Rainbow Wall 5.12b

  • Currently 5.0/5

Rainbow Wall

Red Rocks, Nevada USA

Trip Report
Rainbow Wall, free
Thursday April 25, 2013 3:10pm
Back in about '93, while we were fresh-faced groms, one of my partners climbed the Rainbow Wall. On aid. And declared it a classic, a must-do, and a great intro wall/trade route. He warned of a horrendous approach with sketchy 4th class and endless slabs, and scary sandstone aid.

The line is obvious, and the line is proud, an awesome corner system right up the middle of the wall. They call it "The Best Route in Red Rock":

[Click to View Linked Image]
Blitzo photo

Twenty years later, I'm trolling for a partner to try to free this thing. At 12b, it's reasonable, with short and often bolted cruxes mixed with well protected crack, face, and corner climbing. This is a very "convenient" route...you can climb it with a very small rack and single rope, belays are bolted, and you could bail at virtually any point on the route. A couple of people nibble, but seem to be not quite what I'm looking for in a partner. But Nate is in, and Nate is solid. We set a tentative date in mid April, and leave the schedules flexible enough to make last minute changes if the weather goes bad.

I am PSYCHED! After a winter spent mostly sport climbing and bouldering, I was ready for what I really love in climbing...a long, aesthetic trad route. My friend JSJ came over from Vegas the weekend prior, and I picked his brain on rack and strategy as we flailed on South of Heaven in too-warm conditions.

And the rack is tiny for a long trad climb. Single cams from purple metolius to hands, with doubles from blue metolius through .5 camalots, a set of nuts, 9 draws/slings. Some people recommend a #3, but we didn't take or need it. We also took an Atom Smasher http://www.fishproducts.com/catalog/haulbags.html

Visit on fishproducts.com
and a 6mm tag/haul line to haul it with to allow the second to climb without a pack. This was a good strategy.

So on Friday the 12, I loaded the Prius, pointed it toward Vegas, and met Nate at the RR Visitor Center. We rolled on to Pine Creek, made some last minute gear adjustments, loaded our packs (the first time both of us had broken out our Dana Terraplanes in many,many years...when was the last time I even bivied for a route?), and set out on the "grueling" approach.

Which wasn't. Grueling that is. Loaded down with bivy gear, two gals of water, food, helmet, and the rope, and being completely out of hiking shape and never having been to this wall, we made the base in a leisurely ~2hrs. A cush, flat bivy platform lies right at the base of the route, and we settled in with some smoked salmon and other goodies before retiring for the evening.

As usual, I didn't sleep well. A midnight visit from a local scavenger (fox?coyote? ringtail?) had Nate sitting up and yelling out "YEARAGHHHH". It woke me and in my sleepy haze I thought he'd rolled off the bivy platform or was having a wild dream. Nope, just face to face with a random wild animal. And while the forecast was for high winds, gusting to 40, it was coming from the SW and the wall is NE facing, giving us great shelter/protection.

Let's get to the climbing, shall we? Morning comes and we take our time with breakfast and other morning rituals. Soon enough we are racking up and flaking the rope. We ro-cham-bo for the lead, 2/3 with the winner HAVING to lead p2 specifically and the other even-numbered pitches. Nate takes the first 2 in our 2 out of 3, with his paper smoking my rock, and that's that. He decided to not link p1/2, with p2 being the crux pitch of the route and not wanting any excess rope drag/weight. So I lead up p1, a 5.6 low angle slab with a few cracks and features, and soon Nate joins me and starts contemplating the crux. His plan is to just get up it ASAP, pulling on gear or whatever, work the moves a bit, then pull the rope and send. Sounds like a good plan.

Nate starts up, gets into the biz, and soon is stemming on blank varnish while clawing at virtually non-existent tips scars in this corner. He looks out left, reaches for the jug, and realizes he has to dyno. A quick rock in one direction and he flies for the jug...and hangs it! Sick, Nate, onsight!

I'm worried, because Nate is taller than me, and the dyno looks iffy. Getting into the corner and established for the dyno is MUCH harder than I expected with tiny, tiny feet, tons of body tension, and ridiculously small pin scars. I get into position and realize this is going to require a giant dyno. So I adjust one foot, load up, and huck HARD. 3 fingers of one hand brush the jug and I manage to check the body swing, match and mantle up. Holy shit! I can't believe I hung it!

