Arch Enemy, 5.9
The Solar Slab area in Oak Creek is no doubt the most popular winter climbing at Red Rocks
. The Solar Slab area consists of two steep walls separated by a huge plateau on the south side of Rainbow Mountain
. Due to the aspect and angles of these climbs, they are considered good winter objectives, thus the name. The upper Solar Slab routes are some of the sunnier objectives at Red Rocks and thus make great winter climbs and poor summer ones
There are seven published routes on this upper section of Solar Slab. To access the upper routes, you have to climb a lower Solar Slab route
which when combined makes for a decent sized climb. The Solar Slab route itself is considered one of the most popular at Red Rocks. The other upper Solar Slab objectives normally don’t have a climbing party on them. My favorite two choices used to access the upper Solar Slab are Johnny Vegas or Beulah’s Book.
None of the upper Solar Slab routes are over nine pitches tall. Most of the routes can be rappelled directly or via traversing over to the top of the 7th pitch on the Solar Slab route which is set up for a single 60m rope descent although doubles obviously allow for a much quicker descent. Once down to the broad ledge, the Solar Slab gully descent is the common exit for the upper Solar Slab routes.
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 in regards to who is climbing what. Most folks are there to climb the easier routes like Johnny Vegas, Solar Slab and Solar Gully. There are plenty of good routes to climb that climbers won’t be on. Follow the trail into the canyon and turn right to stay out of the canyon floor and follow the trail until beyond the Friar
. There is a well trodden switch back trail that leads to the base of the wall where Solar Gully and Johnny Vegas start. Horndogger is to the right, Beulah’s Book to the left.
The Routes are Listed Left to Right as you Face the Wall
- Going Nuts- 340’- 5.6/
- Change Up- 260’- 5.9/ The corner is a great trad lead for beginning trad leaders in that you can place gear at will and build a station at its top. The rock is more solid than Arch Enemy’s first pitch, but the moves not as interesting. From there you can continue up on perilous water worn sandstone to the start of the tunneling up into the arch or traverse right on really good varnish to take advantage of Arch Enemy’s two bolts that get you to the same tunnel through position. So where Arch Enemy runs up the right side of the arch, Change Up runs up the left side of the arch. This route can be wet from drainage and thus I advice planning it during a dry period (no snow melt). Dow
- Arch Enemy- 450’- 5.9/ Arch Enemy is a fantastic recent addition to the Upper Solar Slab Wall. You won’t find much if anything about Arch Enemy out on the web yet (2009), but basically it is a three pitch route that runs up the inside right side of the obvious arch to the left of Solar Slab, then tunnels up and under the arch (awesome pitch!) to a mid rappel/belay on the Solar Slab route and adds one nice final 5.9 finger crack pitch to the right of Solar Slab which reconnects with Solar Slab again at the top of its 3rd pitch. The pitches are 5.8, 5.9 and 5.9 and are sustained at their respective grades with two full rope pitches sandwiching one of the most unique pitches of climbing at Red Rocks, the tunneling up through the arch itself. Dow
- Solar Slab- 800’- 5.6/ I personally have not actually climbed this popular route (maybe the most popular at Red Rocks outside of Cat in the Hat). I have rappelled it and climbed several routes to the right of it. Might save this for my grandson for his first multi-pitch climb. A classic put in by Joe Herbst, Tom Kaufman and Larry Hamilton in 1975. A good winter route recommendation. In fact they put it in during January. Dow
- Helitrope- 800’- 5.9/ Heliotrope is an obscure line on the Upper Solar Slab that basically rips off the first two pitches of the much better route, Sunflower. It then features two long run out pitches up the gut of the upper slab until you reach the varnished bricks towards the top of the face. Dow
- Sunflower- 800’- 5.9/ Along with Beulah’s Book, my favorite route combination to the top of Solar Slab. Sunflower has three outstanding pitches on it, the 2- 5.9's and the 5.8. Dow
- Sundog- 730’- 5.10a/ Some hazardous rock fall on the 2nd double rope rap....did in a helmet and a rope....and got a little bloody...a lot of "thank god for helmets" going around....tread lightly...this is not granite or even limestone. Those of us who spend time in the Canadian Rockies are used to tip-toeing around. Should be no different at Red Rocks. The rap lines here are not necessarily the same as the climbing lines, so the loose plates and features are not cleaned as much. The crux pitch is the 2nd to last one, tough slab climbing through several bolts. DowThese are all trad lines with an assortment of fixed pro here and there. They all will require an assortment of gear as spelled out in Jerry’s Handren’s “Red Rocks, A Climbers Guide”. Most routes can be descended with a single 60m rope, but doubles go a lot faster. Great winter wall due to its position. Where Mount Wilson can block sun on the lower Solar Slab, it will not do so on the upper Solar Slab. Dress accordingly.
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM
- Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association
- DowClimbing.Com Red Rocks