Must-Do Moderates: Seven of Our Favorite 5.7 Climbs in Wyoming
“It’s only 5.7 – it can’t be that hard!” – Famous last words
In our experience guiding, there is no grade of climb that signifies a greater range of climbing styles, technical difficulties, and ego-destroying sandbaggery as the infamous 5.7. Sure, some modern 5.7s are veritable romps, but others happily eat overconfident double digit climbers for lunch. Despite the 5.7 grade being a rather inconsistent rating of how hard a rock climb will feel, it is a rather consistent rating of how good the climb will feel. It’s amazing how a disproportionate number of classic rock climbs in the state that we guide are rated 5.7.
Keeping the enigmatic nature of the 5.7 grade in mind, we’ve compiled a list of seven of our favorite 5.7 multipitch rock climbs that we guide all across the state of Wyoming. These range from very well known routes (one of the 50 Classic Climbs of North America) to more remote routes that get climbed only a handful of times per year, if that. Regardless of their notoriety, all of these climbs are exceptionally high quality and most deserve way more traffic than they receive.
1 – The Durrance Route (6-7 pitches) at Devils Tower National Monument
Known as the “easiest” way up Devils Tower, the Durrance Route is anything but easy. Originally graded 5.6 after the 1938 first ascent, the route is now given the only slightly less sandbagged 5.7+ grade. Pitch after pitch of technically demanding and physical wide crack climbing will challenge all who attempt the route, even more seasoned climbers who’d normally scoff at such a moderate grade. The route is a must-do for anyone who wants to climb the Tower, and it is certainly deserving of its status as one of the 50 Classic Climbs of North America.
2 – Five Stages of Reef (5 pitches) in the Upper Clarks Fork Valley, Cody
While the Durrance is climbed dozens of times per day, this route is only recently developed and has likely been climbed less than a dozen times since. That said, the Five Stages of Reef is destined to be an all-time classic for the grade given its great rock quality, wide variety of crack sizes, and incredible location overlooking the Upper Clarks Fork Valley northwest of Cody. The five pitches of the route all have splitter crack climbing on fine-grained granite. Each pitch has different sizes of cracks, ranging from hands to offwidths to fingers to interesting combinations of all three. Although this route is arguably not as sandbagged as the Durrance, it’s just about as long as any summit route on Devils Tower and anything but a walk up.
3 – Moor’s Crossing (3 pitches) in Vedauwoo
Like the Durrance Route, Moor’s Crossing was originally graded 5.6 but has been fairly upgraded to reflect the rather significant technical challenges encountered on the route. The first pitch involves classic Vedauwoo 5.7 offwidthing with a spelunking-flare as you’re forced through the “birth-canal” that deposits you on top of the first pitch. The following two pitches are less thrutchy but get more and more runout the higher you go, with some very committing 5.6 face moves midway up the last pitch. Any ascent of Moor’s is an exhilarating one due to the physicality of the climbing, the technical know-how needed to protect the trickier sections, and the amazing views of the Pole Mountain area that the route provides.
4 – Valley Boys (6 pitches) in the Mouth of the Clarks Fork, Cody
Valley Boys stands out as the easiest feeling 5.7 of all the routes on this list, but it’s still very much a committing route that requires good route finding and creative gear placement. The only limestone route to make the list, Valley Boys is an all-trad line that ascends a beautiful fin of well-cracked rock just left of the better known multipitch sport routes at the Mouth. Each pitch involves really fun face movement on less-than-vertical terrain and takes a single rack of cams .3-3 almost perfectly. The approach is short, the climbing is absolutely classic, and the views of the lower Clarks Fork Valley are simply unbeatable.
5 – Sidewinder (4 pitches) in the Snowy Range
Sidewinder is arguably one of the most easily accessible alpine rock climbs in the state and is a real treat to climb at that. Positioned on the Diamond Buttress on the southern flanks of Medicine Bow Peak, a competent party can be at the base of the route in 20 minutes from the car. The first, scrambly pitch is loose and nothing to write home about, but the climbing on the next three pitches is stellar. The quality of quartzite just gets better and better the higher you climb on the route, and by the exposed ending of 5.5 jug hauling you’ll certainly have a smile as wide as the southeast Wyoming sky. The casual walkoff on the Medicine Bow Peak loop trail makes this route even more palatable – we can’t recommend it enough.
6 – Dao Dome (12-14 pitches) in the Lower Clarks Fork Valley, Cody
Another hidden gem of the Clarks Fork, the Dao Dome is by far the longest route on the list and an amazing objective at that. It consists of pitch after pitch of highly featured, wind-sculpted granite overlooking the incredible Lower Clarks Fork Valley north of Cody. If you’re okay with a 2 mile approach, cold river crossing, and looking for an “alpine experience” of moving quickly on bigger terrain, this is the route for you. Upwards of 12-13 pitches of amazingly consistent 5.5-7 climbing deposit you on an exposed knife ridge leading to the summit, where you’ll encounter the namesake Bonsai-like tree. A rather convenient walk off awaits beyond, making this huge objective all the more tenable as a day mission.
7 – Thundercloud Arete (7 pitches) in Lost Twin Lakes, Cloud Peak Wilderness
This route is a rarity in the Bighorns: a long alpine rock climb doable in a day. You start hiking from West Ten Sleep trailhead, meandering through boggy meadows (past some moose if you’re lucky) up to Lost Twin Lakes, one of northern Wyoming’s most iconic hanging valleys. You then watch the early morning light wash over the big walls and then scramble up a small scree field to the base of the arête. The climbing gets progressively steeper as the arête narrows to a sharp point in the sky. A stunning summit platform overlooks the sheer, unclimbed north face of Thundercloud – a great place for selfies and a sandwich. Then you walk off and hike all the way back down to the trailhead – a big but wonderful day in the Wyoming high country.
Interested in climbing any of these routes with us? Send us an email and let us know what you’re looking for!