End of the Crux,p2 Rainbow Wall
End of the Crux,p2 Rainbow Wall
Credit: Nate

Next pitch is 11d, and called "devious and sustained" in the MtnProj description. There is a mystery rope hanging down this pitch in a big loop, but it seems mostly out of the way and not much I can do about it anyway, so I start up the pitch. Right off the belay is some powerful liebacking off a wide crack, then a face sequence that takes me out right of the corner. Finishing this sequence, I reach an obvious clipping hold, a decent right foot and go "whew! made it through the crux, cruiser from here". But my left foot is pasted on nothing and as I go to remove a draw from my harness to clip...pop! My left foot blows and I'm flying.

Unfortunately, I got tangled in the random hanging rope during the fall and put nasty rope burn on the achilles of one leg and across my left palm (some nice blisters from that). After yelling for a while until the pain stooped and staring at my hand, it seemed mostly ok, good enough to climb on anyway. So I went back up, reached the clipping jug, set my foot a little better this time, got the draw off and....pop! Foot blew again. Geeze o Pete and WTF?! Third time...pop. WTF is wrong with me, I'm falling AFTER the crux, from big holds...what am I doing?!! Next time I just say screw the bad foot, lock the clipping jug down to my chest, clip from a ridiculously strenous position and finish the pitch without further drama. Nate pauses a sec before the crux sequence, then floats it without even breathing hard. My no-taint day is done, but Nate is still on the onsight.

The next couple of pitches are nice 5.11 corners that feel much, much easier than the last two pitches. Liebacking, stemming, a jam here and there...just fun, stress free motoring up this beautiful corner system with a cool little roof at the end of the second one. Here's Nate following p5:

Credit: Elcapinyoazz
Credit: Elcapinyoazz

Nate links the next two pitches of 5.10 and puts us on a big ledge system where the line leaves the main corner for a couple hundred feet. I take the rope and run it through jumbled blocks and ledges for about 50m, Nate does another short lead to put us at the "wild 5.7" pitch leading to Over the Rainbow Ledge. This is a really cool pitch where you blindly traverse around a corner, then climb straight up an easy but fragile face, with fantastic position, to the ledge.

The next pitch is kind of odd. It's "5.8" and traverses straight left off the ledge, eventually gaining a bolt and some well spaced gear, and depositing you at the base of the Red Dihederal, the second crux block of the route. Nate makes the traverse look easy, but when I follow I can't even figure out where to traverse. Eventually the path reveals itself and I'm racking at the base of the gorgeous red corners.

This next pitch, called 11d in some books, 12a in others, is supposed to have the hardest pull on the route, but it's basically a boulder problem with easier climbing on the rest of the pitch. So I start up, pretty confident, because onsighting V4 should be a cakewalk for me and knowing Nate will be leading the next 12a pitch that is less bouldery and more sustained.

Arriving at a nice stance below the goods, I prepare to get my crank on:

1st Red Dihedral pitch (p11 or 12)
1st Red Dihedral pitch (p11 or 12)
Credit: Elcapinyoazz

Again, it's harder to get to the crux move than I expect and I almost pitch off when I grab a sloper sucker hold. Gaining the crux hold, which is about 1/3 pad for a finger and a half, I try to crank into it but the feet are non existent, and stemming seems harder than just cranking. Hanging around on the hardest pull of the route, I quickly decide I'll pump off before figuring it out, so I hang. Feel the hold a few times, brush it, look at all the potential feet, and work out a scheme. I tentatively pull into the move a few times to test my beta, and being satisfied, I crank, bump off an intermediate, and slap for the jug. Stuck it. Nate spends very little time assessing the crux and is soon pulling around the final bulge, with the onsight still in the bag and one hard pitch remaining.

Some reachy cranker liebacking puts him at a tricky transition out of the corner with wild, difficult stemming. Soon he is making some reachy face moves and it finally sounds like he is having to work and try hard. The tag line wraps the bottom of the Atom Smasher and midway through one of the pitches cruxy bits it stops him cold. "TAG LINE!!!" He yells, I kick it off the bag and Nate holds it together to reach the belay.

