The Solar Slab area in Oak Creek is no doubt home to the most popular winter climbing at Red Rocks. The Solar Slab area consists of two steep walls separated by a huge plateau on the south side of Rainbow Mountain. Due to the aspect and angles of these climbs, they are considered good winter objectives, thus the name. Sunspot Ridge refers to the ridge that forms the western boundaries of these walls and seperates Solar Slab from Black Arch Wall and the Painted Bowl area. All six established climbs (2010) in this area start on the eastern wall below the ridge. Only two are designed to reach the upper reaches of this section of Rainbow Mountain, Sunspot Ridge and Sunburn, both of which tie into the classic Solar Slab route near its top after 1500’ of climbing.
There are six published routes on the eastern wall of Sunspot Ridge. I found the Sunspot Ridge route itself sort of a typical 5.8 classic (DeAngelo and Urioste) at Red rocks, a lot of meandering (13 pitches!) and route finding with some interesting positions on some neat varnished rock. Solar Flare offers a fantastic 5.10 roof pull among five decent pitches of climbing. Watch for the Ringtail Cats stealing (sunglasses, whatever) any lunch left at the base of the wall.
Access is via the Oak Creek Canyon Trail head which is the last parking turn off on the right from the Red Rocks loop road. You will actually drive down a gravel road for quite a distance to reach the trailhead. There is a restroom at this location. Many routes are reached from this trailhead, so no worries about various vehicles in the parking lot in regards to who is climbing what. Most folks are there to climb much easier routes like Solar Slab and Solar Gully. There are plenty of good routes to climb that climbers won’t be on. We combined the Friar with Solar Flare this day out, 9 pitches in all. Follow the trail into the canyon and turn right to stay out of the canyon floor and follow the trail until below the Sunspot Ridge routes which are well left of the Solar Slab area, but before you reach the pinch in the canyon floor. Ascend any faint trail you can find with a little bushwhack until at the base of the right face of the ridge. Solar Flare begins in the most prominent varnished wall. Sunspot Ridge begins in a treed alcove to the left.
The Routes are Listed Left to Right as you Face the Eastern Wall of the Ridge
- Sunspot Ridge- 1500’- 5.8/ The route involves a lot of pitches, but the climbing should be relatively fast if the climbers are competent. It helps to know the descent rappels (Solar Slab) if you are going to attempt Sunspot Ridge during the winter. The 3rd pitch is the best climbing of the day. The 8th and 11th pitches are pretty cool rock with nice upper wall positions. Dow
- Solar Flare- 490’- 5.10c/ The crux moves on the route both involve pulling roofs. The first one is a 5.10c large roof pull backed up by a suspicious bolt. The second is a 5.9 bulge with a little better protection but climbing on lesser quality rock. I like this climb in general and it represents a good one to switch leads with a less experienced partner the way the pitches alternate. The rock is pretty fantastic by Red Rocks standards. This route is not to be confused by another route at Red Rocks by the same name at Calico Basin, a single pitch sport route. As the name suggests, this can be a decent sunny route. However, in the winter, Mount Wilson will interfere with most of the sun in the afternoon hours. Dow
- Corona- 100’- 5.10a/
- Sunshine Boys- 500’- 5.9/
- Dubious Flirtations- 150’- 5.10c/ Quite a chossy wide start (flaky white sandstone), but worth it once you stem up over the roof to the well varnished wall above with a finger crack. Not a splitter per se and you still don't trust the varnished edges and chicken heads much knowing this route receives such little traffic. My last piece before venturing up and right on the varnished face after the crack fizzles out was a micro cam. It is a bit run out for some folks. Head up right to another feature (sort of a crack with easy but steep terrain). I placed a medium cam in a pocket at the bulge and continued up to a small ledge below a chimney. Set up a small to medium gear belay there. To reach the rap, traverse (short easy exposed move) climbers right into an obvious gully. There is a small pine with decent tat on it (2015). Double rope 60's get you down the bushy gully, be careful on the pull (move away from the wall). A C3#4 and #3 help protect the sketchy start, then just a single rack to #2. No real moves at the grade. The crux is at the beggining through the sketchy rock. Dow
- Sunburn- 1500’- 5.7/