Type: Trad, 1000 ft, 9 pitches, Grade III
FA: George & Joanne Urioste
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Shared By: Slhappy on May 6, 2003
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Access Issue: Red Rock RAIN AND WET ROCK: The sandstone is fragile and is very easily damaged when wet. Details


The route ascends the right side of the Rainbow wall. Fun climbing on all pitches with some spicy face moves for the crux. Look under vegetation for bolts. Good full day adventure on some infrequently traveled stone. Also great views of the Rainbow wall.


A single set of gear is fine with a few extra runners and/or QD's as there are more bolts (nice old bolts) than you think.


George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
"nice old bolts", is that an oxymoron? I have not done this route, but I've heard it and nearby Paiute Pillar are runout and a bit loose. Aug 24, 2005
Jason D. Martin  
I did the Birdhunter Buttress yesterday and I think a few things should be added.

First, the route is approximately 13 pitches and is a solid Grade IV.

Second, there are some very old bolts on the route. Until these bolts are replaced I would strongly recommend against using them for anchors. My gut instinct is that most of these bolts will not hold bodyweight much less a fall. There are places to build anchors throughout the route.

Third, the route has a lot of bad rock on it. Should the bolts be replaced I think this route will see a lot of traffic. It is a great route in a great position. If the route sees a bit more action and the bad rock is pulled off it will become yet another classic moderate.

Fourth, the best descent is via Brown Recluse. At the top of the last pitch of Birdhunter Buttress you will traverse from the "belay bolt" around the corner to the left. There is a large ledge here with some vegitation on it. It appears that you could continue up a low fifth class gully from here. Instead look down the gully below the continuation gully. There you will see two bolts with chains. These bolts are some of the last bolts on Brown Recluse.

Rappel to the first set of chains you find. This set of chains are in an EXTREMELY awkward position, but if you don't stop at the chains you will not make the next set of chains. One of the books says to rappel with a seventy meter rope, I don't know how well that would work with this sketchy top section of rappelling and would recommend having two ropes for the descent.

After the initial awkward rappelling situation, the remainder of the rappels to the ground are somewhat straight forward.

I strongly recomend Birdhunter Buttress to those who are solid 5.9 leaders. You don't want to take falls on those old bolts!

Jason Apr 4, 2006
Ian Wolfe
Fayetteville, NC
Ian Wolfe   Fayetteville, NC
I climbed the route with Jason and he is right on.

I gave the route 3 stars, but this could go to 4 if the bolts were replaced. The bolts are the original Urioste 1/4" bolts, totally rusted, and SUPER sketch. Don't fall, because any pro you can get in in the middle pitches is in kinda sandy white rock. The top pitches are stellar and actually protect very well along a right facing corner and up to a chimney.

Way to steal my thunder Jason... Apr 8, 2006
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
(Edited in March 2008, see also the notes in my later post.)

Jason Martin, Stephen Schmid, Andy Davis, and I replaced 21 of 25 bolts on the first 7 pitches (bolts provided by the ASCA). We skipped a few bolts in the interest of time, and the upper pitches still need rebolting. With the appropriate strategy (maybe take a screamer, and be willing to supplement or ignore bolts in favor of your own gear) you can climb this route pretty safely.

Another 18-20 bolts have yet to be replaced. Most, but not all, of the old 1/4 inch bolts would hold 1-2 short falls in my opinion. However, based on the experience of removing them, a couple of those remaining probably will not hold a fall ... and you can't tell which ones are truly useless by looking. Fortunately it is seldom far to more pro. The old 3/8 inch bolts will still hold several falls each - once they begin to pull and bend, then they can no longer be trusted, in my opinion. The old 1/2 inch bolts just need new hangers - we gave up trying to get them out after a couple of attempts. As Jason suggests in his note above, there are gear placements that make some of the bolts (both lead and belay) redundant.

Despite rumors of loose rock, I thought everything was pretty solid for Red Rock sandstone. However, my partners kicked off a couple of small chunks on the face pitch (p3), so keep your eyes peeled, and put a helmet on your belayer. There is also some soft rock on p4 in the wide crack, but the climbing there is easy and bolted.


