Arch Enemy, 5.9, 3 Pitches

Arch Enemy, 5.9, 3 Pitches

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 36.10810°N / 115.4894°W
Additional Information Route Type: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.9 (YDS)
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 3
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Arch Enemy, 5.92nd Pitch- 80’- 5.9

Arch Enemy is a fantastic recent addition to the Upper Solar Slab Wall. You won’t find much if anything about Arch Enemy out on the web yet (2009), but basically it is a three pitch route that runs up the inside right side of the obvious arch to the left of Solar Slab, then tunnels up and under the arch (awesome pitch!) to a mid rappel/belay on the Solar Slab route and adds one nice final 5.9 finger crack pitch to the right of Solar Slab which reconnects with Solar Slab again at the top of its 3rd pitch. The pitches are 5.8, 5.9 and 5.9 and are sustained at their respective grades with two full rope pitches sandwiching one of the most unique pitches of climbing at Red Rocks, the tunneling up through the arch itself (photos).
Mount Wilson
Arch Enemy, 5.9

Despite the fun I had leading that 2nd pitch through the tunnel, I should advise that my belayer leaned against a huge flake emanating from the bottom of the arch and it shifted during my lead which caused the whole arch to shudder. This arch has been hollowed out by continuous snow melt drainage during the winter months on the upper Solar Slab. The surface of the wall underneath the arch lacks friction and the flake one must hug on the way up is quite hollow. Therefore, the climbing can be quite precarious until you can attain the chimney technique on the much better rock inside the arch. This is no doubt why the route does in fact contain two protection bolts on the face of the wall to help protect this section. However, they also have been eroded by the drainage and the top bolt would no longer hold a significant fall. The first time I attempted this climb, we went up the first pitch of Arch Enemy and then the first pitch of Change Up and could not find our way through the wet drainage which in fact covers both bolts when full on running water. I would estimate that for a good portion of the winter, the 2nd pitch is wet on this route.

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. Follow the trail into the canyon and turn right to stay out of the canyon floor and follow the trail until beyond the Friar. There is a well trodden switch back trail that leads to the base of the wall where Solar Gully and Johnny Vegas start. Climb any of the Lower Solar Slab routes to reach the broad bench below the upper slab. Walk to the base of the arch and set up below the right side.

Route Description

450’+/-, 3 Pitches, 5.9

1st Pitch- 185’- 5.8/ Run up the lower face just right of the black water streak below the right side of the arch. You will not find much protection until you reach the black varnish where you can place a nut or two. There is a scoop in the water streak that will take a cam as well. The climbing is fairly tame through this section. Reach the corner forming the right side of the arch and place gear as you mix solid facial features to the left with corner moves. Continue to climb as the corner arches left and do a semi hanging belay off a bolted station on the wall. Avoid chasing the corner in, stay out on the face towards the end on crimpy, but real solid holds. (photos)

2nd Pitch- 80’- 5.9/ This is one of the more interesting pitches at Red Rocks. Run up the white hollow (somewhat precarious) flake in the arch. It will be hard to find much friction on the wall during the winter where the sandstone has been scraped by water runoff. There are two bolts on the wall, but the 2nd bolt is eroded and serves little purpose. It is best to focus on finding some pro in the arch at that point. Gravity works against you and makes the crawling up the flake a tad awkward, but eventually you can turn around and face out into a true chimney position on much better rock. Here you will get a few good pieces in, one bomber .75 will be on the wall behind you as you chimney up. Eventually, as the chasm widens, you will flip and face the wall with a great rest stance or two and can place another bomber .5” piece with a double length runner off to your left. Continue through a squeeze section to the top of the arch and walk over to a mid rappel/belay station half way up the 2nd pitch of Solar Slab. (photos)

3rd Pitch- 185’- 5.9/ This pitch is actually better than it looks. Straight up from the belay is a varnished finger crack, but it does not look 5.9 as it is somewhat at a laid back angle. However, further up this long pitch, you end up in better rock with a steeper grade in a finger/hand crack that gives you the 5.9 portion. To start, move back left to gain easier ground to angle back right into the first finger crack. Place gear at will as you finish off this first crack and come to a much more varnished portion of the wall. Follow a steeper corner/crack up black varnish to a ledge which is where the 3rd pitch of Solar Slab comes in from the left. (photo)

Climbing Sequence


You are not at the normal rappel line for Solar Slab. Take a double rope rappel back to your 3rd pitch belay. Then a single rope rappel gets you to the last rappel of Solar Slab. Another double rope rappel gets you to the broad ledge separating the two solar slab walls. Rappel either Johnny Vegas or Solar Gully. Johnny Vegas is a much quicker rappel (double ropes), but if somebody is climbing the route, it would be more honorable to descend Solar Gully. Solar Gully consists of a quick down climb or small rap, followed by another small rap, then a double rap, another single rap, and one last double rappel. If you only have a single rope, you can still rappel Solar Gully, just count on hitting every rappel station. You can also easily down climb Solar Gully and if a ton of folks are rappelling, and there is a jam, that would be my preference.

Essential Gear

Double 60m ropes. Single to 3”, maybe double .75 to 2”. One set of wires. Dozen shoulder length slings should be adequate. Will descend back to your shoes and pack, no need to take much with you unless you are linking another route above. If you want to carry a 5”, by walking it up during the first section of the 2nd pitch, you might feel a little more warm and fuzzy inside.

External Links

  • Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM

  • Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association

  • DowClimbing.Com
  • Red Rocks



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