Some of the best multi pitch hard climbing at Red Rock is located on varnished walls high above the wash (Pine Creek) opposite the popular Cat in the Hat route on Mescalito: Jet Stream and Challenger Walls. Challenger Wall is sandwiched between Jet Steam and a route I consider to be one of the finest 5.10 routes in the park, Adventure Punks, 5.10d**. Adventure Punks is the furthest west climbing destination up this canyon, with a broad arete to its east that differentiates it from the recessed, and therefore shady, Challenger Wall. Temps wise, the Challenger wall will be hard to beat if you are looking for a cool destination on a hot day. Highs in May were well into the 90’s in Vegas and we preferred to wear thin jackets on the climb mid-day. MP.Com has Challenger at 5.10d PG13. Handren does not include the “PG13” rating nor do I see how they come up with the PG 13 consensus. I consider this one of the best pure trad routes (not a single bolt) in all of Red Rock. This entire wall offers great rock with cool crack and corner systems that protect well, albeit via small gear.
Similar to Adventure Punks, the quality of most every pitch and variety of climbing offered by the route as a whole was tremendous. Furthermore, there is not one piece of fixed pro on the entire route (2018). I have it marked as six pitches as it makes little sense to climb the FA four pitches of Challenger without also adding pitches four (5.8) and five (5.10d) of Jupiter. Pitch four of Jupiter is not worthy of any praise and can easily be combined with the 4th pitch (5.10b) of Challenger. But the 5th pitch (final) of Jupiter is not to be missed: a left facing clean finger corner.
Regarding Challenger’s four pitches, MP.com discusses that the crux move on the entire route could be on the fourth pitch which is rated lower than the first two pitches. I led the even pitches and although I would concur with the one move or two being the true crux of the route, the fourth pitch is not near as sustained as the second pitch. The roof pull on pitch one and the tips corner start on pitch two are the true sustained cruxes of the route. The third pitch is by far the easiest of these four pitches and the fifth pitch of Jupiter, despite being rated at the same grade as the first two pitches of Challenger in Handren’s guide, is not near as challenging. The belays on Challenger are all fixed with rap stations but the cleanest descent if finishing to the top of Jupiter is to rap that route with double ropes. However you can rap with a single 60m rope using Challenger’s fixed raps.
Park at the Pine Creek Trailhead on the Red Rock loop road. Follow the main trail to Mescalito and cross into the canyon floor before you get to Mescalito and follow it up and into the left fork of Pine Creek, looking for a well-traveled trail up and right out of the drainage heading for Cat in the Hat. Follow this trail and drop into the left fork again at the juncture for the Cat in the Hat approach trail. Continue up a very pleasant canyon/creek full of mature trees until you come to another fork in the canyon. Take this left fork and pass a unique honeycomb wall and continue beyond the wall itself (high above on the left). Cut back left on a large rock shelf and cut up right following cairns to the base of Adventure Punks. Continue back east around a broad arête to a recessed, heavily shaded, heavily varnished wall. Challenger starts 60’ below an obvious large roof in the middle of the wall to the right of a tall Ponderosa pine (2018).
1st Pitch-90’-5.10d/ The climbing at the grade is at the obvious large roof that basically marks the start of Challenger. It protects well underneath, but the pull is awkward and obviously the crux (one of two main cruxes at the grade en route). Climb relatively easy ground up to the roof. Chimney up to below the roof facing out. Convert to a stem and undercling as it overhangs and make a wild move over the arête to a positive rest for your right foot. Continue up to a fixed belay/rap on a decent ledge.
2nd Pitch-90’-5.10d/ This is a true tips corner, hidden up and right from the belay in a right facing corner. It reminded me of Gin Ricky (5.10c*) on Alcohol Wall but more difficult. The crux is the first few meters up the corner. The higher you get the more this pitch eases off. The start is stemming via precarious tips on slick varnish. Micro cams and/or rps are your gear. I did not place anything above C4 #.5 on the entire pitch. Eventually it opens up more to fingers and continues to ease to a semi-hanging belay stance at a fixed rap.
3rd Pitch-75’-5.10b/ Another roof is the crux of this pitch, but not near as burly as the 1st pitch roof. Again, traverse up and right (the whole route trends right) following the obvious crack at relatively easy climbing. Once up under the roof, make an exposed traverse left on a positive foot hold. This pull has more visibility than the first roof. Fixed belay/rap anchor on a ledge above the roof at the base of a tips corner.
4th -5th Pitches-180’-5.10b/ My partner and I both agreed that the crux move on this pitch could be the crux move on the route. Comments from MP.com: “I thought the balancy and reachy moves on pitch four being the most desperate on the whole climb…..never figured out that sequence and pretty darn hard - every pitch…stout for the grade….we thought the 4th pitch was the crux”. I led it clean and remember the crux move well. Start by stemming up a tips/closed corner. There are some face holds out right but they do not work into the sequence. Gear is intricate and a small fixed wire (2018) is below the crux move. It had clearly been fallen on. Make a move at the grade above the fixed wire and then the crux move which is a precarious left toe sloper with limited hands. There is a grip at your chest for your right fingers. Then a very thin edge for your left fingers as you reach for the edge of a jug with your right hand. Tall leaders will have an advantage. If less than 6’, try stepping on your left toe with your right one for another inch or two of lift before making a small dyno for the jug. Mantle on up and enjoy the rest of the corner as it eases off. I combined this pitch with the 4th pitch of Jupiter (5.8), passing a fixed belay/rap out right and continued onto a lower angled bushy crack system that leads to a large ledge with another fixed belay/rap.
6th Pitch-80’-5.10d/ This is the most straight forward and easiest of the 5.10 pitches despite the guidebook grade. Climb the good looking right facing corner up to its terminus (of the clean corner) and traverse left to a fixed rap/belay ledge. It is also the best protected pitch. Maybe slightly overhanging, but small hands and fingers the whole way. Near the top it gets wide, but no issue pulling up and left and out. This is Jupiter’s 5th pitch. It is definitely easier climbing than any of the cruxes on Challenger’s four pitches.
I prefer to rap Jupiter with double ropes (from the top of Challenger-Jupiter) but you can rap Challenger with a single rope as well. All modern fixed rap anchors as of 2018.
The crux climbing involves small to micro gear including rps. Single to C4#2, double from micro to C4#.5 with several extra micro cams/wires. Single rope raps the route but double ropes allow for a cleaner rap. This wall is one of the more shaded high elevation routes in Red Rock, dress accordingly.