Within a week after completing Woman of Mountain Dreams (5.11a), I climbed Gift of the Wind Gods. Both of these routes involve Joanne Urioste and were put in at about the same time paralleling each other up the striking Aeolian Wall on Mount Wilson, the largest face in Red Rock NCA. The big difference between the two routes is that Gift of Wind Gods does not top out at the summit of Mount Wilson, but rather involves a scramble to the west to surmount the summit ridge plateau. While both routes are worth doing, Gift of the Wind Gods offers the best overall rock, from bottom to top. But most of that statement can be attributed to the fact that it does not reach the summit as Woman of Mountain Dreams does. Most of the rock near the summit of Mount Wilson, no matter which route you might be climbing, is a bit chossy.
Gift of the Wind Gods has not seen much traffic due to the fact that many of the original ¼ inch bolts are in bad shape. The route was in such condition as of 2013, that I was comfortable leading the crux pitches of the route with the modern gear I had including small off-set cams and a few screamers. But the route no doubt could still use a retro-bolt effort on the fixed stations at a minimum.
Of all of the incredible scenic positioning to be had on the massive Aeolian Wall, this right side is my favorite. Joanne established the line in 1996 with Mike Clifford and Patrick Putnam. She named it after an interesting dream from my perspective. I lived in Canmore myself full time for a matter of years and have climbed in the Bugaboos every year for the past dozen or so. This is her description of the name….”I had given up climbing from 1985 to 1996, to raise my kids, but was passionately involved in wilderness running. In March of 1996, I had a dream of Bugaboo-like spires, while I was traveling by train viewing them and weeping with longing to climb them. A few days later, I was running the trails at Wilson’s base, as cold north gales swept away the recent storm with crystal air. Glancing up a thousand feet at Wilson, a line of cracks jumped out at me, overwhelming my senses, compelling me with desire. I soon took steps to begin climbing, after more than a decade of not climbing at all, and this route was established a few months later. “
Gift of the Wind Gods shares its first pitch with Woman of Mountain Dreams, a causal 5.8 romp up a flake behind a large ponderosa tree. The second pitch takes a short traverse right to access a thin seam (5.10a). The third pitch follows a wider crack (5.8) to its terminus. The fourth pitch offers the crux climbing of the day up a thin seam, up and left, which is at times closed for gear therefore a few pieces of fixed pro line the crack. The fifth and sixth pitches can be easily combined for mellow crack climbing (5.9). The seventh pitch is the 5.10 traverse and involves the best rock of the day. The 8th pitch is a pleasant wide crack/off-width pitch (5.9). And the last 200’ (5.7) runs up chossy ground to a flat shoulder on the right side of Mount Wilson’s summit. From there a convoluted scramble takes you to the summit plateau considerably west of the summit. Handren’s guide has this route marked as 1500’, but it is considerably shorter than that. However, you will ascend approximately another 400’ or so via scrambling to reach the summit ridge.
Approach as you would for Resolution Arête and Inti Watana, up the “white rot gully”. That means parking at any of the Oak Creek pull outs along the main highway and hiking towards the left side of the Wilson Pimple. Then take a climbers trail left off of the main trail on the south side of the Pimple and make your way up the hill to the far left gully on the right side of the drainage coming down Aeolian Wall. Scramble up the gully and through a hole at the top, and down the left side into the main gully feeding the drainage below. From there, head up the scrub oak filled gully to beyond the Ponderosa Pine which marks the left turn for Resolution and Inti and instead continue straight up the gully for a short distance to a col along the broad face of the Aeolian Wall. Descend the other side and scramble/stem up the 3rd or 4th class slab and cut back left to the base of another large Ponderosa which marks the right side of an attached tower. The right side of this feature consists of the first three pitches of Woman of Mountain Dreams. Gift of the Wind Gods shares the first pitch.
1st Pitch- 150’- 5.8/ Climb up the right side of the tower using a multitude of flakes and wide cracks to a fixed belay that needs replacing (same first pitch as Woman of Mountain Dreams). Traverse right at mid-point to stay in the cleaner rock. Straightforward and fast pitch.
2nd Pitch- 130’- 5.10a/ Traverse right and up following a few rusty bolts (30’) to a thin seam. Climb this seam with small gear to a fixed belay at a bush. None of the fixed belays have ½ inch bolts as of 2013 but most have one decent 3/8’s paired with a bad 1/4 inch and hanger. The pro bolts are about the same mix, 50-50.
3rd Pitch- 160’- 5.8/ Continue up a hand crack through a tree/bush or two moving to the right side crack when given the option. Place gear at will to a fixed belay in a scoop.
