Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Solar Slabs

For several months now, Jason and I have been talking about getting on a really long route. None of this measly 6 pitch, 700 ft stuff, but something substantial. Something tall. Something with thousands of feet. Leafing through the red rocks guidebook we found Solar Slabs, 5.6 and 2000 ft.

For weeks we've been considering it. Do we climb fast enough? Is their enough daylight to both climb up and manage the long, scrambly descent? We've been discussing tactics and carefully planning. One of our chief concerns was getting stuck behind a slower party. On our last rest day we hiked out to the climb to assess the approach and the crowds. On Sunday, we carefully sorted through our gear and packed our stuff.

Yesterday we woke up at 5:00am, ate a quick breakfast and headed out. It was still dark when we threw on our packs and started the hour long approach.

Even from the trailhead we could see headlights. Despite our early start, there were people already on the climb! Still, we figured it wouldn't be a problem. They'd be at least an hour ahead of us and there was little chance we'd catch up to them.

When we got to the base of the climb and racked up, the sun had just risen and the party ahead of us was only halfway up the 5.3 gully that lead to the base of the main wall. Still, we didn't think too much of it. We started up the alternate start, Johnny Vegas, a highly starred 5.7. The climbing was spectacular, steep and exposed despite the easy grade. The first 500 ft took us 1 hr 45 mins.

Then we sauntered over the rise to the base of the Solar Slab wall. And found 6 other people! The first party we had seen was only half way up the first pitch and two other parties had caught up to them. We sat down on the ledge for a long wait in the sun. The next seven pitches of climbing proceeded pretty slowly. We'd climb up one pitch and then chill out on a ledge for an hour chatting with the people ahead of us and basking in the sun. The next 1000 ft took us 7 hrs.

Because the walk off descent is long and complicated, most people choose to rappel after the seventh pitch. So after 7 pitches we had the climb to ourselves and quickly made our way up the last 500 ft. The view from the top was pretty spectacular.

Still, despite all our climbing, the mountains still loomed over us! Apparently, 2000 ft is nothing in Red Rocks.

The descent involved an few rapesls (one into a chimney and off a rather questionable anchor: a nut and a piton in a pocket) and a couple of hours of bouldering hopping through a wash.

We we both pretty happy to get back to the base of the climb where we had extra water stashed. We made it back to the car just before dark. And celebrated our success with a massive quantity of pizza and gatorade.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe they didn't tell people to pass them. Mark