Eagle Dance, Eagle Wall 5.10c A0
Avg time to climb route: 4-6 hours
Approach time: 2-3 hours
Descent time: 2-4 hours
Number of pitches: 10
Height of route: 1000'
OverviewEagle Wall is home to one of Red Rocks’ most celebrated routes, Levitation 29 (5.11). Yet the fame of Levitation 29 has left its awesome neighbor Eagle Dance surprisingly vacant. Long, sustained, and beautiful, Eagle Dance had the unfortunate reputation of a death route due to the terrible bolts. Luckily the ASCA replaced 72 bolts on the route in 2002, and it is now in prime shape. Nearly every pitch is 5.10 with a variety of climbing from thin crack to sustained edging face. Parts feel like a sport climb with up to 13 bolts on a single pitch, yet a loose and challenging 5.10a pitch followed by an overhung traversing bolt ladder through an airy roof give a distinct big wall feel. Eagle Dance is long, unique, and rewarding.
Climber Beta on Eagle Dance
Which SuperTopo guidebooks include a topo for Eagle Dance?
Find other routes like Eagle Dance
HistoryGeorge and Joanne Urioste started work on this route in early 1980. Because of the amount of work required, the route was climbed with fixed ropes leading upward from the Urioste’s “Eagle Camp,” a level spot at the base of the route. Keeping the camp stocked was a major effort in itself, requiring many trips up the rocky streambed of Oak Creek. Joanne reports that they memorized every boulder on their numerous trips, frequently done in the dark and with no headlamps.
Back in the late 1970s, the cliffs of Red Rocks were frequented by some very large soaring birds. Though there was speculation that they might have been condors (due to their impressive size), the local climbers referred to them generically as eagles. One such bird kept the Uriostes company, hovering continuously over Oak Creek and Mount Wilson to the south. As George and Joanne were working on one of the lower pitches on the route, they accidentally dropped a baby angle piton. While it was not a critical loss, no climber gives up gear without a fight, so that afternoon they scoured the brushy area at the base of the route. After searching with no result, they were about to give up. With hope waning, Joanne suggested that perhaps they should ask the eagle for guidance—and they found the piton less than a minute later! And so the route and wall were named after the charmed bird. It was only later, while studying the wall from a distance, that they noticed a peculiar patch of dark varnish high on the face. Its outline, in the shape of a westbound eagle, made the omen complete.
A year or two earlier, local pioneer Joe Herbst had had his own eagle experience. Back in the canyons, Joe had scouted an interesting crack line. The climbing looked good, so Joe planned a first ascent attempt during the upcoming visit of his friend Andre Langenbacher (with whom Joe also climbed Unfinished Symphony). The climb would go up steep cracks to a wide point, with the apparent crux being a spectacular jam out the roof of the cave-like opening. They climbed a few pitches and found that the route was living up to their high expectations. A few hundred feet up, they climbed into the alcove beneath the looming overhang. However, their anticipated belay spot was occupied by a huge nest. It was the size of a bathtub, made of sticks and twigs, and littered with small rodent skulls and a few grayish brown feathers. A hurried discussion led to agreement that the route would have to be abandoned and unrecorded, lest additional climber traffic further disturb the nesting site. It may have been this very eagle, showing his appreciation, that guided the Uriostes to their lost piton on the Eagle Wall.
– Larry DeAngelo
StrategyEagle Wall is in full sunlight for most of the day, and thus can get quite warm. However, due to the long approach, the shorter days of late fall or early spring are often just not long enough for most people to complete the route. Thus, an early start and fast progress are strongly recommended. Only a light rack is needed, plus a lot of draws, and some aiders. Double ropes are definitely recommended in order to rappel without extra weight—and they come in handy on a couple of pitches with winding protection.
Care should be taken right off the ground, since while the climbing is only 5.8, the black rock is slick and there is no protection for the first bit. On upper pitches nearly every crux is right above a bomber bolt, and only when the 5.10a flake pitch comes does a serious feel intrude on the climbing. Here, loose flakes plus hollow pro grab your attention until reaching the bolts in the crux section. Care must be taken in order to avoid dropping any rocks on this pitch. The bolt ladder is strenuous, and a pair of ultralight aiders is recommended for the leader and the follower, although girth-hitched slings are another option. The last few pitches are surprisingly slabby and require careful attention to footwork.
Sun is the biggest threat on the climb—it can be surprisingly hot on the wall and a lack of adequate water can cause problems. Inclement weather is not to be taken lightly as Eagle Dance is far up the canyon and it often snows even when the weather seems warm right before a storm.
If you finish early, consider trying the first few pitches of Levitation 29, just 150 feet to the right. The first is 5.10b with some pro and a few bolts up small, tricky, angular dihedrals. The second has excellent 5.10d stemming and edging to a wild overhung flake to face (5.11b). Ringtail is just right of Levitation 29 and is another excellent option.
The cave just to the right of the fourth/fifth pitch used to be home to Peregrine falcons, and if they do return, they would definitely pose a threat to climbers because of their tendency to attack people near nests. However, if they do return, the climbing rangers would likely close the route until the young were fledged that year. If you do get on the route and see raptor activity in that cave, descend immediately and inform the climbing rangers.
RetreatRap from any pitch with two ropes. You cannot rap or lower from the top of the bolt ladder pitch to the base of that pitch, but it is easy to rap to the pitch before that (only 50 feet lower).
ApproachThe approach to the Eagle Wall is straightforward, but extremely long because most of it involves scrambling over boulders. Hike the trail to the Solar Slab area and dive down into the canyon bottom when the bench ends about 200 yards past Solar Slab. Hike up the canyon, then up the north fork when the canyon divides. This is the only place you could get off route, so keep an eye out for the north fork/south fork split. Head up the north fork for a long while, looking for two HUGE pine trees in the middle of the drainage. From the right (north) tree, head up slick 3rd class slabs, and contour right along the easiest way up the slabs. After about 20 minutes you’ll reach the main wall and downclimb a 60-foot 3rd/4th class gully, then continue up for 5 minutes to the base of the Eagle Wall. Eagle Dance starts in a small black dihedral about 50 feet right of a large detached pillar. Levitation 29 starts 50 feet right of Eagle Dance, with a few bolts visible not far off the deck, and heads through a roof 150 feet up. Ringtail starts 100 yards right of Levitation 29 in left-angling cracks about 50 feet before the huge drop off into the Painted Bowl.
DescentRappel the route. A final pitch of low-angle crack to face with four old bolts leads to the top, and a LONG journey up canyon and back down the drainage will take most people who have not done it in the range of 4 or more hours.
Everything You Need to Know About Red Rocks
Search the internet for beta on Eagle Dance
Other Routes on Eagle Wall