The Waterfall* Rock Climbing
|GPS:||34.931, -111.733 Google Map · Climbing Map|
|Shared By:||JJ Schlick on Jun 14, 2009|
|Admins:||Greg Opland, Luke Bertelsen, JJ Schlick|
Description"It was a kid in a candy store story. Moving to Flagstaff from the San Francisco Bay Area, I just thought all the good rock had been climbed. Putting up routes at the Waterfall freed my mind, and allowed me to go and succeed on routes I otherwise would have never tried to lead at The Forks... All the dangerous ones."
Over the last thirty years The Waterfall has quietly become one of the most concentrated selections of hard traditional climbing in the country. This broad columnar basalt amphitheater is stacked with splitter cracks, and nervy gear protected face climbing along seams. It is a powerful place which commands respect from many, and is considered world class in the single pitch trad game.
The Waterfall is an exceptional crag, and home to well over one hundred trad routes on good to excellent basalt. Though there are a few scattered moderates, the climbing here really starts at solid 5.10, and there are 25+ pitches in the grade. Stepping into the 5.11 dreamland often brings thin gear, steep jamming, hard stemming, or otherwise serious cranking. There are 50+ pitches in the grade. The 5.12 climbing at the Waterfall is really special, and if you like the harder routes at Paradise Forks, then you are in for a treat here. There are 40+ pitches in the grade, many of which are plenty steep enough to log some flight time...if need be, of course. On top of all that there is a generous handful of 5.13 trad lines here that are long, thin, and some of the burliest gear climbing in the greater Flagstaff/Sedona area, if not all of Arizona. Most of the lines stretch to one hundred feet or more, and are equipped with modern anchors.
The first known route at the Waterfall was done by local legends Tim Toula and John Gault in 1981. The route was No Feelings, and at 5.10+ this steep hands crack still delivers to this day. Tim also established Double Clutching in 1986. However, the enormous potential would be overlooked as many of this generations talents were spent climbing the harder lines at Paradise Forks and bagging summit FAs in Sedona.
In the early nineties an NAU grad student named Darren Singer arrived on the scene and took a good assessment of the place. In the span of just a few years and with the help of Daniel Miller and Jason Keith, they established a good majority of the obvious splitter routes on the Left Wall, and some other well known routes on the Right Wall. It was a productive time with classic crack lines such as Black and Tan 5.10+, Spite and Malice 5.10+, Giardia Crack 5.11+, Locks of Dread 5.12, and The Terminator 5.12 were all opened up for business.
It would be another ten some years before the next flurry of development. In early 2000, Dan Foster, JJ Schlick, and Seth Dyer started looking closer at the undone lines on the Right Wall. There they discovered positive edges, perfect solution pockets, and wavering thin cracks that all added up to some serious climbing of a more technical nature. Toe grinding classics such as Soldier Of Fortune 5.11-, Natural Enhancement 5.11, The Harder They Come 5.11+, American Ceasar 5.12, Full Steam Ahead 5.12-, A Wonderful Life 5.12, and Sweet Dreams 5.12 R, and more were all added to a growing list of burly routes.
Another stretch of years would roll by before JJ, Wade Forrest, and James Q Martin would set their focus on exploring the numerous undone lines in The Main Amphitheater. Fade to Black would be the first new route on this wall in sixteen years. The black section of the cliff, the falls so to speak had finally been entered into. After this pitch was completed, it was obvious that any solid feature up this wall would be stellar, and so it was to be. A few of the modern classics include The Darkest Hour 5.11-, Dark Arts 5.11, False Prophet 5.11+, Death And Taxes 5.11+, Fade to Black 5.12, Pressure Drop 5.12+, and There Will Be Blood 5.12+.
And the development continues to this day with David Bloom, John Crawley, Joel Unema, and others as they uncover more excellent pitches hidden in the folds of these giant columns. Some of the insta-classics to fall in the last couple years include Inz and Outz 5.12, In A Blunt 5.12, Wolverine 5.13-, Thin Faith 5.13, The Trident 5.13-, and Joel's test pieces Gemini Dragonfire 5.13+, and East Coast Fist Bump 5.14- which now holds the coveted spot of being Arizona's most difficult, all gear trad line. Not to mention it's one of only a handful of 5.14 trad routes in the country. Amazing hard routes, and I don't think they are done yet...
