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Sunspot Ridge 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c

Type:  Trad, 12 pitches, 1500', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c [details]
FA: FRA: John Hegyes, John Wilder, George Urioste, Larry DeAngelo
New Route: Yes
Page Views: 6,063
Submitted By: Larry DeAngelo on Jan 27, 2006

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Windy day on the route.

RAIN AND WET ROCK The sandstone in Red Rocks is fragile and is very easily damaged when it is wet. MORE INFO >>>


Red Rock isn't normally known for its ridge climbs, but this route has a good line, airy location, and even a gendarme or two. The rock is good and the route is long-- a great combination!

To the left of Solar Slab, the base of the wall bends down, reaching the streambed a few hundred yards to the west. The buttress that protrudes into the canyon continues upward as a blunt ridge separating the Solar Slab from the large wall containing Black Orpheus. Sunspot Ridge climbs this feature.

On the left side of the southeast-facing buttress is a gully system. Some bushwhacking leads to a belay alcove at its base. Climb a pitch up the crack on the left wall of the gully and belay in a cavelike chimney/tunnel. Move up and right, passing a small bulge. Continue right and up the varnished face, protected by tricky wired nut placements. Eventually move left and belay on a good ledge. Climb up for about thirty feet to a small triangular ceiling, then traverse right until you reach a left-slanting crack. Follow this crack to the Lower Shoulder. This shoulder can also be reached by climbing Solar Flare or by complicated scrambling and easy climbing from the west.

From the large shoulder platform, scramble up on an easy pitch of mostly 4th-class climbing, staying slightly left, to a good belay niche near a bush. The next pitch involves face-climbing straight up the knobby ridge crest above. Another face-climbing pitch continues up the ridge, with limited protection, to some good ledges. Two more fourth-class pitches lead up the ridge, passing a gendarme or two. These pitches end at The Notch, a spacious and airy perch where the ridge merges into the main wall. The improbable headwall above turns out to be beautiful 5.0 climbing on varnished plates. Another pitch up one of the cracks above (both are about 5.7) leads to the ledges at the top Solar Slab's fifth or sixth pitch. Either continue to the top and descend via the Painted Bowl, or rappel Solar Slab via the bolted rap stations.

(Another descent option begins at the Notch: downclimb east for 15 feet to a short rappel from a flimsy bush and a jammed knot. This takes you to the top of Solar Slab's second pitch. Then rappel Solar Slab.)


Standard rack, wires.

Photos of Sunspot Ridge Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Delightful climbing up the varnished plates above ...
Delightful climbing up the varnished plates above ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Oak Creek Canyon
Oak Creek Canyon
Rock Climbing Photo: the S walls of Oak Creek Canyon
the S walls of Oak Creek Canyon
Rock Climbing Photo: Black Arch Wall
Black Arch Wall
Rock Climbing Photo: easy climbing
easy climbing
Rock Climbing Photo: Sunspot Ridge: Airy climbing on the ridgecrest abo...
Sunspot Ridge: Airy climbing on the ridgecrest abo...
Rock Climbing Photo: Follow the varnished plates aiming for the crack t...
BETA PHOTO: Follow the varnished plates aiming for the crack t...
Rock Climbing Photo: and more slabs
and more slabs
Rock Climbing Photo: Start of Sunspot Ridge, first three belays marked.
BETA PHOTO: Start of Sunspot Ridge, first three belays marked.
Rock Climbing Photo: The final pitch of Sunspot Ridge has two choices, ...
BETA PHOTO: The final pitch of Sunspot Ridge has two choices, ...
Rock Climbing Photo: The right-hand crack high on the Sunspot Ridge.
The right-hand crack high on the Sunspot Ridge.
Rock Climbing Photo: Clean face climbing on the second pitch of Sunspot...
Clean face climbing on the second pitch of Sunspot...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down at the P1 belay alcove.
Looking down at the P1 belay alcove.
Rock Climbing Photo: more easy varnish
more easy varnish
Rock Climbing Photo: route beta consultation
route beta consultation
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbers on the upper Ridge.
Climbers on the upper Ridge.
Rock Climbing Photo: looking up Oak Creek Canyon
looking up Oak Creek Canyon
Rock Climbing Photo: the Lower Shoulder and junction with Solar Flare (...
the Lower Shoulder and junction with Solar Flare (...
Rock Climbing Photo: close-up of the crack
close-up of the crack
Rock Climbing Photo: Overview of the Sunspot Ridge
BETA PHOTO: Overview of the Sunspot Ridge

Comments on Sunspot Ridge Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Nov 28, 2015
By Doug Hemken
From: Madison, WI
Apr 5, 2006
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

We did this route late last week. We were the first of two parties to get on it on a Thursday morning!

