Brownstone Wall North, 5.6-5.11b

Brownstone Wall North, 5.6-5.11b

Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Lat/Lon: 36.11640°N / 115.4933°W
Activities: Trad Climbing
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter


Ten Minute Shift, 5.11b
 Ten Minute Shift, 5.11b

Some of the best quality rock and hardest lines in Red Rocks are located back in secluded Juniper Canyon at Rainbow and Brownstone Walls. The several hour approach is considered quite long by Red Rocks standards, thus these routes become ideal objectives when the park is crowded. I climbed on Brownstone Wall on a Saturday, with perfect weather, during Red Rock Rendezvous without another party on the entire wall at 10:00 AM, north or south. Unlike Rainbow Wall, Brownstone faces southeast and soaks up the sun for much of the early day during the spring. For climbing purposes, the wall is discussed in two sections, the North and South. The south Brownstone Wall is bordered on the left by Gunsight Notch which connects it to Rainbow Wall at the head of Juniper Canyon. The north Brownstone Wall ends at the summit of Juniper Peak, a common scramblers objective. There is an obvious cleft in the middle that separates north from south. Imperfections continuing north along the wall produce more features on the north Brownstone Wall versus south. Brownstone Wall North has a minimum of nine (2008) published routes ranging from the 5.6, “Birthday Cake” to the far right (north) to the 5.11b, “Ten Minute Shift” to the far left. None of the lines exceed 750’ of actual climbing and most are relatively new, put in as late as 2006.
Ten Minute Shift, 5.11b
 Ten Minute Shift, 5.11b

Park at the Pine Creek trailhead. There are two approaches to Juniper Canyon. Either hike down the main Pine Creek trail and traverse around the old home site to intersect Oak Creek Trail, or locate a more indistinct trail at the Fire Ecology Loop. They both require crossing Pine Creek ascending up to the south bank. In any regard, you hook into the Oak Creek trail and leave it at any number of trails that make their way towards the left hand corner of Jackrabbit Buttress. Avoid crossing the Juniper Creek Wash to the south. Stay on the north side until you are forced to drop down into Juniper Canyon and scramble your way up the wash until you catch a trail on your right that leads up on loose ground to a large flat vegetated area below slabs to the northwest that lead up to the Brownstone Wall. Continue following a trail until it leads you onto large talus. Scramble up the talus to the large low angled slabs above, angling right to the base of the north Brownstone Wall. There were plenty of cairns to follow in 2008.

Another option, and one I recommend, is to either climb Geronimo or Myster Z and then hike along slabs to the base of the north Brownstone Wall.

Route Description(s)

The Routes are Listed Left to Right as you Face the North Wall
Sand Castle, 5.10c
 Sand Castle, 5.10c
Requiem for a Tadpole, 5.9+
Mayday Malefactor, 5.10c
 Mayday Malefactor, 5.10c
Brownstone Wall South
Sweet Thin, 5.9
 Sweet Thin, 5.9
Brownstone Wall North
Big Horn Sheep
  • Three Chocolatiers- 750’- 5.10b/
  • I chose to combine Three Chocolatiers with the Black Pearl. That turned out to be a good fit. They are both challenging 5.9+ routes by Red Rock Standard and I had a 5.9 follower with me. Three Chocolatiers was the last climb I had to tick off on either Brownstone Wall and no doubt is the most obscure published climb up there. Handren’s guide calls the 5th pitch 5.10a and the others 5.9+ but gives the route a 5.10b. I can only assume that my strategy of climbing the 5.10b first pitch of Ten Minute Shift and then traversing left is the idea behind the discrepancy. I also believe the guide and/or the FAer’s simply misspelled Chocolatiers (Choclateers). The 1st pitch is the sustained lead on the climb, but the 4th pitch is the mental exposed crux on suspect rock. The 2nd pitch is mostly made up of pure black varnish and really sells the route. The 3rd and 5th pitches are inconsequential. Chocolatiers goes well with Ten Minute shift for a full day of climbing. Is as good as most routes on Brownstone North, but rarely climbed. Dow

  • Ten Minute Shift- 400’- 5.11b/
  • No one was credited with the FA in Handren’s book and no beta existed on-line prior to our climbing it in 2011, but Ten Minute Shift is a fantastic five pitch route by Red Rock standards. The first two pitches are almost completely bolted, but the final three are all trad. The crux pitch (second pitch-5.11b) is full on at the grade. It is sustained with the crux move coming at the end as you leave your last bolt and make an aggressive and prolonged under-cling to overcome a bulge with a trad placement or two above in a small crack. The first pitch is well bolted and resembles a sport pitch at the grade (5.10b). The third pitch is a fun flaring chimney (5.10a) that eases way up as you exit it left and up to the base of a beautiful 5.9+ heavily varnished corner. The last pitch goes fast at 5.8 up two more short corners. All the belays/raps were fixed and in decent shape as of 2011. With a “true” 70m rope, you can skip the third pitch belay on your rap descent. Like all of the routes on the North Brownstone Wall, this is a sunny route during the winter months. Dow

