Monday, April 22, 2013

Trip Report: Cloud Tower and The Challenge

Mid-crux on pitch 4 of Cloud Tower

On April 10th, Jonathon and I escaped the Salt Lake City area in search of sunshine, warm temps, and rock climbing.  We drove down to Red Rocks, NV just outside Las Vegas.  We both really wanted to climb some long classic multi-pitch routes, since that is what Red Rocks is known for.  Jonathon has spent over 100 days climbing here, but I have only been here on a couple trips.  We wanted to climb some of the major classic routes like, Cloud Tower, Levitation 29, The Challenger, Risky Business and Dark Shadows. We only had a couple days so we knew we would not be able to climb all of them.  With the tempertures being in the mid 80's climbing in the shade was ideal.

We spent the first day warming up to the rock by single pitch climbing at the Second Pullout.   The next day we got on "The Challenge" which is located deep in Pine Creek Canyon on the Challenger Buttress.  Here is a breakdown of "The Challenge 5.10d"

The Challenge 5.10d, Pine Creek Canyon

This route follows an impressive corner system with delicate climbing at the 5.10 level. There is definitely some technical climbing above gear. Approach via Pine Creek and scramble up to the Challenger Wall. Approximently 1 hour.

Pitch 1: 5.10d Climb up broken slabs to the under cling through a roof. (0.4-0.5 BD cams) protects the roof move. 100 ft.

Pitch 2: 5.10d Climb up into the thin right facing corner above the anchor. Crux is about 30ft above belay. Small gear and RP's protect this section.  I thought this was the best trip! The crack easiest up to the anchor.  110 ft

                                                Rachel entering the crux on pitch 2 The Challenge

Pitch 3: 5.10b Traverse right 5ft off the belay to the next crack system. Follow up V groove with gear partially spaced to a large roof. The crux is pulling the roof out left which you can get a .5 and .75 just before the roof.  Reaching over the roof is quite a bit more challenging and intimidating for shorter folks.  Save a green C3 or another similar sized small cam for the tiny crack after the roof.  Otherwise you may find yourself about  20+ feet run-out and looking at a very unsafe fall.  Trust me, it was one of the more terrifying leads I have experienced. I even thought about jumping prior to pulling slippery face moves after the roof.  Another 15ft of face climbing leads you to the anchor. 90ft pitch.  

Pitch 4: 5.10b Technical stemming and balancing moves off the anchor for the first 30ft. Traverse right to easier terrain to the anchor. 70ft

Leading the balancy moves at the start of pitch 4
Rap the route with a single 70m rope.  Be careful pulling your rope on the second pitch.  We got our rope stuck in the crack and I had to lead that pitch again. Fortunately it was the best and easiest pitch!

Doubles in small gear is very helpful. Enjoy The Challenge!

The following day we got shut out from climbing due to high winds.  The forecast for the next day was looking good as the winds where expected to calm down.  We organized the gear for climbing the Cloud Tower.  I have wanted to climb this route for a while and was psyched to get on some hard pitches way off the ground.  The route is truly a classic with all the pitches being 5.10 or 5.11, except for the first two, which happen to be really good 5.8 pitches.  Here is the breakdown:.

Cloud Tower 5.11+

Pitch 1 and 2: 5.8. Can be linked with a 70 m using long gear and strategic gear placements.  Belay at the tree with slings on it. 210 ft.

Pitch 3:  5.10 -.  scramble up the broken 4th class terrain (30 ft) towards the amazing 2" hand crack splitting the headwall. Trend left on face holds to reach a bolted belay. 150 ft.

Pitch 4: 5.11+.  This is the crux pitch with a steep strenuous tips crack in a right facing corner.  Use the face holds to the left of the crack, some insecure stemming, and powerful laybacking to get up this one. And let me know how you manage to hang on long enough to place gear!  Belay in the alcove off the bolted anchor. 110 feet.

Jonathon finishing up pitch 4

Pitch 5: 5.10.  Start up a hand crack through a roof.  Continue up the amazing hand crack as it widens to a fist crack.  Before the crack goes into the chimney, step left onto a small ledge and build a gear anchor (0.5 and .75 cams). 150 feet.

Jonathon starting up the 5th pitch.

Pitch 6:  5. 8 R. Start up the chimney/offwidth and when it gets wide enough tunnel and squirm your way through  until you reach the other side.  Belay in the sunshine on a large ledge. 70 feet.

Pitch 7: 5.11c.  This is the endurance crux, especially since it's baking in the sun and is the last of several hard pitches. Follow the amazing right facing corner, starting with a steep thin hands crack then moving to a 2 - 3" hand crack.  A couple bulges and rests are found along with way. Save energy for the final crux at the end of the pitch (.4, .5 and #1 cams).  130 feet.

Starting up the final Indian Creek style splitter
Descent:  Two ropes are required for the descent.  From the top of the last pitch do a 150ft rap to the ledge with a bolted anchor.  A short rap (50ft) down to a large tree is next.  From the large tree 2 long rappels (~200 ft) will land you on a ledge system that you walk 100 ft back to the climbers left to reach the top of the 2nd pitch.  From here, we did two short rappels to the ground.  You can do 1 long rappel but getting the rope stuck is a big risk.

Gear:  A LOT! Triples in BD (1, 2, 3).  Doubles in BD (Green C3, Red C3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, & 4).  Single in BD purple C3, Metolius Blue and yellow tcu and small nuts and RPs.  12 draws ( half petzl ang finesse and half should length slings). Petzl 9.4 70 m rope and Petzl 8.2 60 m rope.  

We spent the rest of the trip trying to escape the wind on the uber-classic Dark Shadows and cragging some more at the Second Pullout.  It was a great trip.  As a bonus the desert began to bloom and blossom similarly expressing its own joy at the lovely springtime weather.

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