4th Pitch- 35’- 5.9R+
The Friar is one of the few “Moab like towers” at Red Rocks
. It is located to the right of the popular Solar Slab area in Oak Creek Canyon. While many photograph and discuss the Friar while on much more popular pursuits to the west, few ever get up the nerve to tackle the last pitch.
One quote at Rockclimbing.com is not far off, “you are basically free soloing the last pitch”. While there is one bolt up the balanced block which serves as the Friar’s last pitch, it is well beyond the crux climbing needed to reach it. The flakes that offer pro opportunities on the west face of the block do not bring about warm and fuzzy feelings. There is one cam placement low and left, but for the most part you want to be confident of your skills at this grade to complete the route safely. The safety of this last pitch has to be the only reason Handren does not include the Friar in his list of recommended climbs at the back of his book, Red Rocks a Climbers Guide. because otherwise the route is actually quite aesthetic. The Friar consists of a huge balanced block on top of a detached tower leaning against the lower flank of Rainbow Mountain right next to the route Horndogger Select
The Friar was put in by Joe Herbst, Tom Kaufman and Steve Allen in 1977, the early and busy climbing years at Red Rocks. The naming must have been derived from the fact that the huge balanced block on top of the tall pillar sort of resembles a head on top of a cloaked body. I had been teased by this objective for several years before finally getting around to it. The first three pitches are quite easy and we combined the 2nd and 3rd pitch for a full 200’.
The 4th pitch is the only 5.9 pitch and deserves a solid R in my opinion for lack of adequate protection to avoid decking on the ledge on top of the pinnacle that balances the block. The only lead bolt that exists on the entire route really does not protect any crux move.
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 in regards to who is climbing what. Most folks are there to climb much easier routes like Solar Slab and Solar Gully. There are plenty of good routes to climb that climbers won’t be on. We combined the Friar with Solar Flare this day out, 9 pitches in all. Follow the trail into the canyon and turn right to stay out of the canyon floor and follow the trail until below the Friar. Then go off trail and ascend to the base of the pinnacle. If you wait until the switchback trail heading up the hill, you will miss the first pitch of the Friar.
We actually did this and thus just rappelled back to the bottom and led the first pitch back up.
Route Description335’+/-, 4 Pitches, 5.9R+
1st Pitch- 100’- 5.7/
This is a nicely varnished and obvious corner that runs up the southeast face of the pinnacle base forming the Friar. Place gear at will and expect an easy pitch for the grade. Land on a ledge above and move right to a fixed station.
2nd and 3rd Pitch- 200’- 5.7/
Despite the anticipated rope drag, I combined these two pitches
. Continue up a crack of sorts out right and follow obvious terrain, pulling a tiny roof along the way, to a huge ledge. The ground to this point has abundant pro. From the ledge, face climb at an easier grade, but without much pro to the ledge right below the balanced rock. Traverse left past the rappel station
and set up in a crack at the southwest corner of the block.
4th Pitch- 35’- 5.9R+/
Start up the arête and make an aggressive move from the deck to get your feet above the overhang. You can place a cam lower left here, but it probably won’t protect you from an ankle bust if you fall at this point. Place a nut or two and trust going out right fairly early despite what chalk you might see above and left on run out face terrain.
Once you make another crux move around the arête and onto the south face of the balanced block, there is a bolt and easier climbing above as the arête lands you on top of a very cool feature at Red Rocks.
Do a single rappel back down to where you belayed. Traverse back south to the top of pitch 3 and do a double 60m rope rappel to the top of the first pitch. You can scramble and walk off to the west at this point if you are climbing other objectives on the Solar Slab wall. That would be more efficient than doing the last rappel and circumventing the Friar’s base back west.
Double 60m ropes help you combine pitches 2-3 as well as saves a rappel on descent. A single rack to 3” with a dozen shoulder length runners. South facing route, but can still be cold in the winter without the sun. Would want to hit it early if doing it during a hot day. You can easily return to the base or to the top of the first pitch. I advise carrying your packs up to the top of the first pitch so you can walk off there. No need to biner your shoes. Might want a screamer for that single bolt (looks a little sad), but you are really beyond the crux at that point anyway.
External LinksRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM
Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association