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Warren topping out on Solar Slab
Solar Slab is a very popular route due to its long length and all pitches are 5.6 or easier. The climb is 9 pitches long and over 1200 feet in height. However, the start of Solar Slab is on a huge terrace 500 feet up, which has a few different multi-pitch approaches. Probably the most common ways to get to the base of Solar Slab are to climb Johnny Vegas (5.7, 4 pitches), or the Solar Slab Gully (5.3, 5 pitches). An early start is highly recommended to beat the crowds, climb the 14 pitches, and make the lengthy descent. A headlamp is also a good idea.
Start from the Oak Creek Canyon parking area, and follow the obvious trail for 45 minutes to an hour. A prominent trail leads to an obvious gully to the right, the Solar Slab Gully. Climb this or Johnny Vegas to the terrace 500 feet up.
P1) Wander up the beautiful featured golden slab for quite a ways to the start of a nice hand crack. There is little pro in the slab, and the hardest move is gaining the crack system. Follow the crack system to a ledge with a fixed 2-bolt anchor. (5.5)
P2) From the ledge, follow the sandy chimney left and up to another ledge to belay at. This is probably the worst pitch of the climb. (5.5)
P3) Wander up unprotected but well featured rock for about 20 feet to a finger crack. Traverse right when obvious and follow a corner to a small belay ledge. (5.6)
P4) Climb a varnished left facing corner until possible to traverse right to a huge belay ledge with fixed anchors. (5.6)
P5) Climb the beautiful hand crack as long as desired, eventually sinking in a belay at the best spot possible. Some bolts are found near the crack on this pitch. This is a 3 star pitch. (5.5)
P6) Finish up this crack, stepping left eventually and belaying at the top of a pillar. I don't recommend trying to link this pitch with P5. I don't think that even a 60 meter rope is long enough. (5.4)
P7) Wander up and right protecting in various features to get to a low angle crack. Climb this crack up to an anchor. Don't stop at this point, but remember where this anchor is if you are planning to rap the route. Instead, traverse right a bit, then go up and easy corner to the huge low angle terrace. (5.3)
P8) Scramble up to a black varnished dihedral and sink a belay. Depending on your comfort level, this pitch can be done unroped. (class 4)
P9) Climb the black dihedral until the angle kicks back and sink a belay. (5.5)
Descent: I have only done the rappels, but there is also a walk off apparently. This is supposed to be difficult and time consuming. The rappels also take a lot of time, but it is a fairly straight forward way of getting off the rock. Down climb to the right of the last pitch on easy slabs (3rd class) to get to a traverse around to the belay ledge used below the dihedral. Then downclimb the 8th pitch and the last easy part of pitch 7 until the anchors mentioned. From here, rap (double ropes, 200' better, maybe even necessary?). Probably about 6 rappels gets you to the starting terrace. Then rap either Johnny Vegas or Solar Slab Gully (another 5 rappels). I recommend the gully, as Johnny Vegas is likely to get your rope stuck.
There is an entire chapter about this route in Red Rock Odyssey
BETA PHOTO: Solar Slab Wall
Joe Herbst on the first ascent of Solar Slab, Janu...
Tom Kaufman on the first ascent of Solar Slab, Jan...
Joe Herbst, FA of Solar Slab, January 1975.
Pitch 1, Solar Slab. The crack you are aiming for...
In the middle of Solar Slab ...
John climbing the crack pitch 5
Jay on (our) last pitch...low angled and easy, but...
Enjoying the climbing on Solar Slab
Scoping out the pro on P2 of Solar Slab. Photo by...
Another fun pitch (maybe the 5th?) on solar slab. ...
Climbers enjoy the Solar Slab.
View from the Top of Solar Slab
BETA PHOTO: Solar Salb (5.6) The Way we Climbed it.
early season run-off
patient (dead) wildlife at the base of the route
Just below the first good piece of gear on the fir...
Top of pitch 6 - slung block.
Mike Newheart at the top of P1.
Parker Fagrelius leading P1.
Andy working up Solar Slab's first pitch
BETA PHOTO: View of the slab from the 4th pitch of Johnny Vega...
About to start the slab!