  • Hueco Thanks- 450’- 5.7/

  • Sand Castle- 405’- 5.10c/
  • This route has several interesting features, but the crux feature is a significant roof about 180’ up, a slightly smaller version of the popular roof on the Spectrum (5.11a) route over at the base of Bridge Mountain. Climb a small seam (5.9+) directly below the roof and angle right onto easier ground up to belay in good cracks in a pod below and right of the roof. On the second pitch, you will find a 2” as well as a much better 5” placement before pulling the roof with a few C3’s for additional pro as you ride the roof out. We found the rock quite precarious with a jug or two breaking off above. Once mantled (5.10c), traverse directly out left via exposed ground with little to any pro until you can start making it up a hidden corner. At first the corner is a bit manky, closed and hard to protect, but about 30’ up you will find varnished cracks to set up a solid medium gear belay. The third pitch continues up the corner (5.9+) until below a dark slick face above where the corner ends. We established a station there and due to the run out nature of the black slick face above, chose to finish with a fourth pitch that traverses out left and runs up the last 5.7 (good pitch) varnished corner pitch on Hueco Thanks. Dow

  • Mayday Malefactor- 705’- 5.10c/
  • I had climbed the last pitch (5th-5.9+) before as a variation finish to either Requiem for a Tadpole (5.9+), Armatron (5.9) or Sweet Thin. The crux pitch (3rd-5.10c) is mostly 5.10- with one real thin move, almost 5.11, but truly just one move right above a bolt to a hand ledge. The entire third pitch is fun and varied with several nice cracks as well as heavily varnished face moves. The second pitch (5.9) is long and a bit run out as it parallels Sweet Thin to the left on exceptional varnished rock. The first pitch (5.7) is poorly written up in Handren’s book and is much easier to start and follow via my description below. It is a long and fun pitch as well making for a fairly solid route overall. You can walk off as you do for most the routes on North Brownstone Wall. Dow

  • Sweet Thin- 730’- 5.9/
  • Sweet Thin is not on the radar of any beta site as of 2009. Handren has it published in his book, but with no FA information. Although it steals the first two pitches of Armatron, 5.9, 5 pitches, it develops its own specific identity for the remaining five pitches. Its namesake is quite obvious on the fifth pitch, where a stunning, delicate and thin flake is climbed to reach beautiful crack climbing. This route deserves more attention. As before mentioned, the first two pitches are the same as Armatron, even though Handren’s notes can be a bit confusing on this matter. After completing the really nice 5.9 second pitch of Armatron, continue up an fun chimney (pitch 3) and then make a long traverse (pitch 4) left to start the best climbing of the route (I combined pitches 3 and 4, but rope drag can be a problem). Pitch 5 is the best pitch of the climb. Follow a bolted section up a very solid and blank varnished wall, mounting a thin and delicate flake (5.9) the whole distance. You can actually hand jam into the flake. The bolts were placed, as you will find the flake to delicate to protect with gear. Mantle up past the flake and follow a hand rail traverse right to a bush, then climb a great hand crack (5.8) to the base of a large varnished chimney/flaring crack. The sixth pitch is almost as good as the fifth one. Start out in chimney mode, and then start to use the outside edges of this deep flaring crack, protecting when feasible with large gear. The footing is quite slick as you maneuver this funky pitch until it quits flaring and you jam and arm bar to much easier ground. Traverse right and up to a fixed station on a large ledge. The final pitch is quite interesting as well. Move the belay left to a steep crack/chimney and surmount it to the next ledge up. Then climb a thin crack straight above on somewhat run out ground to the top of the climb on yet another large ledge. Dow

  • Armatron- 750’- 5.9/
  • Armatron is located in the center of the north end of the north Brownstone Wall. 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. 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’. 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.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. Dow

  • Requiem for a Tadpole- 670’- 5.9+/
  • There is a variation pitch to Requiem for a Tad Pole that is more in line with the route and offers the best climbing of the day, the 4th pitch, which can be done via a bolted arête up the right side of Armatron. This was a stellar pitch with fixed and trad pro on incredible brown rock. You can almost combine the first three pitches into two full 60m rope pitches. We just feel short, but still could set up a belay on a comfortable ledge near the top of the 3rd pitch. If you map out the route this way, it makes the 4th pitch variation a full 200’ and thus the entire route only four pitches versus five. The last pitch is the same finish for Armatron from the Humerus Ledge. Dow

  • Birthday Cake- 350’- 5.6/