American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Sandstone Canyon, New Routes

Nevada, Red Rock

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Sam Boyce
  • Climb Year: 2017
  • Publication Year: 2018

When I arrived in Red Rock in early October, the temperatures were still quite warm and I had a difficult time locating consistent partners. So on off days I would venture out in the canyons with a pair of binoculars and a guidebook scouting new routing potential. It didn't take too long to make the trip out into Sandstone Canyon. The initial reconnaissance mission unveiled an entire canyon filled with virgin crack systems. I quickly made plans with my friend Zack Lovell to check out one of the north-facing walls near the mouth of the canyon that resembled a giant wave. I later dubbed this wall simply The Wave. We chose a continuous looking crack system in the center of the wall. After about 750’ of climbing we met up with a large 4th class ramp system that we took back to the main drainage of the canyon. Zack came up with the name: Green Eggs and Sam (750’, 6 pitches, 5.9). I was hooked! The climbing was fun, the rock was reasonably solid and the crack systems tended to be continuous. I quickly began spraying to friends and co-workers in an attempt to lure new partners.

Zack Krenzer was the first to join me and we set off for an appealing line on the far left side of the Gecko Wall. On the second pitch, we discovered a very recently placed bolt, which was a disappointment as it was next to good gear placements. Regardless we continued to the top of the wall on cool, varied terrain. We were unable to find any info on this line, which we ended up calling The Bolt (800’, 6 pitches, 5.9).

My friend Royal and I then set off for a wall a bit deeper in the canyon. The goal was a rib of rock to the right of one of the few published routes in the canyon, the Golden Gecko (1,500’ III 5.9) on the Gecko Wall. This route was a bit of a mixed bag with easy slabs, tree wrestling, hand cracks, and even a short bit of spicy face climbing. We called it Jolly Roger (1,200’, 7 pitches, 5.9).

A couple days later, my friend Kyle Willis flew into town and we ended up climbing a series of crack systems on the left edge of the Gecko Wall, Cthulu Rises (800’, 6 pitches, 5.9). We topped out on the Gecko Wall and decided to continue up the summit ridge despite 60 mph winds. The climbing high on this feature felt a bit like an alpine rock ridge. The final pitch went up the summit tower above The Wave, and we were a bit surprised and excited to find no evidence of previous traffic on the summit. We set up a rappel off the tower using nuts and met up with the descent for the Gecko Wall. Though not sustained, it was still incredibly fun route with a surprisingly small amount of choss. The name Siren's Arete (600’, 5 pitches, 5.8) seemed fitting. 

Fairly confident with the featured and easily protected nature of the rock, I set my eyes on the large intimidating upper wall on The Wave. I recruited my friend Andy Stephen and we began discussing options. We decided on a striking diagonal crack system that splits the face. To make better time we scrambled up the 4th class ramp we had used to descend from Green Eggs and Sam. From the top of that route, we traversed about 100’to the left to find the base of the diagonal cracks. The crack system we chose proved surprisingly moderate and continued all the way to the summit ridge. From here we gained Siren's Arete for the final pitch up the summit tower to complete The Wave (1,000’, 7 pitches, 5.7). For future ascents, it would make logical sense to link Green Eggs and Sam into The Wave for a fun moderate romp of about 1,700' of technical climbing.

On the hike down, we scanned the walls all around, looking for good lines. As we passed the far right hand edge of the Gecko Wall, a chocolate, varnished splitter appeared—we came back in the same week to give it a go. The crux ended up being right off the ground and required a few knifeblades to reasonably protect. The first pitch was probably the best pitch I have climbed in the canyon, but the rest of the route was relatively easy, making it fairly inconsistent: A Pirate's Life (500’, 5 pitches, 5.11b).

Overall the climbing in Sandstone Canyon proved to be extremely traditional. Most routes are walk-offs, so fixed anchors are virtually non-existent. And unlike most of Red Rock, fixed pro is sparse to non-existent. To my knowledge there are only two bolts in the entire canyon, one possibly placed by Joanne Urioste long ago on a route by the mouth of the canyon, and the one random new bolt we discovered on the Gecko Wall.

– Sam Boyce

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.

Photos and Topos Click photo to view full size and see caption