Sam & Taylor rest on Upper Solar Slabs
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
Feb 17, 2004
I've not done the downclimb either, I have heard of several epics. I like Swain's comment on the downclimb "The descent can be done unroped, if you can solo down 5.6." Heck if you can down solo 5.6, you don't need a rope for the route either!
If you have climbed Black Orpheus, you can descend the same way as for that climb. Even if you have not, you can, but it is trickier to find. Basically you head up and west to the red rock, around a corner to where you can see the Rainbow Buttress. Then two 50m or 3 25m raps will get you the the base of the Painted Bowl, where a long downclimb puts you in the drainage for a long exercise in boulder hopping.
The first two pitches of Solar Slab are weird and runout. On p. 1, the runout before the crack is huge, and it's easy to get into terrain harder than 5.6. On p. 2, there are also some runouts and it is a bit confusing. I was thinking of going up an unprotected arete on the left but a better route is the lieback crack on the right.
|By Tony B|
From: Around Boulder, CO
Feb 17, 2004
Great route, particularly if accessed from Beluah's Book. You can hit the summit and then scramble over to teh finish of the solar Slab gully and scramble down that. A little shrubby, but more like 5.3 than 5.6, if memory serves me.
I'm not even gonna start a discussion about our car-to-car time on this... (snicker) ...but I will say that it's a nice cruiser line and an advanced party can still have fun simul-climbing it.
|By Jake Wyatt|
From: Longmont, CO
Feb 17, 2004
The descent for Black Orpheus (another awesome climb) is almost certainly the way to go for getting off the top of Solar Slab. The long gully descent (basically heading the opposite way from the Black Orpheus descent) is brutally long and dirty. And once you fight through all of that, you still have to rappel/downclimb the Solar Slab Gully itself. Avoid this descent at all costs!
|By L. Hamilton|
Feb 21, 2004
If you compare George Bell's modern photo of Warren Teissier leading pitch 1 with the old photo of Joe Herbst leading, you'll see that the FA took a different line, farther right. The black roof by Joe's feet can be seen towards upper right of the Warren Teissier photo. That original first pitch, also about 5.6, seemed among the route's best.
|By tom silvestrini|
Mar 17, 2004
P1:At the start we headed up slightly right of the crack, and headed for some slings that are below and right of the crack. Not quite as runout and there is some good gear before the slings (not as bad as it looks). Move left under the crack, then up. P3: Head up just left of the belay to some gear (can't see it from the belay), then scoot right to get into the crack. If you head up right of the belay, there is no gear until the crack. P4 is the crux.
|By Chris Michalowski|
Nov 27, 2004
After topping out on Johnny Vegas we found a ton of people in line for solar slab. We decided to climb a route left of solar slab called "Going Nuts 5.6." This route avoids the runnout slab of solar slab but keeps it at the same grade. P1 climb two dark steep cracks beneath the middle of the large arch. The cracks eventually separate and the crack on the right is the one you want. Once this crack ends climb left and belay using nuts and small cams in between the many plates. P2 Climb the plates up and left to avoide the arch until you reach a large bushy ledge. A quick scramble right on the ledge will put you at the bottom of P3 for the remainder of solar slab. The best part about this route is when everyone gives you the "get in line buddy" glance for solar slab and you walk right passed them and climb this excellent variation. Check the supertopo for a more detailed description. Chris M.
|By John Wilder|
From: Las Vegas, NV
May 23, 2005
This is a great route, but not to be underestimated by those who are just entering the realm of multipitch routes. At well over 1000' from the start of the route proper, plus 500' of technical climbing to get to it, this is a big day for most parties.
A couple of side notes for quick parties and/or those interested:There is a fairly easy single rope descent off of Solar Slab as per Black Orpheus that does not involve going clear up to a gully as per Supertopo. As noted by George Bell, the best way down is to start the double rope raps for Black Orpheus- do the first one (35') and the second (60'), but on the second, traverse to the climbers left to a large, sloping ledge. From here, pull the rope and walk along the edge to an old, but good rap station (historical Titon here if you want to see what one looks like). Make this rappel and one more off of a tree to get back down to the Painted Bowls. From here, head for the IBM boulder, and then follow the cairns to the deck.
I did the route today and my descent time was a little over 2hrs from the summit to the car (which was on 159). This of course, assumes the parties know the way. With route finding, expect about 3hrs down. It's a beautiful walk for those who haven't done it and I highly recommend it, especially if Solar Slab is choked with parties.
