One week after tackling Dogma (V, 5.11) and thus my introduction to bushwhacking up Willy’s Couloir and eventually climbing to the base of Horseshoe Wall, I returned for the Pink Tornado to see some more of this section of climbing on Mount Wilson. Pink Tornado Left surprised both my partner and I in terms of its quality by Red Rocks standards. For the most part, the rock and route was fairly stable with several solid varnished areas. Don Gieseck and Geoff Conley established both the left and right Pink Tornado routes in 1975. Although this route is called Pink Tornado Left, it actually climbs the large detached 200’ high triangular slab on its right side. Pink Tornado Right climbs twin cracks further to the right and the two routes join together below the final two pitches of both routes.
The first pitch is what draws the “+” on the 5.9 grade from Jerry Handren’s guide book (“hard flakes that are treacherous”). I led the pitch and did not find it as burly as the guide book might suggest. The sandy texture of the short off width start is what the book is referencing with the before mentioned comment. The traverse left into the main corner was via pleasant ground. The continuation of this long pitch to the belay was on good rock at a lesser grade. The second pitch is the best pitch of the route. It follows a finger and hand seam up through a varnished section to just below a small roof. The third pitch is a short pitch that pulls the roof through another varnished section of 5.8-9 climbing. The fourth and fifth pitches were fun 5.7 chimney and stem leads. The sixth pitch just moves the belay to the base of the final headwall below Sherwood Forest. I combined the seventh and eight pitches (5.9) for a full 60m to a fixed station (2010) which allowed us to scramble sans rope the remaining 5th class to just below the Sherwood Forest plateau. That last 5.9 rope stretcher represents the second best pitch of the day.
Much is made do of this rough approach and some written beta is not very clear regarding how to get into Willy’s Couloir. To make it simple, particularly if you have already climbed the more popular routes of Inti Watana or Resolution Arête, ascend White Rot Gully to the main gully below Resolution Arête. Then descend the main gully directly until it is possible to ascend the significant gully to the southwest, Willy’s Couloir. This is a relatively unmarked and bushy approach. However, unlike Dogma, you do not have to scramble very far up Willy’s Couloir to reach the base of the Pink Tornado routes. Once in Willy’s Couloir, stay right and ascend to the right base of the large white triangular slab abutting the main wall. Avoid the overhung boulders protecting the very base of this slab and scramble right and then back left through thick brush to reach the base of the climb which starts in a significant right facing corner/chimney.
White Rot Gully is best reached by parking at the Oak Creek pull-out on Highway 159. Hike towards Mount Wilson on the old Oak Creek Road. Before you get to the Wilson Pimple, turn left and follow the road around the left side of the Pimple. As you descend from a highpoint along the road, locate a faint trail on the left that is cairned as it ascends scree and a faint sandy trail to the base of Mount Wilson. Follow the trail to the left as it leads to a gully requiring 5th class moves to ascend, it is the last gully on the right side at the end of the faint trail. Trend left as you ascend the loose sandy gully into a small cave like feature. Chimney up and out of this hole to a small ridge that separates the main gully below Resolution Arête from the much smaller White Rot Gully. When retreating from this area, you can take several single rope rappels (one 70m barely makes it from the first rap on a tree to the wash below) to make an exit of the main gully without having to down climb White Rot Gully.
Route Description1000’+, 8 Pitches, 5.9+
1st Pitch- 200’- 5.9+/ Climb the right side of the sandy flake/off-width to a roof. Move left out from underneath the roof to solid face climbing that traverses up and left into the main corner. Continue up the left side of the corner/chimney to the top of the outer slab. Belay in a large comfortable notch off of a tree. The crux is the first 10m or so. The rock improves the higher you go.
2nd Pitch- 160’- 5.9/ This is the most aesthetic pitch of the route and ends just below the roof above with a small plaque commemorating the first ascent which is unusual to see at Red Rock. Move up and right on easy ground to gain the obvious seam above. Finger and hand jam up this seam which crosses a solid patch of varnish plated rock at the grade just before a fixed station up and left below the roof. This is a hanging belay stance.
3rd Pitch- 110’- 5.8/ Make an awkward move to pull the roof above and follow the seam/crack right to the base of a left facing corner. There is a fixed belay station out left, but it is best to move to the base of the corner and set up a gear belay there.
4th Pitch- 150’- 5.7/ Stem up the corner on positive holds placing gear at will. Belay in the base of the large chimney above.
5th Pitch- 110’- 5.7/ Stem up the chimney on solid varnished rock and belay off of a fixed rap station on top.
6th Pitch- 200’- 3rd Class/ Move the belay west to the base of the upper wall and set up belay at the bottom of the obvious seam/crack.
7th-8th Pitches- 300’- 5.9/ A full 200’ takes you directly up the crack until you can traverse up and left over face holds to a fixed hanging belay. This 200’ is the second best pitch of the day. From there we took the ropes off and soloed some 5th class terrain up and right and back left to another rap station about 100’ higher up. From here you can continue to scramble to Sherwood Forest and/or rap the route.