Massive Link-Ups at Red Rocks

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The long approach to the Rainbow Wall.Photo: Rob Pizem Collection

Massive Link-Ups at Red Rocks

Coloradans Kelly Cordes and Josh Thompson linked three Red Rocks classics in about 22 hours car-to-car. So what, you say? Each of their three climbs—Levitation 29, the Original Route on Rainbow Wall, and Epinephrine—tackles one of Nevada’s biggest cliffs, and each usually requires an hour to several hours of approach and descent.

After what’s normally a two-hour approach, the two raced up Levitation 29 (5.11c, 9 pitches) in 2 hours 40 minutes, with Cordes leading every pitch so he could get the onsight. Thompson jugged. The two then scrambled up and over the rim between Oak Creek Canyon and Juniper Canyon, a navigational challenge that Thompson had previously worked out, and rappelled down the giant Rainbow Wall to the start of the Herbst-Hamilton Route (aka Original Route, 5.12b, 13 pitches). Thompson led the first six pitches, freeing all but the 5.12a and 5.11d pitch, while Cordes jugged. They then simul-climbed several easier pitches to the base of the Red Dihedrals, where Cordes took over the lead; he onsighted a 5.12a pitch and did the 5.12b crux pitch with one hang. They completed the route in about 4 hours 30 minutes, and descended into Oak Creek Canyon via the “Chicken Lips Descent” to return to their car.

Refueling en route, they drove over to Black Velvet Canyon and hiked to Epinephrine (5.9, approximately 17 pitches), which they started at 7:25 p.m. and topped out just under five hours later. Two hours of staggering brought them back to the car at 2:30 in the morning.

“We did it in what we’d call ‘circus style,’ in that we used a lot of different styles of climbing to cover ground fast,” Thompson said. “We onsighted (well, Kelly did!), we led, followed, jumared, simul-climbed, and linked. We even had prepackaged chicken breasts stashed at the base of the Rainbow Wall. I’ve been working out the details of this for a few years, specifically linking between canyons. [Guidebook author] Joanne Urioste was a tremendous help. Her knowledge of those canyons is amazing!”

Ivo Ninov and Renan Ozturk linked the same three routes in Red Rocks in March 2004. The two completed the routes in just over 20 hours, starting the clock at the base of the first route and stopping it at the summit of the third; the two rappelled from Levitation 29 after its crux pitch.

About two weeks after Cordes and Thompson's ascents, Kansas City climbers Jeremy Collins and Ben “Torch” Williams completed an all-free link-up of three big routes in Red Rocks’ Juniper Canyon: Cloud Tower (5.12a, 7 pitches), the Original Route (5.12b, 13 pitches), and Crimson Chrysalis (5.8+, 9 pitches). The two climbers’ original goal was to link the two harder routes in a day—a logical objective because they are separated only by a rappel descent and a moderate hike. Their first attempt was foiled by a freak April snowstorm, but two days later they returned and linked the two difficult climbs, with each man free-climbing every pitch—Cloud Tower in about two hours and Original Route in about four hours.

They still felt OK on their way out of the canyon, and as they passed Crimson Chrysalis and observed the day’s crowds rappelling the route, “for some reason we were drawn like mosquitoes to a bug zapper,” Collins said. “We ran up and simul-climbed beneath a chandelier of rappel ropes, adding another 900 feet to the day.” The two returned to the car after about 13 hours on the go.

Dates of Ascents: Cordes-Thompson: April 26-27, 2007; Collins-Williams: April 13, 2007.

Sources: Jeremy Collins, Josh Thompson, Red Rock Canyon: A Climbing Guide (Brock-McMillen).

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