Up Juniper Canyon and up the fixed-line sluice toward Rainbow Wall (or scramble left of the sluice if you're not sure what condition the rope is in). Trudge up to the rubble above the Bowl. Once in the rubble and brush, move up and right toward the Paiute Eye (the huge arched recess in the Wall). Head toward the left side of the Eye to avoid a scramble/climb up through a final nondescript cliff band, follow the ledge along the base of the Wall to the right. You pass the "Brown Recluse" rappels, "Brown Recluse," and then pass Brock and McMillen's "killer bivy" (it is!). The route starts a little below (left of) the last prominent pine tree on the ledge.


(The descriptions given in Joanne Urioste's Supplement, in Brock & McMillen, and in Handren are all excellent. The route is never hard to follow.)

Every pair of pitches can (and should) be linked, so I'll renumber them here. Bring 12-15 slings and a single rack to 4".

P1.1 (5.7) - Step up and move left across a ledgy face to the middle of 3 cracks/seams, the one that obviously takes pro the best. Climb up the crack and pull the bulge, where the first of 3 bolts is encountered. Follow the bolts up and left. You could build an anchor here, but it is better to continue ...

P1.2 - Move left and up an easy wide crack. After 30-40 feet find a semi-hanging belay from bolts on the right.

P2.1 - Continue up the wide crack, using features around the crack, passing 1 bolt. Pass another semi-hanging bolted stance on the right (easy to miss), and link with ...

P2.2 (5.8-5.9) - Good hands low, good chimney higher. Burly but not too technical. At the top you have your choice of heading into the squeeze chimney, or staying outside. Be kind to your partner with the pack. This pitch ends at a bolted stance at the lip of a sloping ledge.

P3.1 & P3.2 (5.8-5.9) - the Classic Face pitches - The kind of face climbing - flakes and edges - we have all come to associate with Urioste routes. Up the face past three bolts, left to a crack, and past a couple more old bolts past a bolted hanging belay, and continue past more good bolts to a bolted stance on top of a small pillar. We couldn't decide if this was the technical crux or not, but it is definitely the most sustained pitch. Be careful not to kick fragile flakes near the route onto your partner.

P4.1 & P4.2 (5.8-5.9) - Straight up from the belay, up a wide, short crack past another old bolt past a bolted stance atop another small pillar. Continue along a line of old bolts to the right (one delicate move), turning up into the wide crack before you go around the corner. Your view of the bolts above maybe obscured by a bush in the wide crack. End at a good stance on the corner.

P5.1 & 5.2 (5.7-5.8) - This pitch is a blast! Step right to the dihedral, and use a combination of stemming, jamming, and face climbing. Either stop at the stout pine tree, or set a directional and head back along the 3rd class ledges to the base of the chimney. This would be a potential bivy spot for 2-3 if you are taking a leisurely approach to this route.

P6.1 & 6.2 (5.7-5.8) - The first half is the chimney pitch, clean and easy once you pass the shrub, with some protection opportunities around your feet and a bolt up where its just wide. The second half involves ducking down and out of the chimney (the crux here) and up a clean slab with more bolts. Stop in the notch and build your own anchor. It would be possible to bivy a small army here, although the rocks are sloping.

P7.1 & 7.2 (5.4-5.5??) - I got as far as the pro bolt partway up this pitch (currently the old bolt is still there, so it appears to be a belay anchor, but this will eventually be fixed). I guess you keep heading straight up to find a final 1-bolt anchor in the bulges above, but I couldn't spot it ... next time. And then pull onto the final slabs and finish up.


There are four ways to get down from this route:
(1) Urioste: top out and head back to Oak Creek for the long walk out. Probably the nicest tour if you bivy along the way and like gazing into the backcountry.
(2) Handren: top out and rappel down the "Original Route." If you like the views but hate to walk.
(3) Martin: finish the technical climbing and dive down the "Brown Recluse" rappels. The upper rappels sound a little funky, but if you are pressed for time this would be your fastest way off the top of the route.
(4) Bail: Stop in the notch or at the next belay, and rap back down the route. You may have to leave your own anchor at the notch above the chimney. If you only have one rope, you'll need to leave slings etc. at the intermediate belays. Jan 18, 2007
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
We had one or two peregrines swooping between belayer and climber around p5 and p6 on 9 January 2007!

