Rainbow Buttress, 5.8+
Eagle Wall is home to three classic Red Rocks routes, Eagle Dance, Levitation and Rainbow Buttress
. Its position on the upper south face of Rainbow Mountain makes it one of the more remote
climbing walls at Red Rocks. In fact the descent for any route that tops out involves the very origin of Oak Creek Canyon
to the west. That being said, its southern exposure
and quality rock
make it a popular destination in the fall and spring (by popular, I mean you might see one other team on the wall). The snow, shorter days and water (or ice) filled canyon make it much less desirable in the winter
3rd Pitch, Ringtail/Mountain Beast, 5.10d 5th Pitch, Ringtail, 5.9
developed Eagle Dance and Levitation during the 1980’s along with most of the other routes on Eagle Wall, while Herbst
started the climbing in this area with Rainbow Buttress in 1975.
Access is via the Oak Creek Canyon Trail head which is the last parking turn off on the right from the Red Rocks loop road. You will actually drive down a gravel road for quite a distance to reach the trailhead. There is a restroom at this location. Many routes are reached from this trailhead, so no worries about various vehicles in the parking lot, more than likely no one is after this route. Follow the trail into the canyon and turn right to stay out of the canyon floor and follow the trail staying low and below any turn off up the hill on your right to the Solar Slab routes. Continue, aiming for the narrow section of the canyon, then drop into the canyon floor and boulder hop up canyon for approximately 1.5 to 2 hours total to reach two very large Ponderosa pine trees. I advise suiting up just above the tree on the right (good place to leave your backpacks). Getting to that tree can be a bit of a bush whack.
From the tree, hike up the slick rock to a horizontal foot ledge that runs right. Take this over to easier ground and continue up angling right from time to time. Stay well below Eagle Wall because it will cliff you out a bit if you traverse right below it.
Keep angling for the right side buttress/arête of Eagle Wall. All the routes with the exception of Dances with Beagles are over on this far right side.
If you reach the wall too early in your ascent, you will have to down climb a bit to get over there. Elevation from the parking area to the trees is just over 1000’. From the trees to the base of the route is just under 1000’. And the climb itself is approximately 1000’ for a total 3000’+/- gain.
The Routes are Listed Left to Right as you Face the Wall
- Dances with Beagles- 430’- 5.11d/
- Eagle Dance- 1060’- 5.10c, A0/ The walk off back deep in Oak Creek Canyon’s north fork is a worthwhile hike to be sure. However, due to Eagle Wall’s south facing aspect, many, including myself, chose to climb it in the heart of winter meaning the walk off descent will more than likely be chock full of snow and ice. So most prefer to rap Eagle Dance at the top of the 9th pitch versus completing the easy 10th pitch which has no rappel option. As of 2010, Eagle Dance is set up to rappel with a single 70m rope. Although it is a mixed route with some trad placement, most of the route is heavily bolted including one aid pitch. Many summit logs reflect that the 8th and 9th pitches are too technical for many parties to complete. Although the rock is of a much lesser quality on these last two pitches, I found them to be fairly straight forward. The full nine pitches to the last rappel anchor are definitely worth completing. We combined the 1st-2nd pitches, 5th-6th pitches and the 7th-8th pitches with a 70m rope. Dow
- Levitation- 1060’- 5.11c, A0/
- Mountain Beast- 1000’- 5.11a/ Mountain Beast starts approximately mid-point between Rainbow Buttress (the col) and Levitation. The first pitch is a non-eventful 5.9 pitch that lands you at a fixed belay in a uniquely “heart shaped” arch that is easy to indentify for the start. The second pitch is the crux of the route. It is labeled as a 5.10d by Handren, but 5.11a at Mountain Project and Rockclimbing.com. Zach and I both feel that it leaned into the 5.11 league. It no doubt has gotten a bit more difficult with traffic. You basically follow very indistinct and delicate edges via a full on slab traverse left into another alcove below a corner. The move off the belay for the third pitch is quite awkward (5.10)in that it is difficult to protect a fall back into your belay partner. The fifth and sixth pitches are the prize of this route. The fifth pitch (5.10b) follows approximately eight bolts along with a few trad placements up sandstone edges reminiscent of some of the more popular 5.10 sport routes at Red Rocks, i.e. Unimpeachable Groping (5.10b). Towards the end of this long pitch, you traverse right towards the top of the Black Tower to a fixed belay on the wall. This is the first pitch on Mountain Beast that a 70m rope would not make a clean retreat. The next pitch (6th) harbors the best rock on the route and possibly the whole wall. It is a 5.10a (5.9+) pitch that follows a seam that easily protects with wires up a darkly varnished wall. The last two pitches are the least desirable of Mountain Beast, but land you atop Eagle Wall where a 70m rope retreat can be had via Levitation. Rap from the rap rings atop the 8th pitch or down climb about 30’-40’ skiers right to find the upper station of Levitation. One of the raps towards the middle of Levitation is a serious rope stretcher for a full 70m rope, but it works with caution. Dow
- Ringtail- 460’- 5.10d/ Ringtail and Mountain Beast share the first three pitches and thus the crux of both routes, a heady 5.10+/11- slab second pitch traverse that is well protected by fixed gear. After the third pitch, Ringtail continues straight up the weakness on the left side of the attached tower forming Rainbow Buttress whereas Mountain Beast veers left up varnished faces. These last two pitches of Ringtail can be combined to make this a quick climb. The final heavily varnished corner to the top of the tower is one of the better 5.9 trad pitches in all of Red Rock. Interesting enough, Chris McNamara’s (Supertopo) short listed guidebook includes Ringtail even though it has yet to gain much popularity. Barnes and Wuhrmann retrofitted the bolts in 2006 and the fixed protection on the route was warm and fuzzy in 2013. All of the belays are fixed except for the top of the tower which consists of slung blocks. Therefore you can rap the route with a 70m rope or continue on with Rainbow Buttress to the top of the wall. Dow
- Rainbow Buttress- 1000’- 5.8+/ There is no fixed pro on the entire route unless you opt for the Mountain Beast exit versus the original last pitch, which I do recommend due to the quality of sandstone at this juncture. The second, third and sixth pitches of Rainbow Buttress involve fantastic 5.8 climbing on good varnish. The sixth pitch is the money pitch, involving a long and sustained corner challenging you a bit on planning your pro if you only brought a single rack which is all you need for the rest of the route. At the one thin spot you will find mentioned via other beta, a slider nut fits the bill. The second pitch was short, but fun, and the third pitch involved a bit of off width. The rest of the pitches are relatively unremarkable. Dow
- Kaleidoscope- 1000’- 5.8/
- Strawberry Sweat- 640’- 5.9/
These are all trad lines and will require an assortment of gear as spelled out in Jerry’s Handren’s “Red Rocks, A Climbers Guide. The routes leading to the top of the wall allow for a walk off descent. If you chose this option it makes sense to leave your packs down at the Ponderosa trees where you will circumvent back around to them. The routes are south facing and thus would not make good summer objectives at Red Rocks. The wall can be quite exposed to high winds as well which needs to be considered if rappelling is your main descent option.
External LinksRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM
Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association