Although Eagle Dance (5.10c, A0) and Levitation (5.11c) are the better known classics on Eagle Wall, in my opinion, Mountain Beast (5.10d) and Ringtail are comparable, albeit shorter, routes. Ringtail was the original of the two, established by good friends Joanne and Jorge (Urioste) in 1981, approximately the same time they put up Eagle Dance and Levitation. Mountain Beast was an afterthought in 1997.
Ringtail and Mountain Beast share the first three pitches and thus the crux of both routes, a heady 5.10+/11- slab second pitch traverse that is well protected by fixed gear. After the third pitch, Ringtail continues straight up the weakness on the left side of the attached tower forming Rainbow Buttress whereas Mountain Beast veers left up varnished faces. These last two pitches of Ringtail can be combined to make this a quick climb. The final heavily varnished corner to the top of the tower is one of the better 5.9 trad pitches in all of Red Rock. Interesting enough, Chris McNamara’s (Supertopo) short listed guidebook includes Ringtail even though it has yet to gain much popularity. Barnes and Wuhrmann retrofitted the bolts in 2006 and the fixed protection on the route was warm and fuzzy in 2013. All of the belays are fixed except for the top of the tower which consists of slung blocks. Therefore you can rap the route with a 70m rope or continue on with Rainbow Buttress to the top of the wall.
Many complain of the approach to Eagle Wall, but it really just depends on what you are used to. If from California, you might be a bit agitated at the boulder hopping and scrambling. If from the Canadian Rockies, the approach will seem like a walk in the park. Don’t worry about running into too many parties on Eagle Wall, despite its popularity. I have climbed all of the established routes on Eagle Wall and have run into few other parties. However, my advice is to have several route options in mind when sorting gear before heading back into the canyon.
Park at the Oak Creek trailhead off the loop road or out at the main road at the burro crossing sign. Head due west for Oak Creek Canyon. Follow the trail into the canyon and turn right to stay out of the canyon floor and follow the trail staying low and below any turn off up the hill on your right to the Solar Slab routes. Continue, aiming for the narrow section of the canyon, then drop into the canyon floor and boulder hop up canyon for approximately 20 minutes looking to gain access to Eagle Wall by ascending the Painted Bowl descent. You might see a cairn on your right above some very slick water worn rock. Smear up this short wall to the cairn and angle back right following cairns to a bushy chimney scramble on your left. Break through here and continue back right on nice slick rock until you reach a huge boulder and the west shoulder of Painted Bowl. Turn left and scramble 4th class rock up to the shoulder below Rainbow Buttress. Descend 30’+/- to the start of Ringtail/Mountain Beast, an obvious crack leading up to a heart shaped arch.
Route DescriptionRingtail, 5 Pitches, 5.10d
1st Pitch- 120’- 5.9/ This is a gear protected pitch that leads to the neat heart shaped arch above. Start in a left leaning crack and maneuver the easier ground when given a choice to a small ledge. Move to the corner and make the crux move of the pitch past the overhang (2”) and up into the corner proper to the sloping ledge and fixed belay above.
2nd Pitch- 60’- 5.10d/ I called this pitch 5.11a when I did Mountain Beast several years ago. So does Mountain Project on their write up. However, since it is so well protected and maybe because I have gained a few slab skills, I now concur with the 5.10++. This pitch is mostly bolted and is the crux of the climb. Follow a few bolts up nice holds angling right. Then follow the bolt line back left on a hard slab/edge traverse. This pitch no doubt has gotten tougher with time as the edges have given way to vertical sandy slab. However there are more bolts than what Handren reports and thus the traverse is well protected. Move into the alcove below the next corner left and fixed belay. Maybe three required moves at the grade.
3rd Pitch- 100’- 5.10a/ The 5.10 move(s) are right off the belay and hard to protect thus making them awkward. Layback and swing your left foot up to catch an edge and take the corner from there which is much easier climbing to the next fixed belay below another corner. This pitch is quite a bit shorter than Handren’s notes claim.
4th-5th Pitches- 160’- 5.9/ I found it best to combine these last two pitches. I only placed one piece of gear before encountering the fixed belay at the top of pitch four. I extended it and then hit the beautiful varnished corner above. You can place gear at will in that corner, but it is not your typical 5.9 corner at Red Rock. It requires a combination of chimneying and stemming with intermittent fingers and hands up a flared corner/chimney. The start of the 4th pitch is a short and easy corner, then easy ground up to the base of the varnished corner. The belay/rap on top of the tower consists of slung blocks.
DescentYou can rap the route comfortably with a 70m rope, hitting every fixed station.
Essential GearOnce I hauled out a busted up helmet that was left behind at the base of this route, so helmets are never a bad idea on less traveled terrain at Red Rock. A 70m rope is required for most of the raps on this wall although a 60m rope would work on this route. Single rack to C4 #2 or 3, double from .3 to .5 for that last pitch would be helpful. A few shoulder length slings with mostly draws. This is a pure south facing wall. Take plenty of water in the spring and fall and a decent jacket for the belays in the winter. Wind can be a factor on this face.
External LinksOver 300 routes detailed from first hand successful accounts by me or others at Red Rock Canyon. GET OFF THE TOURIST ROUTES and explore!
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM
Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association