Black Orpheus wanders up the large hindquarters of Solar Slab, culminating in a giant arcing right-facing corner that has by far the best climbing on the route. The route is long, but much of the climbing is easy and a fair bit of it is mediocre. Two stars is generous, but it makes for a pretty fun adventure with a little bit of challenging route-finding and more commitment (due to the wnadering line and lack of fixed anchors) than many long routes in Red Rocks.
Hike past the main face of Solar Slab into the main Oak Creek drainage, continuing until the large and complex wall in the photo below appears. Leave your stuff below 600' of slabs, and scramble up to a long left-facing corner approximately in the middle of the wall, and left of a large flatiron feature. Locate the large RF corner on the upper left portion of the wall; the final 4 pitches follow this corner, and the route starts quite a ways to the right of it before wandering up and over.
Pitches one and two are long 5.8 leads up the corner (bypass the bolted anchors in order to stretch these leads).
P3 is easier and wanders left and then back right at about 5.5.
P4 is very easy fifth class and over 300 feet long; basically, simul-climb while finding the easiest path up and left to the main corner system on the upper wall. Belay in a comfy alcove down and right of a clean V-slot corner.
P5 is the jewel of the route: do exciting face moves up and left past a bolt into the corner, and climb for 150 wonderful feet, passing a cool chimney en route to a good belay ledge below 2 bolts.
P6 climbs past the bolts with a cool, tricky 5.9 move which for some reason has been upgraded to 5.10 in Supertopo. Continue up the cracks above which are are really good. Several belays are possible.
P7 continues up the huge corner with stiff for 5.7 liebacking past a bolt. Where the corner arcs right, traverse the face straight right to a fixed belay.
P8 is one of the wilder 5.5 pitches I've done. Follow a few bolts right and then up on runout, loose, exposed but awesome face climbing. Cut back left through the main corner into a groove that leads to the top.
The descent is fairly involved. We scrambled up to the next ledge (well short of the buttress top), then followed this left (west) and down a ramp to a new bolted rappel station. Two double-rope raps got us to a large bowl, which we followed down and skiers' right to a terrace with a large boulder. From here, take the ramp west into the Oak Creek drainage and follow that back to your packs.
Another rappel route from the top of the buttress uses several single rope raps to get into the bowl, and ours would likely have been possible in three raps with a single 60 (there was an additional anchor). It may also be possible to traverse across the top of Solar Slab and descend the gully east of that route.
In the photo below, the route starts not in the huge left-facing corner, but in the smaller corner a ways right (marked in the photo by a little red dot).
By George Bell From: Boulder, CO May 4, 2005 rating: 5.95c17VIHVS 5a
The "normal" descent can be done with one 50m rope, but it is tricky. The first rap doesn't quite reach the end of a huge ledge. It is possible to make the transition to the ledge at the end of this rap, but it is a dangerous transition (you end on a steep slab). This is why (I believe) somebody added another set of anchors just 50' below the first. So do 2 raps here, the first one only 50', from the lower set of anchors you can easily make the big ledge (you would normally continue straight down here if you had 2 ropes).
But with 1 rope, walk towards the Eagle Wall (west?) on the big ledge, and you will find another anchor at the opposite end for a final rappel over an overhang and into the bowl.
Also, last time I did this descent (with 2 ropes) there was a suitcase sized block resting on a steep splab in the middle of the first rap. My concern was that our rope after pulling would snag behind this, releasing it onto us. This block may well be gone by now, but until then it is an accident waiting to happen.
Fun route - big day, not because of the climb itself but due to the approach and the descent. This may be it's only drawback- you are expending a lot of energy to climb only 4 or 5 good pitches. The single rope descent described in supertopo seemed flawless - we found an anchor just above the final slab portion of the descent which avoided a steep downclimb. I would guess that many find the crux pitches to be far more straight forward than the 2nd pitch (5.8) with its awkward section and the final 2 "easy" pitches. Is that really what 5.5 slab climbing is supposed to feel like?
