The Solar Slab area in Oak Creek is no doubt home to 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. That being said, Mount Wilson will affect the amount of winter sun on the lower 500’ wall routes at Solar Slab.
Many of these lower routes will lose afternoon sun in the winter.
There are nine published routes on this lower section of Solar Slab. This does not count the steep varnished routes on Sunspot Ridge which are further to the west and considered within their own grouping. Several of these routes are considered some of the most popular at Red Rocks, in particular, Johnny Vegas
and Beulah’s Book
. The most difficult route at the lower Solar Slab area is the unique “block on a pillar” known as the Friar
. None of the routes are over four pitches tall. Most of the routes reach the broad ledge system below the upper Solar Slab wall. You can rappel several of the routes, but can also use the Solar Slab gully descent which is the common exit for the Solar Slab routes, both upper and lower. Watch for the Ringtail Cats stealing (sunglasses, whatever) any lunch left at the base of the wall.
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 (unless you are climbing 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.
Route Description(s)The Routes are Listed Left to Right as you Face the Wall
- The Pamphlet- 165’- 5.8/
- Beulah’s Book- 550’- 5.9/ The arête variation over to the lie back on that 2nd pitch of Beulah's is a fantastic pitch for the grade (5.9).
- Sandstone Overcast- 535’- 5.8 A1/ Sandstone Overcast is another of many obscure and overlooked Larry DeAngelo (along with John Wilder) routes that is definitely worth climbing. Ironically it intersects the very popular Johnny Vegas route on the Lower Solar Slab Wall in Oak Creek Canyon at Red Rocks. Yet who ever climbs it? There has been some recent activity on it however due to its aid pitch going free in 2008 at 5.12a or so. We had no aspirations of freeing the crux roof, but rather following the 5.9 free variation on pitch three circumventing the massive roof above to the left. In fact with proper rope management, you can combine pitches three and four to the top Johnny Vegas anchor. The first two pitches were rather fantastic 5.8 sustained trad climbing with one bolt covering 335’ of varnished climbing. Sandstone Overcast offers a better alternative to Johnny Vegas in my opinion. I have heard of complaints regarding protection available on the first pitch, but felt there was plenty available for the experienced trad leader.
- Johnny Vegas- 480’- 5.7/ Real fun first two pitches. Good to do on a cold day, the holds are huge, but the route steep. The 2nd pitch has to be one of the better 5.7’s at Red Rocks. Great starter trad lead I would think albeit a tad run out at the end of the 2nd pitch.
- Frieda’s Flake- 400’- 5.9/ If you like Beulah’s Book, you no doubt will want to give Frieda a go. The first pitch offers a fantastic heavily varnished chimney that mostly requires stemming moves to overcome several small roof obstacles. The entire route protects very well on good rock. Both of the main pitches are long and sustained at their respective grade. Frieda’s Flake eventually ties into Johnny Vegas at the top of its third pitch making for a total of three pitches.
- Sideline- 500’- 5.9/ Sideline’s 5.8-5.9 climbing is not as sustained as one would like, but the route does sport two nice finger/hand cracks: A short crack involving a fun traverse at the top of pitch two and a vertical crack at the opposite side of a chimney squeeze on pitch three. Sideline does not see much action so the rock is still suspect in places. However the climbing is never such that you feel you are very exposed to a potentially bad hold. The first and forth pitches are mostly just 5th class climbing terrain. The last pitch ends up at the top of Johnny Vegas behind the large boulder. Larry DeAngelo, John Wilder and Gigette Miller put this route up in 2005. There are no fixed pro or stations.
- Solar Slab Gully- 500’- 5.3/ What most of us use for the descent. Watch out for traffic.
- Horndogger Select- 450’- 5.8+/ The first pitch is the crux, although all three pitches are rated at the grade. The first pitch takes some bold moves on suspect rock and can be a little hard to follow through run out terrain. The 2nd pitch is quite interesting climbing up a water groove of sorts with weird pro.
- The Friar- 450’- 5.9+/ The climbing is no more difficult on that 4th pitch than 5.9, but the pro opportunities are not warm and fuzzy to say the least. The problem is not a fall as much as the decking opportunity on top of the pinnacle from where the belay starts. The crux move or two is right off the deck. The bolt is out right and well beyond the difficult moves. We combined those middle two pitches for a full 200' to the belay to start the 4th pitch.These 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”. The main descent for most routes, Solar Slab Gully, can be rappelled with one 60m rope. Lower Solar Slab, unlike the upper section, will have the winter sun blocked out by Mount Wilson in the afternoon. This would be a hot place to climb during the summer. I could only imagine as I would not climb there then. Dress accordingly.
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM
- Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association
- DowClimbing.Com Red Rocks