Sedona Finger Crack Trifecta

A two week team send of Sedona's hardest finger cracks

December 2022

Hidden amongst the lumpy red sandstone of Sedona are a trifecta of kingline finger cracks. Three of a kind - these 5.13s are all one (chossy) pitch up off the ground and follow a zig zagging crack out an overhanging shield. Red Planet clocks in at 5.13a, Lifeline at 5.13b, and All Systems Go at 5.13c.

Despite all being less than an hour drive from my Flagstaff home, I have been saving these to do in a series. I thought it would create a cohesive experience to do them in order of difficulty, back-to-back, providing a tuneup in this offsize jamming. It also helps to have a partner interested in the same routes as each is a day mission with nothing similar nearby! My good friend Amity Warme has been in town the last few weeks, so it was the perfect opportunity to send the trifecta together.

Red Planet 5.13a

First up was Red Planet, the original 5.13 Sedona crack, and the most traveled of the three. This one begins with steep, sculpted jugs to a short but perfectly splitter 0.75 section. Here an awkward hand jam rest gives a moment to catch your breath before 15 feet of overhung 0.5s on rippled rock. A pod jug above the brief difficulties leads to 5.12- jamming the rest of the pitch. Amity was up first for an onsight attempt.

Our eager morning start was a bit too early for the cloudy conditions and lack of warm up options. Amity was fully numb 20ft in, took on the first 0.75, and lowered back to the anchor. With nothing learned about the difficulties, but warmer fingers, she started back up a few minutes later (re-placing the few cams left in the crack) and easily cruised to the anchor! Likely an onsight effort in better conditions, but still a great rapid fire ascent. I was up next for my flash attempt. The air was slightly warmer, yet my cold fingers still bumbled with clipping cams and the dexterity needed for thumbstacks. I kept it together up to the last of the 0.5s, but threw away the flash go diving to a hand jam jug, barely missing the last hard move. A second impatient attempt was a repeat failure, but a proper rest allowed a satisfyingly smooth third go ascent. We were hiking out my 1pm after ticking off the first of the trifecta!

All Systems Go 5.13c

One rest day later, we were aiming for All Systems Go. We jumped out of order due to concerns of the supposedly arduous Lifeline approach interfering with an evening dinner party. The ASG hike may be my favorite approach to date in Sedona - a secluded path with great canyon views leads to neat slick rock walking. Below the dramatic 30° overhanging arch, the mystery of this unrepeated crack grew. After a decade of attempts by Flagstaff’s best jammers, only Lor Sabourin had made it up the crack without falling.

I was up first for this one, but quickly gave up any onsight dreams, going piece to piece while intimidated by the overhung intensity. Once resting on gear with a patient mind, I found comfy sculpted jams with bad feet - relatively straight forward climbing. I studied up in hopes of a quality second attempt. Amity had a similar first go experience.

On my second attempt I flowed through the bottom crux, ~20° overhung thumbstacking held in place by an upside-down drop knee foot jam. A chimney pod halfway up allows a complete recovery before the steeper and thinner flare crack ending. I charged out the difficulties feeling very pumped as I locked off on pinky jams. At the thinnest point, I instinctively kicked into a knee scum across the flare, taking weight off the worst locks, and recovering just enough to continue upward. I rested for many minutes at a single foot ledge just below the anchor, and powered the awkward baggy finger finale. I felt very pleased with my execution, getting the second ascent of this notorious crack on my 2nd attempt!

Amity followed up with a heartbreaking effort - after a low fall second go, she made it to the top of the thin fingers flare third try, just missing the post-crux rest stem by slipping a foot on a sandy smear! She came back with her husband Connor a few days later and executed on the first try that day, and we were back on track for the trifecta.

Lifeline 5.13b

Last up was Lifeline, supposedly the best quality of them all, but with the least info. We were a week out from ASG, giving time for the rock to dry from recent storms. The notorious hike turned out to be a reasonable 65 minute walk from the nearby neighborhood (a GPS topo map is helpful for navigating the wash maze). Again, our eagerness brought us a bit early for the cold winter stone, beginning climbing by 9am. The first pitch of this one was no moderate romp, but surprised us with a serious 5.12(?) stem boulder up a blank corner! We both stalled for at least 10 minutes assessing options here, but each levitated up to the ledge despite lack of finger feeling.

The 5.13b second pitch is indeed of very high quality - perched up on a blank and overhung Coconino Sandstone shield is a single splitter going from thin hands, to tips, to offset laybacking right as your fingers no longer fit. I was up first again this day. With stiff fingers, I carefully read the subtle locks and foot pods, moving smoothly to the jug rest at two-thirds height. Here you stare at two offset layback sections with a tricky middle transition, and only sandy ripples for feet. I stalled out perhaps a touch too long, but finally charged upward. I made it to the last flare but pumped out and fell trying to find a position to clip the last bolt.

Amity had a bit more info for her flash attempt, bringing yet another heartbreaking close call! She moved smoothly through the 13- intro jamming, and even smoother up into the punchy finale, falling right at the anchor while trying to find a clipping position (Spoiler alert: a blind handjam provides easy anchor clipping but is tough to find on the first try).

Sedona Success Selfie

We both chalked up our favorite foot dimples and studied the jams a bit more while being lowered. Then, we each sent on the second go, powered down from full commitment on the first tries, but with little doubt in execution. I had high hopes to onsight/flash at least one of these three lines, but I came up a bit short.. Though I was very pleased to send within a day trip each in three tries or less, and tick them all in a less than two week window with a favorite partner. I love high end finger cracking, but have occasional reservations about future arthritis and finger health. This rapid fire style is how I prefer to crack climb - show up with the requisite power, and send in just a few tries - it hurts so much less when you move through it quickly!