Group Therapy, Angel Food Wall 5.7 R
Red Rocks, Nevada USA
Avg time to climb route: 4-6 hours
Approach time: 30 minutes
Descent time: 1 hour
Number of pitches: 6
Height of route: 700'
OverviewGroup Therapy has a wide offwidth crack pitch and a fearsome looking roof up high as it ascends a crack system out on a wide face. Group Therapy is the only climb in the area which gets much sun on the actual route. The roof is even more intimidating once you get to it, but is wild, fun climbing on good holds. Still, retreat from right before the roof is common as leaders face the frighteningly exposed climbing.
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HistoryFA: Joe Herbst, Betsy Herbst, Randal Grandstaff, Matt McMackin, 1974.
The first ascent of Tunnel Vision went so well that Joe and Randy returned the following weekend. This time the team was expanded to include Joe’s wife, Betsy, and Randy’s high school buddy, Matt McMackin.
Joe says, “At the time, we were still working out what we could trust for protection in the sandstone. We felt pretty secure in the wide cracks, because that was mostly what we were climbing in Yosemite, so that’s what seemed like the safest kind of route in Red Rocks. Besides, we thought Yosemite was ‘real climbing’ and we wanted to replicate that part of the experience, too.”
The route turned out to be a pleasure. The weather was perfect. The companionship was first-rate. Those wide cracks were mild enough to be fun. There were comfortable ledges to accommodate their large first ascent party. All in all, the quality of the day rose above pleasant, the entire Group agreed, and achieved the level of Therapeutic.
– Larry DeAngelo
StrategyWhile not as popular as Tunnel Vision, Group Therapy still gets lines, and an early start is recommended. Large gear is needed to protect the climb well, but often it goes beyond cams (currently available only to 7”) into the realm of larger Big Bros.
It is not unreasonable to lead the climb with a normal rack, but the second pitch has no solid pro for a long stretch, and some experience on low-angle offwidths is needed. Loose flakes form the inside of the crack, and it is important not to pull out on them and to treat them gently as footholds.
The roof is huge and wild, but there are great face holds inside the narrow chimney which splits it, and medium to large cams protect it well. Above the roof is a long stretch of stemming and face climbing around the offwidth/chimney, and protection is scarce (again, #4 and #5 Big Bros could be used).
With the two harder pitches both run-out, and combined with some loose rock, Group Therapy is a fun but serious outing.
RetreatGear must be left to retreat from the route. Cams would probably have to be used at the base of the roof, while lower on the climb, nuts, a tree, and natural threads/slung horns could be used. Two ropes would be required to rappel past the second pitch offwidth.
ApproachHike down the old road from the White Rock Spring parking area (at the end of a short, but rough, gravel spur off the main Loop Road). Take the well-worn trail to the right when the road turns left and follow it up through a short bouldery streambed. Many trails lead up left to the base of the wall; please try to stay on the most heavily used (hopefully some trail consolidation work will be done here).
The trails lead to the base of Tunnel Vision, which traverses under a large roof only 15 feet up to gain a low-angle dihedral. Group Therapy starts about 150 yards to the right of Tunnel Vision from boulders at the base of large trees, on the lower left wall of a huge shady chimney/recess.
DescentFrom the top of Tunnel Vision, drop down in the large 3rd class chimney and follow it left to a large terrace. Hike around into a gully, and either rappel 50 feet from slings around a large block, or hike up 20 feet and over into the next gully and descend there (3rd/4th class). Descend following cairns, past numerous short 3rd class drop-offs, boulder scrambling, and a lot of annoying oak trees and cacti. Swing around to the base to pick up gear. It will save you about 10-20 minutes if you don’t leave gear at the base, but on the other hand the best trail back is to traverse all the way to the trail you hiked up on.
To descend Group Therapy, go down the big 3rd class chimney, which joins the start of the Tunnel Vision descent after crawling under a huge chockstone.
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