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The Rainbow Wall
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The Original Route 

YDS: 5.12- French: 7a+ Ewbanks: 25 UIAA: VIII+ ZA: 25 British: E5 6a

Type:  Trad, 14 pitches, 1000'
Original:  YDS: 5.12 French: 7b+ Ewbanks: 27 UIAA: VIII+ ZA: 26 British: E6 6b [details]
FA: FA: Joe Herbst & Larry Hamilton - April, 1973
FFA: Leo Henson & Dan McQuade - 199?
Page Views: 62,450
Submitted By: Josh Janes on Feb 19, 2004

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Leah Sandvoss solving the crux of P11 (11d) on Rai...

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


The Original Route on the Rainbow Wall is perhaps Red Rocks’ finest route. It is certainly a crown jewel in terms of achievement: Once you’ve climbed it, things like Levitation 29 and Cloud Tower seem like cragging routes.

Once and strangely still a popular aid route, the Original Route is now all-free. During the free ascent in the mid '90's, 40-some-odd bolts were added to the climb. This is indeed absurd, and shortly thereafter all the bolts were chopped. Since then a handful of protection bolts have been replaced as well as bolted belays. It's too bad there are so many blemishes on the rock (both patched and unpatched bolt holes, and plenty of old relic bolts that need to be pulled). However, were it not for the scars from bashing pins, the route probably wouldn't go free at all.

Sustained, technical climbing, flawless rock, corner after steep corner of stems, locks, and intricate face sequences, and generally good gear lends this climb classic status. In my opinion, all of those factors, combined with the ability to climb the route with a light rack and a single rope, an incredible view, and an approach that keeps the crowds away, make this one of the most perfect rock climbing experiences imaginable.

First things first: a WAG bag should be standard equipment for any Red Rocks climber. Pick one up before you hike in there, use it, and hike it out with you when you're done.

The line is obvious: The major dihedral system in the center of the wall. A couple landmarks include the half-way ledge (Over the Rainbow Ledge) and the Red Dihedral – a striking left-facing corner at the top of the wall. The Original Route launches directly up into the corner system from below with a stout 12b pitch close to the deck, then follows some terraces up and right to Over the Rainbow Ledge and finally traverses back left and up to the Red Dihedral which is followed to the top of the wall.

The major variation to the climb is Dan McQuade’s Rainbow Country (5.12d) which straightens out the line by skipping the terraces leading up to Over the Rainbow Ledge in favor of some steep, hard face and crack pitches that link almost directly into the Red Dihedral. One should also note that Rainbow Country includes a variation to the left of the Original Route's first two pitches that avoids the 12b second pitch in favor of some very high quality 5.11d climbing, though the best way to climb it is via the harder, direct path.

A second major variation is that of the Swainbow Wall – basically an easy escape route that launches straight up from Over the Rainbow Ledge, avoiding the Red Dihedral altogether.

A sensible way to climb the route for the first time would be to climb the left-hand variation of pitches one and two, thus avoiding the 5.12b corner, then continuing with the Original Route to the top. On the last pitch of the Red Dihedral, one might consider taking a minor left-hand variation which is slightly easier (see the description for pitch 13 below). This path would maximize the high-quality climbing while keeping the difficulty in check at around 5.12a.

Perhaps the next time on the route, or for parties looking for the greatest challenge possible, the route could be climbed via the right-hand variation of the first two pitches (5.12b), the Rainbow Country variation (5.12d), and then the right-hand variation of pitch 13 (5.12b).

Some other minor notes: The climb is north facing and receives shade. Actually the Red Dihedral sees morning sun, but your chances of being there for it (barring a bivy on Over the Rainbow Ledge) seem slim… dress accordingly. The approach is semi-arduous, and although it can be done in around 1:30, picking a path through the drainage of Juniper Canyon can be challenging the first time. Once underneath the wall, steep slabs present a final obstacle – these are sometimes made easier by perennial fixed lines. If the lines aren't in place, the slab can be climbed at 5.2 left of the fall line.

P1&2: Two options: 1) Begin directly below the corner system and climb 5.6 ledges and face to a belay at a modern bolt and a quarter-incher. This short pitch of 5.6 can easily be linked into the next one. Continue up into the blank corner past two bolts. A reachy 5.12b move will get you to a bolted belay. Excellent climbing. 2) Alternatively, begin well left of this start and climb up a leaning corner system past six bolts (being careful getting to the first bolt) to the belay above the 5.12b section. This checks in at 5.11d and is also excellent.

P3: Step up into a wide layback immediately off the belay continuing through some decent stances. Head up the corner until reaching an obvious point to wildly step out right onto the face (the aid line goes straight up). Clip a bolt and then climb up the slightly past-vertical face past a second bolt before stepping back into the corner and continuing to a bolted belay. Sustained, reachy, awesome! 5.11d.

P4: Continue straight up the crack system at mid-5.11? This pitch is much easier than the last. Belay at two bolts.

