Rainbow Wall 5.12b
Trip ReportRainbow Wall, free
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":
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
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!
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:
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:
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:
Yelling seems to help, so there is a lot of "arrrrhhhh. FAAAAAHHHHQQQQQ!" going on.
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:
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.
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!:
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).
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