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Peak(s):  Ham Rock - 5,460 feet
Post Date:  03/26/2012
Date Climbed:   03/24/2012
Posted By:  Furthermore

 A Return to Ham Rock    

Ham Rock 5,460

March 24, 2012
~.6 Miles, ~400 Gain (2 times)
Route: FA of Grumpies 5.8+ PG13.
Trailhead: First or second pullout west of the Garden of Eden parking area.


Since my first attempt on Ham Rock on March 2nd, I was itchin' to get back for some revenge. Little did I know what secrets Ham Rock still held.

Attempt #2
It's day 3 of our trip and things are not going well. Everything we tried up to the afternoon was a failure. That's ok, we had 2 great days prior and Ham Rock should be a walk in the park. We pack our gear and started up the familiar beginning of Ham Rock. We walked west of the saddle between the Ham and the summit and found our 5.3 slab with 2 bolts located on top, made a short class 4 slickrock headwall climb east of the saddle and then hiked west on a ledge to the crack just below the saddle. This was Jamie's 5th attempt of Ham Rock. Everything above the saddle was virgin territory for the both of us.

Class 4 slab before the saddle.

Upper bench before saddle.

Elephant Butte

The crack to the saddle was tricky climbing at a 5.8+ OW in a very narrow crack. Jamie led it. We gained the saddle and the views were great. We tried scouting a route from the base of the Ham proper but was still unsure of a route. From the saddle, I started up a slickrock ramp to the base of a crack. The first few moves from the saddle were super sandy and I slipped a few times even though it was just 2 moves of 5.0. Got to love Entrata sandstone. The wind didn't help.

5.8+ OW crack to gain the saddle.

Jamie in 5.8+ OW crack to gain the saddle.

Ham Rock proper summit.

The Ham Rock.

The Ham Rock.

Closeup of The Ham.

Ham Rock Summit from The Ham.

As I started climbing up the crack, I was worried there wasn't going to be any anchors at the top of the pitch. We only had 1 rope and I wanted to make sure I could down-climb the crack in case there were no anchors. Climbing up the crack went around 5.4 which I felt comfortable down climbing. The wind was picking up. Near the top of the second pitch, with only 30 feet of rope to spare, I could got a better view of what was ahead.

Without a doubt, we still had at least another pitch or two of climbing. No signs of anchors or previous ascents. With only 1 60M rope and no webbing, I was worried the descent was going to be problematic. I retreated back down the 5.4 crack to Jamie and left Ham rock. Sweet failure on everything but a quick successful lap on Owl Rock made things better.

Attempt #3
Ham Rock was bothering me. I knew a possible route and I couldn't wait to get back. The next day we left our camp and started our way up to the saddle between the summit and the Ham around 9:30 AM. This time we came with 3 60M ropes, one of which was going to be fixed, and plenty of webbing for bailing. At the saddle, I fixed a rope that could be jugged on either the north or south side of the saddle. We were unsure of possible rap options to the north side, the most feasible, but found a few options for a few raps down to a small bench on the south side. If we bailed to the south, we would need a fixed line to gain the saddle as the climbing would be overhanging featureless sandstone. Without a fixed line, a descent off of the south side would require 2-3 raps and several countless feet of webbing.

I made great time to the top of the second pitch since I was just there yesterday. Jamie quickly joined me and we made a quick walk down to the base of a thin unprotected but unexposed crack. My original thought was to climb up a low angle slickrock band from the top of pitch 2 and then traverse to the base of a prominent crack/chimney. The protection would have been better but the moves might have been harder and were certainly more exposed.

Wow, this unprotected crack at the start of the 3rd pitch was scary. Although the climbing was only 5.8, it was super sandy and almost every foot blew out. The best piece I could get was a completely flared cam. Definitely something I didn't want to fall on as it would only buffer my fall to the ground.

Unprotected 5.8 crack.

Now that the crack we behind me, I felt better. I set up an anchor at the base of a more prominent crack/chimney. (This next pitch could be easily combined with the pitch we just climbed.) From the base of the chimney, I continued in a chimney to a large boulder at the top. This was the money pitch. Although a bit sandy, which is to be expected on an unclimbed route, the climbing was quite enjoyable 5.6. The summit was near.

The summit 5.6 chimney pitch.

Looking up at the chimney.
Image #13 (not yet uploaded)

˝ way up the chimney pitch.

Summit from the top of the chimney.

Jamie heading up the chimney pitch.

From the boulder at the top our pitch 4, climbing was unexposed class 3 scrambling to the summit. A well earned summit. Looking around we found bolts on another sub-summit about 2 feet lower than the summit proper. Access to the bolts was not going to be easy as there was a 15 foot wide gap ranging from 30-80 feet deep.

The Summit.

Summit Panorama

Elephant Butte from the summit.

We returned to our boulder at the top of pitch 4, and slung a webbing anchor for a ~140 foot rappel off the north side to a bench which would easily take us back to the car. Fortunately, there was no need for the fixed line. I made the rappel and found a thin crack that was going to be problematic for a rope pull. Jamie came down and we carefully pulled our rope so our knot wouldn't get stuck in the crack. Once the rope was done, I went to go remove our fixed line.

The rappel off the north side.

The rappel off the north side.

We returned to the car at 1:30 with grins on a well earned summit. The secrets of Ham Rock have been uncovered.

Topo 1.

Topo 2.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions
Brian C

Very cool!     03/28/2012 14:34
Nice work gentlemen. I'll have to check this out next time I make it down to Arches.

PS - I don't think folks here get how cool this is.


Nice Work!     03/28/2012 16:06
Congrats getting the route! It was fun bumping into you guys right when you finished. Glad this trip was a lot better than last October.

Chicago Transplant

Great job!     03/28/2012 16:20
Glad you guys were able to find a round and summit this one. I know Jamie has wanted this one for years. I was with him when we were exploring this thing 2 years ago or so and got to the bottom of the 5.8+ OW and had to turn back. Its a cool formation!

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