Rat Crack, 5.10a
Shangri-La lives up to its name.
This is one of the least visited and more remote walls at the City of Rocks. The wall cannot even be viewed except on the final approach. Once you do see it, it is easy to identify via a striking truck sized window arch located dead center. Its upper south to north west face offers several stellar moderate crack lines: Godstopper (aka Window Shopping) and Rat Crack, both 5.10a pure trad lines.
I set up a top rope on these two routes using a gear anchor and then cleaned it at the end and soloed up to the northwest summit on Shangri-La to reach a single 70m rope free air rap from the very southwest corner.
This bolted rap could use some modernization as of 2015.
All of the routes on Shangri-La are poorly described in Bingham’s 2009 guide.
The Checkerboard routes are on the opposite side of the wall as the two before mentioned and are not near the same quality. They do share the same rap at the southwest end. As you move left to right along the southwest face, you next come to several interesting bolted lines (5.11’s). The window arch itself offers two interesting options to climb through and above it, one on each side. However, no climb through the window is mentioned in the guide. You can reach the floor of the window itself via some 5th class jugs, which is a must do if you hiked all the way back here.
Park at the water pump
picnic area. Cross the road and start hiking the Circle Creek loop trail.
Switch backs will take you up and west of the feature named "Eric Wood". Once you have circumvented Eric Wood to the west, look to descend from a col that heads down (30-40 minutes) approximately 500’ in elevation (not a 1000' descent as the guide implies) to Shangri-La which is easily identified by the before mentioned window arch in its center. You constantly jig left to avoid any severe bushwhacking.
There might be a few cairns but there was no identifiable climbers trail as of 2015. One could also hike up from the Stripe Rock
Route Description(s)Routes are Listed Left to Right, Northwest to Southwest
Checkerboard Middle- 5.9**/ These three routes are on the north face of the north tower. None of them deserve two stars, particularly in comparison to the two 5.10a splitters on the other side. These routes are not obvious unless you step away from the north face of the north tower. Scramble (5.7) up the left to right flake and up to the ledge below the “checkerboard wall”. Take the C#3-#4 size crack up the middle of the upper face. The climbing felt more like 5.8 to me. Traverse left onto the arête and finish up the summit on 5th class. The rap (not chains (2015) as referenced in the guide) is off of weathered slings and spinner hangers that lead down the very southwest corner of the formation. A single 70m rope gets you down no worries. This is a free air rap with an awkward hanging start for a beginning climber. Dow
Checkerboard Right, -5.8**/
Window Shopping aka Godstopper - 5.10a**/ By far the best route of the moderates on Shangri-La and it has absolutely nothing to do with the window arch in the middle of this formation. Godstopper is the better name as Brad Shilling found a fixed nut on this line with the initials G.O.D. on it. You are nowhere near the window arch when climbing at this end which one would think window shopping refers to. In any regard, a really good 5.10a, deserving of more than two stars in my opinion in that it involves several crack climbing techniques. Follow the obvious splitter in the middle of the southwest face on the north tower. Scramble up to the ledge below this lightning bolt crack and Rat Crack (left facing corner). Enter the finger lock splitter with small intermittent hands and continue up to the rightward traverse (crux). There are two horizontals on this traverse. Lay back your feet up to the lower one and palm the sloper upper one while reaching for the block up and right that begins the next vertical section. Mantle the block (use the finger crack, don’t pull out, this block should actually be cleaned away from the wall in my opinion) and continue up another excellent finger/hand splitter to a jug on top. Pull up to a ledge and set a top rope if you prefer on medium gear or go ahead and bring up the second. There would be too much rope drag to try and reach the rap in one lead. I set up a top rope and when my party was done, soloed 5th class (dragging the rope up) by traversing right up to the notch and back left below the roof to the southwest corner rap. Dow
Rat Crack- 5.10a**/ This route is not near as challenging as Godstopper and is soft for the grade at the City but worth doing for sure. Same approach as Window Shopping, just take the obvious corner to the right. There are some rat nests in it, but not bad enough to deserve the name. Stem and jam up to the perfect finger section above C4#.3-#.4. Use the small dike like features to continue taking the corner straight in to the top. Same gear top rope that you set up for Window Shopping will work for Rat Crack. In fact I had top ropes set up on both routes at the same time. Same exit strategy as Godstopper. Dow
Stick Like a Maggot-5.11d*/
Beyond Good and Evil-5.10d***/
Land of the Last-5.12a*/