P5: This pitch is rated 5.11c but 5.11a might be more accurate. Carefully ascend a long, hollow flake (decent gear), passing a bolt, then continue on easier ground up to a roof. Undercling and jam around it to the right. Skip the first anchor (just past the roof) which is used for rapping, and belay above at another bolted anchor. A long pitch.

P6: Continue up the right facing corner, deciding whether to continue up the Original Route or to take the direct line of Rainbow Country* The rock is lower quality here but only slightly so. Mid 5.10. If following the original route, belay at some bolts by a small tree which at the start of the ledgy terrain. There is a bit of fixed line here which you may wonder about – it facilitates rappelling the route with a 60m rope.

P7&8: Perhaps best simul-climbed… Walk and scramble up and right and up and right, passing a few short, steep sections. There’s maybe a move or two of generally well-protected 5.9 here and there, but most of it is 3rd and 4th class. Eventually this reaches a bolt at a left-facing corner where the ledge system terminates. Belay here.

P9: Traverse out right and around the arête onto the very exposed face. Follow this up junky, but easy, rock to Over the Rainbow Ledge. This is a short, exposed pitch of 5.6 or 5.7.

From this point decide whether to continue up the Original Route or to take the easy Swainbow Wall** escape.

P10: Traverse straight left off the belay on narrow foot ledges. Exposed! Gear is not too great here, but there is one old bolt and a cam placement or two. Out to the left there’s a bolted anchor used for rapping, but the goal is to launch straight up to the base of the huge left-facing corner above (the Red Dihedral). Belay at bolts at the base of the Red Dihedral. 5.7-5.8.

P11: If you chose to avoid the 5.12b second pitch and Rainbow Country, this is the crux pitch. Although it is rated 11d, I believe it deserves 12a. Launch up the corner via liebacks, stems, and long reaches. The gear is quite good but some holds are better than others for placing it. The crux itself is not too far off the belay and is protected by a bomber glue-in bolt; creative stemming and reach helps here. Perhaps the best pitch on a climb full of amazing pitches. 5.12a.

P12: Continue up the corner with more of the same style of climbing. The first 20 feet are the hardest and it is more sustained than the previous pitch. High on the pitch there is a place to traverse left to a stance on the face and belay at a bolted anchor, despite the obvious path (the old aid line) continuing up the corner. The traverse itself has the potential for a nasty penji back into the corner – especially if the highest bolt, a 1/4 incher, were to fail. 5.11d/5.12a.

P13: Two options: 1) Traverse back into the corner and continue up to a stance beneath the roof. Move leftwards with creativity, trusting one's shoe rubber, eventually turning the roof system at it's left end. 5.12b. 2) Alternatively, from the belay downclimb and traverse left to a shallow left-facing corner. Climb up this to merge with the other variation just before it turns the roof. 5.11a. Both variations pull through the roof at the same point on decent gear and some fixed pro. Belay at bolts up in a cave/alcove.

P14: Pull through the top of the cave on 5.10 flared hands and then continue up on easy ground, skipping a bolted belay out left. A short low fifth class scramble leads to a tree with rap slings and the top of the wall. There are also bolts way back from the edge.

Raps will take you generally down the route but sometimes onto the face to the left. The entire route can be rapped with a single 60m rope but a 70m makes it easier.

*Rainbow Country. This basically makes an awesome climb completely superb by straightening out the line, avoiding all the ledgey crap, and adding several amazing pitches. From the anchor at the top of P5, head up the right-facing corner, but instead of going right at the top, head up and left, skipping an intermediate anchor out left and heading up a system of steep flakes and cracks. Runner your gear well as there is rope drag. Belay at a bolted anchor above a huge hollow block. 5.11a, a long pitch. From here, head up a crazy overhanging chimney system. A few bolts protect. At the top, pull over a bulge (wild 5.11) on jugs to a bolted belay. Next is the crux (5.12d) pitch: Do some interesting face climbing sequences past a few bolts to a stance below a shallow right-facing corner. Using the corner and arete, perform a difficult to read sequence up to a precarious stem. A few more moves lead to a thank-god hand jam and then a really exposed move back out onto the arete and up the wall above. 6 bolts and a single medium/large stopper placement near the top lead to a bolted belay. Finally, traverse straight right (5.12a move) past three bolts and then up into the Red Dihedral, belaying at the base of P11 as described above.

**Swainbow Wall. This is an easy escape to the top of the wall from Over the Rainbow Ledge. I haven’t climbed it and won’t attempt to describe it until I have, but I honestly can’t imagine doing so… perhaps it would make sense if you find yourself at the ledge without enough daylight remaining to complete the Original Route. Nevertheless, I would sooner bail from the amazing climbing of the Red Dihedral than miss out on it entirely.


