Trip Report
Narrow Escape
Tuesday November 5, 2013 3:15pm
After trashing on 7 hours hike in search of Balch camp Flake and retreat from there without climbing- Chris and I went for Yosemite and spent next day recovering at Arch Rock. Still having unusable set of huge cams in the trunk force me to think what to do with them. "Narrow Escape" - brilliant idea for short day we planned on Sunday and topo show's that 10c crux section is 9 inches.
This is Peter Haan's climb was done in early 70th and I remember he mentioned on forum that climb is good and has short 10 min approach and never crowded. He and Jim Bridwell climbed it and than walked down via 5.6 chimney.
We parked at the cliffside unpaved turnout just after Parkline parking and just before prominent prow of rock which overhangs the road and looks like a head of crocodile. While we were racking up at the parking, big track park just behind us. Never seen anyone before on this turnout. I was sure it was my worst nightmare - other climbers going to run for Narrow Escape before us. So I probably was staring at the man at the wheel not very friendly until he exit from the car with fishing poles, ox, ha , now I can smile , and relax.
Approach was not 10 min, but more like 40 min, but after Balch Flake it is nothing. The route was looking very easy and short ( deceptively) and I can not believe it rated 10c. Is this a right climb? But it is -since Desperate Kneed was very recognizable and just left from it.
I had huge double rack of #4, #5 #6 and one VG9, but I can not see from the bottom of the climb where I can use any of those pieces. I think even VG#12 would be too small. Anyway I took 20 pounds of gear just in case ( weight training) and took off.
I was thinking I will be inside from the start most of the way, but in fact I was not able to place gear first 25 feet until I managed to get deep into chimney
Now I can see the climb better. It turned out that from the bottom you can not really see what you going to climb. When I get in- I placed my first piece, than I took helmet off and placed my second and third pieces, all tree one feet from each other. All of them was bomber, so with same effect you can go on this climb with just one #5. It is it, nothing more you can place. Than you have to go outside again and climb crux chiken-winging 10 feet until you get back into ever widening chimney for 40 feet. Climb is definitely harder than it looks. It is probably easier than 10c with my body size, but it is committing. It about 90 feet and with only one place where you can unload the pro.
On the upper sections you can place small gear in the flakes, but they probably not hold even small fall.
With a lot of lichen, no slings, and no bolts it felt like obscure climb despite you can see cars running hw 140 below.
And I like the name of the climb. You can get the name after you climb the route and if your chest width is 9 inch or bigger.
Chris squeeze In at around 7 inches - so "Narrow Escape" has no sense to her and felt like 5.8

Would I return there? I do not know. Probably to climb "A Desperate Kneed" which is looking good and where you can really use all your big gear.

just before the crux
just before the crux
Credit: Alexey

past the crux but still 45 feet to go into 5.8 chimney ( you can n...
past the crux but still 45 feet to go into 5.8 chimney ( you can not see the rest of the route from the bottom)
Credit: Alexey

Credit: Alexey

  Trip Report Views: 1,973
About the Author
Alexey is a trad climber from San Jose, CA.

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Nor Cal
  Nov 5, 2013 - 03:35pm PT
bump for the wide and way to get after it.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Nov 5, 2013 - 03:56pm PT
Cool. I have been to the base of this when checking for the guidebook, but did not climb anything.
Narrow Escape looked like 30' of climbing, plus the easier upper chimney.

How did you get down? Rap from a sling on a tree, or hike off to the right?

The 5.12 looks nice also - very overhanging but fairly short (30').

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Nov 5, 2013 - 04:12pm PT
Nice! I look forward to meeting you at the Balchfest.

scuffy b

heading slowly NNW
  Nov 5, 2013 - 04:26pm PT
Good going, Alexey.
This must be rarely climbed.
I think "Narrow Escape" may also refer to climbing the crux with no
protection: only bongs available at the time of the first ascent.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Nov 5, 2013 - 07:48pm PT
Nice! I'd never heard of this one.

Sport climber
Made in California, living in The Old Pueblo
  Nov 5, 2013 - 08:25pm PT
With your description at the start, it's like being there, looking up... and wondering.

Nice TR.


Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Nov 5, 2013 - 09:39pm PT
Thanks Alexey! highly evocative. 'Head of dinosaur' that near 'Sleeve of Wizard'?
Peter Haan

Trad climber
  Nov 5, 2013 - 10:18pm PT
Thanks for the TR, Alexey. That whole little complex of three short routes up there is pretty unique and obviously mostly unclimbed decade after decade. But they should be climbed as they are in a good area for spring season and light storms upper valley. Much warmer.

Actually that's why we did that climb in April 1971. Climbing season was just starting but it was crappy weather upper valley and had been for quite a long time. A difficult and disappointing start to the season. Narrow Escape was Bridwell's superb name for it afterwards. It was the first route on that whole outcropping. Jim and Klemens hadn't noticed the possibilities up there. The two other routes there were done 9 and 10 years later and are much harder.

I lead it and Bridwell and Klemens followed it with little problem. For me the challenge leading it was protection and that the crux was quite wet. Exiting over the lip of the overhang in that situation was pretty awe-inspiring, I have to say, it was very close to the ground. I think I had one bong in quite far down as I did the hardest moves with water running down the right side of the crack's face and edge; it's left side in. As the years went by, I never heard of anyone doing the route.

Boulder climber
  Nov 5, 2013 - 10:15pm PT
I used to commute to the valley, and my eye was always drawn up to that formation/ crack.

  Nov 5, 2013 - 10:56pm PT
I did em both with Yabo, Narrow Escape and the Desperate Kneed.

Good stuff Alexey and Peter ......


Oakland, CA
  Nov 6, 2013 - 02:57am PT
Nice Alexey. Very nice.

Trad climber
Washington DC
  Nov 6, 2013 - 09:02am PT
Really cool. Looked at that cliff for years on the way into the Valley. Never did go up there. How did that little 5.12 crack look?

Trad climber
  Nov 8, 2013 - 07:14pm PT
cool shots alexey, and always like hearing your stories. thanks

Gym climber
  Nov 8, 2013 - 08:08pm PT
That is one solid-looking plug! Always wondered about it, and yeah, the 5.12 crack.

Tell us more when you nail the Desperate Kneed!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Nov 8, 2013 - 08:16pm PT
The 5.12 crack looks fairly nice.
Fingers to thin hand, 15 degrees overhanging, 30' high.

Mountain climber
Draperderr, Utah
  Nov 9, 2013 - 12:36pm PT
Cool! Thanks for posting. Another one to add to the wide tick list . . . :-)

San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 9, 2013 - 07:47pm PT
thanks everyone for replays and feedback

How did you get down? Rap from a sling on a tree, or hike off to the right?
we rap from the tree to the west side

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Nov 9, 2013 - 08:05pm PT
Nicely done Alexey! Go wide or go!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Nov 9, 2013 - 08:07pm PT
Nice , I've never been in yo the wide my self, but cool!!!!
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