I was a little worried that the description here would prove too thin, but it was just enough. Note that to get to the initial belay cave (not visible in the beta photo), you 'scramble' up a rock step and then bushwack. We ended up belaying the step, mostly out of confusion. The guys who were following us roped up, scrambled, and bushwacked left instead of right, continued partway up p1, and apparently had an epic day of adventure climbing - we saw them rapping off from 3 pitches up at dusk. Study the photo of the p1 belay alcove/tunnel, which can be spotted from way down the trail. If you hit that right, the rest of the route description falls into place.

On the easier pitches there are lots of options.

Yields great views of climbers in the crux of Black Orpheus.

We went left on the final pitch, and didn't quite make the chains on Solar Slab with a 60m rope.

I would compare this route in quality and difficulty to MysterZ or One-Armed Bandit - bring your mountaineering aesthetic.
By Jason D. Martin
Jan 20, 2007
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R

This was a really fun route!

The route is a bit on the loose side. It might be a good idea to avoid matching hands on holds...especially on some of the more run out pitchs.

The combination of loose rock and run-outs warrants an R rating. However, I think that if this route becomes popular, much of the loose rock will get pulled off.

I don't think that any individual move is harder than 5.7. But as Doug stated there are some variations here and there.

I believe this is the longest individual route on the Solar Slab Wall. It's great that you barely have to walk uphill before your climbing and then you don't stop until your at the top of the Solar Slab Wall! As a result the route provides a lot of bang for the buck.

By John Hegyes
From: Las Vegas, NV
Feb 16, 2007
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

I'd recommend bringing a #4 Camalot or equivalent for the start of p2, and some Ballnutz for one of the belays above the lower shoulder. I don't feel like the route is run-out or unusually loose, I might support a 5.7 rating rather than a 5.8 however.
By Andrew Carson
From: Wilson, WY
Dec 13, 2008
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

This is a fun route that will improve as more parties climb it and the loose stuff gets cleaned off. There's a fair bit of it right now so be careful and enjoy a great day in an airy location. Four of us did it in 11 pitches, on December 11, so it goes fairly quickly, especially the upper part. There are many belay options so pitch length and numbers will vary, especially higher on the ridge.
By Karl K
From: Phoenix, AZ
Mar 20, 2009
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b PG13

We did this in 14 pitches to the top (down the Painted Bowls descent). (For the record, I would strongly recommend rapelling down Solar Slab...)
The line is pretty continous in the 5.7 range. I thought that at least 8 of the pitches had many 5.6 or 5.7 moves. There are at least two very memorable steps over empty space as you change sides of the corner. Fun!
Many of the pitches follow beautiful, exposed aretes & faces. You need to be really comfortable placing pro on the varnished faces (try Spiderline in Willow Spring if you want a good preview)
While not technically difficult, the route's loose holds (my partner and I broke off at least one hand/foothold on every pitch) and strange protection slowed me down a lot while leading and left me more mentally drained than physically tired.
As others have said, as more people do the climb it will get better and better.
BTW - my PG rating is more for the looseness of the holds, not the actual protection which was usually good and at least adequate.
By sqwirll
From: Las Vegas
Mar 14, 2010
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Climbed in 8 pitches with some simulclimbing to the last anchors of Solar Slab. We climbed the chimney that forms the right side of the gendarme (left side of ridge)to get away from the 30-40 mph winds. This variation checks in at around 5.6 or so and was pretty fun. Also, I thought the left hand crack on the last pitch was a little awkward and probably 5.8. A cam to 4" would be useful for the start of pitch 2 and the lefthand variation of the last pitch.
By Peter Lewis
From: Bridgton, Maine
Oct 1, 2010

Does anyone know if it would be possible to do the first half of this route and then break left (somewhere near the notch) and access the upper pitches of Black Orpheus?
By John Wilder
From: Las Vegas, NV
Oct 15, 2010
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R

If memory serves me, you'd actually want to top out on sunspot (where it joins solar slab for the final pitch to the summit), then scramble up and left, then drop into the ramp system that splits the halves of Black Orpheus- the final corner system of Orpheus starts much higher than you think it does. You end up about 200' above it when you hit the second terrace on solar slab.
By Doug Foust
From: Henderson, Nevada
Dec 10, 2012

I'm not sure if the scrub oak protecting the alcove at the bottom of the first pitch has grown, but getting past it looked quite daunting if not impossible. We ended up starting the pitch lower down and to the left of the tree right on the arete. We still had to navigate past a couple branches, but seemed quite a bit more civilized.
By John Wilder
From: Las Vegas, NV
Nov 24, 2014
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R

Finally did this again over the weekend- super fun. With a 70m, we did this in 7 pitches to the terrace on Solar Slab, and could have done it in 6 if we had linked the first two pitches. Single rack to a #4 with doubles in green and purple camalots and a set of nuts was just right if you're comfortable at the grade.