(edit) And again in March 2008 . A great spot for bird watching! Jan 22, 2007
this is an okay line up a great wall. i'd give 3 stars for the first 7 pitches, then 0 stars for the last ones. so my advice? rap after seven pitches (when the new bolts end). if you want to keep going for kicks, all pitches are easily linked with the one above making for a 7 pitch outing to the top of rainbow wall. the descent raps for brown recluse are easily found just above and left. you're looking for the chain anchors. 70m cord is perfect. big thanks to the guys that updated the hardware on the first 7. enjoy. Mar 9, 2007
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
There are two photos elsewhere on this site that give good views of this route:

from Karsten
and from Gigette Sep 14, 2007
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
We did a small amount of re-bolting on this route on 21 March 2008. This time the team included Burt Lindquist and Idan Peretz, with bolts again provided by ASCA.

All of the main belay stations and intermediate belay stations that have bolts are now in pretty good shape: they all have either a solid old 1/2" bolt or a new 3/8" bolt, and most have both. Most of the half inch bolts could use new hangers, and there are still old bolts that need to be chopped to return this route to its original 2-bolts per belay anchor status. If you are thinking about doing this route, feel free to contribute by replacing hangers - you shouldn't need a permit for that!

The most critical lead bolts were all replaced in our first re-bolting effort. Actually, it doesn't look like anyone has ever fallen on any of the bolts on this route. As you would expect in one of these Urioste routes, the emphasis is on fun, so the harder sections are tightly bolted or easily protected with trad gear or both. Where we have left old bolts, the climbing is either easy or it is not far to your next gear. In a few cases (notably in the crux pitch and in the dihedral below the chimney), the old bolts have been rendered less critical by the development of modern cams in finger sizes.

We climbed through the middle of the penultimate pitch this time, and rapped the route, leaving slings and rap rings at the main belay stations. If weather or sloth makes it necessary for you to bail, it's pretty easy to back off. Mar 27, 2008
John Hegyes
Las Vegas, NV
John Hegyes   Las Vegas, NV
First ascent 4/24/1982. "This route was named for an arrow head that was found on top of the first pitch." From Joanne Urioste's Red Book Supplement.

Birdhunter Buttress is in such an outstanding location and the adventure aspect is truly sublime. We pitched out the climb as recommended above by Doug Hemken. This turns the 12+ pitch climb into a more reasonable 7 pitches. The effort performed by the rebolting crew on the first three pitches was appreciated greatly. Pitches 4, 5, and 6 still sport the rusty quarter-inchers and provide a serious hazard to the climber.

Where Doug Hemken wrote: "The most critical lead bolts were all replaced... Where we have left old bolts, the climbing is either easy or it is not far to your next gear." I found this to be somewhere between a little disingenuous and a complete misrepresentation. Early in the day I was indeed skipping the "coffin nails" but on the upper pitches I was compelled to clip at least four or five in a row. Coupled with bad rock, a fall was plausible yet unthinkable. As far as I'm concerned, the rebolting is only half done, and until completed I give this climb a red flag.

That being said, the first three pitches were really fun, four star climbing. I think my favorite however was the chimney on pitch 6. I believe this was the overall crux and the only real 5.9 climbing on the route. A lot of back-to-feet chimneying over space, a little of the squeeze and then a unique down-and-out move to gain the slab. Unfortunately this pitch is made extremely sketchy, with long runouts on bad bolts.

