On the northeast corner of Rainbow Mountain
, at the entrance to Juniper Canyon
, lies the Wall of Cracks
. The Wall of Cracks consists of a collection of mostly moderate crack routes among several towers including the impressive Cloud Tower itself and its most infamous route Crimson Chrysalis
For most, the only reason to climb the collection of short trad lines to the east of Crimson Chrysalis would be due to not getting up early enough to get a spot on the classic itself. I of course being one of the few exceptions, having climbed Chrimson Chrysalis already three times, two of those having the line entirely to ourselves, I went directly for these more obscure lines. The trick is climbing this ultra classic when it is cold and windy. Harsher conditions normally separate the tourists from the climbers.
So despite Test Tube
, Spare Rib and others serving as mostly a back-up plan for most, I and a trusting partner actually made them a destination objective on a perfect May day. We were not disappointed. Spare Rib was not as good a route as Test Tube, but you actually rap Spare Rib to descend Test Tube. Therefore it would be foolish in my opinion to not climb both routes once you are at the base of these side by side climbs. Spare Rib starts out in a stellar crack for the grade (5.8),
then peters out into a sparsely bolted face climb for the last three pitches. I advise combining the first two pitches and the last two pitches
which can easily be done with a 60m rope. Spare Rib is another typical Urioste
route put in by Jorge and Joanne in 1980, however the bolts have since been replaced except for the very last one
on the route. All the stations are bomber including a tree on top of route (2009).
Wall of Cracks sits above an obvious ramp rising above the Juniper Canyon floor. Test Tube can be found just below where you crest this ramp for Crimson Chrysalis. The approach for this wall, as for other routes in Juniper Canyon, can start at either the Oak Creek or Pine Creek trail head off the Red Rocks loop road. I prefer Oak Creek. Oak Creek is the last trail head option on the Red Rocks Loop Road. Drive down a long gravel drive to the parking area. Use the trail heading out of the corralled parking lot to the north aiming for Juniper Canyon. Follow the trail as it meanders northwest towards Rainbow Mountain. There are a variety of options, but it is more direct to not cross the Juniper Canyon wash lower down, but rather hike up a cairned trail before you get to the wash aiming for a huge boulder. This trail eventually does gain the north bank of the wash. Then it eventually crosses back over to the south side where you need to pick up a trail that heads for the Crimson Chrysalis ramp below Cloud Tower. Test Tube is an obvious deep and dark varnished corner about ¾ of the way up the ramp.
Spare Rib climbs the face of the pillar making up the right side of that corner.
Route Description290’+/-, 4 Pitches, 5.8
1st-2nd Pitches- 150’- 5.8/
The first 80’ is definitely the best climbing of the route. A textbook vertical 5.8 crack takes you straight up the middle of the pillar to a small belay ledge. The crux is overcoming a small bulge right before the belay.
Clip the station with a double length runner and climb out left following a thin crack past a bolt and then face climbing past several other bolts to a semi hanging belay. This ground is quite featured and easy for the grade, but steep. (photos)
3rd-4th Pitches- 140’- 5.6/
This last half involves a couple of junk face pitches. The first 70’ has four bolts. The last 70’ becomes lower 5th class and has just one junk bolt for pro, but the ground feels solid despite the whitish color.
Rap down Spare Rib via four single rope raps. Start with the same tree you used for the top belay. Stations were in good shape in 2009.
Single rack to 2”. Used one large nut. Half dozen shoulder length slings and a few draws so you can combine those first two pitches. This is a north facing wall, dress accordingly. You will rap back to your packs and shoes.
External LinksRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM
Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association