Guidebooks generally recommend a full set of cams through #4 Camalot, a set of wires including RP's, and draws. I recommend:

1 ea. Purple TCU's or equivalent
2 ea. Blue TCU's or equivalent
2 ea. Yellow TCU's or equivalent
2 ea. 0.5 Camalots
1 ea. 0.75 through #2 Camalots
1 set Wires
A dozen slings or draws

A single 60m rope is sufficient for getting up and getting down, but a 70 is nicer.

Photos of The Original Route Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: A deer got caught up in the fixed lines on the app...
BETA PHOTO: A deer got caught up in the fixed lines on the app...
Rock Climbing Photo: Leah Sandvoss sending P3 (11d) on Rainbow Wall (Or...
Leah Sandvoss sending P3 (11d) on Rainbow Wall (Or...
Rock Climbing Photo: Mitch Musci and Greg Jackson wake up to perfect co...
Mitch Musci and Greg Jackson wake up to perfect co...
Rock Climbing Photo: Luke in the goods on pitch 12.
Luke in the goods on pitch 12.
Rock Climbing Photo: Joe Herbst on pitch 13, first ascent of the Rainbo...
Joe Herbst on pitch 13, first ascent of the Rainbo...
Rock Climbing Photo: One of the lower pitches...not sure which. Ben wil...
One of the lower pitches...not sure which. Ben wil...
Rock Climbing Photo: Rainbow wall bivy
Rainbow wall bivy
Rock Climbing Photo: Last pitch  Photo: Tyler Casey
Last pitch Photo: Tyler Casey
Rock Climbing Photo: A Climber named joe on the Red Dihedral
A Climber named joe on the Red Dihedral
Rock Climbing Photo: Josie McKee following P13
Josie McKee following P13
Rock Climbing Photo: Whitney Clark tip-toeing up the crux pitch of the ...
Whitney Clark tip-toeing up the crux pitch of the ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Reaching for the much needed belay "ledge&quo...
Reaching for the much needed belay "ledge&quo...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Original Route
The Original Route
Rock Climbing Photo: A topo for the upper pitches of the Original Route...
BETA PHOTO: A topo for the upper pitches of the Original Route...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Original Route Ringtail
The Original Route Ringtail
Rock Climbing Photo: Topo for Rainbow Wall, Original Route
BETA PHOTO: Topo for Rainbow Wall, Original Route
Rock Climbing Photo: yehaw!
Rock Climbing Photo: A topo for the lower pitches of the Original Route...
BETA PHOTO: A topo for the lower pitches of the Original Route...
Rock Climbing Photo: Exiting the "cave belay" on the last pit...
Exiting the "cave belay" on the last pit...
Rock Climbing Photo: Sewing up the upper pitches. Takes good gear in ad...
BETA PHOTO: Sewing up the upper pitches. Takes good gear in ad...
Rock Climbing Photo: The crux of the "second" pitch. (Run the...
The crux of the "second" pitch. (Run the...
Rock Climbing Photo: The third pitch. 5.11b
The third pitch. 5.11b
Rock Climbing Photo: The second Red Dihedral Pitch.
The second Red Dihedral Pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: MPer Mike Veazey on Rainbow Ledge during a Feb. as...
MPer Mike Veazey on Rainbow Ledge during a Feb. as...

Show All 37 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on The Original Route Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Oct 8, 2017
By 10b4me
Aug 15, 2004

The Swainbow fiinished. Gimme a break.
By Tom Moulin
Aug 17, 2004

When rapping from the summit use one 70m rope if you've got it.

By andy wellman
Mar 27, 2005
rating: 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a

I would just say that this is one of the most amazing free climbs I have ever done, and climbers should not be scared away by the lofty grade. Every move approaching 5.12 on the route is protected by a nice shiny bolt, allowing you both the comfort of safety and the foreknowledge that a crux may be coming. The climbing is quite sporty, by that I mean that it feels like sport climbing(not runnout), and because of this I think feels very accessible and not particularly intense for the grade. Great pro, tons of face holds, not a hand-jam in sight(literally), rap anchors everywhere, not too tall(!) - I guess what I'm trying to say is anyone clipping bolts at the gallery can, and certainly should, go clip some bolts on the rainbow wall instead!!
By J. Thompson
From: denver, co
May 3, 2005

This route is truly phenomenal!!! Possibly the best route in Red Rock. The route is very easy to french free, and the free climbing is totally doable. Although I wouldn't send any sport'o from the gallery up there*snicker*, it's really doable for joe blow climber. Also If you're planning a full blown aid attempt pleae do not use cam hooks, they are terrible for sandstone...but I wouldn't really recomend this style- the route is much better done per the french or better yet the American' that sucker!!
By C Scariot
Jan 24, 2006

Can anyone point me in the direction of a good topo for this as a free route? I thought I once saw that there were a couple variations?
By Kyle vH
Oct 18, 2006

I'm looking for a topo of this route, too (preferably as a free route).

What guidebook(s) should I buy to find a topo, or good pitch-by-pitch information (even if the info. is on the 5.9 C2 version)?

