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Mason Earle Sends One of the Hardest Crack Climbs in America at Bartlett Wash
Posted on March 14, 2015

Steady progress up a 5.14- crack, one of the hardest pure crack climbs in America.

With an unexpected phone call from Moab, Utah Thursday, we received word from photographer Jeremiah Watt that Eddie Bauer climber Mason Earle had finally ticked his Bartlett Wash Crack Project, a first ascent that has been called one of the  hardest pure crack climbs in America. Rated 5.14-, starting with a burly V8 crack sequence and running 35 meters of sustained, steep climbing, the project was a three-year saga for Earle that was profiled in Exposure, Volume 1. “Staring up at Bartlett, all I could ever feel was that this is going to ruin me,” Earle reflects. “This route is a monster, from start to finish.”

As soon as we heard, we tracked down Earle between celebratory cell phone calls to get his first recap on what made the Bartlet Wash Crack such an epic accomplishment. He was a bit worked, but this is what the world-class crack climber and classical banjo virtuoso had to say. —LYA Editor

Pre-game before sending the Bartlett Wash crack.

Images by Jeremiah Watt

Explain what climb you just ticked in Bartlett Wash? What are the route details? Where is it located?

The Bartlett Wash Crack is a steep and difficult crack climb I discovered a few years ago. It’s located near Moab, UT. I’ve been trying the route off and on since I found it. Its about 35 meters long, with a grade of 5.14-.

What is the personal and greater significance of the climb and explain the difficulty?

This route was a bit of a saga for me. It took a lot of tries. I probably could have done it sooner, but I battled with a hand injury that prevented me from fingerlocking. I always feared the route would just be another “epic failure.”  It felt good to see the project through.

Is it the hardest crack climb in North America?

I would guess that this is one of the hardest pure crack climbs out there.


What was the hardest part of the climb and the project?

Some hard routes you look up at and think, “I can see piecing this together.” Staring up at Bartlett, all I could ever feel was “this is going to ruin me.” This route is a monster, from start to finish. There are no easy sections, and the beta is very specific. There’s nothing quite as demoralizing as stepping off the ground directly into a burly V8 crack sequence, cams dangling off the harness, with another 120 feet to go!

How many attempts and how much time did it take to complete the climb?

Not sure how many attempts, but quite a few sessions spread over two and a half years.

Will you describe the setup and the reaction of the folks you were with when you completed it on the final day?

It was a really mellow day. I had been out climbing earlier on a sport climbing project I found. We headed out to Bartlett pretty late, just Sketchy Andy Lewis, my friend, and photographer Jeremiah Watt, and I. Andy forgot his harness, so he ended up making a harness out of some slackline webbing. Classic monkey shenanigans.

Why was it such a tough crack climb? Why is it so significant in climbing?

Hard cracks are hard to find. For some reason, the geometry of the rock here in Southeast Utah doesn’t lend itself to forming steep cracks. This route is a rare and wild exception.

What emotions did you feel when you finally completed the climb?

I was really excited. The whole route felt really good, and I climbed smoothly. The route has wild movement for a crack, it’s not your usual Indian-Creek-style jam after jam. Ascending this crack requires some really wild and techy beta- hard lock-offs, feet cutting, bumps, and even a crucial kneebar! It was sporty.

Why are you so drawn to these nearly impossible crack climbs?

I’ve always been inspired by cracks. After doing a lot of the hard cracks in the area, I really wanted to find a next-level climb. Bartlett was what I was looking for.

Project complete.

Author: - Saturday, March 14th, 2015

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