The Schwa offers up one of the more stunning splitters in Red Rock. Not known for tall splitters as compared to Zion, Red Rock offers few full pitch cracks. The classic 2nd pitch on the Schwa deserves the full page color photo in Handren’s guide (1st edition). It is located on a remote wall named Mud Spring Wing which is located between Black Velvet Canyon and Mud Spring Canyon. Although the access is not that far from the popular Black Velvet trail head, the approach does require an off-trail ascent up a steep vegetated slope which deters most tourist climbers in the area. If there was ever a two pitch route to invest an approach in, this is it. Joe Herbst established the route in 1977.
We climbed the direct start which really makes sense, since it offers up no more difficulty than the second pitch (both are 5.10d in Handren’s guide and both are considered a bit soft for the grade, this route is not near as difficult as Herbst’s Holed Up, 5.10b, route for example). Herbst’s original line includes a 5.7 pitch that circumvents the direct start to the right. The first pitch climbs a series of short corners with small to medium gear. The second pitch starts at C4#.5 and quickly grows to C4#4 after manteling a beautiful “diving board” feature in the middle of it. The crux of the route is a short off-width pod near the top of the 2nd pitch that protects well with a #5.
Park at the Black Velvet trail head as you would for Epinephrine or any other route in Black Velvet Canyon. Follow the trail and stay left instead of straight for the canyon. This becomes a well-traveled single track. Spy the unmistakable second pitch of the Schwa on the cleaner section of the left side of the mountain. Well before you would reach Mud Springs Canyon, leave the trail and head up the steep and loose vegetated hill to the base of the wall below the upper splitter with the diving board feature. There is no established climbers trail as few folks ever climb at this wall. The first pitch climbs a short face to a right facing flake.
Route DescriptionThe Schwa, 200'+, 5.10d
1st Pitch- 115’- 5.10d/ The FA involved a 5.7 climb-around, but this direct start is in keeping with the line. Start up the face directly below the splitter and “diving board” of the 2nd pitch. Take the flake up and right with a few relatively easy lay back moves. Traverse back left below the thin splitter (5.12) above and climb the fun right facing corner (crux of the pitch but soft for 5.10d). Climb it up and make a physical traverse out of it up and right (mantel) onto a ledge. Climb easy ground up and right and then back into another right facing corner for some more good climbing to a small ledge at a slung block (2016).
2nd Pitch- 100’- 5.10d/ Side pull into the finger splitter out right below the diving board feature. Start placing gear from C4#.5 as you climb straight up this stellar splitter. In short order you get small hands. Continue through the diving board with a relatively easy mantel. From the diving board you start using your C4#4’s until you reach a curving off-width section where one #5 fits well. Place your gear deep or low to keep it out of the way of your fist jams and feet. The crux is the start of a curvy wide pod, but it only last for a meter or two. Some beta suggested this section could require stacked or off-fists, but I employed neither method on lead. Arm bars and regular fist jams supplemented with positive feet jams did the trick. Above the wide it goes to straight in #3’s for a short distance to a relatively easy mantel onto a decent ledge atop the route. Build a medium gear belay here to bring up the 2nd before traversing 20’ right to the fixed rap (nuts-2016).