By d-know From: electric lady land Jan 26, 2006 rating: 5.9+5c17VIE1 5a
super fun day. not another soul to be seen or heard. we did the walk off in the dark and 1 head lamp between the two of us. some easy down climbing and scrambling and fairly straight forward. saw some big horn sheep too in the last remaining light.
Did a Solar Slab link up to the start of the upper pitches of Black Orpheus. We branched off from Solar Slab, climbing a couple of fun pitches, which brought us to a ledge, beneath the ramp (Start of upper pitches of Black O.)
We were able to top out at 2P.M. after experiencing full satisfaction of the awesome upper pitches of Black O. (Started up the S.S. Gully at 8:30 A.M.)
We rapped the Upper S.S. Gully to the climber's right (I love this beautiful, scenic descent!) Single rope raps, and easy,intermittent down-climbing/scrambling to the S.S. terrace, then down the Lower S.S. Gully to our packs.
It was a beautiful day today in Oak Creek. Perfect weather!! Only saw two other climbers in canyon. I don't get it.
By Floridaputz From: Oakland Park, Florida Mar 19, 2006
Pitches 8-11 were the most fun. There is some loose rock to be found on those pitches. I enjoyed the route. The traverse to start P8 is pretty cool. The summit is pretty cool. Darkness found us right after the rappels, and we still had no problem with the descent. Stay right on the upper bowl. Find the IBM boulder (looks like an element) and start down a gully heading west. it comes back East again then west again along some slabs right atop a short cliff. The last slab to the creek is polished like marble, and extreemly slippery. If you end up here you nailed the decent.
By Aimee Rose From: Bend, or Apr 5, 2006 rating: 5.95c17VIHVS 5a
Definately just bring one rope and do the single rope descent. Supertopo does have the description nailed and I posted a pic of the "cool little arch" you climb through right before you head left and downclimb the chimney (which was wet when we did it on April 2). On the 3rd pitch after the 4th class section, make sure you don't place all of your small gear before the bolt! You'll need some to get up that dihedral!
Also, if the forecast says 15-20 mph winds in town, expect them to be 60mph up top. It was pretty scary, rope blowing sideways and having to cling onto the rock when the gusts came up.
By George Bell From: Boulder, CO Apr 6, 2006 rating: 5.95c17VIHVS 5a
The "IBM Boulder" is perfectly named, but young people who have never seen a typewriter will get lost looking for it! It's named after the bizarre ball found in an IBM Selectric Typewriter. Imagine a metal golf ball covered with all the characters in a keyboard, sticking out so it can make an impression of each when pressed onto an ink ribbon. The real boulder looks just like this but is about 8' in diameter. I took a Photo of it last time I was up there.
My wife & I climbed Black Orpheus on Thursday, Nov 23rd, 2006 (Thanksgiving day). Thoroughly enjoyed it. I am 5'10" tall, and the bolted section that is supposed to be the crux felt quite easy, like 5.7, or maybe Red Rocks 5.8. I would say that the crux for me was the liebacking above that, which is supposed to be only 5.7, but felt harder (slick feet!), but great gear. Not a soul in sight other than the bighorns on the lower slabs, although we could hear folks on Solar Slab. Leave anything you're not bringing up the route all the way down in the wash. Great day!
Great route! Gotta agree with the comments above though that somehow the last 2 pitches felt harder than the "real crux"? Is it because mentally you think you're done after that 9+ bolted move (which itself is quite reasonable if you're tall)? Or is the runout on the "5.5 slab"?
By Jordan Ramey From: Calgary, Alberta Nov 29, 2007 rating: 5.9+5c17VIE1 5a
A fun outing! Id recommend ignoring the grades and not letting your guard down till you are back down! The 2nd to last pitch seemed the diciest to me and I was on toprope for it! It seems like simulclimbing pitches to the base of the 5.8/9 diehedral w/the stronger person on the back of the rope due to that awkward move on P2 is a good way to expedite the ascent.
