Despite having hundreds of bolted sport routes, I've been wanting to explore some of the traditional routes at Massacre Rocks and finally took some time to make it happen yesterday. I've always preferred the Main Wall and Owl Cove to the other areas at Massacre; mainly due to the fact that the routes are much longer. "Back in the day" this is where the action was when things first got started with route development. Despite some really awesome homemade hardware for anchors, the routes are super good. I had hopes that the traditional routes would hold the same value to me. I've explored the sport routes at Massacre for a decade and a half, but until recently, never thought twice about plugging in gear.
We started with Chorus Line 5.8 a which was given three stars in the guide and likely the easiest route on the main wall. The highlight of the route was a super fun chimney that you tunneled into and exited from the top onto a pedestal before continuing up a nice open book to the top of the cliff. 110 feet of super fun climbing that ate up gear. The bad thing about this route and others we'd come to find out throughout the day is the absence of top anchors. Chorus Line had a fifthly start with some loose blocks (one the size of a small coffee table which we trundled!) but was clean the majority of the route. The guide called this a "good date route" which i would have to agree other than there are no anchors. We were able to utilize the anchors for a sport route next to the climb, but was somewhat uncomfortable! After Chorus Line i tried my luck at Swing Dancing 5.11a This route was bold and spicy through the crux and required some small nuts and TCU's for the crux thin finger crack.
We moved on to If you ain't pro'n it, you're blow'n it 5.9 which had a really cool looking roof crux near the top. This route was like climbing through a poop chute for owls, pigeons, and bats. The first half of the route was disgusting, and the last half was brilliant; offering sweet hand to thin hand jamming up to the roof. The crux was stout for 5.9 and sporty and felt as hard as the McCarthy West Face Free Variation 5.10b on Devils Tower! A 5.9+ rating isn't out of the question for this route. I don't know if I'd go back to repeat this route as the filthy mid section was pretty bad and the fact that there are no anchors on top of this route either.
One route that stands out from our day of widget climbing was Twist and Shout 5.10c. This route offered great finger locks, stemming (Princess Christine would be proud of my stemming!! http://www.christinebalaz.blogspot.com/ ) and anchors at the top of the route!
This is the first of what will be a great way to spend time at Massacre. I learned a few things too. A key piece of gear for trad routes at Massacre is a drill and a bag full of top anchors! I noticed a slew of really great looking crack climbs that will only be made better with the establishment of lower off anchors!
Some say "Trad is Rad" and some say otherwise. I say, if you're bored of the same old Massacre Rocks, pack the rack and leave your quickdraws in the bag. You'll find that 5.11 is a completely different game on widgets and likely safer than clipping some of the less than adequate fixed hardware! Give'r a go, you'll likelyhave a good time... or at least an adventure!