Rock of Ages is a rather nondescript piece of rock on the northern ridge-line overlooking the popular hiking trail in Fern Canyon. Days of Heaven is anything but a nondescript route however. Its 2nd and 3rd pitches, which I combined for one of the stronger 5.10 trad leads in the park, offer a variety of cracks, tips to fingers to hands, that make for technical 5.10+ climbing. The first pitch is a relatively easy entry pitch straight up for the most part with one move, if that, given at the grade at MP.com (5.10a). The second pitch gets a lower grade (5.10c) than the final pitch (5.10d), but is by far the more technical (crux) of the two (from MP.com and I agree: “Perhaps I missed a trick sequence, but the second pitch felt more like 11b. To me, the third pitch was fairly straightforward and was far easier than the second.” ) This cruxy 2nd pitch involves a spicy start with tricky pro followed by a techy traverse (partially height dependent) leftward and up following twin diagonal cracks/seams: the lower one at your feet goes to fingers and the upper one peters out from tips. The transition from upper seam to lower finger crack is committing to say the least (taller climbers will have an advantage). In comparison, the final pitch offers up great fingers, ring locks and even tight hands straight up a splitter with a nice rest or two. The second pitch also teeters out over the arête adding a fair amount of exposure for the leader. “Feels burly for 5.10!” on the MP.com description and I tend to agree as several routes I have gotten on in Lumpy Ridge and RMNP seem quite soft for their respective grade in comparison.
Drive to the popular Fern Lake Trailhead in RMNP. If you get there early, you will be allowed to park at the end of the road. Otherwise, you will add an extra half mile or so to the approach. You will be competing with early morning fisherman and hikers for that premium parking. After approximately a mile, the trail wanders through a myriad of massive boulders. On the other side of these boulders start heading up the hillside on your right. Gain a large talus field and continue angling up and left. You are looking for a hanging slab (SW facing) of sorts. It is difficult to locate the splitters of pitches 2 and 3 from this vantage point, particularly if they are shaded, but it is one of the cleaner walls in the area and makes up the lower portion of the climbing locale named Rock of Ages. A boulder and tree outline an easy chimney that is centered on the lower face, which is the start. Anything to the left is overhung. The single rap descent comes down the left, up at the top of the hill. No need to haul approach shoes. One hour +/-.
1st Pitch- 80’-5.10a/ One guide references the crux at 5.9 and that is all it is albeit an exposed, but well protected, small roof pull. Stem up the chimney behind a tree and access the small roof. Pull the roof via big jugs above with good pro. Then continue fairly straight up, taking a left leaning crack below the grade to a ledge. Build a belay here with delicate gear or traverse left across the narrow foot ledge past a piton to a better crack. The leader of the next two pitches would prefer you build a belay without traversing left.
2nd/3rd Pitches- 120’-5.10d/ These two pitches make sense to combine as long as you extend your gear. The 2nd pitch is called 5.10c in the guide and the last pitch 5.10d, but the 2nd pitch is by far the technical crux. Climb several meters above the right belay option and start traversing a finger rail to the left. Good gear can be at a premium through this section. This crack straightens out heading up the wall (different route). At this point you will do a large stem across left to a finger crack at your feet and a thin seam for your fingers. The crux is transitioning from walking that finger crack via the tips seam to actually climbing it with little to no feet (the finger crack where your feet were) so you can get bomber finger pieces in (overhanging and exposed). This 2nd pitch is strenuous the whole way with thoughtful moves and pro. You come to a nice stance (rest) and then climb the fingers to hand crack above (3rd pitch). It changes back to ring locks and fingers further up which is the 5.10d I guess, although not that technical (like Smash Mouth in Zion). Finish on that finger crack and belay off of a large tree atop the wall.
Rap to climbers left with a 70m to the ground (just reaches). Getting to this rap is exposed, not for the beginning climber. You can rap down to it from a slung tree if less experienced.
70m rope. Guide talks about a typical rack with additional medium pieces, but the main gear I would triple up on is C4#.2 through #.75, particularly if you are going to combine those last two pitches. If you are going to pitch it out, a single to C4#2 (including some micro cams and/or wires) and double to #.75. Also take mostly shoulder length slings if combining those last two pitches. The route faces SW and gets decent shade in the morning.