Chuckwalla 21 (can be spelled either way, Chuckawalla, apparently, named after the lizard) is the most remote “classic climb” at Red Rocks. Classic as defined by most Red Rock guide books as well as making the cut on SuperTopo’s selected route list. The approach is such that someone along the way labeled Chuckwalla with an alpine IV grade. Albeit remote, Chuckwalla is clearly not a grade IV climb. We made the approach and descent in four hours round trip and took a leisurely four hours to make the short climb (860’) itself. The Uriostes and Joe Herbst established Chuckwalla in 1978 and my hat is off to them that they found such a decent line up the NE face of Global Peak which is hidden from view at Red Rocks, sandwiched between the much more popular Windy and Black Velvet Peaks.
What is truly classic about Chuckwalla 21 is the approach, not so much the climb. The waterfalls on approach and/or descent, are more common scenes found in the much more scenic Zion National Park than Red Rocks National Conservation Area. Thus Mud Springs Canyon is a short, but truly interesting, canyon by Red Rocks standards. The climb itself has a lot of fixed pro and is not overly remarkable. The wall is quite impressive however and looks much more sustained than it actually is. The first two pitches are the more demanding leads (5.9’s), the second one being the most sustained sporting 10 recently retrofitted bolts. The first pitch probably has the crux move of the route just a few meters below the second pitch belay. The third and fourth pitches are fun, but fairly tame even by 5.8 Red Rock standards. The fourth pitch offers the best true trad climbing. I ran the fourth pitch a full 200’ to a horizontal crack for gear and then we just ran the fifth pitch to the top of Global Peak with a bit of simul climbing. This last 200’+ was low to mid 5th class terrain. All the belays/raps are fixed except for the summit which has a lone tree backed up with nuts (2010). Although the approach and return only took us four hours total, keep in mind I knew exactly where I was going from a previous trip to the wall as well as my partner and I are fit and fast. Other climbing teams report more like six hours round trip.
The beta out there prior to my visit was pretty piss poor regarding the approach. To me, it is very simple to explain, so I am somewhat baffled by some of the convoluted approach beta I read. The parking area for the quickest approach is plain and simple. Take the Windy Peak road (high clearance mandatory) straight until it dead ends with a left turn necessitated to continue. Park your vehicle. You will be facing the east face of Windy Peak as well as the Monument way off in the distance. If you do not have a high clearance vehicle, take the Black Velvet road and turn left before you get to the fence on a decent road that dead-ends into Windy Peak road. Turn right and follow the road north, parking when it turns left (west).
Descend into the wash and pick up a trail a few meters to the left. Follow it straight (versus forking to the right) past a natural spring water trough (2010) they maintain for the wild burrows. The trail continues for a bit before petering out. Aim due north while avoiding gaining too much ground. Once you crest the ridge above Mud Springs Canyon, descend and immediately aim for the least bushwhacking wash crossing possible to the opposing side (north). Pick up a trail on the north side of the wash that leads west and back into the wash as it pinches off. Follow the wash to the first waterfall and ascend it to the left (hand line 2010), then follow the solid ramp back right to continue up to the next waterfall. My recommended ascent and descent will vary at this point to make this trip the most efficient. This second waterfall involves a substantial 5th class mantle move on sandy slab with severe consequences and no pro. My advice is to run up the left gully from the pool. Either cross under the waterfall back left or gain the gully by scrambling along the water worn slab to the left. Either way, follow the gully up and left to a col (cairns-2010). Descend the col back into the wash below and continue up canyon. By doing this, you have bypassed most of the waterfall area. Proceed up a butt ramp on a large boulder and one or two other easy scrambling sections to where the canyon narrows and there is a significant loose 5th class bouldering section ahead.
The most efficient way to gain the base of the route from this juncture is to take the yellowish corner on your left up to a ramp at its top (4th class exposed). Continue up one more easy section to yet another bushy ramp. Take this 2nd ramp out right, descend a short section, then turn left into the main ramp below the NE face of Global Peak, the main wall. Scramble up this loose and bushy ramp to the base of the climb which is easily identifiable with a perfect bay window type ledge to suit up on and an easy 3rd class rock ramp that leads to a right facing flake.
860’+/-, 6 Pitches, 5.9
1st - 150’- 5.9/ Run up the flake to its top. Scout out a few bolts above you and continue up the face angling slightly right. Towards the fixed station above is a short section of solid varnished rock with a cruxy, but well protected (nut) move. The belay is on a comfortable ledge.
2nd - 160’- 5.9/ A fantastic and sustained (more 5.8 than 5.9) pitch full of solid edges and crimps through ten bolts to a fixed semi-hanging belay. I placed no gear on the pitch and felt the bolts, although spread out, more than adequately protected it.
3rd - 130’- 5.8/ A fun and easy lead. Run up a short right facing corner. Traverse the varnished face up and left past a bolt into the left facing corner. Climb this easy corner to a semi-hanging belay at its top.
4th/5th - 200’- 5.8/ Perhaps the best pitch on the route if for no other reason than it has no bolts! (ok, maybe one right off the belay as I recollect). Follow the nicely varnished crack straight up until you can easily traverse right below a small roof into a right facing corner. Pull the small overhang. If you want to belay here, you can. They put the rap bolts out on the left face. I chose to run the pitch a full 200’ to a horizontal crack (.75”) almost at the top of the corner and set up a gear belay so we would only have one more pitch to go.
5th/6th – 200’+ 5th/ 70m ropes would no doubt reach the tree on top of Global Peak from here. With 60’s you need to simul-climb just a little, but the ground is quite tame. Pass a bolt on your way to a ledge with a bush (rap station here). Continue on easy ground to the top where there is a lone bent tree with two nuts (2010) backing up the top rap/belay. The summit of Global Peak is just a few meters to the right.
Climbing Sequence II
With double 60’s, take six raps back to the base of the route. When returning from the base of the climb back to the floor of the canyon, we down-climbed the corner we ascended, but you could rap from a tree if you would rather. This return, as with the approach, bypasses the lower main ramp and quite a bit of bushwhacking. Leave your harnesses on and instead of re-ascending to the col above the wash on your right, just descend the entire canyon (staying in the wash) which is the delight of the day. Eventually you side step several beautiful waterfalls to the left until you are above a short one that presents technical difficulty. Make one 5th class move across the void to several smaller trees above a deep pool. Rap off of these trees (good tat in 2010) to overcome the crux of this direct descent. Return as you approached from there.