The layout presented here is a streamlined version, and a more in depth breakdown is given in the guide Sedona Rocks, Bloom and Wolfe. The approach deposits you in the middle of the Main Amphitheater. The Left Wall (which includes the Tombstone Area, The Pinnacle Area, and The Sword Area) is on the climber's left as you face the falls, and faces east. The Right Wall (aka The Fall Wall) is on the climber's right, and faces west. To get to the Double Clutching Wall walk two minutes down the Right Wall until you round a very conspicuous corner. The Gravity Wall is just a bit past the DCW. Like other crack concentrated areas, once you figure out where a few pitches are, it is relatively easy to locate the others in relation.
A cool aspect of the area is that each wall has it's own unique flavor of trad climbing.
The Left Wall boasts some truly amazing cracks. Be ready with fat racks, masochistic hands/fingers, strong toes, and a sense of adventure!
The Main Amphitheater is both intriguing, and intimidating with it's bulging crown of steep rock. Many of the routes here are mixed pro, both gear and bolts, which opens up some spectacular terrain.
The Right Wall is a mostly vertical collection of thinner lines with more technical cruxes. You can expect to find excellent crimps and gas pockets which make otherwise impossibly smooth sections of rock climbable. The harder routes on this wall require thin gear, and the ability to place it well while on the run. The Right Wall also has several excellent warmups.
The Double Clutching Wall boasts the most amount of sun, and a slew of striking finger crack pitches. This south facing wall is a nice place to hang when the temps are on the cool side, and the winds are soft. This area also boasts the most amount of protection from random rockfall.
These days it is a real advantage to bring a good 70M rope. Though many of the routes here are within 90-105 feet tall, there are many rope stretchers here including such classics as Spite and Malice and No Feelings, so watch those rope ends when lowering
Many, but not all of the anchors do have biners on them. Please leave them as the anchor may be specifically set up for them. If one is worn past your comfort level, just leave one of yours, and chalk one up for the community at large.
ALSO, I CAN NOT STRESS ENOUGH THE DANGER OF THIS AREA IN WET CONDITIONS. The top layer of choss that rings the entire cliff is extremely loose. One can encounter random rock fall on perfect days because of a stiff breeze or birds tussling about high above, but to be up there in heavy rain, or even after a good soaking is not a good idea. At least not at the base of the routes. I have personally watched 100' wide sections of choss fall from well above the routes. If you have a helmet, this is a good place to bring it. I have been inches away from being clobbered several times.
Getting ThereRoughly 4-5 miles north of Sedona, on the west side of Hwy 89a is a parking area called Encinoso Picnic Area. Just north of the Encinoso Picnic area is a small 6 to 8 car pullout on the east side of the highway on a very conspicuous bend in the road. This spot is the usual climbers parking, though it is shared with creek goers, fishermen, and general tourists. Be considerate when parking and taking up space.
From this parking area the crag can be seen up on the eastern side of Oak Creek Canyon. Clamber down through a well traveled notch in the cliff band to the creek. Boulder hop across the creek, then hike 30 seconds north, on the east side of the creek, past a short smooth sandstone wall. When the wall ends start looking for traveled paths through the shrubbery.
There may be cairns, maybe not. Climb up well traveled tree roots, and death blocks to gain the drainage proper. Hike up basalt boulders and after about 4-5 minutes there will be a very isolated sandstone bench. This is a nice place to stretch the legs. After this bench, stay in the drainage navigating various obstacles until you are face to face with The Main Amphitheater. You will only get a few glimpses of the crag during the approach. 30-45 minutes.
High water conditions can make it a challenge to cross the creek, and you may even find it unpassable at times, especially in early spring.
Classic Climbing Routes at *The Waterfall*
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
Days w Precip
Prime Climbing Season