Thanks for any advice.
By J. Thompson
From: denver, co
Nov 6, 2006

There are approximatly 3 variations to the route. Two of them are more like separate route's that share's a bunch pitch's..the other is a true variation.

Rainbow country was put up by Dan McQuade and basically create's a 4 pitch variation that avoids the easy "over the rainbow" traversing ledge system in the center of the route. The pitch's are reported to be of very good quality and break down like this 1 5.11b,2 5.11c, 3 5.12d, 4 5.11d. You leave the OG route at the top of the first dihedrals by going left instead of right...then follow the bolts. You'll come back into the route at the base of the Red dihedral.

Swainbow wall follows the OG route to over the rainbow ledge then takes crappy looking, lower angle rock of the right side of the ledge. Climb 3 pitch's to the top. I have no idea why anyone would climb this with the red dihedrals right there....except maybe snail eye.

The 3rd variation goes left off of the 11th pitch belay. It's has bolts and is a tad easier than the OG route up the dihedral proper...and is better rock. It varies from the OG route about 20-30 ft.

The topo in Swains book is pretty good...although some of the belay location's have been changed slightly.

Currently your best bet is the Brock/mcmillan Topo...with a cross reference to swain.

Have fun!
By J. Thompson
From: denver, co
Dec 3, 2006

PLEASE don't climb classic routes in sandstone after it rained all night!!!

Most folks will find a smaller rack to be sufficent.
By abc
Apr 20, 2007

The last pitch is not worth climbing unless you really want to warm back up in the sun. Pulling the ropes from this first rappel was quite difficult. We rapped off the tree to the right of the gully with all of the slings. Maybe you could find a better option that would make pulling the ropes reasonable.

With two 70M ropes you can get down in 4.5 more raps.
1. From the cave at the top of the Red Dihedral to the ledge at the bottom of the Dihedral
2.To the big ledge finish of pitch 6
3.To the belay at the top of pitch 3
4.To the top of the first pitch
4.5 A short rap to the ground

Other than the last 12b pitch(a powerful, awkward boulder problem), the climbing is reasonable and straightforward.
By TeleRoss
From: San Diego, CA
May 6, 2007

If you top out, can you rap with one 60m rope?
By abc
May 6, 2007

One 60M rope will probably leave you short on the first rap from the top since we needed a little rope stretch with a 70M to make it. The rest of the raps should be fine.
By beny
May 7, 2007

you most definately can rap down this route with one 60m cord. i have done just this a couple dozen times.
By J. Thompson
From: denver, co
Jun 25, 2007

There is a bolted rap anchor that makes pulling your ropes's slightly hard to find...but it's right where is should be. I can't believe people rap off that tree!!! I've rapped it 4 times with a single 60M, it's all there.

In regards to not doing the last pitch...sure seems weird to do all that great climbing then not actually do the whole route. IMHO if you skip the final 5.10 pitch then you didn't climb the route.
By Victor Lawson
From: Bishop, CA
Mar 21, 2008

One of the best routes I've ever done. We slept at the base, then freeclimbed it onsight, rapped, and hiked out to the car in a day. Very possible to do it car to car in a day, even if not familier w/ the approach (if freeclimbing!) I strongly recommend the .11c long pitch variation to the first two original pitches. Very good, solid, fun climbing. We rapped off w/ a single 65 meter, and belive it could be done w/ just a 60.

Saying the grade is "soft" is not the correct way to put it...too simple. It's just such a user friendly route and the climbing is of such high quality that the cruxes are not feared, they are wholly welcomed, perhaps resulting in a relaxed attitude which in turn provides the confidence and strength to send. Or maybe it is a little soft...

Whatever it is, it is a surpurb route w/ only ONE crappy pitch the whole way up. Easy routefinding, easy descent, and a great position. Can be very cold as there is no sun. Go DO IT!
By Christian "crisco" Burrell
From: PG, Utah
Feb 9, 2009

Do less than hardmen ever clean aid this anymore? 5.12 trad is out my range but I would love to aid it.
By John Wilder
From: Las Vegas, NV
Feb 12, 2009
rating: 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b

you dont have to be a hardman to mostly free this thing. my understanding is all the hard cruxes are easily pulled past on gear/bolts and much of the climbing goes free at a reasonable grade.

if you wanna aid it, you can- its C2, i believe. 'course, you need like twice or three times the rack you would for free climbing it.
By Eric D
From: Gnarnia
May 26, 2009
rating: 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a

Great route. Don't be intimidated. Get on it! I would call many of the 5.11 pitches atleast two letter grades easier than what the guidebook gives them. The pitch ratings are pretty soft.
By John Wilder
From: Las Vegas, NV
May 31, 2009
rating: 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b

great route- good fun all around. if you bring a 70m, and a couple extra finger cams you can link up a bunch of pitches and save yourself a rap or two.

from the top (about 6' right of the dead tree is a pair of bolts)with a 70m
rap to the top of the dihedrals (rope stretcher!)
rap the next two pitches
rap a full rope length (skip 1st station) to a station at a ledge in the middle of the wall
rap another full rope length to the ledge below and walk down to the bolts about 30' below
rap to the base of the 2 five ten pitches
rap the next 3 pitches
rap to the ground

this time of year, the route goes into the shade around 10am, fyi.
By Luke Stefurak
From: Seattle, WA
Oct 21, 2009
rating: 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b

Absolutely Phenomenal route! World Class! We bivyed at the base and then climbed and hiked out the next day. Still can't believe this route isn't more popular...

