Red Rock Desert Linkup

A couple months ago I had the good fortune to get to do a bit of climbing in Red Rock, Nevada, with my friend Scott Bennett. Scott is generally enthusiastic and optimistic about trying big goals and with minimal faffery, minimal gear, and minimal sleep/water/food.

The plan was to up the ante of this 2007 Jeremy Collins/Ben Williams linkup and climb Rainbow Wall (Original Route 1,200' 5.12b) Cloud Tower Complete (1,000' 5.12a A0) and Levitation 29 (1,000' 5.11). We managed the linkup, starting around 6:30AM from the Pine Creek trailhead, and returning to the car roughly 16 hours later. 1 rope, 2L of Water, 12 QDs, and singles to #3 camalot, with doubles from fingers to #1.

An older photo of the Cloud Tower crux

This linkup is CLASSIC and really doesn't require very much hiking or heavy gear. Scott and I wasted hours getting lost and confused between the routes, so here's a little rundown of our day and some beta. I highly suggest this linkup for a long day of generally type-1 fun on AMAZING and well-protected stone.

Part 1: Cloud Tower

This route requires a bigger rack than anything else on the linkup. We had heard that the crux .12a corner sported a couple fixed pieces so we left a few small cams and all wires behind. I led the first half of the route and Scott rallied up the second half.

P1 - Combine both 5.8/5.9 corners, gear belay underneath thin-hands splitter ~60m
P2 - Short splitter to bolted belay under crux. Should have linked. 25m
P3 - Crux lead felt easy and secure, which it had not in the past. 30m bolted belay
P4 - Scott lead the entite hand/fist crack and chimney slot as one pitch with a single #3 camalot for big gear.
P5 - Scott lead the 35m 5.11 "final" pitch to normal cloud tower.

From here there are two choices:

1 - Rap the normal cloud tower (easy with two ropes, but who wants to carry a tag line?) which is possible with a single 70m if you are careful.
Reverse the final pitch, which is 35m, and then rappel from the tat/slings at the belay stance to tree 30' below big ledge. Rap to Chockstone anchor . Rap to tree at base of sheer wall. Rap from tree to other tree on ledge. Rap From Tree on ledge to top of 2nd 5.8 pitch, 90' rappel. Rap From top of 2nd 5.8 pitch to top of 1st 5.8 pitch, 50' Rap P1 - Super close to 35m, watch your ends! 
Rapping and then walking over to Rainbow Wall via the normal approach might actually be faster than what we did, and you wouldn't need to climb with tennis shoes and all the day's water.

2. Continue with "Cloud Tower Direct" which is what we did: just above the long 5.11 corner, the rock turns to chipped sandy choss, and there are several bolts on an overhanging wall. We A0d through here (5.12d? free) and belayed at bolts under a smooth OW/Chimney. With no gear suitable to protect this pitch, we simply walked 40' to the right and clambered up easy tennis shoe terrain to the broad ledge, and then veered left and climbed a long pitch up a chimney, which was mid 5.10 and much more solid and full of cracks than it appeared. From here, follow cairns and good trails (and a short bit of fixed rope) DOWN and right, crossing LOW over a gully, and bringing you to hillside several hundred feet below the Rainbow Wall. You really can't stay high or traverse at a level to maintain your hard-won elevation.

Part 2: Rainbow Wall

We had both done the route before, but I had never done the original .12b version, starting on the right. Although a cool pitch and harder technically that the left-side start, I think that the crux this way is so short-lived that it makes for an overall easier route. Our friends Nik Berry and Dave Alfrey (Dave had recently done this linkup and gave us some beta that we promptly forgot) were next door on Desert Solitaire, so we shouted back and forth from belays. Scott lead the first half of the climb, and I did the second. I recall it taking him 11 minute to lead P1+P2 and have me on belay. We left all our gear at the base of Rainbow Wall except single cams from green alien to #1 camalot. We linked every 2 pitches together and simuled the middle section in 1 block. The route took us 2:20 with no falls.

P3: Levitation 29

We then proceeded to get lost and spend what felt like hours and hours roaming around looking for the top of Levitation 29. We didn't want to knock down any rocks off the sloping summit terraces, and only managed to find the top of the route because at one point we heard voices, scrambled out to a promontory, and were able to see climbers. We asked them what route they were on, and when they said "Levitation!" we stashed our tennis shoes and rapped down and joined them for the descent. I wish I could recall more precise info as to locating the top of Lev29 but I do recall that it was in the vicinity of 1 or two very distinct, old, withered and twisted pine trees/snags. The last anchor is located 30' down a slab, below a small bulge which the pine tree grows from, so we just did a short rap from this tree, where we stashed shoes and water. Scott had never done Lev29 and lead the whole thing in 4 pitches (with maybe a short scramble for pitch 4.5) while I got to follow up the varnished patina. At one point very high on the route, Scott took a completely-by-surprise slip on some white sandy slab holds. I had been "power looping" him on this mellow terrain, and he fell a decent distance with all the slack out, but was unshaken except being moderately disappointed over ending our no-falls day.  We again got somewhat lost retracing our steps to the top of Rainbow Wall, but managed to bust out the headlamps for the rappels and be eating tacos at Roberto's on Charleston Ave just a couple hours after leaving the Rainbow Wall.

1 comment:

  1. Dunno how I found this looking for red rock canyon skyline images, but I'm pretty dang sure I saw you guys on top on Eagle Wall this day and gave you horrendous info on finding Levi. lol. my partner and I had done a much smaller link up that day on solar slab - rainbow buttress. it was end of March during the Red Rock Rendezvous. Cool Blog post, thanks!!