This guys star rating: 5/5
With Johnny Vegas and the long Solar Slab gully descent on the menu for the day, it meant a semi-early start to make sure we got out of the scenic-drive loop on time. We parked at the Oak Creek trail which meant a shorter approach compared to the longer alternative; but it also meant we’d have to hurry to avoid the hefty fine that comes with being caught inside the loop road after 17hrs.
We started hiking at 8AM, were at the base of the climb at about 9AM and started climbing at just under 10AM having to wait for a couple of parties ahead of us.
I’ve done this approach twice and have lost the trail twice. Again, we made our own adventure and likely prolonged the approach by about 15 minutes as a result. The normal trail brings you pretty much straight under the gully and goes up from here. There are false paths all over the place with foot steps everywhere adding to the confusion. No matter: you can see the wall on the whole approach making it easy to simply make a beeline for it.
Start on top of the boulder just below the double cracks. I chose to move the belay at the top of the boulder but some will likely belay at the bottom of it.
The pitch is stellar with great protection. Move up the cracks, passing a small roof. Once the crack peters out, move left and keep moving left until you hit the double bolt belay found at the base of the right facing corner. Just before the belay is a spicy traverse; make sure to protect your second. The belay ledge is comfy and in the shade between 10AM and noon in the winter.
Another great pitch, but run-out in a couple of sections. Moving up the corner is easier than it looks from its base. From the top of the corner, move right in the crack, pass the small roof, then keep going pretty much straight until you reach another double bolted anchor setup.
There is a spicy section in the middle where you’ll be far above small protection and climbing on somewhat crumbly rock (both Cristina and I broke off a hand hold). You’ll know when you’ve hit that section; slow down, relax, breath and go. Even though a bit thinner than on the rest of this climb, the features are all there and will bring you straight up to another well protected crack system.
From the belay, move right and around the arête. Make sure to put in long runners here. I didn’t and paid a VERY heavy price later in the pitch with rope drag straight from the bowels of hell.
After a bit of easy run-out climbing on the arête, you’ll join a crack in the corner. I followed the it up to it’s logical end an exited to a slab and nice crack system where I setup the belay. The documented route exits left early into the corner and brings you to a double bolt belay.
It’s worth reminding: Extend your runners early in the pitch.
Not much of a pitch; a couple 5.low moves bring you to a 3rd class section. I setup the belay below the 3rd class section. We then both scrambled unroped to the top (and bottom of Solar Slab)
The abseils down the gully are cluster fuck of frustration and dangerously placed bolts. 5 single rope abseils and a last double rope abseil brought us back to our shoes. Roughly, as I remember it:
- The first is joined by walking climbers-right from the top of Johnny Vegas and moving across the gap towards the bolts. A dangerous little 2 move scramble with dire consequences if there were a slip-up.
- The second is joined by going to a horribly placed set of 2 bots hidden around the corner. I’m 100% certain there’s a reason for putting the bolts there, but it doesn’t take away the fact that the position is dangerous and uncomfortable.
- The third is mid-way down the ramp where you’ll rappel off a slung rock.
- The fourth is a bit more comfortable with a nicely placed set of bolts on the left wall
- The next is similar with bolts on the left
- For the last, I finally pulled out my second rope and made the 50 meter or so abseil down to the base.
I preferred to keep the second rope packed in case I needed it to get back up to a stuck one.