Type: Trad, 150 ft, 2 pitches
FA: Stefan Glowacz - 1987 (with credit to Paul Van Betten, Richard Harrison, and Sal Mamusia)
Page Views: 16,151 total · 112/month
Shared By: Josh Janes on Mar 22, 2007
Admins: Larry DeAngelo, Justin Johnsen

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Red Rock RAIN AND WET ROCK: The sandstone is fragile and is very easily damaged when wet. Details


Desert Gold is perhaps the most striking, photogenic pitch in all of Red Rocks. Classic pictures of the likes of Paul Van Betten, Peter Croft, Brian McCray, Roxana Brock, Katie Brown and many others have adorned the pages of guidebooks and magazines for years. And there's a reason for this: The line features an unbelievable dead horizontal splitter roof crack; climbers are pictured hanging underneath this beast from jams, completely inverted - it's a mind-boggling sight.

The first ascent of the roof was completed in 1984 by PVB and Richard Harrison. Paul apparently had a shrine in his home dedicated to the amazing Separate Reality in Yosemite and was ecstatic when he discovered this likeness, here at his home crag of Red Rocks. Choosing to avoid the intimidating overhanging fingercrack splitter that led up to the roof, they aided in on two bolts (since consolidated to one) and climbed the roof only from an uncomfortable hanging belay. They rated it the same as Separate Reality: 5.11d which is a major sandbag unless you have massive mitts.

Three years later PVB returned with Sal Mamusia to finish what he started (or start what he finished rather) by climbing the finger crack directly up to the roof at 5.12c. This was named "Desert Crack".

A month later the great Stefan Glowacz made the obvious linkup by climbing this whole thing in one pitch. Really this should be considered the true first ascent and is now the way the route is climbed: Desert Gold, 5.13a.

Begin by climbing an approach pitch (5.9 PG13) on the left wall below the massive roof. This is actually quite enjoyable. Traverse right on a thin foot ledge towards loose blocks, or continue up a massive hollow flake and then move right. This leads to a bolted belay at a sloping stance. 90'. Alternatively, climb Clipper (best option) or West Edge Lane to this same belay.

Clip a bolt off the belay with a long runner and step left around the arete into a junky corner. Up this a few moves and then back onto the arete. Stretch right to the crack, place pro, and commit to the short but surprisingly steep finger crack. There is basically one move of each size - tips through hands - on the way to the roof, so no matter your hand size, there's a crux for you! Under the roof, cop a pumpy rest and avoid clipping the lowering bolt; instead launch outwards. #2 Camalots quickly widen to #3 Camalots at the lip where a jug awaits for pulling over to the top. For many this "11d" section proves to be the crux.

Upon finishing, most will down aid back across the roof to the lowering bolt. This bolt is a 5/8", 6" long monster and is absolutely bomber. From here lower back to the belay and rap.

South facing, but because of the roof it gets shade after 2 PM in the winter.


Desert Gold is the yellow, cobra-shaped rock scar on the Monument. Easily visible from the parking lot if you know where to look. I posted detailed approach directions in a comment on The Monument area page.


1 each 0.2 or 0.3 Camalot to #1 Camalot
3 each #2 Camalots
2 each #3 Camalots
Some might enjoy this random fact-Richard Harrison told me that Yaniro soloed this thing with the aid of a circus net for a video project. The story goes, Yaniro was helped by R. Grandstaff & co. to throw in a couple of bolts both to the left and right so the net could be secured. Hard to believe, but while resting at the stance before traversing into the business, I spotted a couple of old chopped bolts right where they were supposed to be. Wacky. Also, if you head up to do this route and are wondering about the two old homemade bolts on the left just under the roof-those were used to approach the roof pitch for the FA-which was completed independently before the finger crack. Mar 23, 2007
David Shiembob
slc, ut
David Shiembob   slc, ut
Just out of curiosity, is there a way to approach Desert Reality without doing the .12d pitch? Oct 4, 2007
steve edwards
steve edwards   SLC, UT
Yaniro soloed it for an IMAX film. They didn't go through all that for free. Oct 6, 2010
People down-lead the roof when their second isn't following free-a pretty common occurrance. I bought the Yaniro vid-he's "soloing" by swinging around a lot while clipped into a cam or two. Bold, yes. Sketchy, yes. Soloing? ehhh.... Feb 3, 2012
Are most free ascents done as one pitch from the base or from a belay on top of the 5.8? Feb 25, 2012
The first pitch is trivial. Linking the top 2 is the business, and I'd imagine most people do it that way since the stance below P2 is decent. Avoiding superfluous rope drag and having your belayer close enough to keep you tight-ish on the steeps seem like good calls, as well. Feb 25, 2012
Pete Muffoletto
Oakland, CA
Pete Muffoletto   Oakland, CA
The 5.8 pitch is actually not trivial; the entire formation is less than solid. The rock on the entire 5.8 pitch is sketchy and most holds: flakes, blocks, etc make a lot of noise. It is apparent that rock comes off the first pitch regularly as there is a lot of scarring and compacted dirt where holds used to be. I highly recommend to keep all of your gear away from the fall zone of this pitch. We stashed all of our packs off far climbers right which proved to be very wise. Back up the summit anchor with a few cams as well. I used a BD .75 and a BD #4 but could have used a #3 or smaller as well. A bolted rappel is back and left of the summit anchor. Jan 5, 2014
Sean Nelb
Indian Creek
Sean Nelb   Indian Creek
I took a rack with a slightly smaller cam (.3 camalot) than the recommended gear above and was glad to have it. A blue metolius would work as well. I didn't think the rock on the 5.8 pitch was all that bad until the last 15 ft. The traverse left off the belay and then back to the .12d crack was truly exciting, since nothing seems solid and you have to climb a bit above the bolt before getting in any good pro near the crack. Nov 30, 2014
Fun climb! Off the belay at the top of the first pitch there is a bolt. From this bolt, it looks like many go left and around, then up to the crack. It also looks like some go right and into the extremely thin dihedral (I saw some chalk marks and a thin wire placed high enough that I could not reach it). Any idea what the "correct" path is? Do you have to go up the dihedral to the right of the bolt to make it a 13? Dec 9, 2016