Armatron is an excellent secluded choice when compared to other popular climbing routes at Red Rocks. Just put in by Jorge and Joanne Urioste and friends in 2003, Armatron is an up and coming classic to be sure.
The approach up to the North Brownstone Wall deters many climbing tourists. We climbed Armatron on a Saturday during Red Rocks Rendezvous, without a soul in sight on any of the Brownstone Wall routes when we started climbing at about 10:AM. Even though it is rated 5.9, the 3rd and 4th 5.6 pitches are the attraction of the route and what makes Armatron so incredibly unique.
You are basically climbing on natural Brownstone bricks that look manmade for almost a full 300’. Although the protection can be sparse via a few #2 horizontal ledges along with some wire placements, the climbing is easy on bomber holds. The rock landscape on Armatron at this level is just amazing (photo). The first two pitches are sustained on fantastic rock as well. The 5th -6th pitches are quite uneventful and you can rap from any pitch, except the 5th, if you so desire,
however, the route does take you to the top of a subsidiary peak just south of the summit of Juniper Peak where there is a summit log (2008) as well as a walk off option. Many, including Jerry Handren’s guide book, have you thinking this is a 5 pitch route, but if you are going to the summit, you will have to climb a short portion of the last pitch of Requiem for a Tadpole.
I have been told that the name Armatron originates from a robotic toy from the 80’s, but of course I would not know that to be fact. Another of many mixed lines put in at Red Rocks by Jorge and Joanne Urioste along with Geoff Conley, Jimmy Newberry and Jeffrey Johnson, Armatron climbs a direct line up the north face of Brownstone Wall for approximately 750’ spread out over 6 pitches with a small scramble at the end to reach Juniper Peak summit. Armatron is easy for the grade and the long approach is the only aspect of the climb keeping the crowds at bay.
Armatron is located in the center of the north end of the north Brownstone Wall, which in my opinion, is one of the most scenic locations in Red Rocks located directly across from Cloud Tower (Crimson Chrysalis) and the dramatic Rainbow Wall routes (Original, 5.12a, 14 pitches and Rainbow Country, 5.12d, 10 pitches). A major cleft up the middle of the north Brownstone Wall divides the steeper left side from the broken right side. On the right side, there are prominent patches of dark varnish among a sea of lighter colored rock. Armatron climbs the middle portion of this varnish and can be easily identified via 5 bolts on the first pitch. This is a long, several hour approach. But you can climb Myster Z on Jackrabbit Buttress and thus bypass much of the approach. Supposedly it is only a 10 minute walk between topping out on Myster Z (5.7) and the base of Armatron.
Wish I had known this ahead of time. That would make for an ideal 14 pitch day.
750’, 6 Pitches, 5.9
1st Pitch- 100’- 5.8/
A fantastic first pitch off the deck through five bolts to a fixed station. Climb the bomber black plated rock up and trend left through the bolts placing an additional piece of pro here or there if you prefer. As you follow the black varnish, you come to a short traverse left on big holds. Continue up and slightly left to a small scoop with a semi hanging belay.
2nd Pitch- 165’- 5.9/
Another fun pitch on great rock. The crux of the whole climb is right above the station: A thin seam finger crack that can be well protected with small gear.
Towards the end of the seam/crack, you need to make a solid move diagonally left to right to clip a bolt and grab a huge horn. Mantle up the horn onto a thin ledge. Traverse right into another thin, but easier, crack and ascend to the base of a left facing corner. Step out right and climb face holds past a bolt to the anchor below the really cool brownstone blocks.
3rd Pitch- 160’- 5.6/
Climb a line straight above through the almost perfect brownstone blocks (varnished rectangular plates), no doubt from where the wall gets its name. You can’t see the station above, nor are there any bolts. The first 30’ or so is run out, but eventually you cross several bomber horizontal cracks that take #2’s and several other thin vertical cracks that allow you to protect with wires. It is sustained at 5.6 and you can wander left or right, but it is best just to draw a straight line to find the anchor above which is a semi hanging belay below a shorter pitch of more of the same.
4th Pitch- 100’- 5.6/
More of the same. Angle slightly left as you ascend and then step right to a ledge and comfortable belay.
5th Pitch- 190’- 5.7/
Run up the arête on easy ground past three bolts on the right of the arête on your way to Humerus Ledge. None of this felt like 5.7 climbing as it is rated in Jerry’s book. To run a 60m rope out, you can continue via a mantle move up a large block to the base of the final arête feature with two bolts yet above. You will have to set up a station in the cracks with medium gear.
6th Pitch- 45’- 5.5/
Finish the heavily featured arête via the right side to the top of the climb and a chained station.
Scramble down to the notch with some exposure to your left, then up the other side angling left at first but then dog legging back right up a small ramp until you can scramble below a tree to the Juniper Peak summit. There was a summit register in 2008.
Well, it really is simple, however, there are cairns leading you down the wrong gully to the north
(which of course we followed for a bit). The gully you want is a very quick descent. So remember, you started close to the end of the north wall to begin with. From the summit, drop down northeast into a notch and traverse a little further north until into a nice easy going broad gully that will take you all the way back to the base of the route in short order. Scramblers come up this gully to tag the Juniper Peak summit, so a trail should be evident with cairns. You can rap the route, but it is much quicker to descend the gully if you plan on tagging the summit.
Single rack to 2” with an additional #2 helpful on the 3rd pitch. We got along with one set of wires, no worries, versus the extra wires called for in Jerry’s book. A 70m rope probably gets those last two pitches combined, maybe with a little simul involved.
A dozen draws/slings. Plenty of water if a hot day. We did this route in March, and there was no water on approach up the canyon or on the summit despite some lingering snow on Rainbow Wall.
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