3rd Pitch- 50’- 5.8-C1 or 5.12a
Sandstone Overcast is another of many obscure and overlooked Larry DeAngelo (along with John Wilder) routes that is definitely worth climbing.
Ironically it intersects the very popular Johnny Vegas
route on the Lower Solar Slab Wall
in Oak Creek Canyon at Red Rocks
. Yet who ever climbs it? There has been some recent activity on it however due to its aid pitch going free in 2008 at 5.12a or so.
We had no aspirations of freeing the crux roof, but rather following the 5.9 free variation
on pitch three circumventing the massive roof above to the left. In fact with proper rope management, you can combine pitches three and four to the top Johnny Vegas anchor. The first two pitches were rather fantastic 5.8 sustained trad climbing with one bolt covering 335’
of varnished climbing. Sandstone Overcast offers a better alternative to Johnny Vegas in my opinion. I have heard of complaints regarding protection available on the first pitch, but felt there was plenty available for the experienced trad leader.
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. Walk 60’ to the left of the Johnny Vegas start to a large right facing corner. The first pitch is actually the last rap line for Johnny Vegas.
Route Description535’+/-, 4 Pitches, 5.9
1st Pitch- 185’- 5.8/
A fantastic black varnished pitch. Run up the corner mostly climbing the face to the right and pull a small roof (bolt)
onto more varnished face ground that trends right
to a crack. Follow the crack up to the first belay station of Johnny Vegas and keep climbing
to the top of the crack/chimney and build a station on a large ledge above the Johnny Vegas bolted belay. (photos)
2nd Pitch- 150’- 5.8/
This is another fine pitch although less varnished. Follow the wide crack above the ledge as it arches left and leave it for a straighter line on better rock above, making a bee line for the shallowest section
of the long roof line above. As you get right below the roof, the rock becomes really bomber. You can protect the pull with a crack under the roof and make a fun move up and over. Continue up to a small belay stance below the massive roof above. (photos)
3rd Pitch- 50’- 5.8-C1 or 5.12a/
Take ball nuts and/or blue alien size cams and aid under the roof and fix an anchor just over the lip or free the route at 5.12a with strong hanging finger moves.
4th Pitch- 150’- 5.4/
Climb easy ground past the 3rd belay station of Johnny Vegas to the top of Johnny Vegas.
3rd -4th Pitch Variation- 200’- 5.9/
Make an un protectable traverse left via white sandy scoops and holds to a large varnished scoop below a crack/corner to the left of the roof. A fall on this traverse would result in a broken leg, arm or both on a swing back into a corner wall.
Either set up a station here to avoid rope drag, or set a single shoulder length sling to keep your rope(s) from snagging in the crack above
and deal with considerable rope drag
as you climb the easy corner above and start trending right on run out, but easy ground, passing the top of the third belay for Johnny Vegas and continuing to the very top of Johnny Vegas for a full 200’ rope stretcher
Continue up to attempt one of the Upper Solar Slab
routes, or 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. If you only have a single rope, you can still rappel Solar Gully, just count on hitting every rappel station. You can also easily down climb Solar Gully and if a ton of folks are rappelling, and there is a jam, that would be my preference.
Double 60m ropes. Single to 3”, double .4” to 6” and some Ballnutz(s) if you are pulling the large roof. One set of wires. Dozen shoulder length slings should be adequate. Will descend back to your shoes and pack, no need to take much with you unless you are linking another route above.
External LinksRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM
Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association