The route still needs more traffic to clean up the 5.7/5.8 pitches, so do tread lightly, but otherwise it's just as fun as I remember it being!
By Cunning Linguist
Dec 21, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c X

This is the softest rock long route that I have climbed to date in Red Rock. The route as I climbed it was R/X on many pitches; I hope this serves as a warning to those new to Red Rock who are considering climbing this line: I broke more holds on this route than on any 20 multipitch routes in Red Rock that I have done put together. There were several pitches where I got only one or two pieces of gear and broke six or more sizeable hand and footholds....per pitch. Combined with the thrashing through scrub oak, the continually sandy and rotten rock, and several pitches where the pro and belays were questionable or nonexistent, this route is dangerous and advertising it as anything but is negligent and callow.

I reccommend climbing everything else in this area before this one. The notion of missing out on classics like Sunflower, Solar Slab, Sundog, Black Orpheus, and the Friar to get on this would be a bummer on a road trip.

I waited 48 hours+ after a light rain to get on this and found the very sunny route consistently reminding me of Navajo sandstone(far softer than standard Aztec sandstone found on most Red Rock routes) Consider yourself warned.

Edited to remove some scolding and general hostility.
By Andrew Yasso
From: Las Vegas, NV
Dec 22, 2014


I thought I heard you over there today on Sunspot Ridge. Waiting 48+ hours doesn't change the fact that there was still mud on the approach right out of the parking lot. Given how wet the dirt still was, it isn't surprising that a route with little traffic had that many holds waiting to be broken off.

With that said, I've climbed the route twice, and didn't break a thing. I was fearful of breaking holds roughly 90% of the time however. My followers however (and no, they weren't clients) did break holds. Where they broke holds, had they been leading, they would have taken sizeable lead falls onto questionable gear. With that in mind, I had no envy for you over there today, kudos to not taking the big one.

I think the route is worthwhile from an adventure and exploration standpoint. Your recommendation for folks to climb the classics in the area first however, is totally valid. I wouldn't completely write this route off for the individuals who are willing to get significantly scared for moderate pay off.
By Cunning Linguist
Dec 22, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c X

Andrew, I smile to think of you recognizing my voice echoing over, probably chanting my mantra for the day: "This a piece....of SHIIIIIIITTTTT!!!". We walked in from the road and didn't notice any water on the approach. There were a handful of puddles in Solar Slab Gully on the rappel, but none on the ridge route whatsoever, even in the lower chimneys, where you would expect water to flow due to the large and extremely healthy scrub oaks on route. I'm glad to hear that I wasn't the only one who thought 90% of the holds could break-some of those varnished pitches looked outstanding from the belays, but sure enough, you'd end up sixty feet out again, looking at a huge, guaranteed death ledge crasher, breaking off holds with no real discernable "line" to follow up a face, just spreading out your weight and hoping for the best, with no gear available. I'd like to think that maybe I just climbed too soon after rain, but while rapping Solar, I checked out the rock and the main wall was in excellent shape for climbing.

John Hegyes suggested Ballnuts for the route, and upon reflection, I would second that motion. I did not bring offset wires and feel like a double set of small wires including offsets would not be a bad idea, particularly on pitch 2, which was runout enough that the other members of my party, both 5.10 or better leaders, apologized for putting me in the position of leading us up and off this creaky line, as they had no interest in going through any of that mess on the lead.

I think your comment on getting significantly scared for moderate payoff was right on the money. I commented numerous times on the route that if the protection was good, the route would have been a blast, even with the loose and friable rock. As you say, it was an adventure, it was exploring, it simply wasn't up to measure when compared to many of the well-protected classics on good stone that Red Rocks has to offer. The only pitch that remotely approached the quality of rock found on the main Solar Slab Wall was, in fact, ON the Solar Slab wall. The last 2 pitches that lead to the rappels down Solar Slab (we linked+simuled just to get it over with) were of reasonable quality and protection, which stood out in contrast to the rest of the leads on the ridge proper.
By Matt Zia
From: Bozeman, MT
Nov 28, 2015
rating: 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c PG13

In light of the hoards on the classics, we ventured onto Sunspot the day before Thanksgiving. Overall, I'd say it was an excellent adventure and I'm happy that we did the route, but it's certainly not one I'd do again. A fair bit of loose rock kept us on our toes, especially on the upper pitches where a lot of our protection was highly dubious.

We did the route in 7 pitches with a 70 meter rope. A bit of simul-climbing and some rope-stretching pitches got us to pretty good belay spots. The exception was the last two pitches off the Notch. The "5.0" face-climbing pitch started off good then quickly degenerated into pretty manky rock and the pitch in the right-hand crack afterwards was just as terrifying, with very soft rock, very small gear, and sizable run-outs between pieces.

For a rack we brought singles from .3 to 4 with doubles in .5 and .75. The #4 was pretty key coming off the bulge at the beginning of the second pitch. We also felt the doubles were key to have as multiple pitches took both. Didn't take any BallNuts and never really felt like they were necessary, but we did place a number of RP's and offset nuts.

For those thinking of climbing despite the suggestion of an 'X' rating...well, be confident in your ability to keep a cool head on 5.7 terrain with pretty serious fall potential. 'X' might be a bit overkill, but 'R' or 'PG13' is definitely warranted.

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