Oh, and even though it's almost June, Oak Creek is still running strong up above the fork!
|By Jim Matt|
From: Indianapolis, IN
Oct 2, 2005
My partner (Jay) and I climbed this on 9/30/2005, and we are both climbers stuck in Indiana, so take that for what it is worth. I have climbed quite a bit in Colorado (Petit Grepons, Culp Bossier, etc), and I consider Solar Slab to be a near-classic, just below the quality of other routes that I have climbed. For the record, we started mega-early, and parked at the old Oak Creek Campground. The approach (in the dark) from there was not obvious. I led the first pitch of the gully...we then essentially soloed the rest of the gully, save for the last 70' or so. The first pitch was mine...it started out very low angle, and the runout quality of it was not at all an issue. The second pitch Jay led, and it was a bit weird (to steal a few words from George Bell), but not at all bad. I had intended to link both pitch 3 and 4, but thought better of it, because pitch 4 gets a bit burly and thin (but never too insecure). Jay led the stellar crack on pitch 5 for about 190', where he set up a belay. I led pitch 6 up another 120' to bolts. All the belays were bolted, save for our pitch 5. The bolts at the end of pitch 6 were the first rappell bolts, and (for a few reasons), we decided to descend from there. Out rope got stuck on the first rappell, so I spent about an hour climbing up a 5.6-5.7 crack to free it, then I downclimbed. Thes rest of the descent was uneventful.
So, my advice is to 1. Start early. 2. Climb efficiently (ie try to simulclimb the gully). 3. Don't worry about the runout on the first pitch...it is very low angle and not at all that bad. 4. Routefinding on the ascent, and the rap route are both fairly straightforward. 5. Bring lots of water with you, and stash some at the terrace above the gully, as well as at the base of the gully.
|By John Wilder|
From: Las Vegas, NV
Jan 19, 2006
For those looking for a bit more adventure, try going for the summit of Rainbow Mountain from Solar Slab!
From the top of Solar Slab, head north toward the red pillars. Eventually, you'll go under the little 'arch' for the single line descent off of Black Orpheus. Instead of turning left here, go straight.
One...interesting pitch leads to a nice ledge. From here, heading up and right and then following a nice ledge system to the right of an obvious crack leads to 3rd class terrain and eventually the summit.
Count on a HUGE walk-off with interesting route-finding issues (stay mostly south when in doubt), but it is an unforgettable experience that every Red Rock climber should have!
From: electric lady land
Jan 26, 2006
12/27/05 Beulah's book to solar slab and the walk off truck to truck 8.5 hours. walk off took 2.5 hours. done in 7 pitches. 3 for beulah's and 4 for solar slab w/simu-climbing.
walk off aint too bad. after last pitch just keep going straight up into purple and red stone approx. 500-600 feet. Locate a small landing w/fire ring and head due west or up canyon from there. it's about as high you can go and still walk along side the main wall at top. follow side walk slab that turns into a trough that turns into a large flake/chimney feature. easy scramble/down climb down this feature for approx. 600 feet will land you on a large ledge. walk across ledge to the end and scramble down to the top of a flared chimney. This is probably the crux of the walk off. Down climb chimney 20 feet (maybe 5.4). Follow trail thru bushes to last down climb section. down climb another 60 feet and your at the top of painted bowl slab.from here the IBM boulder can be spotted easily. From boulder the easiest way to creek bed is to head west or up canyon traversing across ledges to creek bed.now your just a lovely bush whack away down the creek bed to your packs. MIght sound a bit involved but I just hate multiple rappels.
|By Dirty Gri Gri, or is it GiGi?|
Feb 19, 2006
By scurrying up the Solar Slab Gully and swinging leads on Solar Slab with combined pitches, we were able to complete climb from ground to ground in 4 hours and 45 minutes. We only took one rope, which sufficed, as we rapped the steep, narrow upper gully on the climber's right. A bit of easy climbing and 3rd classing to get there. Eight single rope rappels from big chock-stones, with short, intermittent down-climbing to reach the terrace. Then a few more raps down the Solar Slab Gully.
