Inti Watana first drew my attention when Radek posted some photos of the route he and Shirley climbed in March, 2009. After climbing Resolution Arête in April, we could not avoid the temptation to tick off Inti Watana as well. The Aeolian Wall on Mount Wilson, the highest peak in Red Rocks, is the cleanest and most aesthetic climbing wall in the park. Reading posts at Mountain Project and Rock Climbing, normally the order of climb would be in reverse as folks scout out Resolution Arête. But Inti Watana was not even on our radar until Radek and Shirley climbed it.
Inti Watana was put in by Jorge Urioste and Mike Clifford in 1997. Like many of Jorge’s routes, there were more bolts than needed on some of the trad portions of the route. In fact, only one pitch, pitch seven, was pure trad climbing. You can easily, with solid rope management, combine pitches 9-10 and 11-12 to make this a 10 pitch route covering 1300’ versus the published 12 pitches covering 1500’. Many complain of the first pitch, but in reality it is quite clean now and edges fairly solid by Red Rocks standards. I thought the pitch lead smooth and slightly below the grade if anything versus the 5.9+ given in Handren’s guide. The crux pitch is the 2nd pitch and it offers several fantastic 5.10 moves up a thin seam. Pitch seven was nice and long and allowed you to place some of that gear you brought. The most interesting pitch in my opinion, outside of the second pitch, was the combination of pitches 9-10, involving a bold (but big jugs) mantle to start followed by a long 5.9 pitch of steep face climbing. At the very end of the climb, just before topping out on the route (12th pitch), you get another 5.10 move or so. Inti Watana tops out at the top of the 15th pitch of Resolution Arête. You can finish Resolution Arête and walk off of Mount Wilson via First Creek, but most everyone chooses to rap the route and save the summit of Mount Wilson for a more classical experience. Quite a few variations can be done on rappelling the route, depending on your rope length and stretch! We descended via eight double 60m rope raps.
The approach is just like Resolution Arête except you head up the gully to the left of the huge pine tree versus heading out further left to the base of the arête. Park at the old Oak Creek camp ground trailhead off of Hwy 159. Follow the Oak Creek road bed all the way to the col between the Wilson Pimple and Mount Wilson. Descend slightly and look for a trail off to your left that runs through the old camp spot. The trail continues through the camp and meanders its way up the hill side towards Mount Wilson. There are plenty of cairns, but they could be difficult to follow in the dark. As you break through a short rock band on the right side of a gully, turn left and follow the trail for a short distance looking to gain an angled trail that circumvents the tall red pillar to its left. Continue circumventing left at the base of the cliff above, passing up the first gully and taking the next one, right before a main drainage. Scramble up the gully a short distance to its end. Turn left and start the 4th class ascent of this cliff. Be careful of the large boulders you are jugging on here as they are based in sand. Eventually you crawl through a small cave to the other end and climb up and above a huge chock stone. Continue to the short ridge above, turn right and descend into a much larger treed and bushy gully that leads upward.
Follow this broad gully up hill. There were plentiful cairns in 2009. Stay left when in question as you scramble and bushwhack your way up to a large pine tree and gully coming in from the left. Head up that gully and look for the bolt line on your right that makes up the first pitch of Inti Watana. You scramble up at least one chock stone hole. Avoid going too far, keep your eyes open for the bolt line on the right, where the moss is rubbed off. There was one stray bolt to the left of the first pitch. The approach took us only 1.5 hrs, but we knew where we were going at all times.