A few notes to clarify John's Rap beta.

To get to the bolts next to the dead tree you either have to rap from a tree (at the top of the final gully/pitch) with slings and biners or down climb ~50 feet of 4th and 5th class.

From here definitely knot your ropes since you have to swing HARD to get back to the belay after the Red Dihedrals.

Next you can rap straight down on independent rap stations on the face. Rope was easy to pull.

Two raps will put you on the ledge about 40' below the Red Dihedral.
As noted rap to a station on a small ledge in the middle of the face skipping an anchor about 25' below the main ledge.

From here rap again and with a 70m rope you will just make it to a ledge, one easy 5th class move leads to the gully/ledge with the fixed rope. There was another rap anchor on the face that could be used if you have a 60m rope or don't want to down climb.

As noted rap the two 5.10 pitches and then rap each of the next pitches. The final rap from the top of the blank 5.12 corner will require a short downclimb.

Take a look at the photo topos I posted for visual beta. or click below for a full post about approach and descent.
By Jason Haas
Nov 5, 2010
rating: 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a

The fixed line is back. I would also go so far as to say this route is only 5.11d if you're 6ft tall or taller, but 12a at the very most for shorter folks. The last "5.12" pitch at the top is probably no harder than 5.11c, especially compared to many similar style routes in Eldo. I'm not trying to sandbag, just trying to give my honest opinion and trying to encourage others to get on this as this route is amazing and shouldn't be missed. If you even think you might be able to do this route, you should try it!
By Dave Gloudemans
Feb 14, 2011

I did this as a solo aid in April 1997.

Hiked in, fixed 3 or 4 pitches on day 1, slept at the base. Jugged and up to the bivy ledge, fixed maybe one more pitch on day 2. Bivy ledge -> summit, rapped it and hiked out on day 3.

Tried to do it clean but I yanked a nut and fell in the upper dihedral, so I got the hammer out. Not sure when it went clean but the guide I had didn't reference it as clean.

Some experience sleeping 400' up over the lights of Vegas. It never really got dark. The weather was superb. I didn't want sun at that time of year.
By Ken Chase
From: Toronto, ON
Apr 18, 2011

Up on original route last tues Apr 12 2011.

Luke: thanks for the excellent rap topo!

Fixed line is mostly gone - only reaches 50 feet from the big log to the top of the steep portion. 50' of class 5 friction slab solo required instead (partly wet with trickle from rain/snow 5 days earlier - partner did it with full pack and approach shoes, I opted for climbing shoes and hauling - we rapped down on return).

Rainbow ledge had some melting snow and 3" of standing water in bivy area. Not sure how fast that dries in the minimal sun it gets. (Climb would be ideal for hot weather, we were cool most of the route with 70F highs in the city, 10-15F cooler on route - not sure how the wind is usually, was very calm for us luckily).

Approach hint: cut off main pine creek trail at fire ecology loop, before homestead, cross pine creek wash on worn cairn-marked paths, out of wash valley on worn trail, then travel south parallel to face between Pine Creek and Juniper canyons. Stay low til near opening of Juniper then rejoin upper trails into canyon. Note when you drop off north side of valley into wash first time for return trip - much easier to regain this trail out on way back, we nearly missed it and continued down wash.

Much further up, once past the waterfall and slabs above it, stay left side of scree, left of main wash flow, primarily amongst bushes until you can cross wash on level crossing, continue across to ramp to route base a bit further right. Base bivy is flat, large (3-4 people with alternate 2-3 person bivy directly at base of route) and comfy. Great view of city at night.

Excellent route, lots of fun!
By ACassebeer
From: Mojave, CA
May 9, 2011
rating: 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a

The fixed line is alive and well as of 5/7/11. The route is in great condition; No water on the approach slabs or on the route. Temps were perfect for us on route with it being 85-90 in the city. Pants and t-shirt weather.
By Cunning Linguist
Jun 30, 2011

I replaced the fixed rope, but it's a pretty old one, so heads up, maybe go up packless, trail a rope, then haul the bags up for max safety.