Note:As of 2/18/06, Solar Slab has water trickling down climbing path and the upper,steep gully has snow and ice for about half the way down, so if planning on rapping the upper gully anytime soon, be careful. The winds were brutal when we were on the upper pitches and blew me over twice while hiking up the low angle slabs higher up. Due to the high wind gusts, we had to literally crawl on our hands and knees (How humiliating!) as we 3rd classed our way over to the gully.The steep, narrow gully on climber's right provided great wind escape though.
It was snowing on our hike out.
|By Jason D. Martin|
Apr 7, 2006
For those who wish to descend Solar Slab via the Gullies climber's right of the route, the first gully -- the West Descent Gully -- is significantly easier and safer than the right gully -- the East Descent Gully. However, you should expect to leave cordellette or sling material as people don't often change out the anchors in either of these gullies very often.
It should be noted that the drawing in the Brock guide takes one to the East Gully. Ignore this and use the West Gully.
|By John Wilder|
From: Las Vegas, NV
Apr 10, 2006
In my opinion, both of the gullies right of Solar Slab should be avoided- there is absolutely no reason to use them as they are not quicker, safer, or easily accessed from any of the SS routes compared to the Black Orpheus descent or the SS rappels.
The best option, in my opinion, is to do the BO double rope descent with a single line- details for this are on the Black Orpheus route page courtesy of George Bell. This descent takes about 60-90 minutes (to the base of SS) and is one of the more beautiful descents you can do in Red Rock.
|By Kurt Arend|
Aug 22, 2006
I think that the canyon to the climbers right can't be missed! It is one cool little canyon. I on-sight soloed the route in 04/03 in 47 minutes bottom (ground not ledge) to top (summit) It is a wonderful route with very classic climbing and the descent was amazing. I downclimbed the whole descent (onsight) with nothing harder the 5.5 or so. Then down to the ledge and down climb the gully route for a time of 1 hour 47 minutes ground to ground and 3 hours and 22 minutes car to car (parked on the highway not the loop) and I smoke so I really suck at the running thing. HA! Great day it is amazing how such a crappy day can end so well.
From: Decatur, GA
Apr 7, 2008
Definitely a classic and one of the high points of my first trip to Red Rock! Doing Johnny Vegas and Solar Slab was a really full day; we were on the rock around 7 a.m., started SS about 10 and were back on the ground close to 7 p.m. This was a good reality check for my partner, who had been planning to lead Epinephrine, which now seems like an Everest expedition in comparison. It was our longest sustained multi-pitch climb ever.
The climbing was great and exposed and had its challenges despite the 5.6 grade. P2 was the only place I felt any stress on lead; my partner found P3 and P4 (which he linked) to be a little tricky. P5 and P6 were probably my favorite lead; we linked these by simulclimbing for maybe 20' or so, which I think is a good option to keep things flowing.
The rap on SS went off without a hitch, but our ropes got snagged twice rapping Johnny Vegas, so be aware.
|By Bosier Parsons|
From: Colorado Springs, CO
Apr 9, 2008
We climbed the route in 5 pitches using a 70M rope, including the final pitch. Basically stretch the first pitch to the second anchor, above the left angling chimney sort of thing. Then just keep stretching the rope from there. We didn't simul-climb at all doing it this way, but it still kept us moving pretty fast.
Also, thanks to Jason and Ting Ting (if you ever see this! - sorry for the spelling of your name Ting Ting), for sharing their rope to simul-rap. We only brought our one rope and didn't have the luxury of reading the Mountain Proj beta on the descent, so this was a really nice gesture. On that note, it seems like we could have possibly rappelled the route proper with our one single 70M. Has anyone ever done this?
|By John Wilder|
From: Las Vegas, NV
Dec 1, 2008
I checked yesterday whether you could rappel with a single 70m- and the answer is.....not really. Someone chopped the upper handcrack anchor down to a single bolt (as it should be) and removed the tat off the boulder above- minus those two things, you cannot rap with a single 70m. From the base of the handcrack, a single 70m will get you down, but you'll have to leave some tat partway down 2 to get to 1 (maybe), and then you'll have to downclimb the easy slab at the base.
|By John Wilder|
From: Las Vegas, NV
Mar 7, 2009
I just wanted to extend a BIG THANK YOU to whoever took some major time out of their day and reslung every rap station on Solar Slab in addition to maintaining the single rope descent and cairning out the descent down oak creek (discreetly, i might add)- the general condition of the trail and climb has been greatly improved. Thanks!
