Tiers of the Setting Sun, 5.11, 15 Pitches

Page Type
Nevada, United States, North America
Route Type:
Trad Climbing
Spring, Summer, Fall
Time Required:
A long day
Rock Difficulty:
5.11 (YDS)
Number of Pitches:

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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Tiers of the Setting Sun, 5.11, 15 Pitches
Created On: Jun 13, 2016
Last Edited On: Jun 13, 2016


7th Pitch Direct Variation FA
Dow leading the FA of the direct variation, Pitch 7

One must climb out a lot of routes at Red Rock before finding themselves on Tiers of the Setting Sun.  The FAer's state “expect a Resolution Arête type of climb with better rock but slightly less spectacular position”. I disagree with them on several accounts. First off, competent climbers at this grade are going to want to solo up the first half of the wall. We soloed Rising Moons and then what is used as the descent gully for Hot Flash and other routes which accounted for more than half the height of the climbing day.  In contrast, Resolution has intermittent good climbing throughout.  Secondly, the rock, as expected, is as bad as it gets at Red Rock (virtually all of it was lichen or moss covered).  Either the FAer's misspoke or were joking about the rock being better than Resolution. That is why there are not many developed routes on this wall, due to the bad rock quality in general.  I remember taking a big whipper on Celtic Cracks when a large section of rock came off above its stellar corner/roof pitch. Tiers is no exception to Celtic and actually the rock is considerably worse. The best pitch all day was when I FAed a more direct line near the top (in other words was off route). I had climbed the crux pitch which was a horrendous white sandstone moss fest and just kept climbing straight up through two more long pitches to the top.  These were the best pitches but to avoid them, the FAer’s did a 5.6 traverse right 50’ or so. My partner had thought it looked improbable, maybe the FAer's did as well, but I thought it looked good and it went better than anything else we had climbed below.
5th Pitch
5th Pitch (crux)

The FAer's also have this marked up as a grade V climb in Mountain Project, but with so much easy ground to the base of the wall that actually contains the route, there is no way it could be labeled V. I am not much into giving alpine grades in the desert to begin with, but even IV would be pushing it in comparison to what other desert climbs are listed at. In a true alpine environment, a V climb takes days to complete counting the approach and climb.  We did this climb 18hrs car to car wasting several hours finding it, getting off route and FAing more challenging pitches at the finish. I even wasted another hour (even though I had done it before) finding the right descent gully.  However, it is cool to get on a route put up in such adventurous style=zero bolts or fixed gear. For that, I take my hat off to Karsten Duncan, many of his routes at Red Rock are like that. He established the route in 2006 with Andrew Gomoll, one year prior to them completing Celtic Cracks which is the better climb of the two.   They both feature the same canyoneering slot descent which can be waist deep in water.  I know cayoneers who would gladly hike all the way to the top just to do this descent.

1st Pitch
Midway up the first pitch
The first pitch is difficult to find as it is not well described in Handren’s guide. I don’t know why, because it is easy to describe. Once you get to the top of the gully descent (an oft descended route for Hot Flash, etc), simply turn right and hike up and past a huge arête on your left. The route starts just right of the arête in a small crack system. There is no “striking hand and finger crack” to the left as Handren’s guide suggests or we simply have a different definition of striking. That probably threw us off more than anything else. The arête is the feature to focus on.  It is so large that it shades the first several pitches for most of the day. I can’t say much of this first tier of climbing on the route was memorable and every hold had to be tested. We did not bring nor needed much large gear to protect any of the off-width mentioned in this section. Anything wide offered easier climbing. The only decent crack climbing showed up on the 3rd pitch, but was short lived. Pitch 5 is the crux pitch and starts the final head-wall. It was a horrible pitch. The 5.11 section on this pitch started off the deck and when the angle eased to 5.9-5.10 with some hands, the moss thickened and you were basically jamming moss at times. The whitish sandstone in this section was so rotten from the moss and lichen that very little if any of my pro felt like it could arrest a fall. I missed the 5.6 traverse right and kept leading this pitch to the end of my 70m rope to inside a chimney. The last two pitches that I FAed (3 without simul climbing) actually offered the best climbing of the day. The first of these still dealt with fairly weak rock but offered good crack climbing to an old bird nesting area in a chamber below a uniquely featured vertical wall with a protection crack out right. The last pitch pulled an improbable roof via 5.10 and then up a corner to a ledge where you could divide up these last couple pitches. I kept going to reach the top but that required my partner to simul-climb, but after a short bit of 5.9 off-width the terrain eased way off anyway (by the time he was simul climbing). 