My guess is that the nut placement that blew+caused hammer usage could have been a bomber ballnut. They're on the C2 gear list for a reason. Those babies work wonders out here.
By sqwirll
From: Las Vegas
Oct 3, 2011

Fyi, there's a wasp nest right on the trail just below the fixed rope on the slabs. Those bastards must have stung me at least a dozen times.
By Isaac T.
From: Yokosuka, Japan
Mar 16, 2012

Check out this video
By Amir erez
From: Boulder, CO
Apr 1, 2012

Fixed Line is gone. Route is in great condition.
By SeanKuus Kuusinen
From: Steamboat Springs
Apr 2, 2012

Stellar route. Psyched you got on it Amir!.. we must have missed each other by only a day or so. To clarify, the fixed line on the ledge that facilitates rapping with a 60m is still there. The fixed line by the waterfall (indicated in the new guidebook) is gone. Be prepared to do some other shenanigans to get up there.

Edit to add: This is one of the best free climbing routes i've ever done. Don't be intimidated by the grade or length. Bolted anchors and lots of bolts throughout make it quick and most of the time the climbing feels easier than the grades suggest.
By Ken Chase
From: Toronto, ON
Apr 22, 2012

The fixed line by the waterfall is gone as of Apr 10 2012, but mostly not necessary. 5.4ish solo up and left on the slab left of the waterfall, or you can practically walk the more exposed line further left and switchback up right.

(The fixed line up on the ledges half way up the climb is still there, we ended up using it with 70m rap as well - cant imagine rapping down to the intermediate bolts 40' above the tree on the ledge, then rap+swing all the way down to the lower edge of the ledge just to pull the rope down into the tree - not worth it. Coil and downclimb thru class 4/a couple 5.1-2 moves - faster than messing with rope in tree.)

The 60m final rappel station at the bottom is a sling and cordolette with a couple rap rings on one beefy and one manky anchor, but setup for failure if either goes. Bring a long sling to donate and tie in properly.
By Sam Lightner, Jr.
From: Lander, WY
Apr 30, 2012

Josh's gear list is perfect, even for linking pitches, and I agree thtat the last 5.12 pitch is substantially harder than the others.

We got up to the base in the evening (April 27) and led the first three pitches, then slept at the base. For most of the next morning, from the top of P3 to until we were on the Rainbow Ledge way high, we were in the sun.

There were a few mosquitoes at the base during the bivy... plan accordingly.

I would list this as one of the 10 best multipitch climbs I've ever done.

BTW.... full credit to the climbing community. We did not find a single piece of microtrash at the base of the route. Not a thing. Really cool that we can keep a place so clean. It makes being there that much nicer.
By Ken Chase
From: Toronto, ON
Apr 30, 2012

Weasel critter at base that climbs V20 will get at your food if you dont hang it in the tree by a cord. Also not afraid of people with headlamps yelling at it from 5 feet away (he likes his wholeFoods trailmix).
By smassey
From: CO
May 1, 2012

Ringtail cat. Bassariscus astutus. Not an actual feline, but in the racoon family. Yep, they can climb V20, at least.
By Max Tepfer
From: Bend, OR
Mar 29, 2013

Looks like there's a new rap station skier's left of the waterslide getting out of the bowl back into the wash. (Where there's intermittently been a fixed rope around a log in years past) We'll see how long it lasts, but it's kind of nice having camo'd hangers instead of manky fixed lines. (or pulling your rope through the seeping water)
By Brian Treanor
May 7, 2013

This route is very, very, very good. Great climbing. Good rock. The beta on this page is pretty well spot on. Two fathers with full time jobs, one (me) middle aged, made the approach in a very reasonable 1:45 without bivy gear. 8 hours on route, 1:30 rapping with a single 70m. Almost onsight. The gear list is good, though we would recommend taking the #3 Camalot; we brought it and used it several times (though I'm sure folks could get by without it). The second/third 11d pitch is no joke, requiring a variety of skills and the patience and endurance to figure out a few sequences. Upper pitches in the Red Dihedral are absolutely brilliant: two amazing five star pitches in a row. I agree with Josh that stemming skills are the key to unlocking the sequences.
By Aaron Miller
From: Santa Fe, NM
Sep 29, 2013

Amazing route!
Did this route over 20 years ago with buddy John Rhyer as an aid climb before there were many modern bolts. It was a great experience and some great memories. Funny thing, the parts I remember were not the beautiful pitches but the trying to haul/schlepp the bags through the ledgy pitches. It was great to be able to revisit this route after so long but on very different terms.
The bolt on the second pitch is not gone. Doesn't look like they were ever touched, they are in perfect condition as of yesterday. However, the first two pitches are rendered unclimbable right now ( can still do the 11+ start) due to the fixed ropes and gear someone left all the way through the 3rd bolt of the 3rd pitch. What's up???!!!! It was a bit annoying to have to dance around this junk. Also very tempting to clean it all on the way down and score some nice booty, but we decided to respect that it looks like someone is projecting the 12+ pitch on RC (several draws hung up there) and probably wants to just jug past the first several hard pitches on the route to get there. In my opinion, this is kind of lame. Could you please remove your junk, whoever you are? This is a classic route, one of the best in RR, respect it.
By Amos Whiting
From: Basalt, Colorado
Nov 5, 2013

As of 9/30/13 a young man walked up to the base to remove his fixed lines. He was solo aiding and had left them up to get a head start.

