Cloud Tower, 5.8-5.12d

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Nevada, United States, North America
Trad Climbing
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
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Cloud Tower, 5.8-5.12d
Created On: Dec 3, 2008
Last Edited On: Mar 20, 2013


Strawberry Cactus

On the northeast corner of Rainbow Mountain, at the entrance to Juniper Canyon, lies the Wall of Cracks. The Wall of Cracks consists of a collection of mostly moderate crack routes among several towers including the impressive Cloud Tower and its most infamous route Crimson Chrysalis. Wall of Cracks sits above an obvious ramp rising above the Juniper Canyon floor.
Cloud Tower, 5.11d
 Cloud Tower, 5.11d

The approach for this wall, as for other routes in Juniper Canyon, starts at the Pine Canyon trail head off the Red Rocks loop road. 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 and ascending up to the south bank. In any regard, you hook into the Oak Creek trail and continue south. Cross Juniper Canyon and follow a faint trail up the bushy ramp to the base of the wall at the very northeast corner of Rainbow Mountain.

Route Description(s)

The Routes are Listed Left to Right as you Face the Wall
Crimson Chrysalis, 5.8+
 Crimson Chrysalis, 5.8+
Test Tube and Spare Rib
 Test Tube and Spare Rib
Cloud Tower, 5.11d
 Cloud Tower, 5.11d
Clod Tower, 5.10c
Clod Tower, 5.10c
Clod Tower, 5.10c
Clod Tower

  • Pachyderm- 580’- 5.9/

  • Laceration Spur- 1500’- 5.9/

  • Test Tube- 295’- 5.9/
  • Test Tube, in my opinion, offers one of the better 5.9 pitches at Red Rocks on incredible rock. The first pitch runs up an obvious corner to the left of the Spare Rib pillar. Just when you think the rating might be soft, it goes to a true crack pitch for several tight moves utilizing perfect hand jams. The second pitch, for the grade (5.7), is also classic in style. A true Epinephrine type chimney (think last chimney pitch without any pro) that requires an almost completely run out (one piece) lead switching which wall you are facing about mid way up. The last pitch can easily be combined with the second pitch. Test Tube is just another classic Urioste route put in by Jorge and Joanne in 1980. Dow

  • Spare Rib- 290’- 5.8/
  • Spare Rib was not as good a route as Test Tube, but you actually rap Spare Rib to descend Test Tube. Therefore it would be foolish in my opinion to not climb both routes once you are at the base of these side by side climbs. Spare Rib starts out in a stellar crack for the grade (5.8), then peters out into a sparsely bolted face climb for the last three pitches. I advise combining the first two pitches and the last two pitches which can easily be done with a 60m rope. Spare Rib is another typical Urioste route put in by Jorge and Joanne in 1980, however the bolts have since been replaced except for the very last one on the route. All the stations are bomber including a tree on top of route (2009). Dow

  • Tiger Crack- 160’- 5.12c/

  • Clod Tower- 1200’- 5.10c/
  • The first pitch is outstanding. After scrambling up about 100’, you start below a block and then enter a chimney which quickly turns to off-width and then to hands and then pulls a small roof to easier cracks for the finish. This is a full value pitch in length as well as methods and gear utilized to climb it. The second pitch is surprisingly as good, just at a lower grade. At 5.9, it offers another full value experience on excellent black rock, pulling a roof as the highlight. The third pitch is rather mundane, but follows the same crack system. The fourth pitch has a right or left variation, the right variation up some off-width would be much preferred and requires a traverse back into the main corner. The left variation is up mossy and suspect rock through a small roof. The fifth pitch climbs the left side of the mushroom on heavily varnished rock. This is a very pleasant pitch and easier than the first 5.9 pitch. None of the subsequent pitches will offer even close to a similar challenge as the first pitch up the route. Dow

  • Hook Climb and Whimper- 350’- 5.10a/

  • Crimson Chrysalis- 960’- 5.8+/
  • I have climbed Crimson Chrysalis on three occasions to date (2008), all uneventful outings. I mention this because you can run into crowds on this climb as this is one of the most popular routes at Red Rocks. Planning an early mid-week visit during the winter months is the best way to have this gem to yourselves. It can be a cold climb by Red Rocks standards due to being north facing and receiving a considerable amount of westerly wind through the Gunsight Notch. I prefer to combine the last two pitches making it an 8 pitch route. Rope management skills are at a premium on the rappel once you re-enter the chimney sections. Dow

  • Cloud Tower- 800’- 5.11d/
  • Van Betten and company established the route in 1983. I have read some summit logs reflect that the Cloud Tower line is a bit contrived, but by Red Rocks standards, the individual pitches, via their own merit, offer full value. As before mentioned, I prefer to combine the first two 5.8 pitches to the large ledge above. From there a sweet, but rather short, 5.10a perfect hand crack awaits up and left. The second pitch itself is rather long, but the hand crack portion is relatively short. Once through the hand crack, make a face traverse up and left to a small stance at a fixed belay below the crux of the route. The fourth pitch involves an awkward and strenuous finger crack. Stemming is essential through the first half of this pitch, but then one must commit to the crack. The pitch eats up tons of small gear and can be easily aided through. It finishes in a small alcove box of sorts below a roof and hand crack above. The fifth and sixth pitches are easily combined for a full 60m worth of fun 5.10 climbing. They start with a fun roof pull into a hand crack on excellent rock with tons of rests as it widens to 4” gear towards the top. It eventually angles left and finishes through a small tunnel/chimney where you pop out to the other side in bright sunshine. The last pitch is the prize of this route. Zach and I both wondered how could a hand crack could be 5.11+? Well it was full on athletic jamming, with little rest along the way, finishing through a bold overhang (crux). The right face on this pitch is fascinating. You are basically surfing up waves of sandstone via jams. Dow

  • Cloud Tower Direct Finish- 360’- 5.12d/
  • Essential Gear

    These are all trad lines with an assortment of fixed pro here and there. They all will require an assortment of gear as spelled out in Jerry’s Handren’s “Red Rocks, A Climbers Guide”. All the routes require rappelling, thus I recommend double ropes for any of the climbs. Carry plenty of water if it is hot, as there is no water on approach. As before mentioned, due to where the wall is situated and prevailing westerly winds through Gunsight Notch, I recommend warm clothes during the winter and fall months.