Park at the official First Creek pull-out on Highway 159. Hike along the trail above the left side of the wash as you enter the canyon passing under Lotta Balls Wall and the Romper Room area. The first route to mark the First Creek Slabs area is Rising Moons. Hike up the left side of the canyon floor to the base of a white sandstone tower with a triangular block resting below it. The first pitch climbs the chimney up the left side of the triangular block.

Route Description

2300’+/-, 15 Pitches, 5.11

Rising Moons, 3 Pitches, 5.5

1st Pitch- 100’- 5.3/ Handren’s guide calls this pitch 150’, but that would have to include all the way to the tree above. I down climbed this pitch on descent, but you could easily rap the next feature skiers left with a single rope from a block if you deemed it necessary. I cleaned up some existing tat over there. In any regard, there is a short walking/scrambling treed section in between pitches. This is a darkly varnished chimney that gives you all kind of options in which to climb it.

2nd Pitch- 140’- 5.5/ Run up the right side of the white tower to its top. This corner forms a chimney, but most of the climbing is on darkly varnished face with huge jugs out right. Towards the top of the tower, the chimney closes. Finish at a fixed belay on the wall out right, just below the summit of the tower. On rap, I down climb the section of this pitch with a single 70m.

3rd Pitch- 90’- 5.5/ This pitch will feel much more exposed than the previous one and is the crux of Rising Moon if you are soloing. Follow the wide crack to a ledge system at its top. Unless you brought wide gear, this section will be mostly run out. From a free soloing perspective, the rock is of lesser quality than the previous two pitches. At the top is a single bolt currently (2012) backup up by a tree to form a belay/rappel anchor.

Descent Gully, 4 Pitches, 5th

4th- 7th Pitches- 700’+/- 5th/ Move left and up into what is commonly referred to as the descent gully for the lower First Creek Slab routes. There are several fixed raps in this wide gully along with several large slung trees. In any regard, pick any line you want and scramble/climb up to the top which comes out exactly at the base of Celtic Cracks. If you angle a bit left up the gully before cutting back right near the end, you will avoid most of the brush. To reach Tiers, simply turn right up along the wall. When you get below the massive arête, start the climb just to the right up a chossy short finger section. Then traverse right into the main line.

Tiers of the Setting Sun, 8 Pitches, 5.11a

1st Pitch- 185’- 5.9/ As before mentioned, the first pitch seems poorly described by the FAer’s in terms of locating it. I am going to make an assumption that the few who might be interested in this climb have already climbed Celtic Cracks. Celtic Cracks' start is located close to the top of the bolted rap descent gully used for any routes that end up at the base of the upper wall. Hike up right from there past a huge arête that has a corner on both sides. The right side is a massive lichen covered right facing corner. Tiers of the Setting Sun starts at the base of this right side (but does not use that corner). The start is one of the cruxes of this pitch, a chossy crack through weak rock 30’ up to a ledge with a tree. Traverse right into a chimney section. This relatively easy chimney lands you below a decent right facing corner that protects with small gear. You mostly face climb up to below an obvious roof (photo). You can place a solid C4#4 deep under the roof and extend it before pulling quite fragile rock and committing to a right high step mantle. Comfortable medium gear belay on a slight sloping, but comfortable, ledge.

