One must climb out a lot of routes at Red Rock before finding themselves on Tiers of the Setting Sun. The FAer's state “expect a Resolution Arête type of climb with better rock but slightly less spectacular position”. I disagree with them on several accounts. First off, competent climbers at this grade are going to want to solo up the first half of the wall. We soloed Rising Moons and then what is used as the descent gully for Hot Flash and other routes which accounted for more than half the height of the climbing day. In contrast, Resolution has intermittent good climbing throughout. Secondly, the rock, as expected, is as bad as it gets at Red Rock (virtually all of it was lichen or moss covered). Either the FAer's misspoke or were joking about the rock being better than Resolution. That is why there are not many developed routes on this wall, due to the bad rock quality in general. I remember taking a big whipper on Celtic Cracks when a large section of rock came off above its stellar corner/roof pitch. Tiers is no exception to Celtic and actually the rock is considerably worse. The best pitch all day was when I FAed a more direct line near the top (in other words was off route). I had climbed the crux pitch which was a horrendous white sandstone moss fest and just kept climbing straight up through two more long pitches to the top. These were the best pitches but to avoid them, the FAer’s did a 5.6 traverse right 50’ or so. My partner had thought it looked improbable, maybe the FAer's did as well, but I thought it looked good and it went better than anything else we had climbed below.
The FAer's also have this marked up as a grade V climb in Mountain Project, but with so much easy ground to the base of the wall that actually contains the route, there is no way it could be labeled V. I am not much into giving alpine grades in the desert to begin with, but even IV would be pushing it in comparison to what other desert climbs are listed at. In a true alpine environment, a V climb takes days to complete counting the approach and climb. We did this climb 18hrs car to car wasting several hours finding it, getting off route and FAing more challenging pitches at the finish. I even wasted another hour (even though I had done it before) finding the right descent gully. However, it is cool to get on a route put up in such adventurous style=zero bolts or fixed gear. For that, I take my hat off to Karsten Duncan, many of his routes at Red Rock are like that. He established the route in 2006 with Andrew Gomoll, one year prior to them completing Celtic Cracks which is the better climb of the two. They both feature the same canyoneering slot descent which can be waist deep in water. I know cayoneers who would gladly hike all the way to the top just to do this descent.
Park at the official First Creek pull-out on Highway 159. Hike along the trail above the left side of the wash as you enter the canyon passing under Lotta Balls Wall and the Romper Room area. The first route to mark the First Creek Slabs area is Rising Moons. Hike up the left side of the canyon floor to the base of a white sandstone tower with a triangular block resting below it. The first pitch climbs the chimney up the left side of the triangular block.
Route Description2300’+/-, 15 Pitches, 5.11
Rising Moons, 3 Pitches, 5.5
1st Pitch- 100’- 5.3/ Handren’s guide calls this pitch 150’, but that would have to include all the way to the tree above. I down climbed this pitch on descent, but you could easily rap the next feature skiers left with a single rope from a block if you deemed it necessary. I cleaned up some existing tat over there. In any regard, there is a short walking/scrambling treed section in between pitches. This is a darkly varnished chimney that gives you all kind of options in which to climb it.
2nd Pitch- 140’- 5.5/ Run up the right side of the white tower to its top. This corner forms a chimney, but most of the climbing is on darkly varnished face with huge jugs out right. Towards the top of the tower, the chimney closes. Finish at a fixed belay on the wall out right, just below the summit of the tower. On rap, I down climb the section of this pitch with a single 70m.
3rd Pitch- 90’- 5.5/ This pitch will feel much more exposed than the previous one and is the crux of Rising Moon if you are soloing. Follow the wide crack to a ledge system at its top. Unless you brought wide gear, this section will be mostly run out. From a free soloing perspective, the rock is of lesser quality than the previous two pitches. At the top is a single bolt currently (2012) backup up by a tree to form a belay/rappel anchor.
Descent Gully, 4 Pitches, 5th
4th- 7th Pitches- 700’+/- 5th/ Move left and up into what is commonly referred to as the descent gully for the lower First Creek Slab routes. There are several fixed raps in this wide gully along with several large slung trees. In any regard, pick any line you want and scramble/climb up to the top which comes out exactly at the base of Celtic Cracks. If you angle a bit left up the gully before cutting back right near the end, you will avoid most of the brush. To reach Tiers, simply turn right up along the wall. When you get below the massive arête, start the climb just to the right up a chossy short finger section. Then traverse right into the main line.
