Trip Report
2016-05 Red Rocks - Bird Hunter Buttress
Tuesday May 31, 2016 2:30pm
We could have started an hour earlier to avoid some epicness later on. That is 100% on me!
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Leaving the trailhead around 7am:
Bird Hunter Buttress, Rainbow Wall, Red Rocks
Bird Hunter Buttress, Rainbow Wall, Red Rocks
Credit: NutAgain!


Even on big days you can't totally ignore the flowers. On the trail between Pine Creek Canyon and Juniper Canyon:
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Since the morning I was thinking of moving like it was the final minutes before dark. Those few minutes always seem like they would save a few hours after.

Passing Brown Stone Wall en route to the big amphitheater of Rainbow Wall
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This looked like a skull and crossbones to me.
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I used my need for cardio breaks to take some flower pics
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We were moving fast from my perspective, but I saw what it's like to be at another level the night before. Some guys were running back to the car with packs on their chest and back after doing Jet Stream (5.12+). But back to our reality:

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Woo Hoo! Several hours of bushwacking, boulder-filled creekbed scrambling,
and a few honest climbing moves later, our route comes in to view (toward the right skyline of the Rainbow Wall).
In the foreground is the waterfall from the approach description,
with the fixed rope to the right.

Keep in mind this is late May, and it would be pretty wild up here in a wet spring:
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Bird Hunter Buttress starts a bit left of the big tree on the ledge well above Ritwik,
eventually following the right skyline from this perspective:
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You definitely have to want it to get to the base:
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We both enjoyed seeing some Desert Bighorns. It was my first time.
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They've got a great view.
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Maybe there is a way to do this approach while avoiding exposure? We didn't find it.
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Ritwik took the high road, but it petered out into nothing leaving him stranded with a little pre-climbing adventure to get back....
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We burn at least 30 minutes, maybe close to an hour, almost bailed because the start didn't seem doable. It is a bit runout but the climbing is more moderate than it looks. We were both intimidated and I would have probably bailed, but Ritwik stepped up and made it happen. Thanks man!
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The next few pitches remind me of NE Buttress of Higher Cathedral Rock in Yosemite, except sandstone:
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The recommended rack is only singles to 6", so in some places there are bolts that help out where natural pro would be available. It would be doable without, but I'm not one to skip a bolt when thrutching upward.

With more gear or longer runouts it would be easy to link P2 and P3, but I ran out of gear
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Somewhere toward the end of the next pitch...
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Ho man it's a lot of work to get this view but it's worth it. Looking over Brown Stone Wall:
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A bit of Rainbow Wall in view from relatively low on the route
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Meanwhile Ritwik is getting the rope up there. Good looking bolt anchors!
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I don't see how people can come here and just hang out in the sport climbing corridors at the first few turn-outs. Yes that stuff is cool too, but with this so near, how can one ignore the call?
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My energy was flagging after the first few pitches, and Ritwik took 2 or 3 leads in a row while linking pitches multiple times to give me more time to eat and recover. It made a big difference to keep us moving as a team and save us from an even bigger epic.
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Looking over the top of Crimson Crysalis and Cloud Tower from the back side:
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The path of this route is really excellent, with varied climbing and some loose rock but really nothing outside the norm of backcountry routes or Yosemite obscurities. Here is the final main pitch, with beautiful position and a short but awkward crux:
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I get a kink in my neck after looking up for a while,
so need to look around and shake it out:
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What in sweet Jesus' name is he doing up there?
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Whatever it is, he seems to have made it work. I'll have to find another way because my body doesn't bend like that
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Sorry for the blurry action shot here:
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It's been a long while since I've had to drop a pack below my waist on a climb.
It was fun getting back into it:
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Alright, made it to the top in daylight! Could be worse:
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We had a wake-up moment when I was belaying Ritwik up the final easy mini-pitch. Lots of loose and breakable stuff on this bit, but only about 5.4 climbing. Ritwik and I were talking about how to get off, somewhat tense because we were disagreeing but still very civil. In that moment of talking distraction the rock broke beneath Ritwik and with the rope stretch and me getting yanked off the block I was straddling, he dropped about 5-6 feet. We were both hanging from a single rusty quarter inch bolt that I hadn't backed up with anything else. Stupid. Sorry buddy. I will do a better job of fighting off complacency.

Mental note: A casual belay is neither. Make it solid.