2nd Pitch- 185’- 5.9/Climb the obvious wide crack and continue up to a beautiful alcove. There is a tree in sort of an alcove, but continue to the second one that has more of a cave appearance and serves as a more comfortable belay. We had hauled a C4#5 and a #6 in preparation for the 5.10+ off-width pitch on the upper wall and both of those pieces come in handy here, but the pitch could go without for the trad leader comfortable with some run-out via relatively secure off-width. There are plenty of face features as well, but like the entire route, many holds are suspect and covered in lichen.

3rd Pitch- 200’- 5.9+/ Continue up relatively easy ground to a ledge below an obvious hand/fist splitter. Climb this 30’ vertical crack to a sloping 5th class ledge. The FAer’s reference stopping here, but with a 70m rope, you have no issue reaching the large ledge above that is below the final head-wall. Continue up through trees to a short 5.8 steep right facing corner. Climb it to the large ledge with a tree (2016) and belay in a finger crack straight ahead.

4th Pitch- 50’- 5.9/ Scramble through the trees and bushes on the left and climb up one move at the grade (if even) up a short corner to your left and walk left on this upper part of the ledge to belay below the obvious moss filled crack (mostly fingers) that extends high above.

5th Pitch- 230’- 5.11 PG13/ This is one of the nastier pitches I have ever led at Red Rock and needs to be bolted and cleaned if this route is ever expected to be repeated but by more than a hardy few. The first few meters might offer the technical crux via a thin steep crack with a few suspect features to assist. But as you gain height, the moss thickens and even though a few more medium pieces might fit, the fact that you must wipe the moss off inside the crack does not bode well if you fall on them. After you get through this initial 50’, the angle mellows out some, but the climbing is still 5.10 moss climbing. Every feature you step on, every cam or nut you set, you assume the worst. I swear that I aged a year on this pitch. When I got to a tree (what the FAer’s call a large bush), I looked at the rock above and decided to follow the most natural line for two long FA pitches which offers a more direct and aesthetic finish. Therefore I continued up to the end of my rope before setting a belay at the base of a chimney with the best rock we had seen all day. No belay option on this pitch is going to be comfortable.

Variation (FA) Direct Finish, 375'+/-, 5.10

6th Pitch- 125’- 5.10-/ Head up the featured chimney with good pro until you are forced to bust out right. There are some loose blocks at this juncture thus I traversed below them (to the right) into much better rock in an off-width.   A C4#5 protects this section well if you bump it up a time or two and extend it.  Eventually you have to surmount some precarious blocks before targeting the interesting huecos up above that have been used for bird nesting in the past, although no nest was present as of breeding season 2016. Make a semi-hanging belay at the base of the huecos with wires and a C4#.75.

7th- 8th Pitches- 250’- 5.10/ By far the best pitch of our day. Stem the steep hueco (and bird shit covered) covered wall placing micro gear in the right side crack, then a solid (there is no such thing as bomber gear on this entire route) C4#1 in the left crack. Make some wildly exposed stems to reach a horn on the right side arête and move right and up to the best hand jam of the day in the green lichen covered right facing corner above. Here you are reintroduced to suspect features as you climb the hand/fingers crack up steep ground until the angle starts to let up and you mantle onto a sub summit platform.  Bushwhack straight over to a wide crack through a roof (5.9) which leads to a ramp just below the summit ridge where you can sling a feature for a comfortable belay. The 20’ of simul climbing does have your 2nd on steep ground, so some might feel more comfortable splitting this pitch which is easy to do on the ledge below the off-width.

