Type: Trad, 1040 ft, 11 pitches, Grade IV
FA: FRA: Derek & Giselle Field (2019)
Page Views: 750 total · 56/month
Shared By: Derek Field on Jan 19, 2019
Admins: Larry DeAngelo, Justin Johnsen

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


Dirtbag Geologist is a fairly long route that ascends Bearclaw Spire (aka White Pinnacle Peak) via the next major buttress to the east of Dirtbagger's Compensation. The line rambles a bit near the top, but overall it follows a single weakness with virtually no traversing and therefore it presents minimal routefinding decisions. The difficulty stays comfortably below 5.10 except for the short awful roof crux on Pitch 7. This is a worthwhile moderate adventure with a spectacular summit and a truly one-of-a-kind descent.

What follows is simply the route description. Background info has its own dedicated section.
Pitch 1 (5.8 PG-13, 80 feet): Climb a trough into a groove with a poorly protected crux near the top. --- FRA: Saulnier/Custer (see Background Info)
Pitch 2 (5.7, 60 feet): Admission pitch. Squeeze past the tree into a flared offwidth, then cinch up your chalkbag and tunnel through dense chaparral to a belay at the base of an obvious thin crack. --- FRA: unknown (see Background Info)
Pitch 3 (5.9, 100 feet): Climb the engaging thin crack (crux protects with micro gear) which widens into a varnished handcrack highway after ~30 feet. Make a gear belay where the crack jogs left.
Pitch 4 (5.7, 100 feet): Follow the crack as it slices diagonally left and then up through absolutely gorgeous pink zebra stone. Belay in the comfy "living room" atop the pillar.
Pitch 5 (5.8, 80 feet): Climb the thin crack as it doglegs right and then back left to a pedestal on the broad arete. Here is where the route transitions from the south face onto the west face. On the left side of the pedestal is a pre-existing two-bolt anchor (see Background Info).
Pitch 6 (5.8, 80 feet): Continue along the left leaning ramp to a steep(er) handcrack finish. Belay on the big scenic ledge below an intimidating roof crack. --- FRA: unknown (see Background Info)
Pitch 7 (5.10d, 90 feet): The Sedona Pitch. Dig deep to conquer the heinous roof crack (tip: stick to jams and underclings; don't bother touching any of the garbage outside the crack). Continue up the funky handcrack into a crazy alcove. Exit the alcove and continue up the handcrack to a big ledge with a live tree.
Pitch 8 (4th class, 100 feet): Walk straight through the cool corridor and scramble up a series of ledges to a belay at the base of the Red Pinnacle.
Pitch 9 (5.2, 100 feet): Climb up left onto the south-facing rippled slab of the Red Pinnacle with one or two marginal placements in incipient cracks along the way. From the top, descend straight down the other side into a jungle gully (passing an old fallen ammo-can summit-log) and belay below an obvious pink handcrack.
Pitch 10 (5.8 PG-13, 90 feet): Jam the pink handcrack up into a varnished chimney, moving right along a horizontal shelf to a stance below a smooth varnished face. Place some marginal gear (or don't bother) and commit to an impeccable crimp ladder leading up to a spacious belay ledge.
Pitch 11 (5.8, 160 feet): Climb the obvious thin crack and continue up easy slabs toward the summit pyramid (optional belay if overcome by rope drag). Surmount the final block via an easy left-leaning handcrack on its left side.
Descent: Scramble down the deep couloir/gully on the northeast side of the spire. This is an unforgettable adventure featuring several sections of fixed-rope hand-over-handing and other (non-technical) shenanigans.


Approach: 1 to 1.5 hours. Park at First Creek trailhead. Hike about 40 minutes into First Creek Canyon until almost even with Lotta Balls Wall. Cross the drainage and slog straight up slopes on the north side of the canyon to the Slot Club Wall. Traverse up and left along the base of the wall, climbing a 4th-class gully before passing the striking 400-foot crack of The Maw. Continue a few crack systems further left to the starting trough/groove (see photos).


Standard Red Rocks rack to 3" + micro gear + opt. 4" cam

Background Info

There is much evidence of prior route exploration on Bearclaw Spire - some documented and some undocumented. We acknowledge that several sections of this route were undoubtedly climbed by earlier parties. For example, we know that pitches 1, 2, and 6 were already climbed. Conversely, pitches 3 and 4 did not appear to be traveled, nor did Pitches 7-11. The following list details where we found evidence of human passage, including tentative interpretations. If you have information to contribute, I encourage you to please send me an email about it.

  • Pitch 1 --- Note: There is a new webbing anchor at the top of this pitch. This pitch was climbed and documented in Nov 2018 by Chris Saulnier and Dave Custer. They called it Wellington Finds Walloon Brabant.
  • Pitch 2 --- Note: We found and removed faded old webbing around the small tree directly above the offwidth. We interpret this to be a bail anchor from a previous party who might have deemed the above crack too thin and soft.
  • Pitch 5 --- Note: This pedestal is the junction of two crack systems: the one on the south face that we came up, and another one on the west face. The hangers on the two-bolt anchor are oriented straight down the crack that comes up the west face. There are no rappel rings.
  • Pitch 6 --- Note: Because the bolt anchor found on P5 did not contain rappel gear, we know that Pitch 6 has been climbed before. At the top of this pitch, there is a single bolt located 30 feet left along the ledge which heads into a dark chimney. Bolts continue up the arête to the left of the chimney. Thus we deduce that the mystery party climbed the ramp up to the ledge where they traversed left onto the main formation.


The route is named after Ernie Duebendorfer, one of my mentors at NAU and one of the most highly esteemed geologists of the Lake Mead region. Dirtbag Geologist is a nickname he earned from his commitment to a career of gnarly fieldwork in the rugged Basin and Range province and beyond. Ernie retired from teaching in the spring of 2018, having inspired countless young scientists including myself, so Giselle and I thought we would dedicate this geologist-friendly adventure to his remarkable spirit.