Higher Solitude Rock Climbing
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|Shared By:||JJ Schlick on Apr 23, 2010|
|Admins:||Greg Opland, Brian Boyd, JJ Schlick, Kemper Brightman, Luke Bertelsen|
Higher Solitude is an airy mountain sport crag perched high on the western flanks of Mt. Elden in the upper portion of Solitude Canyon. I named the crag Higher Solitude because it was most definitely that; a higher calling towards a sense of solitude. We started establishing routes here in the fall of 2009 and more or less enjoyed the peace and quiet for years. At this point in time it’s gained a following as it is a very sunny, cold weather crag with 100’ sport routes and ass kicking views. However, weekday visits will most likely still provide solitude if that’s what you’re craving.
The Sailing Wall is a beautiful, 50' tall fin of rock which juts out of the hillside just below The Main Wall and is nice if some folks in your party don't climb 5.10 because there will be at least a couple routes for them to do. You will find five routes with every grade from 5.8 through 5.11 and all of them generously display a fine array of pockets, rails, and fins.
The Main Wall itself is just a minute up the trail. This wall is unmistakable, tall, and stunning. The routes on this section range from 70' to 100' tall, and there are certainly enough routes to wear you out and make your day. Especially if you are wrestling with the harder lines.
The Whisper Wall is a complex of decent stone with just a handful of lines currently. It’s a beautiful section of the canyon and quite isolated from the other areas even though it is only a five minute scramble from the Main Wall. Good long pitches.
If you really want to find the mouth of the canyon you can approach as for Gloria’s Boulders, then follow the base of the mountain west until you reach the Solitude Wall. The Higher Solitude trail moves into the gully just before the Solitude Wall.That said, the easiest approach for Higher Solitude will actually take you around the foot of Mt. Elden and Gloria’s Boulders via the Pipeline and Oldham trails. The reason for this is that in the seasons you will want to access this crag (Fall, Winter, Spring), there is a 50/50 chance that you will be hiking through some snow. The route described here will get you to the crag via the sunniest and driest path.
Google Earth- Solitude Wall
Google Earth- Higher Solitude
This map is exaggerated to show the intended path more clearly, and is certainly not to scale. The Pipeline/Oldham route may be a hair longer than skirting Glorias, but in the seasons you will want to access this crag (Fall, Winter, Spring), it will be sunnier and drier. The hike takes about 45 minutes.
Park at the Cul de sac on N Paradise Rd
From the Cul de sac you will want to make your way through the snarl of social trails that sprout from the trailhead, and head northwest towards the mountain. As of 10.1.2018 a massive forest thinning project has changed the initial hike. Whole section of Lower Oldham Trail are demolished, though you now get countless views of the crag on the hike in, where you did not before the thinning. There is now a wide dirt road used for logging operations that you will pass over. Past this road is the Pipeline Trail which is another wide cut near the base of the mountain. Head west if need be on the Pipeline trail for a few minutes to the junction of the Lower Oldham Trail. Even Lower Oldham is a total mess in certain sections.
Continue up on the Lower Oldham Trail for another five minutes until you get to a junction which is somewhat destroyed. Stay right. Continue to a junction of a social trail which comes in from the right, which again is somewhat demolished. If you’re lucky and find the faint former game trail turned climber’s trail which leads up the west side of the mouth of Solitude Canyon continue on this small trail. Once you can see the base of the mountain, keep it in sight. Eventually you will arrive at the beginning of The Solitude Wall on the east side of the canyon.
Just before you get to The Solitude Wall look for a small trail that breaks off left and leads you into the gully. Follow this trail for a minute or so staying in the gully. Then look for a sharp left hand turn, and the trail which starts to lead you up and out of the canyon on the left West side.
Continue on this steep and scenic climber’s trail as it winds it's way through the boulders and small cliff bands high on the west side of the canyon. For most of this portion of the hike, you will be well above the bottom of the canyon and have open views of The Solitude Wall across canyon. Keep pumping to the top!!
These walls face almost due south, and once they see the sun in the morning, they stay in the sun till late in the day. Generally, if the temps for Flagstaff are in the range of 45-65 degrees you will be comfortable, though much on either side of that you will be either freezing, or complaining about how hot it is and hiding in the limited shade. It's elevation makes it somewhat counter intuitive, but the season up here is fall, moderate winters, and spring. Usually by April the season is coming to end for most people.
However, during the warmer months the Main Wall does go into the shade around 4:30 in the afternoon, though the hike up would still be sunny. If higher altitude heat doesn’t bother you, it is a different place in the shade.
With a rack of 15 draws and long draws/ full length runners, a 70meter rope, between two people, the approach takes about 45-60 minutes. I have seen the 1,300’ elevation gain on the hike up and the 8,300’ altitude conspire to take it out of people. A certain conditioning is helpful for full enjoyment.
Joel Unema above it all on Solitaire 5.12-. James Q Martin Photo
The rock is dacite and as such has its own peculiarities. The quality of the rock runs the scale from poor to excellent, but the routes themselves are of generously good rock. At least the crux sections. Make no mistake though, there are still patches of choss clinging to the lower sections of most of the routes here. The rock has been described as sharp and that it is. Tape will help many if you haven't been climbing on dacite all that much. This is a newer area so watch your foot holds. In general the rock quality improves with height. Climb smart.
All in all an excellent local crag that certainly has it's miracle days once you figure it out. The views are great, the ambiance at the base is rugged, and though you park in town, once you are at the crag you have a sense of being above it all. It is a unique and raw area. There may come a day when this place will sport 40-50 lines, but time will tell. Also please be aware that this area is still a work in progress, so the occasional fixed rope may be encountered on a new line. Also, due to the approach, it is common practice to stash gear over night for a two day affair. Please be respectful of this practice, and leave others gear where you might find it.
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