On the northeast corner of Rainbow Mountain, at the entrance to Juniper Canyon, lies the Wall of Cracks. The Wall of Cracks consists of a collection of mostly moderate crack routes among several towers including the impressive Cloud Tower itself and its most infamous route Crimson Chrysalis.
For most, the only reason to climb the collection of short trad lines to the east of Crimson Chrysalis would be due to not getting up early enough to get a spot on the classic itself. I of course being one of the few exceptions, having climbed Chrimson Chrysalis already three times, two of those having the line entirely to ourselves, I went directly for these more obscure lines. The trick is climbing this ultra classic when it is cold and windy. Harsher conditions normally separate the tourists from the climbers.
So despite Test Tube, Spare Rib and others serving as mostly a back-up plan for most, I and a trusting partner actually made them a destination objective on a perfect May day. We were not disappointed. Test Tube, in my opinion, offers one of the better 5.9 pitches at Red Rocks on incredible rock. The first pitch runs up an obvious corner to the left of the Spare Rib pillar. Just when you think the rating might be soft, it goes to a true crack pitch for several tight moves utilizing perfect hand jams. The second pitch, for the grade (5.7), is also classic in style. A true Epinephrine type chimney (think last chimney pitch without any pro) that requires an almost completely run out (one piece) lead switching which wall you are facing about mid way up. The last pitch can easily be combined with the second pitch. Test Tube is just another classic Urioste route put in by Jorge and Joanne in 1980.
Wall of Cracks sits above an obvious ramp rising above the Juniper Canyon floor. Test Tube can be found just below where you crest this ramp for Crimson Chrysalis. The approach for this wall, as for other routes in Juniper Canyon, can start at either the Oak Creek or Pine Creek trail head off the Red Rocks loop road. I prefer Oak Creek. Oak Creek is the last trail head option on the Red Rocks Loop Road. Drive down a long gravel drive to the parking area. Use the trail heading out of the corralled parking lot to the north aiming for Juniper Canyon. Follow the trail as it meanders northwest towards Rainbow Mountain. There are a variety of options, but it is more direct to not cross the Juniper Canyon wash lower down, but rather hike up a cairned trail before you get to the wash aiming for a huge boulder. This trail eventually does gain the north bank of the wash. Then it eventually crosses back over to the south side where you need to pick up a trail that heads for the Crimson Chrysalis ramp below Cloud Tower. Test Tube is an obvious deep and dark varnished corner about ¾ of the way up the ramp.
Route Description300’+/-, 3 Pitches, 5.9
1st Pitch- 135’- 5.9/ This is just a fantastic pitch at the grade. You won’t find anything on Crimson Chrysalis as good as this. It goes about half way up at a lesser grade. Then the 5.9 climbing starts as the face holds disappear and you sink nice hand jams and walk up the tight corner to the base of a chimney for a comfortable, but dark belay. (photos)
2nd-3rd Pitches- 165’- 5.7R/ I thought it more efficient to combine these two pitches. You have to run out the first one anyway, so the rope drag is not an issue. Stay out in the wide section of the chimney and use standard chimney technique facing the right wall at first and then switching to face the left wall about half way up the first 80’. I placed one large piece in the right wall before the switch. There won’t be much gear beside that; it is definitely a run out pitch. You hit a big ledge that separates the deep chimney below from a smaller section above. The crux move of this final 165’ could be the final mantle out of the chimney and up onto a belay ledge that also serves as the final belay for Spare Rib. This last 80’ does take gear. (photos)