From: Laramie, Wyoming
May 2, 2009
I'm unclear. can I rap solar slab and solar slab gully with my meter 70m rope or not?
|By John Wilder|
From: Las Vegas, NV
May 3, 2009
you cannot rappel solar slab with a single 70m.
|By Jesse Morehouse|
Dec 9, 2009
What a fun climb. I didn't think anything was run out on it but if I was a 5.6 leader I might take my time on Ps 1 and 2. Personally, P4 was the weird one. The topo said its a lieback but I climbed the face to the right with only a little pro but it went fine.
If I did it again (pitched out) Id do some things different. First, Id bring a 70m rope and do P1 & 1/2 of P2 to the bolted "intermediate" belay above the flaring slanting crack thingy. Then Id combine the rest of P2 with P3. (we did this w/a 60m no problem). Then, combine P4 &5 (once again, a 60m would be no problem). Then you could shoot for the next bolted belay just shy of the big ledge and 3rd class scramble in one pitch. With a 60 we had to stop short and build an anchor about 20 ft from the anchors as my partner didn't want to simul.
You can easily do the Painted Bowl double rope descent w/a 70m. That descent rocks. Ive never done the Solar Slab raps and would never even thing of doing them with such a cool option available. Ive done it twice, both the single rope and double rope option. The double rope one is best but they are both fine. Don't miss this part of the climb!!!! You are only cheating yourself.
From: salt lake city utah
Dec 5, 2010
Is it possible to climb solar slab via the johny vegas approach and then hike up to the summit of rainbow peak and hike down ?
|By Larry DeAngelo|
Jan 13, 2011
Anant-- it is possible to continue to the summit of Rainbow Mountain from the top of Solar Slab, but it is a substantially bigger operation. Not a "hike" either; several roped pitches, including one or two of 5.9 unless your routefinding is a lot better than mine. Once you unrope, you still have a half-hour walk to the summit followed by the non-trivial Oak Creek descent. Just as a yardstick, we took about 6 hours from the top of the Solar Slab route to get to the summit and back down the canyon (and we were familiar with the terrain).
|By Jim D|
Apr 10, 2011
A couple of comments about an ascent on 4/8:
1) If there is snow on top of the slab, expect water to begin running right down pitches 1-3. Realize the water might not start running until the snow starts melting in mid morning. We arrived at the base of pitch 1 at 9 am and it was totally dry. At 9:02 there was a literal torrent running down the crack.
2) In the event that you are committed to the route, you can avoid pitch 1, pitch 2, and most of the wet part of pitch 3 by doing Go Nuts instead (still just 5.6). We ended up only having to climb through about 20 feet of water on pitch 3. Most of the water runs down the 5.9 variation on the right of pitch 3, rather than the 5.6 on the left side. The remainder of the route was completely dry except for another 10 feet on the last technical pitch.
3) If there is snow on top of the slab, realize that the scariest part of the route will be descending the ramp to the first rappel. We ended up having to belay the ramp. Anymore ice on it and we would have had to leave anchors and rap down to the first rappel anchor. Alternatively, if you rappel the route with double ropes you'll end up soaked by the time you reach the terrace since the rappels go right through the water. Pick your poison or wait a couple more days for the snow to completely melt off.
4) It is possible to do this entire route with a 50 meter. You will have to occasionally (maybe twice) simul-climb for 15-20 feet on easier pitches and the very last rappel for the walk-off option will require about 10 feet of low 5th class downclimbing at the end of the rappel. It was worth it to us to save the weight and hassle of taking a longer rope (or heaven forbid 2 ropes.) Doing the descent with a 50 meter rope requires 4 rappels-2 on bolted anchors down to the big ledge, then traverse the ledge and rappel off a slung horn/deadman in a hueco/fixed nut anchor to another ledge, and off a tree to the ground. The downside of the 50 meter is that it makes the route much more committing than dragging a couple of 60 meters up it. We would have had to leave an entire rack behind if we had had to bail off from high up on the upper slab.
