While I initially thought I completely missed the
route described in Bjørnstad’s Desert Rock guide (it was
supposedly on the west face), after some reflection, I’m fairly certain now
that the route I took up shares the majority of the first ascent route
(described in the guide), deviating in a few (crucial) sections.
While the route-finding involved in the given route
is fairly straight-forward, a familiarity with desert sandstone (& its
limitations & weaknesses) is highly recommended. The rock on the route,
especially at the crux, can be less than perfect, and an understanding of the
potential repercussions if any of the holds/protection placements break is significantly
to the climber’s advantage.
It should be noted that the associated photos could
be valuable additions to the following written description.
From the parking/camping area, locate the obvious chimney system directly behind an enormous piece of rock, on the east side of the south face of Cleopatras Chair. This is where you’re going. Climb the 3rd class talus to the base of the mountain to where things steepen up.
P1 (5.2): Go around the huge piece of rock
previously described to the base of an obvious V-slot/squeeze chimney. A few
5.2 crack/face moves get you into the crack. Follow the easy 5th
crack upward, heel-toe-ing & using hands in the back of the crack. Near the
top of the crack, a good foot-sized dish/ledge on the arête to the right allows
you to transfer over to the other side of the arête to a safe stance.
P2 (4th cl.): From here until the route’s
crux is mostly scruffy, dirty 4th (maybe a few easy 5th
class moves, depending on your variation), generally with little exposure
(consequences). Follow the chimney back, walking/scrambling/climbing as
necessary, until you get to a large, sandy ledge; the chimney widens out beyond
this, the floor drops out, & it should be obvious that you won’t want to go
any further back…
P3 (5.4): Crux pitch. If my understanding of the
standard route is correct, the first ascentionists used a shoulder stand on the
right (facing forward, into the chimney) wall; others have reported this as
5.8/9 X mantling. When I arrived at this location, these options either a)
weren’t feasible, or b) didn’t seem appealing to me in the least. INSTEAD, look
to the left wall. Mantle a delicate-looking flake/ledge that might not be there
forever (get a spot if you’ve got a partner). The following move(s) is(are) the
crux of the biscuit. Gain the arête above & to the left by way of a
combination of smearing, lie-backing the flakes/roof on the L (some thin
protection possible here), and side-pulling the solid-looking ledges up & on
the R. Grab the jugs up & to the L, and gingerly pull yourself onto the top
of the arête. Be careful while performing this maneuver to not pull off some of
the precariously perched blocks forming the R-facing dihedral/roof on the L. This
whole section is probably only 30’ or so before you gain the ridge above. Look
around for a solid anchor for the second.
P4 (??!!): Once on the arête/detached buttress, you
need to get over to the main formation. This is done by scrambling up the ridge
until the gap separating the buttress from the main massif is sufficiently
narrow, & the rock on both sides looks a) somewhat solid & b) conducive
to launching/landing (i.e. flat). The gap itself is probably 3-4 ft. wide, with
a sickening void below that I couldn’t bring myself to look down into. Prepare
yourself, then launch yourself over the void; this cannot be done
To my knowledge, there are 2 logical means of
1. Downclimb the route. Depending on your comfort
level climbing up, this could either be mellow or terrifying. Use a belay &
down-lead/follow, or don’t slip.
2. There is supposedly a bolted rappel station at
the edge of the cliff, on the SE side of the mountain (climber’s right of the
route described); I DO NOT have experience with this; however, to my knowledge,
it is a DOUBLE-ROPE rappel, AND it is FREE-HANGING. IT IS UNKNOWN IF YOU NEED 2
60-m ropes or just 2 50-m ropes. Says Matt Lemke, "I'm reminded of this photo I saw years back. I'd think its at least a double 60m from the photo." link