I'm starting to cramp while belaying at this point, in the tops of my forearms. It's a weird place to cramp, and I've had this once before while chickenwinging up the last wide pitch on the Cloud Tower extension pitches. Now, following the last hard pitch, the cramps are coming with every second or third move and starting to show up in my calves as well. It's not a particularly long pitch, maybe 80ft, but feels long enough:

2nd Red Dihedral pitch, (p12 or 13)
2nd Red Dihedral pitch, (p12 or 13)
Credit: Nate

Yelling seems to help, so there is a lot of "arrrrhhhh. FAAAAAHHHHQQQQQ!" going on.

2nd Red Dihedral
2nd Red Dihedral
Credit: Nate

Some combo tecnhiques...edging with one foot, smearing with the other, while crimping with one hand and mantling with the other get me out of the overhanging part of the corner:

More red dihderal
More red dihderal
Credit: Nate

I'm through the hardest crux, and letting my guard down a little I botch a foot transfer and can't hang on long enough to fix it. Crap, another fall. The rest of the pitch goes ok, and I'm glad Nate led it, with the reachy bits it was tough for me.

Even more red dihedral (p12 or 13)
Even more red dihedral (p12 or 13)
Credit: Nate
The red dihedral never stops
The red dihedral never stops
Credit: Nate
Almost there
Almost there
Credit: Elcapinyoazz
And finally, right before the belay, you get to make a thin balance move...pushing with one hand, crimping and pulling on a sidepull with the other, all while standing on tiny feet:
Push, pull, balance...don't fall
Push, pull, balance...don't fall
Credit: Nate

Alright! Nate has the onsight in the bag, and I've freed everything with a couple taints. But the cramps are horrendous, they are now hitting without me even doing anything...even clipping gear onto/off the harness is triggering them. Some salt tabs lower on the route aren't solving the problem (too little, too late), and I convince Nate to swap leads for the final two pitches, because I don't think I can lead this next pitch through the cramping, immediately after following the prior pitch. Visions of a cramp sending me on a giant whipper, WAY up the wall, sends my pride right out the window.

So Nate leads onward, first downclimbing to a ramp, then through some more reachy terrain, including what was a full-stretch clip that I could never have made from the stance(had to unclip it from mid-crux). I was able to follow this without too much problem, but the cramps still hit every few moves and I as glad we swapped because of the reach issues, pride be damned.

One last lead, a 5.10 thin hands crack, lead out of the little belay cave and to the summit. I stemmed/chimneyed up a move, placed a couple pieces, and pulled the roof of the cave. 5.10? Nah, maybe 5.9 and I wouldn't argue too much with 5.8+. It's about 10 feet of climbing with bomber pro, then a 4th class ramble to the top.

And with that, we're on the Summit!:

Credit: Elcapinyoazz

Nate quickly found the register box and perused it a bit, but the winds we'd avoided all day were screaming on top. I see how those guys get blown completely off Himalayan peaks.

Big props to Nate who onsighted the entire route in great style. We had a few little snags along the way, but for having never roped up together, things went pretty well.

After removing the mystery rope, we managed to hang up our rope on the same pull that had hung the mystery rope. Another couple raps, including the final one where I inadverdantly rapped off my gear loop instead of belay loop, put us back to the bivy right at dark. Rather than go into the touron hell of Vegas, we bivied at the base again and had a feast of the remaining food. A leisurely stroll out in the a.m. and I pointed the Prius toward SoCal while Nate hopped a plane.

This is a fantastic route, easily in the Top 5 I've done. Don't miss this one!

Rack: Single cams purple metolius to #2 camalot, doubles blue metolius to .5 camalot, set of nuts including smallest ones(offsets useful), 9 draws/runners, single 60m (I'd take a 70m if you go with one rope, it will cut off a few raps).

  Trip Report Views: 9,320
About the Author
Elcapinyoazz is a social climber from Joshua Tree.


Big Wall climber
Newbury Park
  Apr 25, 2013 - 03:30pm PT
Fantastic stuff! Thanks for posting!

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Apr 25, 2013 - 03:47pm PT
That is a beautiful climb in a beautiful place, done in style that I'll never come close to touching. It's almost enough to make me want to boulder more, to get strong. But then I'd have to do some cardio too, and it's sooo much easier to just look at your pretty pictures!

