Sandcastle, 5.10c, 4 Pitches

Sandcastle, 5.10c, 4 Pitches

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 36.11640°N / 115.4933°W
Additional Information Route Type: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.10c (YDS)
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 4
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Sand Castle, 5.10c

During a period in February 2011, in an attempt by me to tick off the remaining routes on the Brownstone Walls, I climbed Mayday Malefactor (5.10c), Sand Castle, Ten Minute Shift (5.11b) and Time’s Up (5.11d). Sandcastle shares the same buttress like feature in the middle of the north Brownstone Wall with Hueco Thanks (5.7) and Ten Minute Shift (5.11b). This feature is left of the Armatron area. I actually discovered Ten Minute Shift by rapping Sandcastle. Handren’s book has Sandcastle as two pitches but covering slightly more distance than Ten Minute Shift (five pitches). To run the first pitch the way the book has it laid out is quite dangerous in my opinion because at the end of 200-230’ there are no good options to build an anchor and the route is quite run out prior to that juncture as well. It is best to split this route up in four pitches, which we did with a 70m rope. Tom Moulin and Anthony Anagnostou established this route ground up and without any fixed pro on the route in 2006, and that is how we found it in 2011.
Sand Castle, 5.10c2nd Pitch- 60’- 5.10c
Sand Castle, 5.10c
Big Horn Sheep

This route has several interesting features, but the crux feature is a significant roof about 180’ up, a slightly smaller version of the popular roof on the Spectrum (5.11a) route over at the base of Bridge Mountain. Climb a small seam (5.9+) directly below the roof and angle right onto easier ground up to belay in good cracks in a pod below and right of the roof. On the second pitch, you will find a 2” as well as a much better 5” placement before pulling the roof with a few C3’s for additional pro as you ride the roof out. We found the rock quite precarious with a jug or two breaking off above. Once mantled (5.10c), traverse directly out left via exposed ground with little to no pro until you can start making it up a hidden corner. At first the corner is a bit manky, closed and hard to protect, but about 30’ up you will find varnished cracks to set up a solid medium gear belay. The third pitch continues up the corner (5.9+) until below a dark slick face above where the corner ends. We established a station there and due to the run out nature of the black slick face above, chose to finish with a fourth pitch that traverses out left and runs up the last 5.7 (good pitch) varnished corner pitch on Hueco Thanks.

I spent four days up at Brownstone Walls in a stretch of six. Seven big horn ewes were feasting on the bushes at the base of the walls and a pair of (competing or breeding) peregrine falcons made tremendous racquet during mid February as well.

The north Brownstone Wall is lit up as it mostly angles east and Rainbow Wall does not cut the sun off as early as it does for South Brownstone Wall. The approach up to the two Brownstone Walls deters many climbing tourists, thus on most occasions, particularly mid-week, you are likely to have either of the entire walls to yourself. You can climb Myster Z or Rose Hips to the summit of Jackrabbit Buttress to access the Brownstone Wall climbs which make for a nice long day of climbing. However, you can hike up Juniper Canyon as well. I prefer to park at the Oak Creek trail head (versus Pine Creek) and head north out of the parking area for the Juniper Canyon access on the north side of the wash. Hike up the canyon on a well traveled trail. Ten Minute Shift runs up the left side of a half height buttress (attached tower) well left of the Armatron Wall and it’s more popular 5.9 objectives. Sandcastle starts above a bushy section below a thin yellowish seam just to the right of a thin deep corner.

Route Description

400’+/-, 4 Pitches, 5.10c

1st Pitch- 180’- 5.9+/ There are several options to complete this pitch. There is a thin corner to the left and there is a thin seam above some easy run out straight below the roof. I chose the direct version. I was a bit tentative about the rock, but the direct seam protected moderately well. As the wall reaches more varnish above, I chose to venture right, up into the pod. There is a run out (5.10a) section up and left through the varnish that leads directly to underneath the roof as well. The pod area made for a comfortable belay on good gear.

2nd Pitch- 60’- 5.10c/ The roof is a bit chossy. A 5” (even though not called for in the guide book) protects underneath it well. But to protect against a slam back fall requires relying on a few tenuous C3 size cams in manky rock. Once you get the mantle, you can place a decent piece, nothing to write home about though. Then traverse straight out left over the large roof on exposed and unprotected, but in the 5.8 range, ground until the upper corner comes into view. Meander up the corner on some chossy rock, never much above 5.9, until you can finally put in a solid gear station about 30’ up via a hanging belay.

3rd Pitch- 80’- 5.9+/ Continue up the corner with a couple of moves at the grade about mid-way through. As the corner ends, some large huecos emerge. Climb through them and set up a belay below the base of the large and slick varnished wall above.

4th Pitch- 100’- 5.7+/ We chose to exit out onto Hueco Thanks as we could not see a clear line of protection up above and where we had set up belay would allow for a significant fall on our gear if the pro above the belay did not hold. Traverse left on huge huecos until in the nice varnished corner. Climb the fun well protected corner to its top. From time to time, you can peek back right and see just how run out the black varnished wall is coupled with several interesting “oil slick” sections running across it. Route finding up that varnished wall would be intense. Most of its features appear to be mostly shallow down sloping edges. Needless to say I was happy with our choice. Once topping out of the crack, carefully drag your rope along the top of the buttress feature another 100’ to the far end and a tree. This tree is slung and combined with a bolt is the start of your rap descent on Ten Minute Shift. I set up a belay here, but it might be wise to try and find something more direct back at the top of Hueco Thanks.

Climbing Sequence


Rap Ten Minute Shift. With a “true” 70m rope, you can skip the third pitch belay. Watch the ends. I have done this rap with two different 70m ropes and they both barely made it. Watch the large cactus at the base of the route when you do the final pull. All the rap/belay bolts were in good shape (2011) but some of the tat could be replaced.

Essential Gear

Single rack to 5” including a few C3’s. Full set of wires. A “true” single 70m rope will get you down in four raps, a 60m will take five raps. A sunny route until early afternoon in the winter. Half draws; half slings.

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