We opted to bring double 60m ropes in case we found a need to rap the route. But that wasn't necessary because we made it to the Brown Recluse rappels. This was easily found only because we had Jason Martin's good information above. Doubles were a mistake and I would highly recommend a single 70m if doing this rappel route. This apparently possible based on multiple sources. Rapping Birdhunter would have been a nightmare given all the lower angle, snaggy rock. The Brown Recluse descent line was almost completely vertical and smooth - the anchors were a little "creative", but they got us down quickly. Oct 22, 2009
Graham Roff
Graham Roff  
A fun route, definitely should be linked-up as seven pitches. To fully finish the route, the last pitch ascends from the top of the pillar after the final chimney pitch, directly up through blocky terrain and then over the small roof (5.5, two "bolts"). Continue up another fifty feet or so until the 4th/5th class eases off. From here a short scramble gets you to the top of the buttress formation and beautiful panoramic views. Supposedly you can continue to the top of Rainbow Wall from here, but it looked like another three or four pitches of really chossy low fifth class - and then a long descent down Oak Creek Canyon. If you plan on rapping Brown Recluse, the top anchors are right up top as well and easy to spot (with no need for any scrambling around the loose gully as others have suggested if you head left too early on the last pitch).

For us the crux would have to be the last chimney pitch, but compared to other chimneys at Red Rocks (Epinephrine for example) was no harder than 5.8. While sustained, we felt the long face pitches were definitely soft for 5.9, even by Red Rocks standards. That being said, the last couple of pitches do contain stretches with only rusty 1/4" bolts for protection. Be confident at the grade before heading up this route. May 23, 2010
Mike Hack
Mike Hack  
Regarding the Brown Recluse rappel, it IS possible to do it with a single 70M rope. However, on at least 2 of the 9 or so raps, the next station was essentially at the end of the rope. Fortunately, the heavier of us went first to establish the next station and "tether" the lighter of us with his daisy chain (and secure the rope!). The final rap dumped us out, at the end of the rope, onto a narrow ledge 20 feet off the deck, but we were able to capture the rope end and scramble into a corner to downclimb. As mentioned above, the stations were difficult for us to spot from above, and the 2nd or so was positioned so as to require us to swing out in space and sort of deadpoint a daisy chain clip. Not sure I understand the rationale for that placement ... May 23, 2010
Graham Roff
Graham Roff  
Further note on the above - that rappel is far scarier and more dangerous than anything on Birdhunter Buttress itself. The stations have clearly been set up to allow the absolute minimum number of raps on a 70m rope, with no consideration given to safety or comfort.
The third set of anchors is not only "extremely awkward" as some have said, but downright dangerous and to be honest, a bit terrifying - requiring you to swing out over a big drop, desperately clip yourself into the rap rings and then literally dangle in open space.
The next set of anchors is directly below on the last ledge you can see, but completely invisible until you are at them.

After that we encountered two or three rappels where you clip into the anchor with just the last six inches of rope in your hand (sometimes while hanging!), one station where someone less than 5'6" would not be able to reach the rings, and one station consisting only of two bolts, various pieces of tattered cord and two non-locking binners. Many fully hanging belays as well, many aggravatingly just ten vertical feet past nice ledges.

So while a single 70m will get you down (unless your rope gets stuck in which case you will die hanging there since there is no way to climb up) take a six pack to the base cause you are going to need a drink when you get back to solid ground. May 23, 2010
Does anyone know if the bolts on the upper pitches have been updated yet? Thanks. May 2, 2012
Ben Townsend  
If the logistics weren't so daunting, this route should be as popular as, say, Ginger Cracks. The climbing is good, and the location is spectacular.

Currently, most of the bolts on the upper pitches remain vintage. However, I don't see that being a significant concern to anyone who's made it that far. There is a bit of loose rock, but nothing too extraordinary by Red Rocks standards.

We descended via the Brown Recluse rappels, which are convenient to the top of the climb, but which I disliked intensely -- mostly junk hardware, and strangely situated stations including a couple that are totally hanging in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps at some point it may be possible to re-engineer this rap route so that it uses the terrain better; until then, it's pretty hard to recommend. Apr 6, 2014
Jordy Cox
Salt Lake City, UT
Jordy Cox   Salt Lake City, UT
We climbed this route last Saturday and wanted to give it high marks:
4-Star climb, 5-Star location (and 6-Star company)

It had been on the list for many years but the reports of scary protection and bad rock had kept us away- The route is currently SAFE and although there is some loose stuff, it is nothing out of the ordinary by Red Rock standards and pretty much limited to pitch "4.2" in Doug Hemken's description (which is spot-on, by the way).

