Paiute Pillar is the less popular sister route to Bird Hunter Buttress at the west edge of the infamous Rainbow Wall at Red Rocks. Although parties supposedly take up to three hours on the approach according to guide books, I typically make it to the base of Rainbow Wall in less than 1.5 hours.
Although no doubt less popular than Urioste’s Bird Hunter Buttress route (1982), Paiute Pillar is fairly equal in quality and terrain minus fixed gear and published beta making it a more adventurous objective. Vince Poirier and Andrew Fulton established the line in 1998.
The first pitch of Paiute starts 200’ below Bird Hunter Buttress making it a slightly longer route. This first 5.9 pitch also sports the best rock located on either route. Once you top out of this red cliff band, you practically intersect the start of Bird Hunter, paralleling it to the right until you either cross it at the top of the sixth pitch or finish on its best pitches utilizing the Brown Recluse rap option. The two spicy pitches according to the FAers are the 3rd and 5th pitches (5.9PG), however the true scary lead was the sixth pitch (5.8), the only pitch on this route with any fixed gear. The current fixed pro on this pitch is no longer viable, and although the rock is somewhat horrid, I did find key gear placements when needed most. Instead of finish on a crappy 5.7 pitch leading up to another 5.9 and 5.8 pitch, I advise finishing on Bird Hunters last four pitches which represent its best 5.9 climbing. This will put you at the Brown Recluse rap line, which descends back to the base of the wall in ten 70m raps. All in all, like Bird Hunter Buttress, Paiute Pillar is a fairly causal climb to the top of Rainbow Wall for the 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 (stay in the wash), 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-April), 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 to the base of a deeply colored red 200’ high wall located below the main buttress and split by an obvious crack. This crack is the first pitch.
1500’+/-, 10 Pitches, 5.9R
1st Pitch- 200’- 5.9/ The best pitch on the Paiute Pillar route if for no other reason than the quality of rock. It seemed easier than 5.9. Follow the obvious crack splitting the wall to the top of the wall and the main bench below Rainbow Wall proper. Towards the end, leave the crack out left via solid varnished face climbing. Place gear at will.
2nd Pitch- 100’- 4th/ The FAers called this 200’ of 4th, but really it was just a walk up to the corner in front of you on the main buttress. This corner is about 100-200’ to the right of the start for Bird Hunter Buttress.
3rd Pitch- 225’- 5.9/ Perhaps the FAers topo refers to going further right than we did. But the obvious line is the left facing corner in front of you. Fight your way through the bushes to access the corner and then follow fairly easy terrain on decent rock until it widens and you find yourself below a huge chock stone. Chimney up and exit the chock stone out right via 5.9 climbing (mantel). Continue up another short corner to reach a nice ledge. Set up a 4” cam back deep in the alcove for belay.
4th Pitch- 200’- 5.9/ This pitch takes a bit of thought. There are two obvious cracks above a small roof line. The left looks the most obvious, but dirty. The right looks mossy and closed. Neither are the best line. Climb up to the roof and track out right as you pull it on holds that become more obvious when you are right in front of them. Then traverse back left on decent rock into a crack that was not so obvious from below. This crack takes some gear as you follow it up to a wide chossy off width. Stay out of the off width by climbing the face out right, returning to the wide crack just to place gear. Come to another large ledge supporting a white pedestal leaning against the wall.
5th Pitch- 170’- 5.9R/ From the top of the loose pedestal, climb the face up until it meets the crack coming in from the left (run out). Follow the crack up 30’, crossing it to the left on a small foot traverse to the base of a cut out corner. Climb the left side of this small arch and then traverse back right to the base of the right facing corner above and set up a gear belay at a small stance.
6th Pitch- 100’- 5.8R/ This is the worst rock on the route. Climb up the edge of the chossy and mossy right facing corner, venturing out left at about 10-15’. Pass a bad bolt (2010) as you near the wide chossy crack out left. Stay to the right of it as you continue to ascend chossy white sandstone. It had one decent tree to sling (2010) and multiple other rusted out bolts (approximately 5). I advise you focus more on the few gear placements available versus clipping the bad fixed pro. Screamers would be useful on this pitch in any regard. Stay to the right of the wide crack until you reach a nice ledge which intersects the top of the 8th pitch on Bird Hunter Buttress (fixed belay).
7th Pitch- 120’- 5.9/ I advise taking the ninth pitch of Bird Hunter Buttress versus the 5.7 seventh pitch of Paiute Pillar. They both end up at the same large pine tree above. Move right and head up the shaded and mossy corner. There is plenty of good gear in the corner and we 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 to the large tree and ledge above.
8th Pitch- 60’-/ The best pitch of Bird Hunter Buttress (5.9) is off to your left, and a chossy 5.9 crack is above which goes with the original Paiute Pillar line. We chose the fun chimney pitch of Bird Hunter, knowing it would place us much closer to the Brown Recluse rap line. Move the belay to the up most tree.
9th Pitch- 180’- 5.9/ The Bird Hunter Buttress FAers call this two pitches and established a mid-anchor in the chimney, but no reason to do it in less than one pitch to the large ledge above. Follow the corner into the chimney. Utilize standard chimney technique past a bolt. As it narrows, pass a fixed belay and make an athletic squeeze move out of the chimney (crux of the route) and onto the left face. Run to the top of the chimney on nice ground with fixed pro to a very large ledge.
10th Pitch- 90’- 5th/ Just run up the white crack on easy ground to the station above and then traverse 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.