The 1 rope descent was pretty straight forward once we determined we were on it. Id recommend paying more attention to the text than the topo on the SuperTopo. You actually ascend all the benches of rock then go left in the gully. Downclimbing looked fine in retrospect but we were cautious and rapped from a nest of slings on shrubbery. We were forced to rap the last bit to the ground since an ice flow blocked our way for the last little bit. This was December and the climbing was pleasant in the sun and frigid in the shade.
On Oct. 12, 2008 Maura Hahnenberger and I climbed a variation to the right of the first part of Black Orpheus. Surely it has been climbed before, but it is actually a pretty good line and isn't in any books I've seen, so figured I'd post what we climbed.
Begin approx. 150-200 feet right of Black Orpheus. Pitch 1- Climb a loose looking face up into a left facing flake/chimney. Climb the smooth walled chimney and at a good stance, move left and then up a good face to a sloping ledge and belay from good stoppers. 225 feet, 5.8r Pitch 2- Follow weaknesses directly up the face above. Move up and left to a large ledge near the end of the pitch. This pitch was about 15 feet longer than a 70 meter rope, so a tiny bit of simul-climbing was involved. Belay from the large ledge. From here it is easy to walk left to the easier middle pitches of Black Orpheus. 5.8 Pitch 3- Climb a steep, short corner to a left leaning, shallow, black dihedral. Some insecure moves in the dihedral lead to a small roof which is surmounted to easier ground above. Then move left into the leftward traversing pitches of Black Orpheus. 5.9+r. I'll post a photo/topo of the variation that we climbed. We did not see any or leave fixed gear on this climb.
By Sherri Lewis From: Sequim, WA Nov 29, 2009 rating: 5.9+5c17VIE1 5a
Count me in with the folks upthread who felt that the last two pitches were, in some ways, harder than the crux. Maybe I was just tired by then, but the sustained lieback on P10 and the heady runouts on the thin, soft edges of P11's face had me going.
After the twin cracks just above the crux on P9, I wasn't sure whether to climb the featured corner on the right or to go straight up the smoother, black face to the left of ledge. The varnished face on the left looked more my style, so I gave it a try. When I groped for what I hoped was a jug at its top, I was suprised to find a flat ledge that I'd need to mantle. I think there was a pocket to latch into in a far corner but my reach wouldn't allow. Exciting times!
The rap descent out of the Painted Bowl(next to Plate of Fate) has experienced recent, significant rockfall. I'm no expert, but it looks dicey around there. Piles of debris and boulders sitting just above the first station.
We did this climb just before Thanksgiving with temps forecast to be in the upper 50's; wore all of our layers(incl. puffy coat and hat) on the first few and last few pitches where we got little or no sun, but were comfy in shirt sleeves for most of it. Extremely windy conditions kicked up as we topped out, making the descent very difficult. We noticed a well-used bivy cave near the first rappel station at the summit...I can see why.
By jpvandever From: San Francisco, CA Dec 2, 2009 rating: 5.9+5c17VIE1 5a
climbed this on saturday of thanksgiving weekend. only one other party on it. left parking at 530 and arrived at base of route around 730. started climbing around 8 and topped out around 2pm. we simul-climbed the middle pitches. from the top we walked down the ramp to a rap station (required a leap to a boulder and scramble down a chimney/gulley). the first rap diagnols down towards the ledge visible from the first rap station. we did three raps with a 60m rope. got back to car around 630 just as the rain started falling.
great day except we returned to our packs in the gulley to find that they had been stolen. hide your packs well!
By Daniel Trugman From: Los Alamos, NM / Stanford, CA Jan 1, 2010 rating: 5.9+5c17VIE1 5a
Really fun route with more of a mountaineering feel than the other few routes I've climbed at RR. I thought P2 felt like 5.9 but with good gear when you need it. P5 (as described above) is a truly incredible bit of climbing with everything from airy face climbing to jamming to stemming to chimneying; 5.9 (if you brought doubles of medium sized cams, you brought em for this pitch!). P6 and P7 are very nice as well, I would rate them as 5.9+ and 5.7, respectively.
