Horndogger to Sundog Link
Horndogger Select to Sundog is a combination of the three pitches of Horndogger, 5.8 with the much better five pitches of Sundog, 5.10a on the south facing wall of Rainbow Mountain next to the ever so popular Solar Slab routes. To say that Horndogger is taking the road less traveled (by Red Rocks standards) would be an understatement. It is less traveled for good reason. Horndogger is a pure trad play, including the stations and the protection can be sparse and not always bomber. It takes a certain amount of faith to jump onto the delicate white rock above the first half of the first pitch of Horndogger. Two of us led this within days of each other and both ran out the first pitch a full 200’ because we did not like the first station spot recommended in the Red Rocks Falcon Guide for Horndogger. Sundog is not published in the Falcon Guide, but can be found at the good beta site Supertopo.com.
The good rock on Sundog more than makes up for the route finding issue on Horndogger however and the combined 8 pitches make for a wonderful winter outing at Red Rocks. Due to the route's south facing position on Rainbow Mountain, the entire route received good sun most of the day. There are better routes to climb in the fall and spring and this route would not be considered for a summer outing at Red Rocks.
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. This section of Rainbow Mountain features quite a few popular routes. Follow the trail into the canyon and turn right to stay out of the canyon floor and follow the trail until below the Friar (photo). Then head up on short switchbacks to a small belay cave at the base of the route, which is just to the left of the Friar and well before the first bend in the canyon.
1500’, 8 Pitches, 5.10a
1st Pitch- 200’- 5.8+/ The climbing topo at Supertopo.com can be tough to follow on its own. It shows climbing straight up the wall to the left of the Friar between a crack on the left and a chimney that runs up the side of the Friar. However, I advise using the crack to the left to place protection as you climb just to the right of a significant roof. Once you get to the roof, traverse right onto a ledge. Make sure to use double ropes technique and run one rope up the crack with a double runner used before the traverse. To avoid immense rope drag, if you are bringing two climbers up, I advise that one climb the face so you do not have to direct your 2nd rope. Move right a considerable distance, but not into the chimney behind the Friar. At a tree, go ahead and jump up to the suspect white rock above with no protection in sight. As you climb on run out ground, continue moving left and you will follow into a groove full of huecos and thus pockets in which you can place cams. Large gear would be preferable here including a #5 camelot. Continue until you reach the end of your 60m ropes and build a station in large huecos with a small stance.
2nd Pitch- 120’- 5.8/ Climb above the station on easy large jugs and traverse over on a crux move to a finger crack that angles up left. Continue on, trending back right as the crack disappears. This pitch finishes right below a significant ledge, not to be mistaken for the large intersection ledge of Solar Slabs. Build your own station.
3rd Pitch- 140’- 5.8/ This is where you exit the traditional Horndogger Select route. Move your belay over to the far left below a 3” black varnish crack that narrows right away. Climb the crack with solid protection as it peters out into 5.8 run out slab climbing to the huge Solar Slab ledge. Build a station below the ledge.
4th Pitch- 5.5 or 3rd Class/ An easy and quick pitch that an accomplished climber can solo whether you climb it straight on in front of you, or maneuver to the right up ramps via 3rd class scrambling beyond several bushes and trees. Bottom line is that you are aiming for the lower right base of the obvious upper wall directly in front of you (north).
5th Pitch- 190’- 5.7/ Locate a relatively new bolt (2007) at the base of this pitch just to the left of an obvious crack which is just to the left of the large gully separating the large walls above. Where Horndogger was all trad, including the stations, Sundog will offer bolts on its run out sections along with fixed stations which also serve as your double rope rappel stations. This lower bolt is really not needed except to help the belayer maintain his/her footing in case of a leader fall. Follow the easy 5.6 varnish up the run out face to the left of the crack past a bolt and onto a small ledge at the base of another crack. Climb the 5.7 face varnish, protecting into the crack with various cams until you reach a small ledge above with a fixed station.
6th Pitch- 140’- 5.8/ Move out right past a directional bolt and up solid facial features past a bulge or two and beyond four bolts to a crack that can be protected with nuts to below a small roof and a semi hanging belay stance.
7th Pitch- 115’- 5.10a/ Cover some vertical run out 5.7 ground on suspect horns up to a bolt directly below an overhang. Take the overhang which is the crux move of the route at 5.10a up and onto tough slab past four bolts until you can start placing gear again in much easier ground to the next comfortable station below the right facing crack above.
8th Pitch- 130’- 5.9/ A fun full on trad pitch, but soft for the grade (felt more like 5.8) that runs up the right facing crack and then back left and straight up a separate fun crack. This is what Supertopo.com recommended the #5 and #6 camelots for, but I found I could sufficiently protect the somewhat solid moves with a #4 and #3. Don’t proceed too far. Once you get over the vertical, the ground eases, but the crack continues for quite a distance. As soon as you reach easy ground, look left for the last fixed station versus continuing above.
You have to use all four belay stations for your double rope rappels to return to the base of Sundog. This wall is not fixed for single rope raps. Once you are back down to the bottom of the 5th pitch, coil the ropes and scramble down left and then traverse back right to the top of the Solar Slab gully. Make about six single rope rappels down the gully. The first two are quite short and the last four are full length. You could combine the last two with a double rope rap, but the 3rd and 4th rappel are best done on a single line or you will more than likely get your ropes entangled. Once on the ground, it is just a small hike in climbing shoes along the base of the wall back to your gear.
Please be careful when rappelling (especially if others could be below you which is most likely the case) at Red Rocks or on any sandstone in southern Utah or Nevada for that matter. Coming from the Canadian Rockies, it is a given that we tread lightly on our rappels. Some rambunctious dudes hop out as they rap pounding the rock with their body weight, not a great idea. Remember, your rap lines are not normally the climbing line, thus not as clean. On this trip a large hollow flake busted in many pieces as my 2nd partner rapped above us. I was showing one partner how to simul rap and we were at the station below. Both of us could have been seriously hurt. My foot and her head sustained minor injuries as it were. We were lucky. One of my double ropes was not; as 16m was cut off from a direct rock hit. Made for interesting double rappels down the rest of the route.
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