Johnny Vegas, Solar Slab Wall 5.6 R
Avg time to climb route: 1-2 hours
Approach time: 1 hour
Descent time: 1-2 hours
Number of pitches: 4
Height of route: 1400'
OverviewJohnny Vegas is the most recent of the three variations people use to approach Solar Slab above. It was somehow overlooked for years despite its excellent moderate climbing. On its own it is a fun climb on steep juggy rock, and in combination with Solar Slab and/or Going Nuts, is one of the longest and best 5.6 routes anywhere.
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HistoryFA: Harrison Shull, Tom Cecil, Dave Cox, Todd Hewitt, 11/94.
StrategyLines are common on this climb, and if you want to climb all of Solar Slab and descend before dark, a very early start is recommended. The Loop Road opens at 6 a.m.—the slightly longer hike from Highway 159 at the old Oak Creek Campground is the best way to beat the crowds.
Most of the climbing is juggy face, but some loose or hollow rock is found here and there, and care should be used to avoid breaking holds. The main challenge is a slabby runout off the belay on the third pitch. Knobs can be tied off for protection, and there are good edges to use, but the leader should be confident on such climbing. A thin 5.9 corner with a bolt-protected face is an alternate option for this section.
RetreatYou can rap from any pitch with two ropes.
ApproachThe approach is relatively flat and takes about 1-1.5 hours. Oak Creek Canyon is at the end of the loop road. You can also park at the old Oak Creek Campground or at an unnamed old road along the main highway and avoid the hassle of the Loop Road (an extra 20-30 minute hike in each direction).
From the Oak Creek Trailhead (there is a bathroom here), follow the old roadbed up into the canyon. Here, the road winds gently down into the streambed, with a trail departing on the right about 100 yards after the road heads downhill. Do NOT take this trail—take the next one, about 50 yards further along. Hike up the canyon, passing some large boulders via a bit of scrambling past oak trees, then head up to the base of the Solar Slab area on a variety of well-worn trails. There are two main gully systems on this wall: the major one, extending from the top of the wall to the bottom; and the left-hand one, which goes up about 500 feet before ending below the huge white slab. Solar Slab Gully is the left-hand route, yet the upper part of the right-hand one is also called “Solar Slab Gully” and is an optional (not recommended) descent for the upper routes. Head for the smaller left-hand gully—all the routes begin within 100 yards of the bottom of this gully. Beulah’s Book and Johnny Vegas start to the left of the tree-filled Solar Slab Gully; Horndogger Select starts to the right. If you reach a point where the right wall meets the wash, you’ve gone about 300 yards too far.
DescentRappel the upper routes with two ropes. Most of the lower routes either have no fixed rappel stations or lots of knobs to snag ropes, and so the recommended descent is to rappel Solar Slab Gully with a single rope, keeping the second rope coiled. This is because most of the raps are very short, and it allow you to climb back up to retrieve snagged ropes. A couple of the rap stations are in very exposed positions, and a belay is recommended for anyone uncomfortable reaching the bolts.
It is also possible to do the longer Painted Bowl descent to get off these routes, and it is the only way to descend the upper tier routes with a single rope. See the descent description in the Black Orpheus descent section.
Once at the base, reverse the approach to the car. With rappels, it takes most people 3-4 hours to descend from the top of the upper tier; from the top of the first tier routes, it takes about 2 hours.
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