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Black Orpheus Amphitheater
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Tuscarora T 


YDS: 5.12 French: 7b+ Ewbanks: 27 UIAA: VIII+ ZA: 26 British: E6 6b

Type:  Trad, 4 pitches, 450'
Original:  YDS: 5.12 French: 7b+ Ewbanks: 27 UIAA: VIII+ ZA: 26 British: E6 6b [details]
FA: Tom Cecil, John Barnes, John Rosholt – 1995.
Page Views: 1,179
Submitted By: Josh Janes on Feb 10, 2012

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Chris Barlow and partner??

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


Tuscarora is a brilliant route that climbs the left side of the huge brown buttress separating the Black Arch Wall from the walls containing Black Orpheus. The route takes a system of corners through a large roof and then tackles a very difficult finger crack. It is south facing and offers nice, sunny climbing – perfect for a clear winter day. Approach as for Black Orpheus, but head left across the slabs (may require some exposed easy 5th class) and away from Black Orpheus to reach an indistinct weakness below the left side of the towering buttress above. You may arrive at a small, body-sized cave that is just left of the line and just to the right of a narrow ridge of rock that separates the Black Orpheus side of the amphitheater from the There and Back Again side. About 20' below this cave is a nice ledge and a single bolt which is a good place to begin.

P1: Depending on where you start, begin climbing up a corner and onto broken rock, working out left then back right underneath a steep wall, then continue just right of a vegetated right-facing corner to a nice ledge with a bolted anchor. 5.5-5.8.

P2: Climb up interesting features passing two bolts to a bolted anchor on a sloping ledge directly below the large roof. 5.10b, 100’.

P3: Pass the roof via jamming, stems, and underclings – good pro and bolts protect. Belay at a bolted anchor. A wild, awesome, and exposed pitch. 5.11, 100’.

P4: Step right from the belay and climb friable rock before moving back left and continuing up interesting face features, ultimately arriving at a stance at the base of a very thin crack. This crack, which is slightly overhanging and tips-sized, is the crux. Difficult for the grade, (smaller fingers will have an easier go of it, but be prepared for pain) this ain’t no Rainbow Wall 5.12. Some hollow rock but great movement and position. Small cams and a few bolts protect as the difficulty eases slightly on the way to a bolted anchor in the middle of outer space. Yowsers! 5.12c, 100’.

Rap the route with a single 70m cord.


1 each black Alien/00 Tcu to #2 Camalot. Extra red C3's (0.3 Camalots and green Aliens are just a little too big where you want them). Wires. Draws. One 70m rope.

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By Josh Janes
General Admin
Dec 14, 2013

Tried this again today. Really hard for my fingers and I'm generally pretty good at this size... feels 12c. Painful.
By Christopher Barlow
Mar 22, 2014
rating: 5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b

Yes, excellent route. The only drawback is, like Cloud Tower and others here, that it ends in the middle of nowhere - just a random ledge. If it were to climb one more steep face pitch to the top of the buttress (which I think it could with a lot of bolts and some creativity), it'd be a totally world-class hard rock climb.

The crux is very hard, but the difficulty is pretty condensed. The route felt to me like sustained 5.10, a few sections on pitches 3 and 4 of 5.11, and a 7-move V5/6. I found it challenging to get the gear placed well from the stance below the hard moves.

Maybe we did something wrong, but we did a full pitch of easy 5th, 5.5 maybe, to get to the cave and start of the "1st pitch." Likewise, rapping the route itself was easy, but we left a cordelette around a rock thread and used a tag line to make a full 55m rappel back to ground flat enough to scramble. I'm usually pretty confident on exposed terrain, but I wouldn't have wanted to be wandering around too much above the major terrace system that is about even with the start of Black Orpheus.

Thanks for posting, Josh. This thing is great climbing in a wild position.
By Josh Janes
General Admin
Mar 22, 2014

Chris, here's the deal with the approach/deproach: There is a narrow foot ledge that leads west across the wall and is only 4th class, but very exposed. It ends at the cave. You must have come up from below more directly. To retreat, you can reverse this traverse, but about 20' below the cave is a single bolt from which you can rappel: A 35 meter rap leaves you at a point where you can just begin scrambling easily down the slab.

Glad you liked the climb and I agree, it does sadly finish right in the middle of nowhere. I've eyed those face holds leading up from the belay, but kinda concluded that the "creativity" required to continue the line free would involve something sinister. However, Cloud Tower does top out - and if you haven't done the rad 5.10 OW pitch above the normal stopping point, you're missing out!
By harrison t
From: Black Hills, SD
Dec 20, 2015
rating: 5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b

For the approach: We were able to scramble all the way to the cave in approach shoes by taking the obvious diagonal weakness through some shrubbery. It was pretty direct and exposed, but easy. The cave makes a nice place to stash shoes and whatever else you decide to not take on route.

For the descent: We left a quick link on the bolt 20' below the cave and rappelled. After descending from both ways (4th class ledge traverse and rapping from bolt) I would recommend doing the rap. Much quicker than taking the ledge out. The 4th class ledge also has a very exposed move where you have to smear and grab hold of a bush to swing out and down to another bush. If the bush decided to break you would be going for an ugly tumble.

As for the route, it has very fun, sunny climbing. Different from standard RR routes where you have gear climbing to a bolted crux, as this has mostly bolted climbing to a gear protected crux... and just when the exposure sets in!
By Alex Shainman
Jan 26, 2017

I was just looking at the 2016 Handren guide and I'd agree with the 12c upgrade for my finger size. I also found protecting the crux entry to be intimidating...I stood in a sling at the very start of the crux tips crack, so I could stack two of the small cams to comfortably protect the burly start...then I lowered myself back to the obvious stance before committing to free climbing it. That was all unbeknownst to my belayer who couldn't see or hear me at all because it was heinously windy that day. I thought it was a good route but kinda short for the hike and yeah it doesn't go anywhere (yet), so no need for me to go back and better my style haha. This wall is not a great choice for windy days...the rope was all over the place on the rappels.
Rock Climbing Photo: Tuscarora pitch 3, Nov 2012
Tuscarora pitch 3, Nov 2012
By Josh Janes
General Admin
Jan 26, 2017

Agreed, Alex. I finally ended up sending this in 2014 with Mike Lorenzo belaying. I was able to stand up in a strenuous and insecure position to place a pair of good small cams overhead, and then step back down to a rest before firing it all the way through the difficulties without stopping to place more gear. Done this way it actually felt 12b but that's easy to say on one's third try on the route. 12c seems fair and I'm glad it was uprated. For me, Jet Stream was easier.

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