We had just gotten down and he arrived at the base.

Amazing route! Gear beta was perfect and a single 70 get you down in 8 raps, as well as giving you enough rope to drop a loop to haul a pack through the crux pitches. There was one 10 foot section on the second to last pitch where a #4 camalot would eliminate a solid run out on soft rock. But it is only 5.10.
By skinny legs and all
From: Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
Jan 10, 2014

I believe Roxanna Brock and Bobbi Bensman made the first all female team free ascent of The Original Route in the early 2000's, if I recall correctly. Alex Honnold free soloed the route in April 2010, which is incredible, considering the 5.12 stemming corner and the overall length and exposure. I guess with a C.V. like his, free soloing this climb would just be another day at the office.
By Cunning Linguist
Jan 10, 2014

Alex used the McQuade variation at the start thus avoiding the .12 blankness. Most people do the same.
By Choncho
May 14, 2014

This is such a great route. I've done it a few times and each time I'm amazed at how good the climbing is and, in general, how stoked I am to be way the hell up on the Rainbow Wall. Kid in a candy store sort of thing I guess.

It has been said that this route is soft, but I like Vic's comments that saying it is soft is "too simple". There are some hard pulls on this rig for sure, it's just that you have a good bolt or wire at your feet for most of them and you never feel like you're going to die. I mean the first 5.12 pitch off the deck has gotta be every bit of 12b or was my hangover holding me back? On one go my buddy linked the first two pitches in the upper corners. Doing it that way makes for a long, strenuous, but super awesome pitch. You should get on this thing, but you'll need to work a little in a few spots.
Car to car is the way to go too.
By Austin Boren
From: las vegas Nevada
Jun 2, 2014

I noticed that high up in the 12b corner of pitch one that there is a bolt missing. Does this pitch follow the corner to the anchor or do you bust out onto the face after the first two bolts? Fixed lines down low on the slab and on the first ledge are in place...
By John Wilder
From: Las Vegas, NV
Jun 2, 2014
rating: 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b

You bust left out onto the face and up to the anchor- you leave the corner immediately as the 5.12 section starts. That pitch was probably my least favorite on the climb- I hear the .11d variation start is much better.
By chummer
Jul 12, 2014

Sadly when my partner and I arrived at the ledge below the classic corner pitches (during a one day onsight ascent) we were met by two ladies who were hang dogging and working out the pitches. They were bivied on the ledge and weren't looking to move anytime soon. Since there was nowhere to bivy we had to top out . I guess we climbed the "swain bow" finish right of the corner. I remember it being like 5.9 R/X. Pretty easy climbing but not much gear and kinda loose. Not recommended.
By Nelson Day
From: Joshua Tree, CA
Mar 22, 2015

Trip report

Even though we didn't quite finish it (had two pitches left), still (hopefully) a fun read... lots of pictures!
By Mr. Stevens
From: Boulder, CO
Mar 30, 2015
rating: 5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a

Some notes from a recent trip:

No fixed rope for the slabs, but it's super easy climbers left of the waterfall. There is a bolted rap climbers right of the waterfall to get down.

The p1 11c variation is awesome!

I thought p2 (p3 for the OG line) was the hardest pitch of the whole route. I took some big whippers on small gear traversing out right to the bolted, slightly overhanging face. Exciting!

The pro on this thing was way sportier than I expected. While it never felt run out, you definitely have to punch it between sections. All the pro is great, but I often found myself asking if I wanted a finger lock, or a piece, because there's a few sections where you can't have both!

Link the two 5.10 pitches and link the last 5.11 pitch with the final 5.10 pitch. The final 5.10 pitch is SUCH a great way to end an already unbelievable climb. You chimney out of the cave, the ledge drops out from under you and all you see is 1,200' of air below your feet.

All in all, this was the best route I've ever had the pleasure of falling off of. Hope to make it back in a couple years for Rainbow Country!
By R.Walters
Apr 24, 2015

If bivying on OTR Ledge, can one leave the bag and nab it on the descent, or is this too far off the plumb line? Thanks

Edit 4/25/15: By "nab," I loosely meant to imply grab, get, snatch, snag, retrieve, etc.

