all lower down on the route. One of the warmer walls in the area, this route dries extremely fast after a storm; is one of the earliest rock climbs to come into shape in the spring and one of the last climbable features in the fall. When there is snow sitting on ledges on north faces, you can often still climb on the South Face of Big Kangaroo in a T-shirt. It is similar in warmth to the South Face of South Early Winters Spire.
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Route History
The Kearney-Thomas was first climbed by Alan Kearney and Jeff Thomas in August 1984. Kearney had convinced Jeff Thomas and his father Bill Thomas to join him on a two-day trip to the South Face of Big Kangaroo. After a long approach, they reached their camp near the base of the South Face around 4 pm. Bill and Alan were tired, but Jeff was feeling extremely motivated. He pointed out that the long summer days would allow them to do one route that afternoon and a second the following day. Bill agreed to climb the next day but stayed in camp that afternoon. He said that they better not have an epic and get caught out or lost in the dark. Jeff wanted to try the obvious corner system on right-hand side of the face, and the promising looking cracks above. Without further discussion, Kearney and Jeff set off, going extremely light, with no extra clothing, food or even a headlamp, intending to climb fast enough to make it back before dark. Alan did sneak a lighter and some bug spray into his pocket, items he considered essential for survival.

The pair quickly scrambled up the low 5th class terrain to where the wall turned steeper and they worked their way into the corner they had eyed from below. The corner wasnít a hand crack or finger crack as they had hoped, but a full body chimney shrinking to fists near the top. Kearney made quick work of this challenging pitch, especially impressive given how far he had to run it out between placements as they had few larger pieces in their rack. Jeff took the next lead, up around the corner and up a crack to a large belay ledge. Kearney led the next pitch which involved stemming up a flaring slot, while Jeff tossed down boulders, hoping to make the route safer for the next party. Jeff ís next pitch was a difficult .75-1Ē crack in the back of a left- facing corner, too big for fingers and too small for hands. Aware of the hour of the day, he free climbed most of this pitch but pulled on gear to save time. Kearney freed this pitch on top rope, climbing as quickly as he could in the now fading light.
After another pitch, the pair was confronted with a small roof which Jeff quickly aided around the left side. The pair climbed the final, moderate pitch in the dark.

The two struggled down the talus field in the dark, trying to find their way back to the col, so they could descend into camp. At 11 pm, Kearney and Jeff walked into camp and awoke Jeff ís father. Kearney had had doubts about their climb throughout the afternoon, but the experience gave him valuable skills that he would go on to use in default first ascents in remote ranges around the world.

Other History
This route was free climbed on June 30, 2007 by Eric Wehrly and Ross Peritore on their second attempt. It is possible there was a previous first free ascent.

If the south face of Big Kangaroo faced the highway, it would no doubt be as popular as other similarly sized walls in the area, such as the south face of South Early Winters Spire or the east face of Lexington. As it is, crowds are unlikely even on a busy weekend.

The Kearney-Thomas is a modern classic and a great route for solid 5.10 climbers to push themselves into the 5.11 realm. The 5.11 cruxes are well-protected and you can easily pull through the hardest sections on gear. There are some small runouts on 5.10a and easier terrain so climbers attempting this route should be solid at the grade.

The route has a mellow Pitch 1 with lots of scrambling and low 5th class climbing up a ramp. There are a few loose blocks stacked on this ramp. ...   [full history for SuperTopo members only!]

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Source: SuperTopo Guidebook Staff
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Photo: Ian Nicholson
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