On Bridge Mountain’s lower southeast face lies the Spectrum area. Big Horn is a Joe and Betsy Herbst original route whose lower pitches have been stolen by the more popular, relatively new route, Birdland. The fourth pitch of Big Horn however would be a tragic pitch to miss if you are already climbing Birdland, far more interesting than anything Birdland has to offer. Jerry Handren’s guide book calls for four pitches to Big Horn, but in reality, the 3rd pitch is just a lower 5th class scramble over to the base of the fantastic 5.8 crack that makes Big Horn a must do. The first two pitches of Big Horn are otherwise the same as for Birdland. I combined both routes for a decent day of climbing at Red Rocks.
Birdland and Big Horn sit across from the popular Dark Shadows, 5.8, on Mescalito’s north face. If there are lines at Dark Shadows (and there often are), I advise combining Big Horn’s (5.8) 3rd and 4th pitch with Birdland’s five pitches to make for a decent day of climbing. You can climb Big Horn, then rappel back down to the top of the 2nd pitch and finish Birdland.
Big Horn is an all trad route with the exception of fixed stations complete with rappel rings. You can rap from the top of any pitch with a 70m rope except for the short 3rd pitch which I downclimbed. All three belays are made up of comfortable ledges. Supposedly you can climb several more pitches to the top of the wall, but the rock quality does not warrant such. Big Horn is a great alternative and/or addition if you are behind a slow party on Birdland.
Park at the Pine Creek trailhead and proceed west along the trail towards Mescalito. When the trail follows the wash and meets up with the red rock band on the right, divert off the main trail and start ascending a fainter trail that leads back up and right to the Spectrum and Brass Wall areas. Big Horn can be located at the very south end of the east face of Bridge Mountain. A deep half arch sits in the middle of almost solid black varnish on the lower wall. Another smaller arch sits below that arch to the left. Big Horn starts at a line that angles left to right up the face that the before mentioned arches lie on. Two distinct chimney/seams border this face on each side. On the other side of the left seam is an east facing black varnished wall with a crack running left to right for about 100’. This is the 4th and crux pitch of Big Horn.
The ascent to the base of Big Horn is fairly immediate as you top out on the red rock band. Do not confuse Big Horn with Little Big Horn in Willow Springs, a pretty decent single pitch route I have also climbed.
Route Description400’+/-, 4 Pitches, 5.8
1st Pitch- 110’- 5.6/ Follow the left crack placing gear at will and jugging large holds to an anchor on a tree ledge above. There is a separated chimney below you to the right of where you start this pitch and a flat section of stones several meters away to suit up on.
2nd Pitch- 110’- 5.7/ You have two options. The intent of the route is to follow the arête directly above the anchor hooking into a crack to the left, but right of a right facing chimney section. You could also move the belay to the left and start in the chimney. In any regard, follow the crack to a ledge below a corner and then take the corner straight up, moving right below a block to reach an anchor on a large treed ledge. This is where you can divert and do Big Horn to the left, yet rappel and return to finish Birdland from this large ledge.
3rd- 4th Pitches- 170’- 5.8/ I combined these two pitches by running the rope out on the climb from the 2nd belay and then rappelling down to a ledge at the base of the crack and then just down climbing solo back to the 2nd belay anchor. The beautiful crack on the 4th pitch takes loads of gear, larger gear lower, nuts in the middle and medium gear on top. The crux of the route is after the mantel move to gain a horizontal crack. You are left with little, if any, feet and a small finger hold on the left. Bomber holds wait above about 2’. The rest of the pitch to the anchors at the top of the crack is a breeze in comparison.
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