5) The downclimb isn't that big of a deal. I've done it twice. It takes a long time. We were 9.5 hours car to car and I think 2.5-3 of that was on the descent. The rappels go pretty quickly, even with a single rope. The descent down the painted bowl isn't too bad either. Mostly trend right and follow cairns (although they go back left at one point low down.) The really crappy part of the descent is going down oak creek canyon, especially if a lot of water is flowing. Tons of boulder hopping and bushwhacking to avoid the pools of water and drop-offs. This canyon is MUCH more involved to descend than others such as Juniper or Pine Creek. As far as George Bell's comment that the descent can go at 5.6....I didn't see it. The only 5.6 option I saw was to climb back down the route itself.
|By Josh Ewing|
From: Bluff, UT
Feb 25, 2012
If you find yourself at the top of this route without a rope (how'd that happen?), the down climb into the Painted Bowl is quite reasonable for anyone who made it this far without a rope. Here's the beta. First locate the normal rappels into the Painted Bowl by scrambling left (west toward Eagle wall) in the red rock up high. Eventually the ramps/ledges will head down into the top of the Painted Bowl on a narrow ledge. At the first rappel anchor, carefully down climb about 10 feet to a good stance. This is the hardest part...probably 5.5ish. Now, instead of continuing down, climb up and left on 5.5 ish positive holds to reach a ledge system about 20-30 feet above you. Now, scramble down this ledge system and traverse all the way across the ledge (easy). At the time of this writing, you'll see a cairn on top of a little ridge to the west. Don't keep going west, but instead now shimmy down the chimney below the cairn. There's a mass of slings here to facilitate rapping...but you don't have a rope...so 5.4 down climbing is required. Now, wander through some bush directly down hill to a pine tree with rap anchors. Now, bear skiers right (west toward Eagle Wall) and start down climbing again, finding the path of least resistance on 5.3sih jugs and plates, eventually depositing you on the slabs at the top of the Lower Painted Bowl. Not recommended for anyone squeamish of down climbing with exposure. But solid for the competent who wasn't bothered by the 14 pitches of 5.6 scrambling it took to get up there.
Mar 4, 2012
Climbed this and went down through painted bowl. The descent and walk down the canyon made this an extra long and tiring day, despite the moderate climbing. I took a look at a quick solo to the mountain summit, climbed halfway up the slot on the right after the low arch, but it was more than I was prepared for.
As for the descent, there is definitely a low commitment downclimb option. I think most people just never find it. At the very top of the terrace at the end of the climb, we went through the low arch and up against the summit wall, followed a narrow gully down. It was maybe 45 deg easily downclimbed. After that there is one more vegetated gully to the walk off slab
Dec 13, 2012
I'm going to buck the consensus and say that I did not like this climb, and that it did not live up to all the hype I have been hearing about it for years. It is long, but only has a few pitches of real climbing, namely P1, P3+4, and the hand crack on....P5? The rest is pretty much just low 5th class scrambling up to the next belay (P2, P6, P7, "P"8, P9). Not very sustained.
We finished P7 and figured we had to go all the way to the top, only to get to the top and realize that it wasn't really the top of anything. Rapped back down the route. I think it is worth doing once and I can see why some people really love it, but off-hand I can think of plenty of multi-pitch 5.6 moderates that offer more exposure, better climbing, scenery, etc. etc. YMMV.
Also, there always seems to be a conga line on Johnny Vegas, even when EVERY other route is empty, so consider other options for getting to the base of SS.
Apr 4, 2013
I climbed and rappelled this route in late March 2013. The Handren guide shows (pg 133, 134) that the rappel line has an intermediate rappel station between the pitch 4 anchors and the pitch 1 anchors. When I got there, I found that this station was a pair of rusty old bolts with no hangers. I had to swing left to the pitch 2 anchors to continue my descent.
From: Oak Park, CA
Apr 13, 2013
Intermediate rap anchor between P4 and P1 anchors mentioned by Steve now consists of solid hardware.
Also, rope got stuck on the pull after the rap from the boulder slings atop P6 down to P4 anchor, in a hard-to-avoid crack pinch (beware), while trying to bypass a super slow group on reg rap route. Re-led on other end of almost-down rope, cleared jam, cleaned while downclimbed. Rapped JV to bypass same slow group congesting Solar Slab Gully, good on all pulls.