Similar to my experience on Hot Flash (5.9), I was a bit disappointed with Fine Whine, located deep into First Creek Canyon on a small buttress they have named Strawberry Hill (due to the pink color of the rock). I am starting to question if there are any real gems located in First Creek. Fine Whine is yet another of many DeAngelo routes at Red Rock Canyon. Larry has developed many of the routes in First Creek. He and Van Betten joined up on this short route which to date (2010) has seen little if any traffic.
The first pitch was exceptional for the grade and almost made the trek worth it. After a short third-fourth class approach from the canyon floor, you land at the base of an arching corner. I combined the first two pitches to the very top of this corner with a 60m rope with nothing to spare (a bit of simul climbing), otherwise I was going to get stuck in shade for the belay on a somewhat cold day. There are a few lay-back moves required to work your way up and over the bulge of the corner. The whole first pitch is rather sustained at the grade. Then straight up easier ground, but worse rock, into an easy chimney finish which lands you atop a broad ledge. The third and fourth pitches were nothing to write home about. I might not have placed any gear on the third pitch. The fourth pitch starts out fun, but then involves a nasty rope drag traverse section to finish. The first rap is set up for 60m double ropes.
Park at the First Creek Canyon trailhead 6.5 miles north of the 159/160 junction (4-5 miles south of the Loop Road entrance). Hike the main trail into the canyon. As it narrows there is an obvious black buttress rising on the left side (Lotta Balls Wall). Continue directly above the left side of the wash bypassing the varnished walls of Lotta Balls and Romper Room. As you get dropped into the wash higher up canyon, continue until you sort of round a buttress that makes up the right side of First Creek Slabs, only 10-15 minutes from Lotta Balls Wall. Then ascend the bushy and talus slope on the left towards the base of some water worn slabs (Hot Flash). Angle up and right gaining a ramp that sort of skirts the wall to the right avoiding most of the bush. Keep angling up and right on a ramp like approach that eventually turns into a solid rock ramp. Cut back left on this ramp when you can clearly see the arching corner above. Start right at the base of this corner. You can also stay in First Creek longer and then just cut straight across to the corner, but this involves more of a fifth class bushwhack approach than the Hot Flash trail option.
Route Description500’+/-, 4 Pitches, 5.9
1st-2nd Pitches- 200’- 5.9/ Climb up the arching corner on solid varnished rock. A few lay back moves protected by a large piece (6”) gets you over the crux. Continue to follow the crack out right to a small rest. Then angle back left into the corner on lesser quality rock. Climb up the rest of the corner to a short and easy chimney section at top. If you continue to the top of the chimney to set a belay, your partner might need to simul climb a bit, but it is a much more comfortable and sunny belay (gear or tree belay).
3rd Pitch- 130’- 5.7/ Easy climbing up twin cracks, finishing off on the right one through some bushes and into the base of a small chimney. Gear belay.
4th Pitch- 160’- 5.8/ Make sure to watch the rope drag on this pitch. Climb up the short chimney and exit into a nice hand crack. Follow it up right and traverse back left across a solid patch of varnish. Make sure to place your pro sparingly here and via long slings to avoid punishing rope drag to the top. Traverse across the varnish out left and head up a thin seam of bad quality rock to a broad shoulder. This pitch sort of takes away any of the benefits of the quality of the first pitch on Fine Whine. Gear belay in rotten rock on the flat ledge above.