This is a few feet away to get an idea of the spot where I was straddling the block when I was yanked over. I've held many falls over the years, I know what the forces feel like, and was surprised this caught me off guard. Vigilance is an ongoing exercise. Be careful out there!
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Key beta for Brown Recluse rap route (see next pic):
 gully beneath Ritwik's feet is to the route Brown Recluse.
 Start the rap at the anchors on the wall behind Ritwik (maybe hidden by his legs or below his feet)
 Rap spacing for a single 70m. Sucks doing extra with double 60m

If you look upward (not in this pic) you would see a double bolt rap anchor on the face after the corner ends. You can scramble up there in an easier path and rap from there but a large volume of blocks are ready to be dislodged when you pull the rope. Nowhere to hide when you are down the rap. We belayed to get to the rap spot.
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And the last picture before the epic sets in...
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What can I say? It's an age old story.
Boy meets boy. Boy has adventures with boy. Boys have magical thinking.
Boys end up lost in the dark halfway down the Rainbow Wall.

There's no question we were going to have some discomfort... I preferred that it would be coldness on the summit all night, enjoying the sunrise from there and maybe some kite flying. He preferred that it be a slogging rappel through however much of the night it took us. The answer is, it took us until 3am.

Not much more to it than that. Just a lot of waiting in the dark to save batteries, a lot of discomfort, a lot of visions of bolts popping out of the wall and plummeting to our deaths. The rap bolts are all pretty new and solid- these are just my unfounded fears while sitting around with lots of time to think and wait in the dark and quiet.

There were various delays related to dying headlamp, ropes getting caught, and most often- just plain not being able to find the next set of bolts in the dark. I was uncharacteristically a bit of a jerk during the raps by making Ritwik do most of the explorations while I lazed about at the previous anchors. It was a combination of tiredness but mostly a sense of entitlement and frustration because I had wanted to go to the summit.

So I was tested by more time hanging out (literally) at belay stations and trying to fend off leg numbness by shifting positions whenever it go to be too much, and Ritwik was tested by continuous motion, alertness to find the next bolts, and the challenge of ascending ropes with first prussicks and then Bachmann knots when he figured out that was a bunch more efficient.


We were both so relieved when we reached the ground that we were both fine with a bivy at that point. It was his first (we used to just march through the night when we were late on a climb) and it was my second without a space blanket. Ironically, my first was also at Red Rocks about 15 years ago, and ironically again because we couldn't figure out the descent in the dark.

But the shiver session was mercifully brief before the sun rose over Las Vegas
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I can't remember when I last had 3 days in a row (maybe 4 if you count the walk-out from Rainbow Wall) of serious physical activity. Skiing this winter kept me from being totally inactive, but it's not at the same level (at least the way I've done it so far). Thanks Ritwik for making it happen! We need to keep challenging each other to get in better shape this year so we can do more big stuff in better style.

I still don't have a lot of time for climbing in my life these days, but this reminds me that Red Rocks is a very reasonable weekend driving destination from LA, like Yosemite from Berkeley.

  Trip Report Views: 2,672
NutAgain!
About the Author
NutAgain! is a trad climber from South Pasadena, CA.

Comments
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  May 31, 2016 - 04:16pm PT
Damn, this report does NOT lack photos! NICE! Thanks for sharing and the load of work you put in it.
overwatch

climber
Arizona
  Jun 25, 2016 - 09:43am PT
I thought this could use a bump what the hell why not?
BigB

Trad climber
Red Rock
  Jun 25, 2016 - 10:16am PT
Awesome! TFPU
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 25, 2016 - 10:43am PT
Glad your shiver fest wasn't too long!
The big horn pictures were great!
Thanks
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jun 26, 2016 - 02:01am PT
Full value, thanks!
George Bell

Trad climber
Colorado
  Jul 12, 2016 - 11:38am PT
Did you have a lighter or matches? I have been saved from a cold bivy more than once by carrying these. Of course, you have to get to some trees, might be hard on a rappel.

Great photos!
NutAgain!

Trad climber
https://nutagain.org
Author's Reply  Jul 12, 2016 - 01:13pm PT
Haha, just noticed this bit from summitpost:
It took 10 raps on a 70m cord to reach the base of the wall. I would not want to make my first descent of this line in the dark. The rap stations blend into the face more than usual.

Definitely a doable car-to-car in a day adventure for folks in reasonable shape. Key beta:
 Bags packed and ready at the opening gates to the loop road at 6am
 Be in reasonable cardio shape, eat lots o' snacks
 It doesn't hurt to be familiar with the approach, but there is nothing really devious
 P1 looks harder than 5.7 and R/X off the ground, but it's reasonable if you commit (ok pro appears). Start is a short way downhill from the big tree.
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