Checkered Demon has the hardest collection (as a percentage of its climbs) of sport routes in the City of Rocks National Reserve. The local guide gives Gigantor, 5.13c****, the highest rating of any difficult sport climb in the park. However, there is a collection of solid moderates, both trad and sport, that make this a worthwhile destination to combine with Elephant Rock’s routes or just to start or end the day with. Ruby and the Dykes, 5.10a*, is an outstanding pure trad crack at the west end. Like many routes at the City, it is soft for the grade. Not sure why it did not receive more stars in the guide (the local guide gives virtually all routes at least one star). The better remote routes typically get dished for some reason. Houser Arete, 5.10d*, is real soft for the grade, more of a 5.10a than 5.10d. But it is a fun route starting out with a wide corner that protects well with medium gear to climbing a bolted arete to its own fixed rap. Houser deserves more recognition than it gets. Captain Pissgums, 5.10c***, on the other hand receives more credit than it deserves. It is chossy and will probably not clean up even if it saw more traffic. The crux is an exposed (slightly overhanging) off the deck move through suspect gear. The upper tips to finger corner is cool, but the price of entry is significant.
Park at the Elephant Rock trailhead parking. Hike along the trail in front of the east face of Elephant Rock. Continue on a less distinct trail heading south, around the east side of the Gallstone (next formation to the south). The next formation you encounter is Checkered Demon. The first route at the east end of the southwest face is Captain Pissgums (photo). Houser Arete anchors the west end of this face. Face Shot and Ruby and the Dykes are on their own short face to the left of Houser.
Ruby and the Dykes- 50’-5.10a*/ A stellar mostly hands crack climb at the far west end of the formation. Ruby and Face Shot both start up on a ledge at the west end. Ruby is to the far-left side of the west facing wall and Houser Arete is at the far-right side but starts from the ground. The quality of this route, both the climbing for the grade and particularly the quality of rock is far superior to Captain Pissgums, 5.10c***, at the other end of the formation. The crack bends in the middle. You can set a gear anchor atop the route. Rap Face Shot whose fixed rap is not shown in the most recent guide (2019). Single rack to #3. Dow
Face Shot- 40’-5.8*/ Bolted. The guide calls this old school, but in reality, it is just run-out up the first half which is below the grade. The top half has three modern (2019) bolts protecting 20’. Good rock. Fun route worth doing if climbing the Houser Arete and Ruby. Dow
Houser Arete- 60’-5.10d*/ This is the softest 5.10+ I have climbed anywhere. I don’t see how you can make it any more difficult than 5.10a. From the ground, climb the fun wide crack/flared chimney. There is medium gear to be had deep in. Face out and keep the left foot moving up the outside. Top out of the crack and climb the bolted (3) arete above to its own fixed rap. A few medium pieces and a few draws. Dow
Checkered Demon- 100'-5.11a***/
Some Assembly Required- 80'-5.11d**/
Take a Hike- 80'-5.13a***/
Captain Pissgums- 40’-5.10c***/ The guide book author must have confused this route with Ruby and the Dykes in terms of “stars”. No one is climbing this route and even if they did, I am not sure it could clean up. Add to the equation that the crux move is off the deck via chossy rock with suspect pro, I am not sure how this route gets any recommendation whatsoever. Slide through the slot left to right and belay in the slot right below the overhanging start. Stem over and layback/mantle a sloping feature that is slightly overhung. A wire in rotten rock was my first piece which protects the crux move of the route off the deck. Then a dyno move (stiff for the grade at the City) to more choss. Eventually pull up and over the overhung portion to a fun finish in a tips corner that can be stemmed up to a finger crack finish. Medium gear anchor. Rap one of the bolted routes to the left. Dow