Fun to read others reviews and reliving my memories of this in the early 80's as well. I lead the intimidating first pitch and recall my partner Ken getting up under the roof and asking, "Which way did you face on this?" I do remember figuring out that I had to turn around, opposite side in, to turn the roof and it being a runout, flaring, cupped hands trough above (btw, I placed a cam under the roof with a long sling and didn't run into any problems). But, I must have done everything right for I remember feeling pretty confident as I ran it out placing only one or two wired stoppers above to the belay. Some days are like that, others aren't! After reaching the belay Ken said,"Good job on that pitch, that must have been desperate on the lead!" Fun memories, thank God!
This is my favorite route on my favorite cliff. All of the routes on Arch are high quality. Super Topo says Gripper is a step up in difficulty from Midterm (which sees more traffic). I disagree with this- Midterm is a water polished, super slick sandbag at the measely 10b rating they give it, and it requires mandatory off-width and squeeze chimney skills...The first time I went to Arch back in nineteen-never-mind we hand to carry a guy down who fell off this sandbag pitch and broke his tailbone... but that's another story...
Gripper, on the other hand, is an excellent route for the aspiring 5.10 leader. The first pitch has at least 4 separate cruxes. The good news is there are good rests between all of them. Start up right side in. Use a combination of chimney and jamming techniques. There is a good thin crack on your left to place pro and jam with your left hand while your right hand gets good cup jams in the main crack. This first section is steep and in your face and I feel it is really 5.10. There is a good rest before the short 5.9 off-width section. Place a #3 blue camalot here to protect the next section. This the largest gear you'll need for the entire climb unless you absolutely have to have gear in front of your face for the few OW moves which are straight-foward as long as you use your feet well (bring 2 blue camalots or equivalent- you'll want them for the second pitch corner and the third pitch finish unless you are comfortable running it out on 3" cup jams). Continue up the flared chinmey right side in using the perfect hands crack in the back. Once you reach the roof, turn around and face the other way- there are good footholds on the face to help you do this. Resist the temptation to place gear way in the back of the chimney or under the roof- the rope will get stuck! Not that this has EVER happened to me... I saw a documentary... If you place something there, take it back out after you place gear over the roof off of the next airy rest. Don't miss the knob out on the left arete of the chimney for your left foot before you fire the crux- stemming off this eliminates a hard move. The crux involves thin hands jamming with your right foot haplessly smearing out on the face and your left foot trying to high step above the roof into the corner crack to torque and smear there. After about three moves you'll grab a thank God knob. You can either place gear or suck it up and do one more thin crack move to stand up on this for a rest. The Lost Arrow peg in the horizontal crack above was already old in '83 when I first clipped it but I still use it. You don't have to- there is good pro to be had there. There is one more hard move past the pin (fingers). I'll let you in on a little secret hold- about 2 feet above the pin out on the left arete...
I've always done the route in three pitches, belaying at a comfortable stance past the 5.7 traverse directly below the awesome third pitch crack. If you do this, you will have to bring extra 2", 2.5" cams (gold camalots) because unfortunately that's what the belay takes so rack accordingly- keep in mind you'll probably want two golds for the crack above as well...unless you like running out perfect hands feeling like you are a climbing god!
One last thing, if I haven't already ruined it for you with too much beta...Be a man, do the walk-off! Ha Ha Ha!!! Seriously, a bit of walking would be good for ya'll climbers.
Despite the wide cracks, you can do this without really big gear, although I did find a hole for the #5 friend somewhere up high. We did the climb in two pitches, but we had double ropes so the traverse didn't cause us any problems.
I would have liked to have had at least one more #3 camalot, or a 3.5 camalot for the long fist crack. I had to walk a friend a good way because it's a long crack that won't take anything smaller. I think part of my trouble was that I left the 3.5 as pro for the mini pitch up to the ledge before the traverse, since we linked 'em. If I'd have had that piece on the fist crack I would have felt much more comfortable protection wise. I bonked pretty good and had to shamefully hang on this great crack. Would definitely like to go back and get it clean.
First pitch is burly, expect to get spanked. Don't make the same mistake I made on the 3rd pitch. I left a #2 camalot at the belay and placed my #3 early on. Careful review of the supertopo would have shown me that the hand crack widens to fist at the top. You won't be placing anything smaller than a #1 anywwhere on the pitch. Now I know why it's called Gripper!
You can link the first two pitches, and belay at a nice
comfy ledge instead of the tree, with a 60m rope if you
start on top of the boulders at the base of the climb.
I think a #4 camalot is overkill for the top pitch (I
didn't use anything larger than a #3 cam on the whole
climb), but YMMV.
You can rap down with 2 50m ropes, or do the ugly
scramble/walkoff. The upper rap station could do with
a bit of improvement - I left a 'biner up there on 5-10,
but I'm sure someone will take it before long. The slings
on the lower of the two trees at the top are a bit rotten,
and are lacking a rap ring. The upper tree has a long piece
of webbing with a rap ring knotted into it (the webbing is
not looped through the ring) which is in reasonable condition.
Another classic route that some folks don't always appreciate because of it's chimney and wide cracks.
On the first pitch there is a casual rest below the roof and a nice little stance once you turn the roof to the right. That's where you want to place a piece and fire for the next rest, a knob on the face around 10-15 feet higher, place another piece there and you're good.
The third pitch is classic but bring a couple #4 camalots and save em for the end of the pitch.
Photo: Chris McNamara
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