Tiers of the Setting Sun, 8 Pitches, 5.11a
1st Pitch- 185’- 5.9/ As before mentioned, the first pitch seems poorly described by the FAer’s in terms of locating it. I am going to make an assumption that the few who might be interested in this climb have already climbed Celtic Cracks. Celtic Cracks' start is located close to the top of the bolted rap descent gully used for any routes that end up at the base of the upper wall. Hike up right from there past a huge arête that has a corner on both sides. The right side is a massive lichen covered right facing corner. Tiers of the Setting Sun starts at the base of this right side (but does not use that corner). The start is one of the cruxes of this pitch, a chossy crack through weak rock 30’ up to a ledge with a tree. Traverse right into a chimney section. This relatively easy chimney lands you below a decent right facing corner that protects with small gear. You mostly face climb up to below an obvious roof (photo). You can place a solid C4#4 deep under the roof and extend it before pulling quite fragile rock and committing to a right high step mantle. Comfortable medium gear belay on a slight sloping, but comfortable, ledge.
2nd Pitch- 185’- 5.9/Climb the obvious wide crack and continue up to a beautiful alcove. There is a tree in sort of an alcove, but continue to the second one that has more of a cave appearance and serves as a more comfortable belay. We had hauled a C4#5 and a #6 in preparation for the 5.10+ off-width pitch on the upper wall and both of those pieces come in handy here, but the pitch could go without for the trad leader comfortable with some run-out via relatively secure off-width. There are plenty of face features as well, but like the entire route, many holds are suspect and covered in lichen.
3rd Pitch- 200’- 5.9+/ Continue up relatively easy ground to a ledge below an obvious hand/fist splitter. Climb this 30’ vertical crack to a sloping 5th class ledge. The FAer’s reference stopping here, but with a 70m rope, you have no issue reaching the large ledge above that is below the final head-wall. Continue up through trees to a short 5.8 steep right facing corner. Climb it to the large ledge with a tree (2016) and belay in a finger crack straight ahead.
4th Pitch- 50’- 5.9/ Scramble through the trees and bushes on the left and climb up one move at the grade (if even) up a short corner to your left and walk left on this upper part of the ledge to belay below the obvious moss filled crack (mostly fingers) that extends high above.
5th Pitch- 230’- 5.11 PG13/ This is one of the nastier pitches I have ever led at Red Rock and needs to be bolted and cleaned if this route is ever expected to be repeated but by more than a hardy few. The first few meters might offer the technical crux via a thin steep crack with a few suspect features to assist. But as you gain height, the moss thickens and even though a few more medium pieces might fit, the fact that you must wipe the moss off inside the crack does not bode well if you fall on them. After you get through this initial 50’, the angle mellows out some, but the climbing is still 5.10 moss climbing. Every feature you step on, every cam or nut you set, you assume the worst. I swear that I aged a year on this pitch. When I got to a tree (what the FAer’s call a large bush), I looked at the rock above and decided to follow the most natural line for two long FA pitches which offers a more direct and aesthetic finish. Therefore I continued up to the end of my rope before setting a belay at the base of a chimney with the best rock we had seen all day. No belay option on this pitch is going to be comfortable.
Variation (FA) Direct Finish, 375'+/-, 5.10
6th Pitch- 125’- 5.10-/ Head up the featured chimney with good pro until you are forced to bust out right. There are some loose blocks at this juncture thus I traversed below them (to the right) into much better rock in an off-width. A C4#5 protects this section well if you bump it up a time or two and extend it. Eventually you have to surmount some precarious blocks before targeting the interesting huecos up above that have been used for bird nesting in the past, although no nest was present as of breeding season 2016. Make a semi-hanging belay at the base of the huecos with wires and a C4#.75.
7th- 8th Pitches- 250’- 5.10/ By far the best pitch of our day. Stem the steep hueco (and bird shit covered) covered wall placing micro gear in the right side crack, then a solid (there is no such thing as bomber gear on this entire route) C4#1 in the left crack. Make some wildly exposed stems to reach a horn on the right side arête and move right and up to the best hand jam of the day in the green lichen covered right facing corner above. Here you are reintroduced to suspect features as you climb the hand/fingers crack up steep ground until the angle starts to let up and you mantle onto a sub summit platform. Bushwhack straight over to a wide crack through a roof (5.9) which leads to a ramp just below the summit ridge where you can sling a feature for a comfortable belay. The 20’ of simul climbing does have your 2nd on steep ground, so some might feel more comfortable splitting this pitch which is easy to do on the ledge below the off-width.