Frogland, Whiskey Peak 5.8
Avg time to climb route: 3-4 hours
Approach time: 30 minutes
Descent time: 1 hour
Number of pitches: 6
Height of route: 700'
OverviewLong, sustained, and deservedly popular, Frogland is one of the best of the moderate climbs in an area renowned for awesome moderates. Varied climbing, a bit of routefinding, and with a slightly runout slab crux, Frogland is a definite challenge for the 5.8 leader. As with other Red Rocks classics, the biggest obstacle is usually the crowds. Luckily, there are some great nearby routes that have long been overlooked, and one of them, an old, long-forgotten Urioste route, which has just been rebolted, is one of the best 5.7 face climbs around.
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HistoryIn May of 1978, the spring at the mouth of Black Velvet Canyon was the source of a persistent pond. The pond itself was home to a noisy contingent of frogs. Back in the Gunks, which was the area that George and Joanne came from, there was an entire set of climbs with “land” names: Birdland, Roseland, Disneyland. Joanne connected the Gunks naming convention to the local croakers, and the route became Frogland.
Though the Uriostes were no strangers to hammer work in general, and bolting in particular, a minor landmark was passed on Frogland’s third pitch. Leading to the left and crossing the main dihedral, Joanne stepped onto a small ledge and drilled the first bolt of her life. In the light of the prodigious quantities of protection bolts they were about to place in the next few years, one might wonder if the moment held any special meaning. “No serious significance,” said Joanne. “Only the lactic acid in my forearm.”
– Larry DeAngelo
StrategyFrogland gets early morning sun and early morning crowds, but in colder weather the sun soon departs the wall and the climb is frigidly cold. Quicker parties who are up at daybreak can have the route to themselves when most people think the canyons are too cold. In prime weather, starting late in the day can also work. Two ropes allow retreat from the first two pitches on bolts, but after that gear would be required to retreat, although some trees can be used.
The first pitch crux is slick face and/or liebacking, but only a few moves gain a bolt and easier climbing. The fourth pitch has a tricky section, where the most obvious line—heading up to a roof then left—is the hardest variation, and heading left earlier drops the difficulty by quite a bit. The fifth pitch slab crux is the psychological crux for most, and even after the bolt-protected slab, a stemming/finger dihedral up to a looming giant chockstone intimidates many. Luckily, a hand crack offers protection for the tunnel under the left side of the chockstone.
RetreatRetreat with two ropes from the bolted anchors and/or trees on the first two pitches. Some trees to the right of the route, and several constrictions/large blocks/flakes, offer various potential retreat points on Pitches 3 and 4, although gear may need to be left. Also, the probability of rope snags is very high on the third and fourth pitches. Gear would likely need to be left to retreat from high on the route.
ApproachAccessed by an independent dirt road far from the gated loop road, Black Velvet Canyon is an easy and convenient area to approach. The obvious trail heads up from the parking area toward the mouth of the canyon. After a gentle climb, the trail splits—one branch dives down into the creek bed and continues up the canyon and to Black Velvet Wall and the other goes steeply up left to Frogland.
The trail bypasses a small cliff band to the left, then contours right through brush to the base of the route, which starts at a 30-foot-tall white flake at the base of a big, brown left-facing corner. The approach takes about 30 minutes.
DescentThe descent for Frogland is simple and requires no rappels, yet the gully is loose and has a few short 3rd class downclimbs. Luckily, huge cairns guide you down the correct parts of the gully, and even if you make a mistake, it is easy to backtrack. Once back at the level of the base, a well-worn trail works back to Frogland. You can cut down early if you didn’t leave anything at the base, but the best trail by far is the approach trail, so look out for it. The descent takes about an hour, depending on how fast you travel down rocky gullies.
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