By TylerW From: Flagstaff, AZ Feb 14, 2010 rating: 5.9+5c17VIE1 5a
Did the route Jan 30, 2010. I'd give it 4 stars except the wandering middle pitches. some beta on the descent - we accidentally did the supertopo "upper painted bowl double rope descent" with a single 60m rope and it worked out fine. We stopped at the intermediate anchor and then the third rappel finished at a sort of sub-ledge under a huge overhanging section and did one or two 3rd-4th class moves to get into the bowl proper.
Pitch 8 definitely seemed like the crux to me. Very sustained. The 10a move wasn't too bad at all, just one crank next to good pro. Also, the pitch 10 lieback seemed pretty stiff for 5.6. (pitch numbers refer to the supertopo description)
One of my favorite parts was probably the descent, the water in the creeks was running pretty strong and some of the boulders were coated in snow and ice so it was a good canyoneering-type adventure to get back.
By Tradoholic Mar 16, 2011 rating: 5.9+5c17VIE1 5a
Would have been four stars except for the middle pitches. All other pitches were stellar, especially the 5.6 layback at the top.
The crux was really easy for me at 6ft, a shorter person would have to dead-point to a tight knuckle lock.
Stay right in the 5.7 hand crack directly after the bolted crux, the left cracks in the corner are a sandbag.
Supertopo did nail the one-rope descent description. With two chill single rope raps I don't see why anyone would bother with the two-rope descent. A 70m rope helped on the last rap to get on flatter ground.
I found the middle 5.2-ish pitches to be easily climbed but not very secure considering the poor rock quality and lack of pro. Best to belay for the pitches instead of simul-climb.
By Justin York From: Phoenix, AZ Mar 21, 2011 rating: 5.9+5c17VIE1 5a
This route was so much fun! The approach, middle pitches, and descent made for an adventurous and committing feel to this climb. P8 was the best and most sustained by far. P9 was really fun, and P10 is more like 5.8. P11 was no big deal at all! Great day, highly recommend this route!
Did this route on 11/25/11 and really enjoyed it. We followed the 11 pitch description on Supertopo, using the bolted anchors on the first two pitches. We simul-climned 4-7, which went by quickly (never had to catch up and trade gear). Pitch 8 is really the gem of the route with the wild exposure and dihedral stemming moves before moving to chimney moves. While low angle, pitch 10 does keep you breathing with some burly lieback moves. Beautiful topout for lunch and a pretty straightforward descent with three raps on a 60m and some 4th class scrambling. It took us 10 hours car to car. I highly recommend it!
Nice route. A little more adventurous than your standard Urioste route. Almost feels like your in the mountains, except for the sound of crotch rockets screaming through the scenic loop. Grade seems right on although the slab exit from the 5.6 layback feels about three number grades harder. Descent is straight forward if you use all the rap stations you come too. The book gives this as a descent option for the Solar Slab but I imagine the aspiring 5.6 leader may be a bit sketched out on the slabs.
By DaveF From: Durango, CO Jan 5, 2012 rating: 5.9+5c17VIE1 5a
Just got back from RR with my girlfriend and we did this route. 10 hrs car to car and a spectacular day. Temps were in the 60's, cloudless, and windless!!! Couldn't believe how splitter the weather was. We climbed the route as described in many guides and simul-climbed the middle low angle stuff which greatly benefited to our time management.
Pitches 1-3: straight forward climbing at the correct grades
Pitches 4-7: low angle section and if you simul-climb it, lots of nut and cam placements while you run it out. we set up below the 8th pitch at the cactus ledge down and slightly climber's right of the bolted 5.8 thin section. great belay option. the 5.8R to the bolt is totally positive, juggy, and cruisy.
Pitch 8: in my opinion the most fun. great variety of moves, fun layback to stem to the belay ledge. fits a red cam under the upper roof perfectly to protect the move right to the ledge
Pitch 9: nowhere near 5.10. at 5'9" the moves past the 2 bolts to the juggy ledge were easy and after this the climbing much easier to the belay.