Climbing Sequence


The FAer's state they "pioneered a descent through the night, via the second major gully to the left".  The descent is now well rigged via fixed raps.  I have done it twice (Celtic Cracks) and in May we got wet in waist deep sections.  This is a true slot canyoneering descent in many places and I can only guess that local canyoneers probably hike up there to do it thus the modern fixed raps.  Red Rock is not known for slot canyoneering descents like this that are more common place in Zion, particularly full of water.  I know the first time I did it we stayed dry, therefore later in the year it is much dryer no doubt.   Their description of 2nd gully to the left could be confusing depending on where you top out: my direct FA finish or their traverse way to the right.  In any regard, descend to the east way down to an obvious (significant) saddle and start your descent there.  Bolts and trees were where they needed to be to rap this with a 70m rope with a few short down-climbing problems.  Keeping dry in May was a real struggle with small packs.  There are several smooth wall slots where it is hard to stay above the water.  This is a slower descent than most in Red Rock and care must be taken in several spots to consider where you will pull your rope to avoid getting it snagged.  I advise against double ropes as there are several tough pulls that could snag a knot.  I have done it twice with clean pulls with a 70m but took care in how I pulled the rope. 

Descend the gully making several short raps.  When the gully opens up and exits onto a large vegetated area, continue straight down (a bit right) the main gully system/water course.  There are two raps down this gully, of which we made both with a 70m rope.  At the bottom of the second one, a waterfall drop off when raining and the longest and steepest rap to this point, walk over to the right and down climb 3rd-4th class into a gully that turns left.  Do not get sucked into thinking you are at the major ledge system that starts the climb.  There is a large tree to the west and it looks like the same ledge system but it is not.

Follow this gully for a few meters to the left, climbing down through a hole and turning out right to a small clearing with a rap tree below it.  Rap down from this tree to a chasm with a large flat area.  Rap from a slung boulder here down a significant chimney to another flat spot at the end of your rope.  Down climb from here via a short 5th class section to skiers left.  I would wait to pull your rope until you are a bit removed from the wall to avoid any hang up in the chimney.  Turn left and bushwhack back to the descent gully below the large tree. 

There is a fixed anchor several meters down from the tree on a right facing wall.  Rap skiers right to another on a left facing wall.  Another 70 rap makes a tree skiers right.  A 70m rope does not make this tree or the next, but easy ground allows you to come off and walk to the trees.  In that regard, I would solo down this entire descent and not think anything of it.  Rap down to another large tree.   Then rap back skiers left and get center with the gully where there is a fixed belay.  If you did not notice it on ascent and are descending in the dark, it might be hard to find.   A 70m single will not make it all the way back down to the top of Rising Moons but it is easy down climbing.  Once back down to the bushy ledge level with the top of Rising Moons, I prefer to rap Rising Moons since that is usually the route I solo to get up to this level and thus that is where my packs are.  A 70m rope makes the 3rd pitch rap on Rising Moons just fine.   The 2nd pitch rap requires some 5.5 down climbing on great rock.  The last pitch is just 5.3, thus I always down climb it.  

Essential Gear

70m Rope.  If doing the descent in the spring, possible dry bag for your gear.  The route gets more sun than I thought, but is mostly northeast facing.  Screamers for the crux pitch, I was not comfortable with much of my pro on this lead.  Full set of wires.  Single to C4#5 including some micro cams.  Double from #.3 to #2.  These are long pitches, most all of them.  If you use to placing more gear, bring more.  The only real sustained pitch was the 5th.  It takes wires, micro cams, fingers and hands and many of the placements are in moss covered sandstone.  You will be soloing more than half the route and the descent is a slot canyon, so I sure would not bring any extra gear myself.  It would be smarter just to break up the pitches although I would not trust a mid belay on pitch 5 so it kind of dictates a decent rack.  If in the spring, I would wear my canyoneering shoes on the approach.  You definitely want to haul your approach shoes for the descent.  If it is hot, take at least two liters of water as there was not as much shade as I had hoped for.  You can leave some of it at the top of the descent gully which you will come back to on descent.

Tiers of the Setting Sun, 5.11, 15 Pitches

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