Trad climber
Save your a_s, reach for the brass...
  Apr 25, 2013 - 04:11pm PT
Very cool! Good job! Nice pix. I'm headed out there in a couple of weeks, hope to give this puppy our best shot... Thanks for the motorvation!

Trad climber
Erik O. Auburn, CA
  Apr 25, 2013 - 04:17pm PT
Thank you for posting!

  Apr 25, 2013 - 04:22pm PT
le bump

Gym climber
Flagstaff, AZ
  Apr 25, 2013 - 04:34pm PT
Congrats! What an incredible climb. Regarding "reach issues" - don't forget that most world cup climbers are about 5'5" including the men. Less reach means less weight, so that shouldn't hold anyone back (unless they are reaallly short).

Trad climber
Northern California
  Apr 25, 2013 - 04:39pm PT
Wow! Amazing and +1 for what nutjob said. Thanks for documenting and sharing with us.

Social climber
Oakland, CA
  Apr 25, 2013 - 04:39pm PT
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Apr 25, 2013 - 04:42pm PT
Wow, well done and congrats about getting it. Climbing there looks amazing. What else is in your top 5?

  Apr 25, 2013 - 05:13pm PT
Real nice, this a great TR. Way to get after it. I must climb this route. Thanks for the stoke!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Apr 25, 2013 - 08:22pm PT
Wow....great writing, great pictures, great climb- best ST read i've had in quite awhile!

Sport climber
Made in California, living in The Old Pueblo
  Apr 25, 2013 - 08:31pm PT
thank you for sharing your experience with us via great writing and photos...

great TR.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Apr 25, 2013 - 08:43pm PT
Beautiful report.
Thanks for sharing.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Apr 25, 2013 - 09:02pm PT
As good as they get, and please take that monolith outa my butt, dangit!

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Apr 25, 2013 - 09:21pm PT
Inspiring . . . thank you.

Gym climber
Small Town with a Big Back Yard
  Apr 25, 2013 - 11:30pm PT
Great read, Will! Thanks for the excellent TR.
Big Mike

Trad climber
  Apr 26, 2013 - 01:09am PT
Rad send elcap! Sounds like a fun, challenging day! Thanks for the cool story!!

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Apr 26, 2013 - 01:15am PT
So freeking sweet! Way to go men!

I know I got a little off route, but it was a long way to that Brownstone wall.....
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Apr 26, 2013 - 01:23am PT
great TR ECIYA!
good nudge to get on back to RR, love the canyon climbs
goatboy smellz

Gulf Breeze
  Apr 26, 2013 - 01:26am PT

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Apr 26, 2013 - 01:29am PT
Yeah, thanks for the tr.
Sounds, and looks hard

East Bay, CA
  Apr 26, 2013 - 01:35am PT
Quality TR on what looks like a stellar line. Thanks!

Project Y
  Apr 26, 2013 - 02:33am PT
Awesome! Sweet pics and engaging prose.

Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Apr 26, 2013 - 03:11am PT
Cool TR, I've looked across to that beautiful wall many times wondering about it. Great job!
handsome B

Gym climber
  Apr 26, 2013 - 09:35am PT
Nice job!

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Author's Reply  Apr 26, 2013 - 11:17am PT
Just want to give a thumbs up to the climbing community, there was not a single speck of trash at the base, or on the route. A very nice thing to see.

Speaking of seeing...we saw a few bighorn up there each day, just browsing on the vegetation on the slabs below. The desert mallow was all blooming with it's bright orange flowers, the beavertails were blooming, hedgehogs were starting to bloom and even an occasional claret cup was starting to flower. April in the canyons is gorgeous.

We paid close attention to dates when planning, so as to avoid the goat-rope clusterf*#k of the Rendezvous. This route will still be good to go for a while, it's basically fully shaded all day (gets a tiny bit of sun early a.m.) and a good bit higher than Vegas, so even with Vegas hitting 90, should be perfect up there. Jump on it, you won't be disappointed.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Apr 26, 2013 - 05:36pm PT
I never tire of your TR's El Cap. This was another superb one.

Thanks much.

Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Apr 27, 2013 - 12:07am PT
very nice!!!!!
Is Nates last name brown?????

One of the best TRS of the year!!!!!

Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Apr 27, 2013 - 01:39pm PT
A humble yet skilled ascent Fantastic stuff boys !

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  May 4, 2013 - 01:52pm PT

San Diego, CA
  May 4, 2013 - 02:11pm PT
Nice work! Excellent write-up!

  May 4, 2013 - 02:27pm PT
Solid work Will!

Gym climber
Wild Omar, CA
  May 4, 2013 - 04:05pm PT
Great report. Thanks for posting up. Many of your pitch-specific descriptions brought back memories of when I did it this climb about 15 years ago via aid. Great climb no matter how you get to the top.
Crag Q

Trad climber
Louisville, Colorado
  May 4, 2013 - 05:54pm PT

Trad climber
Montuckyian Via Canada Eh!
  May 4, 2013 - 06:17pm PT
What a beautiful line...Nicely done...If that doesn't get a climber revved up nothing will..........Thanx for sharing your story...

Johnny K.

  Jul 16, 2013 - 07:03pm PT

Glacier National Park, Montana
  Sep 29, 2015 - 12:41pm PT
beautiful line and great trip report!.. nothing quite like climbing at Red Rock. ALSO.. rappeling off of your gear loop?!? how does that happen? super scary, especially after climbing red rock sandstone corners.. that tears a harness up quickly and have heard of a few people losing gear from worn through loops there.

Trad climber
Red Rock
  Jan 19, 2016 - 12:17pm PT
Great TR! Tfpu!

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jan 19, 2016 - 02:14pm PT
dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
  Jan 19, 2016 - 11:24pm PT
Good stuff.

Rapped down it one time after doing something else, looks great!

Social climber
chica de chico, I don't claim to be a daisy.
  Jan 20, 2016 - 09:35am PT
I read this TR a couple of years ago, and visiting it again... ..always enjoy Will's writing style...

Thanks..Mr Elcapinyoass, hope you are doing well....

Not very anonymous ..is he.

  Jun 13, 2016 - 12:13pm PT
good s h i t bump

Trad climber
  Jun 13, 2016 - 04:22pm PT
Nice to read it again and see the pictures with a fresh perspective. Awesome place, and really great accomplishment to get this free. Pretty intimidating looking from up close. A few weeks ago I spent a day looking over at this route from Bird Hunter Buttress (more or less the right skyline of Rainbow Wall). Saw some studs moving quickly up the Rainbow Wall route- I actually paused for a bit to watch somewhat in horror because I thought a dude was free soloing- he never paused to place/clean gear in steep terrain for about 50 meters but after a while he slowed down and I saw his belayer high in a corner above.

I call B.S. on the 2 hour approach if you are out of shape. I'm a better example of not in shape, and we left the car little after 7am and were up in the bowl around 10:30am maybe? We were moving at a good hustle from trailhead to the mouth of Juniper Canyon, passed another party en route to Cloud Tower, then still at a decent pace all throughout the canyon approach (though maybe we got off route and did more boulder scrambling than should have been required).

A marathon runner who is "out of shape" and has the approach dialed can probably do it in 2 hours.

But this place is TOTALLY worth the effort. Really beautiful, and I want to go back. The key beta is to get your sh!t together the night before, and be ready to go when the gates open at 6am if you are going car-to-car in a day.

  Jun 13, 2016 - 09:59pm PT
hadn't seen this one before...

what a gorgeous route... thanks for writing it up.

Trad climber
  Mar 21, 2018 - 11:11am PT
Bumping an awesome trip report about one of my favorite routes. Dreaming of Red Rocks now! Nice TR

Trad climber
  Mar 21, 2018 - 05:28pm PT
Excellent report

Trad climber
  Nov 13, 2018 - 05:30pm PT
Jon Beck

Trad climber
  Nov 13, 2018 - 05:37pm PT
Great trip report, nice bump. I had no idea what roshambo was, but a quick google confirmed that you and your partner are true hardmen!


Ro Shambo
A method of settling disbutes between two parties. The challenging party has a free kick square on the defending parties balls. The act is then repeated for the other party until one party falls over. The remaining party standing is the victor.

I'll Ro Shambo you for it.
Rainbow Wall - Rainbow Wall 5.12b - Red Rocks, Nevada USA. Click to Enlarge
Photo: Greg Barnes