Heliotrope, 5.9, 5 Pitches

Page Type
Nevada, United States, North America
Route Type:
Trad Climbing
Spring, Fall, Winter
Time Required:
Most of a day
Rock Difficulty:
5.9 (YDS)
Number of Pitches:

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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Heliotrope, 5.9, 5 Pitches
Created On: Jan 2, 2009
Last Edited On: Feb 24, 2013


Heliotrope, 5.92nd Pitch- 120’- 5.9

Heliotrope is an obscure line on the Upper Solar Slab that basically rips off the first two pitches of the much better route, Sunflower. It then features two long run out pitches up the gut of the upper slab until you reach the varnished bricks towards the top of the face. We combined Frieda’s Flake with Heliotrope on a late December day to make for a full day of sun filled climbing. There is not a warmer feature to climb at Red Rocks than the Upper Solar Slab in Oak Creek Canyon. Heliotrope was a late addition by George Urioste and Larry DeAngelo. You descend the route easily via one single and four double rope rappels down the common Solar Slab route.

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. Follow the trail into the canyon and turn right to stay out of the canyon floor and follow the trail until beyond the Friar. There is a well trodden switch back trail that leads to the base of the wall where Solar Gully and Johnny Vegas start. From there climb any of the Lower Solar Slab routes to the broad bench that separates the lower slab from the upper slab. Walk over to just left of the top of the Solar Slab gully and start up white slab to the base of a well varnished corner/crack. This is the shared start of Heliotrope and Sunflower.

Route Description

800’+/-, 5 Pitches, 5.9

1st Pitch- 160’- 5.7/ Once you top out from the lower slab, coil the ropes and walk over to whitish slab below the heavily varnished corner to the right of Solar Slab. Hike through a few bushes and sand to a comfortable belay spot below the slab or solo up the slab to below the corner itself. Climb some easy 4th class until you are below the black varnish and significant crack/corner. Climb the easy, but fun, 5.7 black corner to the shared belay ledge with the 1st pitch of Solar Slab (tree on the ledge, but bolts for the belay, last rappel on the descent of the upper slab).

2nd Pitch- 120’- 5.9/ This has to be one of the finer pitches on the upper slab. Follow the rightward curving varnished seam above the belay, placing gear as you go. Pretty sweet finger crack leads to another comfortable belay ledge.

3rd Pitch- 120’- 5.8/ Instead of heading straight up the corner as you would for Sunflower, move out left on top of a precarious pedestal. From there you can see a crack up and off to the left. Most of the ground climbed to get there direct is quite blank. Continue up to an ironized varnished lip, but un-protectable, and then traverse left on the lip into the smallish corner where you can place good gear. Climb this corner as it turns into a crack and then disappears into blank territory. You can see Sunflower's fixed anchor up and right into a scoop. There is a small scoop up and left that allows you to build a decent station with .3-.75” gear.

4th Pitch- 200’- 5.8 or 9/ There is a huge corner out left. Straight above, about 100’, is a crack. Out right is Sunflower’s bolted 4th 5.9 pitch. The Heliotrope line is to cover the unprotected 5.8 ground straight up to the crack 100’ above. I chose to do a diagonal traverse, slinging a few horns along the way, into Sunflower’s 4th pitch which is protected with bolts until it reaches a crack of its own. A full 200’ (+ a few inches) lands you at the base of Sunflower’s 5th pitch.

5th Pitch- 200’- 5.6/ Whether you take the 5.8 direct line or the 5.9 protectable line. The final pitch covers the same ground. Traverse fantastic rock placing mostly horizontal protection as you aim for the top of the 7th pitch of Solar Slab to the left. You will not make it all the way, but can quickly and easily establish a gear belay into the middle of the 7th Solar Slab pitch (crack) and bring in the 2nd. Then just scramble to the top of the 7th pitch to start your rappel descent.

Climbing Sequence


One single rappel gets you to the top of Solar Slab’s 6th pitch. From there, four double 60m rope rappels will return you to the base of the upper slab. From there you can rappel either Johnny Vegas or Solar Gully. Johnny Vegas is a much quicker rappel (double ropes), but if somebody is climbing the route, it would be more honorable to descend Solar Gully. Solar Gully consists of a quick down climb or small rap, followed by another small rap, then a double rap, another single rap, and one last double rappel.

Essential Gear

Double 60m ropes are your only option for descent unless you plan to continue to the top. Single rack to 3”. Double from .5 to 2. I placed one wire on this route. Half a dozen shoulder length slings and half a dozen draws should be adequate. Can descend back to your shoes and pack, no need to take much with you if you climb reasonably fast.

External Links

  • Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM

  • Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association

  • DowClimbing.Com
  • Red Rocks

    Heliotrope, 5.9, 5 Pitches

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