We are not locals but have nearly 100 multi-pitch RR routes under our belts and can easily say this is route deserves to become a classic. The re-bolting job is great and although the last few pitches still sport the original hardware it is easy to find alternative placements (and the old JU bolts are still pretty solid).

We climbed as two parties of two and then rapped Brown Recluse as a team of 4 with two 60m ropes.

Just under 2 hours- we had done the Original Route on the Rainbow Wall last year so we had the advantage for route finding. At the top of the slabs and as the rubble starts to appear, just trend right towards the big pine tree that marks the base. Easy to find and no 3rd class needed to reach it.

The beta on the route itself is as described by other posters. We linked all the pitches as recommended except for 5.1-5.2: we stopped and belayed at the big pine tree to avoid drag and then simply moved the belay up and left to the next pine tree at the base of the chimney (5.2 is just a walk)

Regarding the cruxes:
The face climbing "crux" on pitches "3.1-3.2" is trivial with modern pro-bolts and gear when wanted.
The chimney pitch (6.1) is by-passable by climbing a crack on the left that protects well and gains the anchor without cliping the old bolt that is the only gear on the whole chimney.
The move up and out of the chimney from that anchor and on to the face is, IMHO, the technical crux of the route. The sequence of moves are height dependent and the only gear is the actual anchor at your feet- so a little commiting 5.9 but it's over quickly. I also agree this is the only .9 section on the route.

Regarding the descent:
We elected to follow the Brown Recluse rappels. The last "pitch" (off the huge "small army" ledge) is a 30 foot scramble to an anchor and then a left-trending ramp that is walkable and followed to the gully were the first rap anchor is clearly visible. Loose rock in this gully mandates caution while setting up the raps.

I personally did not find the rap route bad at all. The hardwear is all solid and finding the stations was straightforward despite dwindling light conditions. The only truly hanging station is the second one and it must not be missed as it sits just above the last hard (5.12a/b) overhanging pitch of Brown Recluse. All other stations have either full on ledges or decent stances that accomodated all 4 of us. As mentioned, we used two 60m ropes so length was never an issue but would not recommend linking raps.

So,in summary, another Urioste gem that deserves to be done a lot more!!!
Never scary and never dangerous and in the most incredible location in all of Red Rocks!
A Huge Thank you to the re-bolting team- please join and donate to the ASCA and the LVCCC Apr 12, 2014
Oakridge, OR
Ball   Oakridge, OR
If you want a long approach to miles of non-technical climbing, this is for you.

(I only had a choice between one star and bomb. There was no no-star option) Oct 23, 2015
William Thiry
Las Vegas
William Thiry   Las Vegas
Excellent route destined to become a classic as it continues to 'clean up'. Pitches 1 thru 3 per Doug Hemken's description above are 3 to 4-star pitches with acceptable rock (a few holds still feel impermanent). Pitch 4 is OK but has some pretty bad rock near the top. The position and views on this route are truly awesome. We rapped the route and it went just fine after dressing up some anchors. Mar 20, 2016
Climbed this on 3/31/2018. Fun route overall with a good deal of moderate climbing. I want to echo some of the good beta that I've read on this thread.
- Hike in was roughly 3 hours to base of the route. It's longer than you think but the fixed line at the base of the rainbow wall gully is in great shape.
- Finding the base of the route was easy...just look way climber's right along the base of all the routes and located a mature pine tree almost where the cliff disappears around the corner. Start just about 100 feet left of tree.
- Route climbed pretty easy - I don't think there is anything 5.9 about it, but maybe 5.8+
- Anchors are pretty easy to miss as you link pitches (good idea to link pitches), didn't not see the first anchor
- Descent - route can be rappelled or you can descend Brown Recluse anchors. We did Brown Recluse with a 70m and had very few problems. The first anchor requires a little scrambling along the ridge top (climber's left, awesome and easy). First anchor was visible within about 1 minute of scrambling. First rap was funky but all others were solid. The third rap is a wild, exposed hanging belay. 70m rope reaches without problem. We got a minor tangle on the third to last rap where the rope whipped around a flake.

