9.16.2019

Miracle Whip Topo

With buddies Mike Pond and Austin Siadak I recently scrubbed, reconnoitered, and made a free ascent of the headwall pitch atop the "Miracle Whip" route on Colchuck Balanced Rock, which finishes a line first attempted by myself and Scott Bennett 7 (wow!) years ago. After freeing the first few moderate pitches quickly ground up (2 are good, 2 are forgettable, it's all a bit scruffy) I took an enormous fall while standing on a pillar trying to build a belay. I ripped out a cam in some grainy rock and badly hurt my ankle.

A couple summers ago I went back up there with Max Tepfer and we reclimbed the lower pitches and placed a couple bolts below the crux section of the headwall (Scott and I certainly would have been shut down in this section on our attempt even in full aid mode, as we had only cams and nuts) but neither Max nor I freeclimbed the headwall. I believe I only tried TRing it, and failed.

A couple weeks ago I returned for a day trip with friends Mike Pond and Austin Siadak, who both helped scrub and brush and chalk and prep the top of the wall, and we hammered in a 3rd protection bolt at the crux plus one at the pedestal belay under the headwall where a small stance exists a couple feet left of a crack.

I redpointed the pitch (though there were 2 in-situ pieces of gear stuck in from our cleaning/bolting/rappel directionalizing.) Overall we all agreed it's possibly the best single pitch in the Enchantments, with a very sport climbing or endurance-based feel to it. Take care to sling out your gear and manage pump and rope drag. There no single killer crux if you're at least 5'8", it's just an unusual style for the mountains. The gear-protected climbing is probably .12a or so, and the crux comes after a 3- bolt long boulder problem near the top.

For the headwall in particular (which realistically is the reason to do the climb) I'd suggest triples (even 4 or 5 wouldn't go unused) of yellow aliens and/or stoppers in the #9 BD range, and nothing larger than a #1 camalot. Both obvious flakes seem quite stable and were pulled on, kicked, and knocked with a hammer. There's currently at least a fixed nut anchor both above and below the headwall pitch. For a good challenge, and certainly the hardest route in the area, it would be possible to start via The Tempest P1,P2,P3 into the Miracle Whip finish. This contrived combination would feature 2 memorable hard 5.12  pitches of very very different styles. I suspect if it does see traffic it will mostly be via the first couple hundred feet of the West Face which would be a very fast and clean approach allowing for quick access via pleasant warmup.