Every now and then, I run across a route that challenges me to the near-fullest.
I can think of more than a dozen free routes that I have done that compare to SBA in terms of difficulty and length. A few come to mind: Sunshine on Snowpatch, Scenic Cruise in the Black Canyon, and The Passenger on SEW Spire are in the same league. The league or 2 above these routes would be the Nose on El Cap. Hard, classic, and exhausting climbing from start to finish, nearly every pitch must be taken seriously. In this case we did 13 pitches of outstanding crack climbing up the Southeast Face of Les Cornes, this on our second attempt. The route must be started by doing the the first 3 pitches via the Sprungc_ock Erect start. That makes it a full day of steep fun. Easily one of my favorite routes of all time.
We thought we were going fast until it went dark getting back to the car, and then Seattle @ 12:30am monday. I would suggest being on strong rock-climbing shape when considering this gem.
Even with the mosquitos, we were happy that we bivied in the talus 400m below the route. The approach is easier, I am sure, in the light of day. We found the way though the alder, and once it got too thick on the road, we headed to the right, up through nice big tree ridge easily spotting the next flagging and cairns.
On climb day we got up at 5 am and on route at 7, topped put @ 3:30pm. The pitches take some time to figure out and the route finding is weird only in a couple of places. The most difficult place to find is the 5.8 hand traverse. It is preposterous at 1st glance. It goes around the left side of the ridge. We tried a couple of off route alternatives, and I had to back off a 5.11 crack on one of my new stoppers. The climbing is spectacular almost the whole way. If it is hot, fill at least 2 q./person of water, as the route bakes in the sun.
The crux move is hard, but easy to pull around on a fixed stopper. There is lots of good beta on the route online, Here are a few, thanks to Jesse and Lane:
Thanks again to Jim at Pro Mountain Sports for helping build the big rack needed for this route.