Celtic Cracks possesses one of the hidden gems
at Red Rock NCA: it's roof pitch, named the Shamrock Roof
, when linked with the corner pitch below it, is one of the finer moderate (5.10) pitches of trad climbing in the park.
The route itself has zero fixed gear
and offers a full day of climbing with some total 2250’+/- of 5th class elevation gain involving the climb itself (1250’)
along with a plethora of lower route options (1000’). Someone on MP.com referenced an alpine grade of V be given this route. Desert rats (which I have admittedly become) and alpinists’ idea of what grade V represents are two different things.
This route can easily be done in a day. I guided the route, leading every pitch, managing all rope work and had no problem being in Vegas for dinner on a short fall day. That said, the descent description
given on MP.com and in Handren’s guidebook (the exact same word for word) is quite misleading and no longer relevant
. If folks get benighted on this route, I would give more credit to the upper descent confusion than to the route itself which is fairly straight forward. Karsten Duncan and Andew Gomoll established Celtic Cracks in 2007
making it fairly young by Red Rock standards. They obviously named it after the prevalent green moss growing on this mostly shaded northeast face of Indecision Peak.
Only two pitches go at 5.10 and I linked those. Although the roof has a published grade of 5.10d, most, including myself, would say that section of the climb is closer to 5.10-. After those two pitches, there is not a pitch harder than 5.9 and the upper half of the route follows the same wide crack to the top. My preference for the approach to the route is to climb (solo if both parties are competent enough) Rising Moons
which I on-sighted solo when I first climbed it. There is not a move harder than 5.5 on Rising Moons. Then make a quick run (simul or solo) up the wide descent gully most use for descent after they have climbed the lower slab routes, most of which are all a 1000’ in height. This gully leads directly to the first pitch of Celtic Cracks on the ledge separating the lower and upper walls of First Creek Slabs.
Park at the official First Creek pull-out on Highway 159. Hike along the trail above the left side of the wash as you enter the canyon passing under Lotta Balls Wall
and the Romper Room area. The first route to mark the First Creek Slabs area is Rising Moons. Hike up the left side of the canyon floor to the base of a white sandstone tower with a triangular block resting below it. The first pitch climbs the chimney up the left side of the triangular block.
Route Description2250’+/-, 15 Pitches, 5.10d
Rising Moons, 3 Pitches, 5.5
1st Pitch- 100’- 5.3/
Handren’s guide calls this pitch 150’, but that would have to include all the way to the tree above. I down climbed this pitch on descent, but you could easily rap the next feature skiers left with a single rope from a block if you deemed it necessary. I cleaned up some existing tat over there. In any regard, there is a short walking/scrambling treed section in between pitches. This is a darkly varnished chimney that gives you all kind of options in which to climb it.
2nd Pitch- 140’- 5.5/
Run up the right side of the white tower to its top. This corner forms a chimney, but most of the climbing is on darkly varnished face with huge jugs out right. Towards the top of the tower, the chimney closes. Finish at a fixed belay on the wall out right, just below the summit of the tower.
3rd Pitch- 90’- 5.5/ This pitch will feel much more exposed than the previous one and is the crux of Rising Moon if you are soloing.
Follow the wide crack to a ledge system at its top. Unless you brought wide gear, this section will be mostly run out. From a free soloing perspective, the rock is of lesser quality
than the previous two pitches. At the top is a single bolt currently (2012) backup up by a tree to form a belay/rappel anchor.
Descent Gully, 4 Pitches, 5th
4th- 7th Pitches- 700’+/- 5th/
Move left and up into what is commonly referred to as the descent gully for the lower First Creek Slab routes. There are several fixed raps in this wide gully along with several large slung trees. In any regard, pick any line you want and scramble/climb up to the top which comes out exactly at the base of Celtic Cracks. If you angle a bit left up the gully before cutting back right near the end, you will avoid most of the brush.
Celtic Cracks, 8 Pitches, 5.10d
8th (1st) Pitch- 170’- 5.9/
You start the route to the right of a red corner directly below the large Shamrock Roof which is clearly visible above. This is one of the better pitches on the route if not the second best (considering you can link the two 5.10’s). This pitch is lined with plenty of the green moss the route is named for, but traveled well enough that I avoided most of it in 2012.
You can place gear at will in multiple cracks as you run up an initial flake (crux) and then settle into wider cracks. Belay at a stance near a small tree in the left corner well below a human sized chock stone above.
9th (2nd) Pitch- 120’- 5.8/
Most of this pitch is just 5th class. Climb up the right facing corner and move left to a bushy ledge. Continue up another short corner to a ledge and bushwhack right to the start of the tall dihedral that bleeds into the Shamrock Roof above. Set up a gear belay in the dihedral itself on small to medium gear.
10th-11th (3rd-4th) Pitches- 170’- 5.10d/
The best way to thoroughly enjoy these two pitches is to link
them in my opinion. Most of us who have climbed this route, by consensus, feel the published 5.10d grade felt more like 5.10-.
