Bird Hunter Buttress would be a Red Rocks classic if not for the approach and guarded reputation of the Rainbow Wall, neither of which are really that foreboding regarding this route. Although parties can take up to three hours on the approach, my first trip up to Rainbow Wall took less than 1.5 hours on approach to the base of Bird Hunter Buttress.
The route itself is fairly calm and typical of Urioste routes. Bird Hunter Buttress was established in 1982 and named such by the Urioste’s who found an arrowhead at the top of the first pitch. I ran the first three pitches together for a full 250’ on a 70m rope with a bit of simul-climbing. From there, we doubled up the pitches until the 8th and 9th pitches which are each 120’. The 5th and 6th pitches were the most spicy (delicate moss deteriorated edge/face climbing) with the 4th and 9th pitches representing the best climbing through the first nine. We combined the 10th-11th pitches (best climbing of the day I thought) and then exited via easy 5th class ground onto the Brown Recluse rap line out left. There is quite a bit of fixed pro on this line and much has been retrofitted not to mention that where there are suspect bolts, there were normally decent gear opportunities.
It took 10 raps on a 70m cord to reach the base of the wall. I would not want to make my first descent of this line in the dark. The rap stations blend into the face more than usual. Bird Hunter Buttress basically involved quite a bit of 5.8 and light 5.9 climbing making for a casual day for the experienced and competent team.
Park at the Oak Creek Canyon trail head off of the loop road. Proceed out on the north trail making for Juniper Canyon. Turn right at the first juncture. Left at the second juncture (before you cross the main wash). Turn right and left again staying on a well worn trail aiming for a massive boulder in the wash. Cross under the boulder and cross the wash to the north side where a trail takes you all the way to the entrance to Juniper Canyon. Drop back into the wash and ascend up it until a well worn trail is reached on your right. Ascend this steep trail and head for Gunsight Notch. Take the left fork, maintaining your direction for Gunsight as the right trail heads for Brownstone Walls. At a short and wide waterfall area (just a water streak in March), ascend steep slabs via 4th class navigation on the left. You can rap this section on descent from a fixed rope (2010) under a large boulder dead center of the water streak. Continue up the center of the bowl making for the base of the wall. Work your way right when given the opportunity. Eventually you can walk a nice large terrace to the right to a large tree below the right side of Rainbow Wall. Start the climb at the left of three cracks, following the route up the left side of a large pillar.
1200’+/-, 12 Pitches, 5.9
1st, 2nd and 3rd Pitches- 270’- 5.7/ Some beta will suggest something about the middle of three cracks. But the left crack is what you want and what aligns with the route and fixed pro. Climb easy ground on decent rock overcoming a slight bulge (bolt). Continue left and up past another piece or two of fixed pro to a comfortable anchor approximately 150’ up. Handren’s book mentions fixed anchors at 130’ and 180’, but there is only one anchor as of 2010 no doubt cleaned up via the retrofit. I chose to keep going to the next anchor which is half way up the chimney/off width left side of the large pillar. It is hidden out on the outside wall. It is relatively tame simul-climbing to this point.
4th-5th Pitches- 190’- 5.9/ The fourth pitch is the 3rd best pitch of the climb. Take on the nice chimney/off width corner to the top of the pillar with ample pro. The fifth and sixth pitches are the most spicy on the route, but well bolted where need be (2010). Head up the mossy face angling leftward on crimps and edges that are a bit delicate. Pass three good bolts that lead you to a small crack. As of 2010, quite a few bad bolts start showing up from this point forward, I would not rely on them. The small crack takes solid wires up to a fixed hanging belay.
6th-7th Pitches- 100’- 5.9/ Continue up more of the same 5.9 delicate ground angling back right via a few solid bolts (2010) to a sloping ledge and anchor. Continue up the wide white corner above to a very comfortable ledge with fixed belay.
8th Pitch- 120’- 5.9/ This pitch did not feel much like 5.9, but had the same spicy rock as those two previous 5.9 face climbs. Traverse right across a set of worthless bolts to the arête. Head up a seam past more worthless bolts, but much better gear opportunity than the traverse over, to a fixed belay on a decent ledge.
9th Pitch- 120’- 5.9/ Second best pitch of the day in my opinion (first yet to come). Move right and head up the shaded and mossy corner. There is plenty of good gear in the corner and I found little to no need to clip any of the bad bolts that line the face on the right. Mostly smaller cams, C3’s and nuts fit the openings in the corner. Good stemming to the top of the corner which is longer than it looks from below. Pass a large slung tree at the top and scramble up towards the next large tree below the chimney above or just walk over to the left on the ledge to a small tree and do a .5” gear belay here.
10th-11th Pitches- 180’- 5.9/ The cherry on top regarding this route in my opinion, the best climbing of the day. Follow the corner into the chimney. Utilize standard chimney technique past a bolt. As it narrows, you must make an athletic move out of the chimney and onto the left face. Pass a fixed belay and run to the top of the chimney on nice ground to a very large ledge.
12 Pitch- 90’- 5th/ I placed no gear on this last pitch, just ran up on easy ground to the station above and then traversed out left along a narrow ledge into a gully with the first rap station (top of Brown Recluse) straight across on the opposing wall to the gully.
What beta is out there on this route is somewhat conflicting in regards to the rap descent and ropes needed. Bottom line is it was practically made for a 70m rope, 10 raps in total. Start rapping the Brown Recluse route itself. The gully has loose rock, so beware the first couple of raps. The first rap is indeed the most uncomfortable/awkward one. Rap down the gully and locate a rap station on the right wall facing in. You have to swing out right to reach it on a free air rap with little end left on the rope. Knots might be a good idea at least on this first rap. The 2nd one goes down to the ledge below, but is hidden on the lower level. Again, a full rap with a 70m and your rope could get stuck on some loose boulders on the first level of this ledge when you pull it. The third rap is straight over the edge, a bit climbers left if anything. This is the only rap relying on slings which were in good shape in 2010. Then six more raps pretty much straight down from here always moving slightly climbers left. Several of them blend in real well with the rock, so take your time descending. The last rap is a short one and hidden from view. You have to swing over left quite a bit and to locate it in man sized cut alcove.