Cat Scratch Fever was one of the last remaining published moderate canyon climbs I had yet to climb in Red Rock National Conservation area as of 2019. The Brownstone Walls had offered up many gems over the years and has always been one of my favorite climbing destinations in the park. Such routes as Times Up, 5.11d (before it was retrobolted!), Ten Minute Shift, 5.11b, Mayday Malefactor, 5.10c, Pro Choice, 5.11a, as well as the ultra-popular Black Dagger, 5.7, and Nighcrawler, 5.10c, hold good memories.
Although Cat Scratch Fever does not offer the climbing nor quality of rock as the beforementioned routes, it is a route worth pairing with Black Dagger for a competent team in that grade range looking to pull a “two-for” on the south wall. These two routes are located side by side, Black Dagger on the much better varnished rock in the massive right facing corner on the left side of the wall and Cat Scratch Fever taking an intermittent crack line just up the gut of the wall to the right. Cat is another of many routes Jorge and Joanne Urioste established on these brown colored walls of Juniper Peak back in the 70’s and 80’s.
Park at the Oak Creek trail head and hike up Juniper Canyon as you would for Crimson Chrysalis (Cloud Tower). The canyon ends at Rainbow Wall on the left and the Brownstone Walls way up and right. You can approach the left side of Brownstone Wall south from a variety of methods including 5th class scrambling straight up the weakness in the white slopes directly below the route or head up Gunsight Notch and cut right when level with the base of the wall or follow the main trail and cairns over a boulder field which lands you between the two walls and then cut back left under Nightcrawler to the left end of the south wall and start directly below the route which has an obvious roof marking the top of the first pitch.
1st/2nd Pitches- 300’-5.7/ Competent parties will feel secure scrambling up the low angled terrain for the first hundred feet to set a gear belay at the start of the first real climbing. Some will prefer to be roped up and of course you could just simul climb it as well. In any regard, where the vegetation meets the wall is 300’ below the fixed rap below the large roof above. The only climbing at the grade is the stemming up the short steep section below the low angled slab below the (sometimes shaded) roof. The rock on this route is not the same quality as its neighbor, Black Dagger, so caution is advised as you move through the juggy, but steep, terrain of the 2nd pitch.
3rd Pitch- 180’-5.8/ Traverse right and onto a ledge. There is a C4#3 sized steep crack at the right end of the roof that ascends suspect jugs (crux). After 20’ or 30’, traverse back left into the main crack feature. Climb it to a stance with a medium to small gear belay.
4th Pitch- 180’-5.6/ Continue up the crack moving right to a lower angled crack when it peters out. Follow this crack to belay below a small (sometimes shaded) roof, medium gear.
5th/6th Pitches- 300’-5.6/ Pull the roof and continue following the crack up to an easy chimney. Climb it to the left shoulder of Brownstone Wall south. Most will be comfortable with un-roping and scrambling to the top, via either easy but exposed face climbing up right or follow the gully left up to one vertical 5th class section.
Keep ascending until the broad summit of the wall (still below the true summit) and follow the cairns (2019) descending down left on a ramp to the narrow notch atop the gully between Rainbow Wall and Brownstone Wall south. Descend the gully as it widens in places until at a small tree normally slung for a 100’ rap down a normally wet drainage. You can burrow down underneath a large chock stone and take a fixed hand line (2019) down a tricky part in the middle and chimney/stem down the final section, but most who would be climbing this route would rather take the single 60m rap. In May, typically you can still find decent water dripping in this drainage, filtered through rock. Drink at your own risk of course.
Single 60m rope. I led it with a single to #2, but most would prefer a #3 for the crux and perhaps more gear in general due to the length of the pitches and gear belays. Bring 60cm slings vs draws. In May, this wall receives full sun until the afternoon. However, at this elevation in the park, if there is any wind at all, you would typically remain relatively cool even if Vegas is in the 90F's. Haul your approach shoes for the descent.