On March 13 Jeremy Collins and Ben Williams made the probable first link-up of 1. Cloud Tower (5.12-, 7 pitches) and 2. Rainbow Wall?s Original Route (5.12b, 13 pitches), Juniper Canyon, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada. As an afterthought, they also climbed 3. Crimson Chrysalis (5.8, 9 pitches), making a twenty-nine pitch day in thirteen hours from car to car. [Photo] Richard Dower
On a recent trip to Red Rocks, Ben “Torch” Williams and I, both from Kansas City, climbed what may be the first linkup of Cloud Tower (5.12-, 7 pitches) and Rainbow Wall’s Original Route (5.12b, 13 pitches), Juniper Canyon, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada. We freed both climbs, which are two of the sweetest rides in the park. We’re still shocked that this relatively casual link-up, separated by only a short hike, hadn’t been done before.
During our first attempt, on April 11, we ran into terrible weather. When we started up Cloud Tower at the beginning of the day, a freak April snowstorm blew in and forced us to rappel with thirty-foot visibility in forty m.p.h. winds. Eventually we cowered in a trunk-shaped slot to wait it out. We made it down safely and spent the next day “actively” resting by watching twenty-one episodes of The Office on DVD.
On April 13 we again attempted to climb both routes in a day. We worked up Cloud Tower, a tall crimson-topped pillar, finishing in two hours. After Cloud Tower we hiked up the slabs to the Original Route where we were met by a search and rescue helicopter hovering in front of Ben as he used the facilities. After a minute of observing his well-balanced squatting, he waved, and we worked up the proud dihedral on Rainbow Wall. It took us four hours.
Cloud Tower has the tightest concentration of hand and finger cracks on one route at Red Rocks. I advise anyone comfortable on 5.9 to go get on it; aid the crux pitch and free the rest. However, it differs from Rainbow Wall’s more technical flavor; clean corners, full split-stems that would make Mary Lou Retten proud, and complicated one-move-wonder cruxes. I remember seeing the pics of Bobbi Bensman a few years ago on the crux dihedral of this route and it looked impossible. I had to go up to find out.
On our way out of the canyon, we saw a cluster of climbers rappelling down Crimson Chrysalis (5.8, 9 pitches). To top off our two other climbs, Ben and I decided to run up it. We simul-climbed beneath the chandelier of rappel ropes, adding nearly 1000 feet to the day in a single hour, making for one fine Juniper journey.