4th Pitch- 150’- 5.10d/ This pitch is by far the crux of the day as well as offers the best climbing. Traverse straight left from the belay to gain the thin seam/crack at its base. Follow it straight up through sustained 5.10 moves, placing small gear and clipping several fixed pieces in varying conditions of decay. With the gear I had, only one bolt was really mandatory for my comfort level and it was the better bolt/hanger of the group. You reach it at a bulge where the thin crack closes but then re-opens again as soon as you pull the bulge, the crux of the pitch. Towards the end, take the right option to a comfortable fixed belay in a scoop.
5th-6th Pitches- 180’- 5.9+/ These two pitches are relatively mellow crack pitches that follow some of the best rock of the day and are easy to combine straight up to a fixed belay with a hanging stance below a roof to the left. Venture a bit right towards the end on solid rock.
7th Pitch- 160’- 5.10d/ This traverse did not feel like 5.10d (Handren’s guide) to me and Joanne Urioste does not have it marked at that grade either (5.10 in her notes). The edges were quite positive the whole pitch. Traverse out right following a line of bolts (ignoring one lone bolt up high/off-route). The first two are bad bolts/hangers. I brought two screamers and used them on these bolts. But the climbing through them was 5.9 at most. The third bolt was much better (3/8th, not rusted). Continue up and right on positive edges through good rock and several more fixed pieces, some decent, some not. Eventually you reach a crack with a solid C4 #.75 pod. I placed another small cam up on this crack and actually skipped the rusted bolts/hangers along this seam. Move right into the large crack and continue up easy ground to a comfortable ledge with a fixed belay below a wide crack/chimney.
8th Pitch- 100’- 5.9/ Run up the wide crack placing gear at will with a fun pull at the end to a fixed belay. A small amount of chimney/off-width moves are involved.
9th Pitch- 200’- 5.7/ Handren’s guide lays this out as 150’ followed by a 10th pitch of 4th class. The last bit I climbed to the loose ledge with a large tree was more than 4th class with chossy run-out climbing. I led on a 70m rope so would advise having the second prepared to simul-climb if you have a 60m rope so you can reach the ledge for a solid belay and not have to divide the pitches. Head up the wide crack placing gear at will. You have several choices along the way. Take the first left pulling a bulge to stay on better rock and have better pro. Then take the next right option to avoid the daunting big corner below the fallen tree above. I slung a small tree here before running out the chossy face to the right of a smaller chossy corner.
The descent is not well described in Handren’s guide and is a bit convoluted in any regard. Head west from the ledge you topped out on, passing below a huge head wall and several large ponderosa trees. Within minutes you come out to a flat shoulder overlooking Cactus Flower Tower. Cut back left and down to the center of the large drainage below, losing as little elevation as possible. Once you reach the drainage, head left up the drainage towards three large trees until it starts to show 5th class slab. Turn left along a narrow ledge to avoid the slab and pull a 5th class move or two to access a gully and then cut back right along a broader ledge to gain the before mentioned trees. Traverse west across the drainage to a small flat spot on the west side of the west most tree. Scramble up left via chossy sandstone (5th) for about 30’. From there, hike up to the main summit plateau. Move south, up and down a drainage, until centered on the summit plateau. Head west for the limestone.
Oak Creek puts you way closer to where you probably parked your car but requires use of at least one fixed hand line and a few other quick hand lines set up by you with your own rope. I prefer to take my harness off, but if you left it on, you could rappel these short sections instead of hand-line them down. In any regard, head west to the limestone col. The correct drainage you go down is marked with several large ponderosa trees and a balanced rock tower that marks the descent of this drainage. Circumvent the tower to its right and descend into the drainage proper. A relatively new hand line (2013) is on the right side at one steep impasse. Every other slick rock drop off can be either down climbed or rapped/hand lined off of existing tat (2013). We got the rope out two times after the established hand line. Follow this drainage into the main Oak Creek canyon and head back to your vehicle. If you parked out by the road, turn right shortly after the Oak Creek trail sign says one mile to go (to the loop road pullout) just to the north of the Wilson Pimple. Then turn fairly immediate left on a well-traveled trail and follow it all the way to the road. Turn right and walk back to which ever pull out you used.
I took a single rack from Metolius #00 to C4 #2. Double from .3 to .5 and double C4 #4’s (Handren’s call) along with three small off-set cams. That rack worked out just fine. I really did not need two C4 #4’s though and rarely, if ever, emptied the smaller sizes either. All of the challenging climbing involved small gear. To keep it simple, I would just recommend single from micro to C4 #4 along with some off-set nuts and/or cams. Take at least two screamers until the route gets retro-bolted. Without them, several of the bolts are not worth clipping. Mix of slings and draws. Helmets on less traveled terrain like this are always recommended. 1.5 liters of water is normally more than enough water for me, car to car, on this pm shaded wall. It can be way colder than you think up high. I used my puffy at belays in mid-April (85f in Vegas). Single 60m or 70m rope, but a single won’t get you down the route well if you have to bail.