Crimson Chrysalis, Cloud Tower 5.8
Red Rocks, Nevada USA
Avg time to climb route: 4-6 hours
Approach time: 1-1.5 hours
Descent time: 1-1.5 hours
Number of pitches: 9
Height of route: 1000'
OverviewCrimson Chrysalis could quite easily be the best 5.8 in all of Red Rocks. The north-facing route is perfect for warm fall or spring days when the climb is blissfully in the shade. The route is predominantly a face climb as bolts allow you to wander onto the face to avoid the wide climbing. Regardless, runouts will be encountered and the route is sustained at 5.8—be comfortable at the grade if leading this route.
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HistoryThe first ascent was completed with four fixed ropes by George and Joanne Urioste in October 1979. The name stems from the red coloration of the rock and physical resemblance of the pillar to a huge butterfly’s cocoon. George recalls the first ascent as a fairly bold undertaking. There were fewer bolts placed than were mentioned in the red book. Some leads were runout enough that one could be seriously hurt in a fall. George says they worked pretty hard to avoid bolting by tying off small horns and flakes, and placing nuts in shallow surface features.
Shortly after the fixed ropes were pulled, Joanne and Randal Grandstaff returned and did the first continuous ascent. In the following months the route was repeated by several other parties, and some felt that more bolts were needed. George and Joanne were of the opinion that the route was “too beautiful not to share,” so they went back and added a few protection bolts, and beefed up the belays. The route was thus brought up to the state reported in the original 1984 guidebook. The subsequent popularity of the route with ordinary climbers as well as guided parties has led to the addition of even more bolts. If the route has lost a bit of the commitment element, it has become a highly accessible and magnificent climb.
One irony of their ascent became evident to George as they rappelled from the summit of the tower. On their last pitch, they had climbed through a small overhang then veered right. The rightward traverse was protected by a few bolts and gained the top near the corner of the wall. As they rappelled, George spotted a line of holds leading straight up from the overhang. “THAT’S where the route should have gone!” he thought. Unfortunately, the bolts were already in, and the indirect line has been the standard ever since.
– Larry DeAngelo
StrategyCrowds are almost certain and even a pre-dawn start does not guarantee that you will be first in line. Avoid this climb on weekends. Fast climbers can climb in the afternoon after the morning rush but climbers will be rapping over them.
This north-facing route is shaded, making it perfect for warm fall or spring days. During most of the year bring a wind shell and warm gloves. Night descents are common, so bring a headlamp, extra batteries, and a warm jacket.
Aside from a short, distinct crux on Pitch 5, the climbing is remarkably sustained at 5.8. If anything, the climbing is psychologically easier up high as you adapt to the exposure and sometimes-hollow holds. Uncomfortable hanging belays are the norm so wear comfortable shoes and harness. While there is usually a bolt or natural gear placement right where you want it, be ready for the occasional short runout on easier terrain.
At the base, be sure to hang your backpack off the ground and out of the reach of hungry varmints.
RetreatRappel from any pitch with two ropes.
ApproachThis approach is about 1.5 miles long and gains about 1,000 feet in elevation.
From Pine Creek Trailhead, hike on the main trail down the hill and up Pine Creek. Go past the Fire Ecology Trail (two entrances, it is a short loop), past an unnamed trail on the left, to the main Arnight/Knoll Trail (just past the prominent concrete foundation of the old homestead; about 15-20 minutes from the car). Cross the creek, go right for 150 feet, then follow the nicely graded trail left and up the far bank. Hike on the trail for about 10 minutes, then take the right trail heading toward Cloud Tower. The first prominent trail on the right is the approach to Rose Tower and the Northeast Face of Jackrabbit Buttress (the descent trail from Rose Tower intersects earlier, but it is hard to see from the main trail). To continue on to Crimson Chrysalis, Geronimo, or anything up the main Juniper Canyon (Brownstone Wall, Rainbow Wall), stay on the left trail. After another few hundred yards, a trail heads left across the rocky wash toward Cloud Tower (Crimson etc), while the main Juniper Canyon trail heads up the canyon. From here, many steep trails switchback up the ramp. Head toward the upper right hand corner of the ramp to approach the base of Crimson Chrysalis. The route starts up an obvious right-facing corner and crack.
An alternate approach starts from the junction of Highway 159 and the exit gate of the Loop Road. Reverse the Loop Road on foot to the Oak Creek Trailhead. Turn right on the Arnight Trail that leads to the Knoll Trail. This adds another 2 miles to the approach, but gives a head start on climbers who use the Loop Road, which doesn’t open until 6 a.m.
DescentRappel the route with two 50m or 60m ropes. Be aware that other climbers are surely below. The cracks tend to eat ropes so pull ropes to the right and away from the crack. Reverse the approach trail back to the car.
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