Pitch 10: amazing 5.7 laybacking
Pitch 11: the sandy hollow traverse past 3 bolts to the R section on lower angle slab was a fitting way to end the route. kept the upper section very enjoyable
We used 1 60m rope with 3 raps off the top and found it very straight forward. From there just head right past IBM boulder and you're down although it takes a while.
We left packs on a large slabby boulder in the creek directly below the route and could see them virtually all day. No other climbers in the valley that day.
I was gently shitting my pants on the last 5.5 slab. Seriously scary and commiting. Double on BD#0.75 was useful on 5.9 crack pitch. Made it down with one 70 (50 would do too). 2 short raps to a large ledge to the left of main rap line, then 2 more from left side of the ledge. Very memorable climb.
By John Wilder From: Las Vegas, NV Feb 21, 2012 rating: 5.10a6a18VI+E1 5a
Checked today and confirmed you can do the double rope descent with a single line- even a 60m (which would be close, but you can 4th class off left easily).
I did it with a 70m line, so take that under advisement, but the 70m was casual, and it was about 12-15' longer than I needed for the rap.
This route made for a really fun day. The approach isn't bad at all, mostly flat walk across the desert until you reach the wash at the mouth of the canyon. The 500 feet or so of 3rd and 4th class slabs leading up to the climb is both fun and a good warm up. We linked the first 3 pitches in two to get to the easy ground linking the lower and upper portions of the route. We found all of the pitches to be fun. Not sure what some of the comments about bad rock or only a few worthwhile pitches are about. We thought that all of the pitches were enjoyable, well protected and pretty much stress free. I didn't find anything on the route to be 10a and if there was any 5.9 it was only a move or two. The 2nd to last pitch, 5.7 layback while taking some effort could not be better protected and the last 5.5 pitch with the runout face is a blast. We climbed with a single 70M so we did the 3 rap descent into the painted bowl and walked off from there. If this climbing is near your limit I can see this route taking time, but if you are solid on 5.9 then this route should go pretty fast. Get on it and have fun.
Great route! Crux is easy, the second bolt is unnessacery. I felt the real challenge of the climb landed in the second pitch, maybe that's just me though. After pitch 4 we unroped and traveled up the easy fifth to the pitch 8 belay. The eighth pitch is excellent, along with the twin cracks on 9. The 5.6 lie back is a definite sandbag, but also fun.
If you have the time and patience, we jammed a nut cutting straight up where p4 starts (not recommended), there's a cam and a nut jammed deep in the crack on p8 (to deep for a nut tool), a solid stem at the top of 8, and a rusty #2 camalot on 9 left of the twin cracks. Can't guarantee quality of any besides our nut.
Had a long but fun outing on the 6th of Jan. Rapped in the dark which made it a bit more spicy. Nothing crazy, though. A party behind us did manage to either get rescued or dropped some items from the chopper. Can't tell you why but I was climbing with my wallet and it managed to slip out somewhere on the lower party of the decent. I'm guessing around the 20 foot slither to the wash. IF anyone finds it, that would be superb if it was returned.
The first 3 pitches and the last 4 were the best, pitches 4-7 were somewhat annoying and could be done unroped. Overall fun day
morning shade for P1-P3, sun for the P4-P7 simul and P8, then back into shade cast by the massive dihedral for P9-P11, on Mar 8 with high of 68F
after topping out, we scrambled all the way up to and through the cool little walk-through arch to the big headwall. then down the gully to climber's left, leading to a short chimney that could be downclimbed or rapped. then cairns led us to the two consecutive raps (three raps now if counting the previous chimney rap) as described in the Supertopo guidebook, with that first rap down another short chimney off of a slung block with just slings. the last long rap was just a few steps down, off of a slung tree with sharp cactus at its base. we used one 70 m rope, which was just long enough for that last rap, with about 5 ft to spare. a 60 would work too, touching down onto downclimbable terrain. this one-rope rap descent starts differently than the other Chicken Lips one-rope rap descent option as described in the Handren book and here on MP. the latter would be the quicker option as, after topping out, one wouldn't need to scramble up as high to the little arch, and instead one traverses across a lower shoulder to a first rap off of a bolted rap anchor at the end of a downsloping ramp