1300’+/-, 12 Pitches, 5.10c
1st Pitch- 90’- 5.9+/ A lot of folks complain about this pitch, but I led it and thought it was in typical form for Red Rocks. It no doubt use to be a mossy face pitch (well shaded in a deep gully), but Inti Watana has become popular enough that most of the moss and weak crust has been cleaned. Follow good edges up through several bolts and then make the crux, slight lie back, move right to continue up easier ground above to a rather comfortable belay in a scoop with a fixed anchor. A fully bolted pitch. (photo)
2nd Pitch- 100’- 5.10c/ This is for sure the crux pitch of the route and is well protected with ten bolts and quite a few trad placement opportunities. A real fun pitch. Start up easy climbing that leads to a vertical section marked with a seam to your right. Stay slightly left as you maneuver a balance move or two without much hands and parlay that into a comfortable lie back stance. Make a few easy lie back moves to easier ground that leads to another comfortable belay at a fixed anchor. (photos)
3rd Pitch- 130’- 5.8/ Cover fast ground via face climbing on varnished jugs trending right, then back left to a fixed semi hanging belay. Guide book does not mention it, but still a ton of bolts, don’t believe I placed any gear on this pitch.
4th Pitch- 140’- 5.9/ Kind of a fun pitch with a few cracks to follow, placing gear, supplemented with a few bolts. Leads to another comfortable fixed belay in a scoop of sorts.
5th Pitch- 130’- 5.7/ These middle pitches are rather unremarkable. Move right into a wide hand crack and follow easy ground to a ledge, move right again to gain another, more vertical crack that leads to a fixed belay. (photo)
6th Pitch- 130’- 5th/ Trend right, then back left, up the low angled varnished wall past at least four bolts to a comfortable fixed belay on a ledge. (photos)
7th Pitch- 165’- 5.9/ This pitch is quite entertaining. Run up a corner/crack to the right, placing small gear. Crux of the pitch really. Move left over a ledge into the large corner, jamming your way up an easy crack over a bulge with plenty of features in the 5.8 range. Handren calls this the S crack and it is where you can place a 3” if you decided to bring it, but it takes smaller gear in enough places as well. Little loose and cruxy right before the full on fixed hanging belay to the right of the crack. (photos)
8th Pitch- 130’- 5.9+/ Climb a mostly bolted face with a few seams to a huge bivy type ledge with a fixed anchor and single bolt out left. (photo)
9th-10th Pitches- 180’- 5.9/ These combined pitches offer some of the best climbing on the route. WARNING: It is easy to get sucked into trying to pull the roof (loose rock) above out left by a singular low bolt, located left of the belay. The only purpose of this bolt would be for a bivy. It is hard to see the actual route bolt protecting the fun mantle up and right of the belay. Clip this bolt and make the “pull up” mantle move to gain relatively low angled ground above. Solid rope management will allow you to skip the next station and continue left up to a steep bolted face reminiscent of the 2nd pitch above the chimney pitches of Epinephrine. Rope drag could be an issue if you did not run your doubles appropriately. Sustained 5.9 edge climbing leads to yet another fixed hanging belay for the poor soul who drew odd pitches this day. I did not place any gear on any of these combined pitches. (photos)
11th-12th Pitches- 130’- 5.10c/ These two pitches are not difficult to combine at all, even with a single rope. The first two thirds of the route are pretty typical of all the 5.8-9 climbing up to this point of the climb. Right below the top out, you get into some soft rock that is a little tricky. Handren calls it 5.10c; we thought that it was a quite a bit softer climbing than that. You reach a fixed station above on the edge. If you scramble up and left, you will find yourself at the top of the 15th pitch of Resolution Arête. (photo)
Climbing Sequence II
DescentYou will see a range of ideas of what you can and cannot do with varying rope sizes. But with true double 60m ropes you can make the route descent in eight rappels from the top of the route. These are not chain anchors however and thus I advise carrying some cordellete to replace any suspect existing anchor tat. Combine pitches 12-11 and 10-9 with one double rope rappel each. Rappel pitches 8, 7, 6 and 5 individually via double rope rappels. Combine pitches 4-3 for a very long double rope rap, stretching to the end of your ropes (tie knots in the ends). Easily combine pitches 2-1 with one double rope rap. Another option is to continue up Resolution Arête to the summit of Mount Wilson and walk out First Creek Canyon. Obviously this would make for a much longer day.
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