Western Swing is another unique and worthy route
on Windy Peak’s south face
put in by Larry DeAngelo. After climbing a Song and a Prayer (5.10R)
and discovering that it was sort of an obscure gem, I went for Western Swing. It did not disappoint. Larry established both of these routes in 2005. Jerry Handren included it in his book, Red Rocks a Climbers Guide, but did not give as much detail on the route as he normally does, just copied what Larry put up on rockclimbing.com. After you get through Hot Fudge Thursday (5.9)
and Jubliant Song (5.8)
, the rest of Windy Peak’s routes are fairly obscure, owing mostly to the approach. It is not much by Canadian Rockies standards, but more than most of the lower 48 will endure for an eight pitch route. Windy Peak is named such for a reason
, the upper face is south facing and the prevailing winds from west to east can enter the head space of leaders en route. However, most of this route is fairly well protected by corners and roofs. The descent is also a walk off making the route more plausible despite windy and/or cold conditions.
Crux 3rd Pitch
The approach and setting for the south face of Windy Peak is outstanding. Western Swing has two different continuation options after the first four pitches. Therefore, it is a just a four pitch route in terms of new ground, stealing the last four to five pitches of Jubilant Song to make for the most obvious finish. You can exit the route via a dirty crack above the fourth and fifth pitch of Jubilant Song, but I recommend just finishing Jubilant Song at that point. The money pitches are the 3rd and 4th pitches
which I combined on my lead as my partner was not comfortable leading that grade on sandstone. I can only recommend one consider combining these pitches if the leader follows solid double rope management, utilize long slings, place gear judiciously and extend the 2nd pitch up into the large chimney a bit
. The first two pitches run up a discontinuous corner system just to the right of Jubilant Song and a Song and a Prayer. Neither of these first two pitches is long or difficult (5.8). The third pitch is a hard chimney pitch in that the chimney is quite flaring compared to the parallel chimney walls on Epinephrin
e for example. The fourth pitch is a difficult to protect traverse
across the face to avoid deteriorating rock further up in the corner/roof. It leads to a fairly easy (5.9) break through the significant roof and then a 5th class walk back left to Jubilant Song’s corner.
The general approach hike is the same for all the climbs on the south face. Descend from the trail head looking to gain a trail that eventually circumvents the obvious large pile of brown and red rocks to the right. Descend into a wash from there and attempt to pick up a faint trial that leads up into the canyon. Gain a trail that climbs the left side of the canyon until you reach what they refer to as the “football field”, which is basically a large vegetated plateau that is still separated from the south wall by another peak of sorts. Follow well marked cairns at this point (2009) as they direct you up and right at the other end of the “field”. Eventually gain a saddle of sorts and traverse the slick rock in front of you over to the base of the south face. Jubilant Song is to the left and Hot Fudge Thursday to the right from where you emerge here. Western Swing runs up the tall corner just to the right of Jubilant Song that reaches an arching roof above.
Route Description800’, 8 Pitches, 5.10b
1st Pitch- 100’- 5.7/
Run up the obvious corner, placing gear at will, to a large ledge with a tree for belay. Same ledge used for Song and a Prayer and Jubilant Song.
The corner is a little chossy
towards the top.
2nd Pitch- 80’- 5.8/
Start in the next corner directly above. Bypass a small tree/bush by climbing out on the face to the left
. Enter the deep chimney (can’t see it from below)
and set up a belay with large gear
a few meters up if you want to combine those 3rd-4th pitches.
Otherwise, might as well set up belay right after the tree/bush where it is more comfortable.
3rd-4th Pitches- 200’- 5.10b/
These are the money pitches, a unique chimney experience
followed by an exposed traverse
through a break in the large roof above. This chimney portion is considerably more difficult than Epinephrine’s chimney pitches.
It becomes quite flared
the further you get which makes standard chimney technique a bit awkward. The outside wall gets slick and blank and is definitely where you want to have your back for the crux sections. Towards the top where it converts back into a finger crack/corner, you will make the crux move of the climb by doing a 360 as you maneuver an awkward hanging move above a chock stone.
By this time however, you will have found some solid pro in the wall and crack. Do a few layback moves looking for the positive edges to traverse out right onto the face below the large roof above. Angle up and right through a depression
that is challenging to protect (sliding ball nuts would be helpful)
towards an obvious break in the roof above. There are positive edges to maneuver (5.9), but the ground is slightly run out. Once you get into the break, mantel up through the corner, making sure to utilize double length slings
because once you break out up above, you will need to drag the ropes (4th-5th class) way back left to set you up for the next pitch on Jubilant Song.
5th- 8th Pitches- 500’- 5.8/
This section of Jubilant Song will show up as four to five pitches in other beta although it can easily be done in three pitches.
Head up to the huge roof above. Traverse straight out right until at a break in the roof. Set up a semi-hanging belay here. Pull the roof and follow easy ground/chimney until you can move out right to ascend an obvious water streak.
There is an old bolt
here protecting the only real climbing move since the roof pull. Set up a semi-hanging belay in a decent crack right above this bolt. Follow the water streak above for a cleaner path or take on the loose line to the left. In either case, make for the break in the skyline to the left. Climb a short and easy chimney section and set up belay with a large piece. I typically put the ropes away at this point.
Walk up the corner and cross over angled slab. Mantle up to the next level and walk onto the lower shoulder of the summit of Windy Peak.
This summit is a popular objective among scramblers. Thus the descent ridge is nothing more than a hike really. Descend the southwest ridge via plenty of cairns (2009). Once you have descended approximately 1000’, look for cairns leading back left along a bench below a wall that dips and re-ascends to a notch with a large cairn. Aim for this notch and descend the other side to the base of the route. The earlier you turn left and get below the wall, the less bushwhacking you will encounter.
Double 60m ropes are advised particularly if you want to combine the 3rd-4th pitches as I did. The FAer, Larry DeAngelo, recommends a single rack to 7”. I took a 6” piece and could have gotten by without it really. Minimum single rack to 5”, plenty of shoulder length slings or a few double length and a few wires and slider ball nuts would help protect pitch four better than I could with cams. Biner your trail shoes to your harness for the descent scramble. Adequate clothing in the winter would be advised. Helmets. I would advise against carrying a pack due to the chimney section.
External LinksRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association DowClimbing.Com