Jailhouse Climbers Topping Out Crag

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“To get to the top, untie, and watch the rope disappear over the edge is pretty special,” said Rick Miller. The 45 year old wood molding mill manager completed the first ascent of Lolita, a 150 foot 5.14b route at Jailhouse Rock in Sonora, California in late January.

Double Jailhouse Send

Rosie Cahoon on the left and Rick Miller on the right top out the crag. Matt Pound photo.

Miller’s addition is the only the third route to top out the crag out and also the most difficult.  In the world of sport climbing, most routes stop in the middle of the wall and the majority of sport climbers never summit the crag.  Miller’s addition solidifies the concept of summiting even in sport climbing.

A 12 year Jailhouse climber, Miller began working the route in January of 2013 and redpointed a year after first bolting the overhanging basalt wall. Miller calls the route “working man’s 5.14b” and described the top of the ampitheatre saying, “The climbing at the top isn’t physically as challenging- it’s a mental game to not blow it.”

One of California’s best sport crags, Jailhouse remained locked until 2010 when the Access Fund negotiated with landowners for public access. Jailhouse boasts nearly a hundred climbs from 5.11d to 5.14d with the average route clocking in at 5.13c. Located two hours east of San Francisco and two hours west of Yosemite, the crag sets the standards for northern California sport climbing.

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Miller after summiting U-Haul 5.14b

“The only way to rock climb is to walk off the top,” said Mike Kerzhner.  In the spring of 2011, Kerzhner bolted the 145 foot 5.14a U-Haul­, the second route to top out at Jailhouse.  “That applies to bouldering, sport, and trad.” Reaching the summit is gives people a deep sense of fulfillment and also an opportunity to enjoy the area surrounding them.

“This crag is kind of unique in that the top out is so beautiful,” said Rosie Cahoon, who recently topped out the crag via the 5.13b route Three Strikes. “The strange rocky landscape and the horses that hang out on top make it really special.”

Kerzhner, Miller, and other Jailhouse climbers plan to continue extending routes at Jailhouse to the top.