Jason Haas, who’s working on a new guidebook to South Platte rock climbs, has just redpointed what’s likely the Platte’s hardest pitch, a roof seam that’s protected with removable pro and might be 5.14a. The new route, Comprometido, took about a year and a half to complete. Here, Haas tells the story.
While researching routes for the upcoming South Platte guidebook through Fixed Pin Publishing, I came across an old aid climb simply named A3 Route on Dome Rock, a few miles from the Cathedral Spires. The formation is similar to a mushroom, with a small stalk on the bottom leading up to a massively imposing roof that actually dips down at the lip, like a crashing wave, followed by a long slab to the summit. Working the route in summer was sketchy due to the deep, pushy river, which would dump you out 100 feet downstream from where you started, making you swim it with dry bags. The winter was heinous—not only was the river scary to cross when it was partly frozen, but also the rock faces north so it was an icebox. Fall was best, when the water was low enough to wade across at about thigh height.
Rob Pizem and I worked on the climb pretty solidly the first winter, and then on and off until this winter, when I started to get closer to sticking the crux move. I would sneak out there with various partners besides just Piz almost daily, because I knew that I needed 10 attempts for every one of his. The rivalry was extremely friendly, but it really fueled me to keep going when I thought the climb was too far over my head. Eventually I got close enough to sending that Piz backed off and let me have the line, which I am truly humbled by. I also am forever indebted to my fiancée, Erin Brassil, for going up there countless times with me and being willing to jug up to the hanging belay atop the first pitch and get slammed repeatedly into the anchor as I worked the moves.
The route starts with a left-trending crack and unprotected slab (5.8 R/X) to a hanging belay at a bolted anchor directly underneath the roof. From here, the second pitch traverses out the underbelly of the roof for 30 feet of horizontal climbing to that downward lip. It’s hard 5.12 or easy 5.13 jamming to get off the belay, and then there’s a V10 cross into a mono finger-lock, followed by an all-out dynamic campus/throw to a flat undercling. Hard compression leads to a hand-jam rest, then some really funky, unique cross-over jams get you to the lip. I updated the anchors at the start and end of this pitch with modern hardware, but no new bolts were added to the climb. I combined the last two pitches up the slab (5.9 X) as one 70-meter pitch, clipping a few rotting and bent quarter-inchers. These bolts were not updated (sorry!).
In terms of gear on the crux pitch, it was preplaced. I had to beat this route into submission, and one of the ways for me to do it was with preplaced gear. More than that, though, the gear fits like a jigsaw piece—the crux piece was an equalized black and blue Alien, each with only had three lobes engaged. If they pulled, you’d hit the slab below. I could have (and had at various attempts) placed all the other pieces on the pitch, but felt I had already “tainted” it with the preplaced Aliens, so why bother with the others?
On Saturday, February 6, I worked out on my hangboard at home in the morning, which was my training for the route: campus off the hangboard, cross into a mono climbing hold screwed into the roof of my back porch, stab at the support beam rafter. I did that for a while, and then we drove down to the Platte, me squeezing one of those rubber donut things to keep my hands warm. I went to the summit and rapped the 300 feet back to the base, brushing all the snow off the slab pitches. I then led the whole thing to the top on the first burn of the day—but like attempt number one million.
Piz is a better person at grading a route like this, and he called it 5.14a, so I’m going with that. The hardest routes I’ve done (all cracks) topped out at 5.13c, so I don’t really know, except I’m absolutely certain this route is way harder than those. It’s harder than Sphinx Crack, so it’s currently the hardest thing in the Platte, for sure. At the end of the day, I couldn’t care less how hard it is. I had a ton of fun working it with a good friend and going through the experience of going to the brink of my ability level and then pushing through to a whole new world of possibilities. I realize that sounds cliché, but, man, my eyes are open now. There are 5.13 and 5.14 cracks all over the Front Range just waiting to get done.
I’m naming the route Comprometido, which means committed. The drive to do this route reminds me of trying to put up new routes on big peaks in Peru (only this time without the broken leg and giardia). And that river was super-sketchy: In summer you fight the rapids and have to swim; in the fall the water is mind-numbingly cold, and talking a partner into stripping down to skivvies and wading across isn’t easy; and in the winter the ice can be really scary to cross. The day I sent the route we tied into ropes and crossed in snowshoes to displace our weight. Spring is out because the water is to high and cold, and the rock is cold to boot. Also, the route is not near any warm-up climbs, a gas station, cell-service, you name it. You commit your whole day by going to this thing, even though it’s only 300 yards from the road. Lastly, getting a partner to go suffer at a freezing hanging belay, let alone cross the river, really took some faith on my friends’ part. They were committed to me and the project even when I lost faith in sending, and the kept me going when I didn’t want to anymore.