1.  A photocopy or diagram of the rock formation with the proposed route drawn in; 

Route photos show the lower half of the route, followed by the upper half. Proposed bolts (6) are numbered and shown as green crosses in the figures.  The first bolt is about 15 feet off the ground, with no natural gear available below that bolt, but moderately easy (5.10) climbing to get there.

       Upper pitch high Primate (2) cropped          

Lower topo fine (1)

2.  A description of existing routes on the same face of the rock formation, including the number of routes, route names, route grade, type [traditional or bolted], and approximate distance between routes (a photocopy or diagram of the existing route(s) is also required);

Seal Rock is home to some classic east face routes, as well as a couple routes on the North face (Sea of Joy 5.13a and Archaeopteryx 5.11X).  This previously existing, traditionally-led headpoint route (called Primate) is located in the central heart of the South Face of Seal Rock.  The existing routes on the South Face, from left to right (and uphill to downhill)  are:  (1)  I Am the Walrus, 14b, bolted sport route; another 25 feet down/right is (2) Choose Life 5.13d, a bolted sport route; and (3) Thunder Muscle 5.14a, a bolted sport route that shares the start with the previous route; and another 25 feet down and right is (4) Primate, 5.13b, the proposed mixed line with some natural protection that would require some bolts for safety.  This route has been led by Matt Samet after toprope rehearsal in 2001, and has since seen a  second repeat lead after toproping practice; going further right and downhill another 30 feet or so is (5) The Gruffalo, a 5.11 bolted sport route that now serves as the warm up for this cliff; another 30 feet downhill is (6) Skin Flute, 12a/b, a recently bolted  sport route that was formerly a dangerous headpoint that was also led by Matt Samet in 2001; and finally, another 15 feet downhill is (7) Jade Gate, 5.11 X, a dangerous trad route led onsight, ground up by Samet in 2001.

3.  A description of the approach (include approximate distance from the designated trail system, existing “social” or undesignated trails leading to the climb and condition of the trail, and state whether there is a durable surface, such as rock. Include photographs of the approach.);

The approach is via the Harmon Cave Trail (the standard Seal Rock trail) until the turn off at the North East toe of the Seal.  Then turn left on the amazing “climber access” trail that was recently completed.  After a big switchback to the east then West the trail terminates at the South East corner of Seal Rock.  Head up the base of the rock perhaps another 30 yards, and Primate starts about 25 feet right of the big right-facing corner that is the start of both Choose Life and Thunder Muscle.

approach Primate 110798891_large_topo_4aff5c

The cut off from the Mesa Trail

4.   If different from the approach, a description of the descent, (include approximate distance from the designated trail system, existing “social” or undesignated trails, a description of the trail condition and whether there is a durable surface, such as rock. Include photographs of the descent.);

Lowering or rapping 90 feet from the anchor will land you back at the staging area.

5.  A description of the area at the base of the climb (include existing levels of soil compaction, existence of a durable surface such as rock, and existing soil erosion. Include photographs of the area at the base of the climb.);

base Primate

The staging area is mostly flat with some rocks and sandy soil.  A very large boulder is present immediately left of the start, and this serves as a great place to shoe up and stage.

6.  Has all reconnaissance work that can be reasonably done, short of placing any hardware, been done?

All reconnaissance has been done and all moves have been free climbed.  The route has been led on gear.  The rock is clean and sound.  As currently envisioned, and per recommendation from the first ascentionist, this route should employ as much natural protection as possible while minimizing bolted protection to only locations that make it reasonably safe without unnecessary risk of injury.  A first bolt is recommended about 15 feet above the ground, in an area with potentially friable rock and no good natural pro.  There is excellent natural protection a little further, about 25 feet above the start, and again another 10 feet above that at the start of the prominent diagonaling crack feature.  The climbing then trends up and left, and there are two or three more places for gear along that crack as one traverses up and to the left.  Another (2nd) bolt is recommended mid-way along this traverse, in an area with limited gear and difficult climbing.   Above this break, 3 more bolts are proposed in an area along the black pillar (crux) where there are no natural gear opportunities.    In summary, though the harder, upper sections of the route would be adequately-protected with bolts, some commitment from the leader, with willingness to take 15 or 25 foot (clean) falls in places may be warranted, in an effort to preserve some of the initial character of the route.   Using the modern risk rating, this might be a “PG” risk-rating for leaders competent at the 5.12 grade.

7.  Has the route been top roped? Is there loose rock?  Is it extremely overhanging?

The route has been toproped and also led on gear.  There is no loose rock on the route. It is moderately overhanging.  It is possible to top rope it, but pretty involved to set one up.  This route is of very high quality movement, with lots of interesting huecos and sidepulls, and sustained movement.  There are a few rests here and there, but in general this is an enduro route requiring conditioning for the successful ascent.   It is notably easier than the three harder sport routes to the left of this line, and hence provides a valuable transition climb in moving up from the 5.12 climbing of Skin Flute to the 5.13 grade.

Any additional notes

This is a very high quality route with excellent position, exposure, and movement in a beautiful setting.   It is comparable in quality to the modern, instant classics Choose Life and Thunder Muscle just to the left of this route.    It would be a great addition to one of the highest quality, hard climbing venues in Boulder. 


4 replies
  1. Matt Samet
    Matt Samet says:

    I like the well-thought out nature of the proposed bolting, which keeps the spirit of the route in line with its original “adventurous” vision: though I did toprope the unholy hell out of it prior to leading it (with pre-placed gear). This makes good sense as a mixed route. My only question is, will there be adequate gear to keep the rating at PG or PG-13 in the upper water groove, without adding a 6th bolt? I recall a good #1 Camalot up and left as the climbing eases, but getting there as hard enough that, with a bolt well below your feet and the wall bulging below you, a 6th bolt might be merited. There are, however, some RPs, as I recall. Will a competent leader be able to find and place these, onsight?

    • steve annecone
      steve annecone says:

      Matt, I agree that 6 bolts are needed and looks like I didn’t get the most recent version uploaded. Will correct soon.


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