if one of the more popular routes at Red Rocks and therefore one of the earlier routes I climbed in the park. To the left of Black Orpheus is a large black arch that gets tagged with its own climbing section within Oak Creek Canyon, the Black Arch Wall area. Black Orpheus and There and Back Again are both considered part of this wall. Although There and Back Again is listed as six pitches in length, I recommend you complete the first five pitches and skip the scramble pitch Handren’s guide book references at the end (which makes no sense in reference to the descent).
4th Pitch- 80’- 5.8
There and Back Again was put in by Jim Boone and Ellen Dempsey in 1980. Although Handren gives it a star in his guide book, “Red Rocks, A Climbers Guide”, I am not so fond of it. None of the pitches offer sustained climbing at the grade and the rappel descent has lost any tree that is referenced in Handren’s descent, forcing you to make a dirty and loose rappel further down the Painted Bowl unless you want to use the main Painted Bowl descent which would make for a long walk off for such a short route.
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. Many routes are reached from this trailhead, so no worries about various vehicles in the parking lot, more than likely no one is after this route as this section of Rainbow Mountain features quite a few popular routes. Follow the trail into the canyon and turn right to stay out of the canyon floor and follow the trail staying low and below any turn off up the hill on your right to the Solar Slab routes. Continue, aiming for the narrow section of the canyon, then drop into the canyon floor and boulder hop keeping your eye out for a cairn on the right. Follow a short trail that takes off and up the ground to the right that soon turns into slab like scrambling. Meander your way up to the right side of the large black arch. Some of these moves could be considered 4th class. You are aiming for a separate feature of sorts that leans against the Black Arch Wall.
The first pitch climbs this block to its top and belays in a notch at the top to the right.
There and Back consists of five pitches that angle left to a point above the Painted Bowl and Black Arch Wall. The most interesting pitch is the sustained, but short, wall traverse on the forth pitch.
The fifth pitch offers a short overhanging section, but is misleading from appearance as it is easy to circumvent the overhanging crack to the right, thus the 5.8 grade. The third pitch has a short 5.8 slab section to overcome directly above the belay. The 2nd pitch offers a short, but fun, left facing corner. There is no fixed gear on this route (2008).
Route Description500’+/-, 5 Pitches, 5.8
1st Pitch- 165’- 5.5/
Climb up the right slabby side of the block and make a climbing move on suspect rock over a short roof of sorts to gain the main pillar and climb up the center right side to a notch on varnish holds. Gear belay.
2nd Pitch- 90’- 5.7/
Scramble directly up to the base of another pillar of sorts. Climb the left side to the base of a left facing corner. Climb the corner with a nice wall for your feet. Watch out for a large loose flake on the pillar itself.
Gear belay at the top.
3rd Pitch- 80’- 5.8/
Climb the slab above, sticking to the arête until you reach easier ground. Then traverse right and follow an easy corner up to the top of yet another pillar with a small ledge. Gear belay. (exit left, not right, at the end to a small ledge)
4th Pitch- 80’- 5.8/
This is the crux of There and Back Again. Traverse out left onto the vertical varnished face (get a piece in early to avoid exposure to a bad factor fall).
Follow big holds left to a nice crack that leads to the top of this short face section. There is at least one or two horizontal pro placements before you reach the crack. Continue up and left to a large ledge. Do not follow the corner right where a death block awaits, barely teetering on broken sandstone.
5th Pitch- 110’- 5.8/
Follow a slab up and right to below an overhanging crack. Start up the crack and move right on easier ground when it steepens beyond the grade. At the top of this crack is a ramp that leads back left up to a comfortable gear belay and tree.
Scramble off to climbers left and you will have a view of the Painted Bowl. Descend down past one tree to a large tree (relative). We left tat (2008) on one of its solid limbs. Rappel off of the tree, but be extremely aware of the loose blocks between the tree and the edge of Black Arch Wall.
Once on the wall, angle your line just slightly to the right and land on a small ledge below some large bushes. There was good tat (2008) wrapped around several of these bushes. A double rope 60m rappel from here gets you to the ground.
There is another precarious single rappel based on a large block about half way down. Rappel over a small arch towards the end. You can scramble down slabby terrain and move left to reach your start of the route. Descending back down to the canyon floor involves scrambling of sorts. I have never really found a common trail between the start of these routes on Black Arch Wall and the bottom of Oak Creek Canyon.Double 60m ropes are needed if you are going to rappel back to the start of the route
. You can take all your gear with you and walk off via the Painted Bowl descent. I recommend the rappel however. The walk off is quite the long way around. Single rack to 3” with .double 75”-2”. Set of nuts. A dozen shoulder length runners. South facing route, so pretty darn nice in the fall and winter afternoons. Does not get any morning sun in the winter though. Dress accordingly. As with most Red Rocks, you will sweat in a t-shirt on approach, but can use a hat and extra layer on the climb during the winter. You can easily return to base if you use the rappel option, so you can leave your shoes and packs at the base. If you choose the walk off option, you will want to take everything with you or you would have to re-ascend to the base of the route from the Oak Creek Canyon floor.
External LinksRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM
Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association