If it's good enough for Lynn Hill...
Long, steep, varied climbing following a natural line on an impressive wall deep in Oak Creek Canyon, Levitation 29 is the Crimson Chrysalis of hard climbs at Red Rocks.
The route was first established by local pioneers Jorge and Joanne Urioste, who aided the cruxes, in 1981. Shortly thereafter they invited Lynn Hill and John Long to come along and free the route. Hill onsighted the tricky, pumpy crux pitch.
Hill ensured the route’s fame when she picked it as her selection for the book “Fifty Favorite Climbs.” “It’s in a beautiful setting,” she wrote. “There is lots of aesthetic movement. And the climbing is consistently in the 5.10 range, with only a short bit of 5.11 that can be aided if necessary. It’s the perfect all-day route.”
The cruxes are all tightly bolted and you can rap from any pitch. The Eagle Wall is blasted with sun all day long, so the route is ideal in the cooler months. I did it in mid-December. When the days are short, you’ll either want to be at the gate when the Loop Road opens at 6 a.m. or park at the turnout by the exit and start hiking earlier to maximize daylight. We hiked to the base in a little over 90 minutes. My partner John had the approach dialed, so if you’re unfamiliar with the way allow for more time. It took us 5.5 hours to climb the route. A late exit permit is a good idea.
Park in the Oak Creek lot.
Approach as for Solar Slab, then drop into the drainage. Cairns mark the way to scramble over boulders. After about an hour look for a slab on your right. Class 4 or so. This approach reverses most of the descent from Black Orpheus.
Scramble up, tending right, until you reach the bowl between Eagle Wall and the top of Black Orpheus. Once you can see the wall, look for a splitter crack high on the right side—the crux pitch of Levitation. Lower on the wall you can see an Eagle shape in the lighter rock flying to the left; the route is just to the right of the tail. When you reach the base of the wall, tend left and drop down to the start of the route. If you reach a huge pillar on the left you’ve gone too far. That’s Ealge Dance (5.10d, A0), a good alternative if Levitation is busy. The start of Levitation goes up varnished rock towards a roof with a few bolts easily spotted from the ground.
P1. Head for the first bolt. Interesting blocky climbing that’s trickier than it looks. A mix of gear and bolts. 5.10a.
P2. Up and right into a corner. Gear will protect the easy ground at the start; bolts handle the hard section. Fun, steep climbing on decent holds gets you to an arm-burning stance below a roof. It took me a while to scope out the moves, which are quite physical but very short. A fun pitch. (Watch out of a dangerously loose block with an X below the roof). 5.11b.
P3. Gear up an easy crack, then move left on a few bolts. 5.8.
P4. Face climbing with bolts to a crack (gear), then more face. 5.10b.
P5. The money pitch. Stuff a hand-sized cam in the crack (a sling will make the rope run better), then launch off into the crux. Be ready to move up off a burly fist jam and make some hard face moves to pull the bulge. There’s a rest before some more technical climbing. There are bolts every couple of feet (13 total). A stout pitch. 5.11c.
P6. Delicate, committing face climbing to a crack (finger-sized cams). Fun and pumpy. Originally rated 5.10b/c but more recent guides put it at either 5.10d or 5.11a.
Note: A strong leader with 18 draws can link the previous two pitches.
P7. Insecure moves on crappy, loose sandstone. Lots of bolts. Move right and climb the arête, struggling with some really hard-to-reach clips around the corner. 5.10d.
P8. An enjoyable slab pitch (if that’s not an oxymoron). Nuts will protect a thin crack section. 5.10a.
P9. Not so great slabby sandstone, but not so hard. 5.9.
From here you can scramble to the top (a couple of 5.6 moves to easy ground). If not walking off, you can rap back to the belay from a tree or downclimb.
Descent: We rapped every pitch with a 70m rope. The rap down P4 barely made it.
A 70m rope will get you down every pitch, although it's a stretcher to P4. Otherwise, bring two ropes. A small rack will suffice (say BD .3 to 1 and small to medium nuts and a dozen draws, plus six if linking P5 and 6).