American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Nevada, Rainbow Wall, Various Activity

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

Rainbow Wall, Various Activity. The Rainbow Wall in Red Rocks, Nevada, is the closest thing to a big wall you will find near Las Vegas. This 1,000-foot sandstone wall is predominantly vertical and well-featured with edges, seams and cracks. Because the approach to this colorful mosaic takes between one and three hours, the wall maintains its pristine character. Although the quality of the climbs is classic, the routes are adventurous by nature and contain sections of brittle, if not loose, sandstone.

The Original Route is an open book in the center of the wall. A popular aid line, the route was controversially equipped with nearly 80 bolts for a free ascent attempt several years ago. Consequently, the bolts were chopped. Dan McQuade replaced only a quarter of the bolts and did the first free ascent of the route, rating it 5.12b (13 pitches of mostly 5.11 and two 5.12s).

This route is what originally attracted us to the Rainbow Wall. While we were climbing it, we were struck by the beauty and solitude of the region and the possibilities of free climbing other existing aid lines. Brian McCray climbed the Original Route, flashing all the pitches but two, and getting its second free ascent in April. A month later, Roxanna Brock teamed up with Bobbi Bensman to do the first female free ascent (FFFA) of the route in a day.

After freeing the Original Route, our attention was soon drawn to Sergeant Slaughter (A3) on the left side of the wall. The second pitch (the crux, 5.12b) begins in an easy left-facing comer, and shortly turns into an increasingly difficult right-facing corner. The pitch ends 120 feet later as a gaping six-inch layback. The next two pitches follow a flaring crack and chimney, the most notable being the second, the “Bitch Pitch” (5.11+).

A 5.12 face and a 5.11-squeeze chimney were also memorable. Three bolts, drilled by hand, were added to the route to protect the nine-pitch free climb. The bolts were kept off the original aid line. At the end of May, we finished our free ascent. We came back in early June to free it in a day.

Brian had been admiring a long brown dihedral on the right edge of the wall. He initially aided the route solo and equipped it with some bolts necessary for free climbing the route. In mid-June, Roxanna joined Brian for the first free ascent of Brown Recluse (5.11). The route contains nine pitches of 5.10 and 5.11 climbing.

Roxanna Brock and Brian McCray

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