Although Eagle Dance (5.10c, A0)
and Levitation are the better known classics on Eagle Wall
, in my opinion, Mountain Beast is a comparable route. Mountain Beast was established (1997)
almost two decades after Joanne and Jorge Urioste
established Eagle Dance (1980). Joanne and Mike Moreo joined up for Mountain Beast. Barnes and Wuhrmann retrofitted the bolts in 2006
and the fixed protection on the route was warm and fuzzy in 2010. All of the belays are fixed except for a tree at the base of the last pitch.
5th - 140’- 5.10b
2nd - 60’- 5.11a
Mountain Beast, 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.
Many complain of the approach to Eagle Wall, but it really just depends on what you are used to. If from California, you might be a bit agitated at the boulder hopping and scrambling. If from the Canadian Rockies, the approach will seem like a walk in the park. Don’t worry about running into too many parties on Eagle Wall, despite its popularity. I have climbed several routes on Eagle Wall to date and have run into few other parties. My advice is to have several route options in mind before heading back into the canyon.
Park at the Oak Creek trailhead off the loop road or out at the main road at the burro crossing sign. Head due west for Oak Creek Canyon. 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 20 minutes looking to gain access to Eagle Wall by ascending the Painted Bowl descent. You will see a very tall cairn (2010) on your right above some very slick water worn rock. Smear up this short wall to the cairn and angle back right following cairns to a bushy chimney scramble on your left. Break through here and continue back right on nice slick rock until you reach a huge boulder and the west shoulder of Painted Bowl
. Turn left and scramble 4th class rock up to the shoulder below Rainbow Buttress
. Descend 30’+/- to the start of Mountain Beast, an obvious crack leading up to a heart shaped arch.
Route Description1000’+/-, 8 Pitches, 5.11a
1st - 120’- 5.9/
This is a gear protected pitch that leads to the neat heart shaped arch
above. Start in a left leaning crack and maneuver the easier ground when given a choice to a small ledge. Move to the corner and make the crux move of the pitch past the overhang (2”)
and up into the corner proper to the sloping ledge and fixed belay above.
2nd - 60’- 5.11a/
This pitch is mostly bolted and is the crux
of the climb. Follow a few bolts up nice holds angling right. Then follow the bolt line back left on a hard slab/edge traverse. This pitch no doubt has gotten tougher with time
as the edges have given way to vertical sandy slab. However there are more bolts than what Handren reports and thus the traverse is well protected. Move into the alcove below the next corner left and fixed belay.
3rd - 100’- 5.10a/
The 5.10 move(s) are right off the belay and hard to protect
thus making them awkward. Layback and swing your left foot up to catch an edge and take the corner from there which is much easier climbing to the next fixed belay below another corner. This pitch is quite a bit shorter than Handren’s notes claim.
4th - 100’- 5.8/
Climb the short corner above, then move left onto the face and follow gear placements out and left around the arête. Continue up to a fixed belay on a ledge below an obvious bolt line.
5th - 140’- 5.10b/
This is possibly the best pitch of the climb
. Follow seven bolts up fantastic 5.10 edges and pulls. Be cautious of the foot holds
on this pitch, I blew one that looked good. Eventually you can place some gear in a nice varnished crack as the grade eases. Look for a singular bolt out right that leads to the fixed belay. This pitch parallels the top of the black tower. A 70m rope would not make this rap, but there is tat on the black tower that would make it all work if you had to.
6th - 140’- 5.10a/
This is another great pitch on the best rock of the climb
. Move up a non-distinct corner and then climb the face up left past two bolts on dark varnished rock following a nice seam that protects easily with wires. Finish past several more bolts and belay on a ledge below a low angled chimney/corner section. Handren calls this pitch 5.10, but the web sites have it at 5.9+. A great trad lead for the aspiring 5.9 trad climber.
7th - 150’- 5.7/
A grunt trad pitch void of bolts and full of sand and suspect holds. Move right into the corner and stem your way up the 5th class terrain as it steepens. Although it is difficult to trust the holds out right, you will find it much easier climbing the right face. In any regard, I would keep protecting the pitch in the corner due to the bad rock. Pull out of it at the top and belay off of the large pine tree.
8th Pitch- 130’- 5.7/
Follow the bolt line which represents the last pitch of Mountain Beast and Rainbow Buttress. At first you wonder why anyone took the effort to bolt this relatively easy face (corner to the right), but as you start working through the many hollow features
of sandstone, it becomes more apparent. After you reach a ledge, you will find rappel rings (2010) on a short wall in front of you.
Climbing Sequence II
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 is a serious rope stretcher for a full 70m rope, but it works with caution.
Don’t be a fool. This is still sandstone country, exposed to the elements. Despite the traffic, plenty of loose stuff still on route. Wear a helmet.
I hauled out a busted up helmet that was left behind at the base of this route. A 70m rope
is the key to doing this route in style. We found a single rack to 2” was more than adequate. A few shoulder length slings with mostly draws. This is a pure south facing wall. Take plenty of water in the spring and fall and a decent jacket for the belays in the winter. My partner was an experienced desert rat, but still underestimated the temps and wind at that elevation and had to borrow my jacket for most of the climb and descent in early March. Wind can be a factor on this face.