Counting both gear belays, I placed almost my entire rack listed in the gear section
below on this link up. When you carry a rack from C4 #.3 to #6 along with some off-sets, the ability to take all those sizes represents a varied and unique pitch of climbing.
Follow the corner conserving several hand pieces for the roof above. The corner itself takes all kinds of gear of varying sizes and the climbing is fairly consistent at 5.9-5.10a without much of a recognized crux. As you near the roof, the left wall becomes blank as the corner finger crack helps you friction your right foot up this thin section of the corner
. Once you start the roof, you are rewarded with several hand jams, albeit the wall at your feet is still quite blank. After a few meters of jamming, an athletic move brings you to a nice foot ledge in short order for a rest. Continue in the roof with one short wide section (C4 #3) that can be easily lay backed to more hand jams and eventually another restful foot ledge. From there, easy climbing takes you up to the edge of the roof for a medium-large gear belay.
12th (5th) Pitch- 200’- 5.9/
This is the most dangerous pitch of the route. I took a 25’ leader fall on this pitch due to a blown foot hold of significant size.
A chimney angles up and left but you need to traverse the black varnished jugs up and right to gain the base of a large crack that finishes out the last several pitches of the climb. In making the transition from yellow rock to black (crack to face) varnish is where I broke off a foothold and obviously was not ready for it. Although the varnished face looks run out and you have no vision of the crack you are heading for, several horizontal placements get you through the juggy but steep terrain
. The climbing eases up as you near the wide crack you are looking to access. Continue to the base of a short chimney section where you can belay on reasonably sized gear in smaller cracks.
13th (6th) Pitch- 195’- 5.8+R/ Although the FAers are calling several of these upper pitches runout, with a C4 #4, #5 and #6 I never felt it was runout for this grade at Red Rock.
Handren calls for a double rack to 8” for these last pitches which is really not necessary if you are at all competent at this grade level. Continue up the wide crack pulling a bulge here and there to a stance in a heavily varnished section.
14th (7th) Pitch- 200’- 5.7+R/
Again, I really did not feel this section was run out with the gear I had, but if anything it did feel a bit more challenging than the previous one. Not much difference though. I ran it longer than the guidebook, up to a small tree with a medium gear belay high in a short chimney slot.
15th (8th) Pitch- 180’- 5.7+/
Perhaps the most mossy pitch of the route. Continue up the left crack and traverse to the right one where it gets steep and chossy. Place gear at will to the flat top of the route (still not anywhere close to the summit of Indecision Peak).
The notes from Handren’s book which are the exact same on MP.com are not accurate in my opinion
. Descend to the west notch via several challenging 5th class down climbing moves. Then descend the gully making two short raps on existing tat (2012). It is a bush whack all the way down the gully. When the gully opens up and exits onto a large ledge, continue straight down the water worn gully in front of you.
There are two raps down this gully, of which we made both with a 70m rope. At the bottom of the second one, a waterfall drop off when raining and the longest and steepest rap to this point, walk over to the right and down climb 3rd-4th class into a gully that turns left. Follow this gully for a few meters, climbing down through a hole and turning out right to a small clearing with a cairn and rap tree below it (2012). Rap down from this tree to a chasm with a large flat area. Rap from a slung boulder here (2012) down a significant chimney to another flat spot. Down climb from here via a short 5th class section to skiers left. I would wait to pull your rope until you are a bit removed from the wall to avoid any hang up in the chimney.
Turn left and bushwhack back to the base of Celtic Cracks.
There is a long slung fixed anchor at the top of the gully descent used for most of the lower wall slab routes. It reaches another fixed anchor on a wall skiers right. Rap from here, pushing over skiers right to a large slung tree (2012). A 70m rope does not make this tree or the next, but easy ground allows you to come off and walk to the trees. In that regard, I would solo down this entire descent and not think anything of it. Rap down to another large tree. Then rap back skiers left avoiding a cholla cactus (2012) and get center with the gully where there is a fixed belay. If you did not notice it on ascent and are descending in the dark, it might be hard to find. A 70m single will not make all the way back down to the top of Rising Moons, but a mid-rap made up of one nut was in place in 2012. Once back down to the bushy ledge level with the top of Rising Moons, I choose to rap Rising Moons to get us back to our packs even though the gully descent continues down. A 70m rope makes the 3rd pitch rap just fine. The 2nd pitch rap requires some 5.5 down climbing on great rock. The last pitch is just 5.3, thus I always down climb it. There is no rap set up on the first pitch of Rising Moons as of 2012, but plenty of bushes available to do so.
Single 70m rope
accepting some 5th class down climbing here and there or take double 60’s. Single rack from C4 #.3 to #6. Double rack from C4 #.3 to #3. I took no wires but did take a few extra off-set pieces (.3-.5) that worked well on the 5.10 linked pitches. A dozen shoulder length slings
. I broke a hold above the roof, helmets advised as this route is seldom climbed as of 2012. In late October, early November, this route is almost entirely shaded. Even when the morning sun hits it, the lower corner pitches are casting shade. Haul your approach shoes up for the descent. Take extra cord and leaver biners to reinforce raps.
Headlamps a good idea on such a long route with a complex descent.
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