Edit: It turns out that leaving the pack at a set of rappel anchors below the first red dihedral pitch is probably best if overnighting. The best way to do this for us was to have the second wear the pack during the traverse pitch (careful for loose rock here). I doubt many people intentionally climb this in longer than a day (hauling sucks - as Josh sort of implies below), but OTR ledge sure does make for a cool place to spend the night.
By Josh Janes
General Admin
Apr 25, 2015

The ledge is not on the plumb line, nor is it on the rappel line. I'm not sure what you mean by "nab", but it wouldn't be too hard to traverse over and retrieve it during your descent. Certainly not harder than hauling a bag two thirds of the way up the route to begin with.
By Brian Biega
Sep 12, 2015

Crazy loose flake/tower on pitch 5 just above the belay . 2'x2'x12-15' tall teetering on another loose block below. Life threatening for sure both for the leader and follower. Pretty sketchy trundle even on rapel.
By Josh Janes
General Admin
Sep 12, 2015

It has been there for as long as I've climbed the route and will hopefully remain there. My two cents: Anyone with any business climbing this route should have no problems using care climbing past this feature. Also, I happen to think it is a really cool feature that adds to the climb.
By Kevin Kent
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Mar 28, 2016

Pretty disappointing to see a guy being guided by an American Alpine Institute guide aiding this route with cam hooks on his harness (not sure if they actually used them or not). I'm not going to go as far as to say aiders should go practice somewhere else (although it certainly would be nice), but it's 2016 and people should know cam hooks are absolutely not acceptable on classic sandstone free climbs!
By Ben Walburn
Nov 27, 2016

Pitch 9 Variation?

My partner and I climbed this mega classic in October, our first time. At the end of pitch 8 we looked up and a little left to see what looked like a finger crack in a dihedral that took a straight line up to the ledge, we climbed it. The crack was untouched and covered in lichen both inside and out. There are a couple of small vegetables that are easy to climb around or remove and there was no signs of it being climbed (no piton scars, lichen 100% intact), about 80' later I topped out directly underneath the bolt on the traverse. I have a hard time believing that this has been overlooked for as long on such a classic route as it does eliminate a negligible pitch in the process. Can anyone offer info?

Description: start up the corner above the bolt and small tree/bush (?) for about 25'then cut left at a traverse for about 10' or so to the left facing corner. Layback the corner to the ledge. Be careful at the top of this pitch as it climbs into the loose blocks on the ledge but is easily navigated with caution. Rack: finger size ( add 1 or 2 .4s to your rack )

Looking past the lichen and two small shrubbery this is a really fun pitch, as good as many of the other pitches on the route. I believe it weighs in around 10+/11- considering the calibration of the area. I would recommend this pitch as the way to go noting it avoids the chossy 5.9 pitch and it is super good!! seems like a no-brainer.
By aaron hope
From: Walnut Creek, CA
May 24, 2017

Phenomenal route. A couple notes from our May 22nd ascent:

1) Starting in mid-May, the bottom half of the route is in the SUN from sunrise till about 2pm. We didn't expect this as everyone says this is an all-shade route. I guess most folks don't climb it in the summer months. Even with the sun, the temps were fine on the route, mid-70s while the lower elevation RR temps were in the upper 80s and Vegas proper was 95. Elevation is a beautiful thing.

2) We thought because we breezed up Levitation 29 that this route was within reach. While my partner almost onsighted everything, I had a tough time on the first 11d pitch and the 12a pitch. We thought this route was significantly harder than Levitation 29 beyond just what the ratings would suggest.

3) About that 5th pitch…that death pillar is just plain dangerous. Josh Janes says “Anyone with any business climbing this route should have no problems using care climbing past this feature”. I don’t know how careful you can be if you have to hold, step, and leverage off the pillar as you dead point to the good hold. Maybe I don’t have business climbing this route, but judging by all the chalk on that death block, I’m not alone. Because you can’t protect behind the pillar, the dead point move comes with your last pro 15 feet below you. A micro nut in some paper flakes adds some psychological pro. A bolt on the face would go a long way to making this pitch much safer. Until that happens, pull down and not out. And pray.
By Josh Janes
General Admin
May 24, 2017

"Until [a bolt is added], pull down and not out." No a bolt does not need to be added. Yes, pulling down, not out, is one of the things you can do. There's no need to climb this pillar using excessive force (including deadpoints) - you can climb up it using a light touch - this is a skill for sure but it's something that you get better at the more you climb in the desert which is what I meant when I made the "no business being on this route" remark. I happen to disagree with Andy Wellman's 2005 comment that "anyone clipping bolts at the Gallery can, and certainly should, go clip some bolts on the Rainbow Wall instead." Another way to say it would be, "try not to break the route - you might hurt yourself and/or ruin it for others".
By Dan Ressler
Jun 1, 2017

Video trip report of Original Route ascent on March 10th 2017 here
By Blake Allen Green
Oct 8, 2017

For expediency, my partner and I linked pitches 1,2,3 via the normal direct dihedral, then linked the 5.11 pitches 4,5, and simul'd pitches 6,7,8 to rainbow ledge. These links should allow experienced parties to climb the bottom 2/3 of the route in a couple hours. 70m required. I carried one extra set of tcus (purple thru yellow) and a handful of extra 24" runners on top of the normal (and already light) rack and never felt like we had to run anything needlessly.

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