This route makes for a long day. A second party climbed under us and rappelled the route directly with two 60 m twins. They were much faster than we were but I can't be sure how they did the raps. Apr 2, 2018
This route has been completely rebolted. Oct 16, 2018
North Las Vegas
Rprops   North Las Vegas
Per beny's comments: My 3 favorite pitches are the chimney, the traverse off the belay, and the corner, all which are after the 7th pitch, so get to the top.

Most of the bolts were updated, but there are 2 rusty one's next to a crack (small nuts) so it should be considered totally safe now. We took a single rack to 3, 16 draws, and a 70m. (Bring a 5 if you hate running it out).
We linked from the ground to P3 bolted anchor. Super pitch that leaves the belayer in max comfort.
Also link the chimney pitch with the next. Stopping at the anchor would be annoying.

OPTIONAL TOP beta: on the 5.4 pitch
Climb up the face, clip the bolt, scramble up the loose blocks carefully. There is a 2 bolt anchor in the roof on the right, but instead place a finger cam with a double runner and TRAVERSE LEFT to a big hidden ledge. Tie yourself to the tree and belay off your harness.

Raps are on the opposite side of the ledge 15' down. (Chains). Rap very slowly to find the stations.
2nd station is totally hanging climbers right.
3rd station is close to wall,climbers right at the lowest ledge.
(From here it gets fuzzy)
As you rap to the 4th station, look hard left, away from the chimney.
5th station is off the ledge.
6th station is straight down in a sloping cutout, not on one of the nearby ledges. If you get to a single Stardryv bolt you missed it.
7th station is straight down on a slab with a foot ledge.
8th station is straight down on top of an obvious block. Rap to ground.

All raps are really clean, after the first one. The danger is in missing them. Simulrapping is best option for 2 sets of eyes and rope stretch. Know how to prussic if you miss one. Mar 23, 2019
For those interested in gaining the true summit of the Rainbow Wall from the top of the buttress:
Handren's description: "300 feet of scrambling lead to the summit"
Reality: 2 long pitches of loose & dirty ~5.7+ up the obvious crack system, belaying from the pine tree midway up.

Reaching the true summit and rapping the Original Route seemed like a better alternative to me than questing down an unfamiliar route (Brown Recluse) with notoriously rope-stretching and hard-to-find anchors. Easy to walk back along the base in climbing shoes to your packs from the Original. The walkoff descent looks pretty casual, too, if you go light and carry everything up and over. Apr 9, 2019
Karl Groll
Tucson, AZ
Karl Groll   Tucson, AZ
I'm surprised this doesn't see more traffic. It's a bit of an approach, but it's well traveled and worth it for access to such a proud formation. The climbing is all moderate, the rock quality was good in my opinion, and thanks to a lot of work - all bolts and anchors are solid. You can mostly link any two pitches (but not all) with a single 60m and knock this out pretty quick. With the Oak Creek walkoff, this would be a really fun solo day - good location, long route, decent exposure, but also plenty of good rests.

Rap beta: We decided not to climb the couple easy pitches up the step to gain the true rainbow wall summit in order to rap Original Route. That leaves the walkoff, or rap down Brown Recluse - which sounds fine but seems to have a reputation. So instead, we decided to rap Birdhunter, which is currently outfitted with rap rings** and was really straightforward. To do this, you need two 60m ropes (bring a skinny tag). First rap is from the double bolt anchor tucked into the blocky overhang at the end of the final 5.4 pitch. This rap just barely takes you to the pine tree ledge before the chimneys. **This ledge is the only spot that doesn't have drilled anchor+rings. Instead, use the beefy pine tree which probably is probably already setup [obvious caveat - inspect all tat, don't trust tat you didn't place yourself, blah blah blah] Best to be prepared with some webbing or extra sling. From here, the raps are all straightforward and the pulls were clean for us.

I'm not sure how this descent compares to Brown Recluse, but it's at least a known quantity, and if the ropes do snag then it's all easy climbing to go retrieve your line.

Have fun! Apr 15, 2019