Jorge, Joanne (Uriostes) and Kevin Campbell established this interesting three pitch route on Jackrabbit Buttress in 2008 and as of 2013 it had yet to be published. Spending the day with Jorge and Danny is always a treat and climbing a relatively new route of Jorge and Joanne’s topped it off nicely. Danny and I had climbed a solid route across Juniper Canon the day before named Clod Tower. We returned to Juniper Canyon to approximately 200’ up canyon from the large black boulder at the mouth of the canyon to climb Smooth Operator with Jorge. There are three moderately easy routes lined up in a row, Rose Hips (5.7) behind the before mentioned boulder, Earnest Stemmingway (5.8+) 100’ up canyon from this boulder and Smooth Operator an additional 100’ up canyon. Stemmingway and Smooth Operator were established the same year by Uriostes and friends. In my opinion, not only is Smooth Operator by far the best route of the three, but its third pitch is one of the finer 5.8-5.9 trad pitches at Red Rock NCA.
The first pitch involves a long traverse right via easy varnished ground with horizontal protection. The crack before the traverse and the crack after the traverse make this a decent 5.8 pitch. The second pitch (5.7-5.8) follows an arcing crack that trends left up to a comfortable belay. The third pitch (5.9) offers a stunning black varnished wall traverse right into an excellent corner. All of the rock on this pitch is pitch black varnish and offers fun climbing and good pro at the grade.
Approach as you would for Brownstone Walls and Juniper Canyon in general, which means the Oak Creek trail head off of the Red Rock loop road. Hike straight out north of the parking area on an established trail heading for Juniper Canyon. Take your first right at a T and then two lefts that lead you to a massive boulder out in the middle of the wash. Head up right out of the wash and follow a well-travelled trail to the mouth of Juniper Canyon. Hike up canyon beyond the massive boulder on your right and continue up approximately 100 yards plus or minus until you can traverse straight over right to below a significant black varnished wall above (the third pitch-photos). Before you start the traverse, go ahead and start up the sandy trail from the wash that you would normally take to Brownstone Walls. This traverse involves a bit of bushwhacking. The first pitch starts up a 20’ crack just right of a chimney in a bay amongst oak scrubs.
Route DescriptionSmooth Operator, 3 Pitches, 5.9
1st Pitch- 110’- 5.8/ Climb the crack at the grade to where there is an easy traverse right on good varnish. Traverse right placing at least one horizontal piece of you want to protect the 2nd on your way to clipping a bolt. Then head up to the second bolt via face climbing. You can place a bomber C4 #4 in a horizontal between the bolts. Ascend the beautiful hand crack above to a very comfortable belay ledge with a small gear belay in the floor to the right. Make sure to keep your placements well extended to avoid rope drag if you decide to clip both ropes.
2nd Pitch- 140’- 5.7+/ Climb the well varnished face to the left of the chimney eventually coming back to the chimney to chimney on up and into a ramping crack/corner that leads up and left to another very comfortable belay which is fixed for a rap.
3rd Pitch- 130’- 5.9/ This is one of the better 5.9 trad pitches at Red Rock NCA. Start up and left in a beautiful varnished hand crack for approximately 30’. Then traverse straight right where it makes since via very positive holds, for both feet and hands, to the looming heavily varnished corner. Head up the corner for approximately 100' until you see the fixed rap out left on the face. Make an easy exit to that fixed station. Like the first pitch, it is important that you extend your placements if clipping both ropes to avoid rope drag on the upper section of this corner.